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Sophie Ellis-Bextor on family life and her career

With her Blue Peter presenter mother Janet Ellis, and film director father Robin Bextor, creativity is in the genes. Credit: Laura Lewis
With her Blue Peter presenter mother Janet Ellis, and film director father Robin Bextor, creativity is in the genes. Credit: Laura Lewis

Murder on the Dancefloor songstress and mother of five, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, is celebrating the festive season by taking her lockdown livestream Christmas Kitchen Disco on the road. Her seventh album Hana was released this summer and her hugely popular Spinning Plates podcast has featured over 100 prominent women.

‘I’ve always liked Christmas,’ reveals Sophie, renowned for her unique sound, porcelain beauty and trademark sequinned playsuits.

‘Christmas for me is all about family. While it’s always really special when you have your own kids, there’s always been a baby or a little one in the family since I was about eight.

‘My parents separated when I was small, so I always had the day with my mum one year, and then with my dad, and they encouraged me to see Christmas as a season, so I enjoy lots of get togethers.

Great British Life: Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Christmas Kitchen Disco Tour comes to Southend Cliffs Pavilion on November 24. Credit: Laura Lewis Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Christmas Kitchen Disco Tour comes to Southend Cliffs Pavilion on November 24. Credit: Laura Lewis

‘There’s such a strong aesthetic to Christmas, lots of twinkly lights and fun sparkly things. When it comes to the kitchen disco, it’s about parties and joy. I just want to make it look and feel festive and gorgeous, and cosy and fun.’

A concept that would surely make Stop the Cavalry singer, Jona Lewie proud, Sophie’s eclectic style has broad appeal.

Over the years she has channelled Indie, which is how she started out; oozing attitude as the 17-year-old lead singer in theaudience. When the band were dropped by their record label Sophie feared her career was finished aged 20, before her big break featuring on Spiller’s heady dance anthem, Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love).

Swiftly pipping Victoria Beckham to the number one spot, Sophie was propelled into a different level of fame that launched a change of direction and the start of a 20- year solo career.

In between giving birth to five boys and releasing a string of hit singles, Sophie has fitted in a spell on Strictly Come Dancing, narrowly missing out on the glitterball trophy in second place with Brendan Cole. She treated her kids by appearing on The Masked Singer, and in 2021 she released a surprise memoir, in which she candidly opened up about former abusive relationships.

This, all mixed in with lots of performing, including this year’s Glastonbury, and creating a family cookbook. Not to forget switching on the Blackpool Illuminations in September. And the idea of a Christmas tour has been well received by fans.

Great British Life: Sophie loves her busy household that includes her five sons. Credit: Sophie Muller Sophie loves her busy household that includes her five sons. Credit: Sophie Muller

‘It’s really reassuring how well it’s selling,’ agrees Sophie smiling.

‘It was my idea, and it’s always quite nerve-wracking when you put it out to the world.

I don’t take it lightly if people give me their time. Whilst we can have a fun night, I always take it pretty seriously that people have chosen to come and spend time with me, so I want to give them something really special, with the whole band and Richard’ (Jones, Sophie’s guitarist husband of 18 years).

With her Blue Peter presenter mother Janet Ellis, and film director father Robin Bextor, creativity is in the genes.

‘After 2007 I started doing tons of shows outside the UK. I love my shows. Playing festivals in the UK this year has been really lovely, so I’m very happy and I never rest on my laurels.

I think like most musicians, you start New Year with lots of gaps in your diary and then slowly things come in, but you have to trust in the process.’

Great British Life: Sophie says that her popular podcast, Spinning Plates, is a real labour of love Credit: Sophie MullerSophie says that her popular podcast, Spinning Plates, is a real labour of love Credit: Sophie Muller

Sophie seems far too capable to need chunks of time out from her work cycle for self-reflection, and lockdown certainly led to new paths including her Spinning Plates podcast, proving a real tonic for mothers to share ideas and experiences.

‘I love my podcast very much. It’s a proper labour of love. If I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore no one is going to come knocking at my door, but those conversations really mean a lot to me.

‘It turns out those conversations are quite important; women supporting other women and showing a little glimpse into their relationship with their work and also motherhood. It really changed things for me when I became a mum.’

Despite raising five sons aged from five to 19, Sophie admits parenthood doesn’t always come naturally, but her children are most definitely unfazed by her stardom.

‘I’m still evolving. It’s not like I got to the point where I’ve worked out how to do my work and raise a child. There’s lots of factors that influence it.

Great British Life: This pop icon regularly performs at festivals, including Glastonbury earlier in the year. Credit: Sophie Muller This pop icon regularly performs at festivals, including Glastonbury earlier in the year. Credit: Sophie Muller

‘I have quite a crazy job, but when I get home my children want to tell me what they’ve been doing at school or something they’re worried about. That’s quite an anchor for me, as it’s a good antidote to the nature of my work. You realise how much of what I do is a lovely escape from real life.

‘I get to put on twinkly outfit, sing songs and have a party on stage so it’s good to come home. The biggest thing I do is raising them.’

Sophie is often asked her how she juggled family life, more so than her music, so was she confident there was a market for the podcast?

‘There was a bit of that. But it’s been about understanding why I need to work and giving myself a mission to have both sides of my life like that, because I think there’s guilt every time you’re not there for something (with the children), but then I speak to all these other women and they’re all doing amazing things, or they’ve overcome a challenge, and it reminds me we’re all in it together.

‘There’s a lot of stuff that goes on that’s a bit ‘un-talked’ about and I find it reassuring to have those chats. It’s not all heavy stuff. I’m naturally quite a curious person and nosey essentially.’

Sophie has a couple of weeks at the end of the tour to prepare for the big day which sounds rather picture perfect.

‘We host Christmas at ours. It’s pretty relaxed and we’ve done it since Sonny (Sophie’s eldest son) was a baby. Richard’s a really good cook and the house is used to having a lot of people in it.

‘His folks come and stay, his brother, my Mum, my brother, my sister, and their other halves. Neighbours drop in. It’s the sort of house that really suits having a lot going on in it, but there’s always something I forget to do. I have to be a little bit organised, but I’m not an all done by December 1st person. Also, I like to enjoy it, I’m not in a hurry.’

Did she always envisage herself in such a hectic household?

‘I’ve always associated having my baby brother with this really positive new chapter and then used the link between new people and babies and new beginnings. And that’s why I like adding to the family and thinking who else is out there,’ Sophie smiles.

Although she’s done with pregnancy.

Great British Life: All the promotional shots and videos for Sophie's album Wanderlust were taken in Southend. Credit: Sophie Muller All the promotional shots and videos for Sophie's album Wanderlust were taken in Southend. Credit: Sophie Muller

‘Now I need my brother or sister to take the baton. I don’t think they’ll be any more Jones babies!’

If her brood wish to watch their Mum entertain Essex, they’d be plenty for them to enjoy by day. Joining a host of top personalities who’ve incorporated the charm of Southend into their work, Sophie embraced the art deco touches of the town during shooting ten years ago. Clad in monochrome 60s dresses, she posed before a backdrop of seagulls swooping over the calm of fishing boats bobbing in the estuary, pastel beach huts and the steel supports of the world’s longest pier.

‘This is my third trip to the Cliffs Pavilion and I absolutely love it, but the biggest tie I have to Southend is through my album Wanderlust, the most important album I’ve ever made. We did all the videos and artwork in Southend, so I had this incredible experience of the place.

‘Young Blood was filmed under the pier and other quirky locations, and it will always have such a special place in my heart. The look of all those videos is so intrinsic to the sound of the album.’

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Christmas Kitchen Disco Tour comes to Southend Cliffs Pavilion on November 24, tickets available at ticketmaster.co.uk.



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