Perched on her pink velvet sofa in a room filled with Mexican knick-knacks, International singer songwriter, Sophie Ellis-Bextor chats to Viv Groskop on all things courage, family and being ordinary.
A critic picked up a lyric on your new album (Familia) “why be so ordinary why just conform” and said, “Sophie E.B knows that a lifelong career is built on a certain amount of risk taking”. Is that true are you as brave as this suggests?
I don’t know if it about bravery as it is to do with not getting too predictable. I think it is a very nice feeling to feel scared sometimes, especially if it is something creative, otherwise you just get stuck in a rut.
You have a very grounded family life does that make you want to take more risks in your career?
I think you are right that does give you the freedom. I am obsessed with this idea that your home can be somewhere you can really be yourself, be relaxed, it is very good for your morale, for your head. I always feel it is like dropping an anchor. This [home] is the base and that means you can go and explore, but it is a place you come back to that makes you feel centered again.
Like any working parent, you get to the end of some weeks and you think, ‘I didn’t do it right, I may have compromised my work or I maybe didn’t spend enough time with my kids as I wanted to’, I try not to be too hard on myself. If your intentions are good, by and large, you are probably getting the balance right.
How does making yourself heard fit in with your lyrics and what you want to express through your music?
It is vital. The things that always resonated and the things I am intrigued by, the artists I have always loved… they tell a story and there is lots of personality in what they do, that is something I feel like I have a responsibility in what I do, I don’t want to hide behind anything or have a big gap between the person on stage and the ‘me’ in real life.
Next, we asked our other special guests what Voice means to them, from feeling scared creatively, feeling courageous in the work place and how clothing can make us feel empowered… we picked out some of our most memorable moments.
Editor in Chief Glamour UK
About making herself heard in the workplace:
My strategies for making my voice heard, is by picking my battles. I have learnt over the years, that if I feel strongly about a point or about something I need to happen, I prepare and I make sure I haven’t spent the last six weeks moaning and griping about everything.
On clothing being a code:
Clothing is coding; it says everything about you. We code our self with what we wear – that is the power of clothing.
The language in the glossy mags:
In my role [at Glamour] I like to look at the little language that has slipped into a culture like “isn’t she gorgeous- don’t you hate her” and it is things like that, that make women gang up on each other. I think that is women’s magazines of old, I know for years and years it was acceptable to call a white vest a ‘wife beater’, things like that are not funny! We need to praise ourselves and each other more for the way we look, I don’t like this movement where it is wrong to tell someone they are beautiful. In the magazine [Glamour] we celebrate all kinds of different women, it is important we celebrate diversity.
Leading voice coach and Author of the book Gravitas
Being grounded in your presence:
A straight forward trick, I learnt is called FOF BOC it is basically when you feel anxious or nervous about stuff, you need to go into the body and say “my feet are on the floor and my bum is on the chair”. FOF BOC, you just really take the moment to feel your feet on the floor and your bum in the chair and center your breathing.
On learn behaviors at work:
Often women show up in meetings and go “maybe I shouldn’t speak”, “maybe I don’t know enough about this subject” and sometimes that stops women speaking. There is also something about wanting to be liked and modifiers, like [saying] “well maybe”, “I hope this is” and that stops our voices from being fully heard. We perceive that if we are too confident, loud or authoritative that people will judge us.
Want to know more about FOFBOC? Read the feature >
The author of Inferior, scientist and journalist
On Women’s capabilities:
My book [Inferior] looks at how woman have been let down by science, based on crude observations. These ideas die very slowly. We always say women are as capable as men, [but] when you actually see the scientific evidence for it and how it has been manipulated over the years – it is shocking. The fact is we are just as capable.
Often the only girl in my class, everyone notices [you] and your first instinct is to blend in, so I think feminine clothing emphasises that you are a woman, and the world I am in that can really put the spotlight on you.
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