Dance diva Sophie Ellis Bextor is known for her killer tunes Murder On The Dancefloor, Get Over You, and hit collaboration with DJ Spiller Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love).
Although she has been missing from the Australian charts for a while, she has been busy with her five kids, releasing a number of albums and playing live shows.
Scroll down to listen to the full interview in the Pop Spot podcast
But when COVID-19 shut down travel and cancelled live entertainment, Ellis-Bextor turned her kitchen into a stage.
“Every Friday of lockdown we did a kitchen disco – I’d sing some of my songs, do some covers, the kids would be in fancy dress usually… just a bit of fun, a bit of silliness live streamed from my Instagram,” Sophie said on the latest Pop Spot podcast from 7NEWS.com.au.
“The kitchen discos were basically our family’s way of coping with the heaviness of what was going on,” she said.
Kids in the kitchen
Performing from home meant Sophie’s kids became involved in the live online shows.
The nice thing was they didn’t really have a clue (about) the significance of it really,” Sophie said.
“Obviously my husband, Richard, and I knew that there were people watching while we did it, but for them, they just saw their mum singing to the back of their dad’s phone.
“That was something I really liked about actually because I would say to them, ‘you don’t have to come, it’s there if you want it’.
“I’d try and include songs I knew that were family favorites – sometimes they were really up for it, sometimes they were not quite in the mood.
“Sometimes they had loads of energy, other times they just slump on the sofa.”
Live music letdown
The arts have been hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Not only are artists, actors and performers out of work, but millions of support crew who look after sound, lighting, staging and merchandise – just to name a few.
“If you’re the main act playing the O2 (Arena in London), there’s over 1,200 people that are employed in that venue on that night, just because there’s a gig on,” Ellis-Bextor said.
“You think about all of those concentric circles that are happening. I don’t think I’d really had reason to pause and think about it that way, in fact, normally with my work, you’re trying not to think of the industry side because the corporate side can be quite an uncomfortable bedfellow to creativity and art and all those sorts of things.
“But actually, this is really drawn a massive highlight to the economy of what we’re normally up to and all those jobs and all those people.”
In fact, if there was no pandemic, we would have seen Sophie down under.
“Funnily enough, I was actually supposed to be in Australia in April and May,” Sophie said.
“I was coming over to do something called the So Pop tour and I had lots of plans and I’d written into my diary where I was going to visit in each city and good coffee shops and all this kind of stuff.”
With plenty of hits to her name, Sophie was spoiled for choice when picking the tracklist for the album.
The songs span Sophie’s five studio albums, collaborations with producers Freemasons and Armin van Buuren and live performances.
As well as her familiar faves, Sophie recorded some new tracks, including a cover of Alcazar’s 2001 anthem Crying At The Discotheque.
“I’ve loved this song for a really long time. So I’ve actually been singing it. I’m in like clubs sets I’ve been doing probably for about 15 years cause it’s just such a brilliant song.”
“Also, I think the poetry of it, Crying At The Discotheque at a time where most discotheques are firmly shut – there’s something about that that made me smile a little bit.”
Sophie also recorded a cover of My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music.
“Julie Andrews is just like one of my all-time idols and she’s like the other voice of my childhood, alongside my parents’ voices…and I think during this year, I’ve just felt such a massive tug towards nostalgia and the things that have always had happy memories.”
Everything old is new again
As well as releasing Songs From The Kitchen Disco to streaming and on CD, Sophie released the album on vinyl and cassette.
“Doing the vinyl is for me, very gratifying because when I was signed to Universal (Music), you were only allowed to do two formats of your albums, so everybody used to do CD and cassettes because, you know, this was like the noughties and that was the thing, so actually a lot of songs that I’ve done had never come out on vinyl before.”
“Whereas now, vinyl is having a really big resurgence and it sounds gorgeous and it looks cool and you get to have big artwork and do the big gatefold – I’m totally sold, I’ve loved it.”
That podcast life
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Sophie has also started a podcast called Spinning Plates.
“Back in January, I started getting wheels in motion to do a podcast and I thought it’d just be a nice little thing to try out – I had no idea if I was really going to enjoy it as a medium.
“Everybody seemed to have a bloody podcast, So I was like, what can be special that I’ve got to say?”
“I decided to talk to lots of other working moms about the balance…I’ve been having all these lovely conversations throughout the year with these amazing women.
“It’s been good on so many levels, not just because I get these amazing chats and I get to be really nosy and, you know, women from lots of different walks of life.
“We do talk about child-raising, but actually, it’s more about how you kind of keep a little bit for yourself as life goes by.
“I’d never really done anything where I’ve interviewed people and I absolutely love it. I find it really exciting.
“I love listening to people. Everybody’s got such amazing stories and most of the people I talked to I’ve never met before, so I think it’s been quite good for me just to kind of say, you know what, I’m just gonna put myself out there and say, ‘would you like to talk to me’ and happily a lot of the people I’ve asked has said yes.”
Songs From The Kitchen Disco is available now online, on CD and vinyl, while there are special charity shirts available from Sophie’s website.
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