Charlotte Church interview
This week, Charlotte Church accepted libel damages from a tabloid newpaper that falsely reported her engagement. The Daily Mail chose not to report on these damages though, instead printing a story about her eating a McDonalds. “She's Lovin' it” was the headline of choice, with the main text including; “The blonde songstress was pictured dipping her hand into the brown paper bag full containing the takeaway meal.” No, dear reader, that sentence does not make sense, I’m very glad you pointed that out. Charlotte Church though, is no doubt used to such tabloid attention. Since being dubbed “the voice of an angel” aged 11, and subsequently going through a tempestuous (read: normal) adolescence in front of the glaring eyes of the world, Church has rarely been far from the headlines.
“It was pretty tough really,” she says when I ask how it was growing up in the spotlight. “Just because I was a teenager, and you put yourself under so much pressure anyway, and you don’t really know what’s going on, or who you are. To have people say really negative things about you all the time is quite difficult.”
To make matters more complicated, at the age of 19 Church released a pop album entitled ‘Tissues and Issues’, and was introduced to the cut throat world of pop music. “When I was doing the classical stuff I was kind of lucky - I was really the only person in my field at that time who was that age, and, you know, being female as well…” she explains, of her earlier career. “Then coming into the pop world, where there’s a lot more competition, and a lot of it is about image and all of that bollocks, I found it a very different experience.” She pauses. “And not one that I particularly enjoyed.”
Now though, Church seems to have found a comfortable middle ground in the music she is making. “I’m not going to be releasing an album, it’s going to be a series of EPs, spanning over probably about a year.” One of the tracks she’s previewed so far, The Rise, showcases an incredible range, which I (perhaps sycophantically) point out to her. “I’m using my range throughout most of the material… not necessarily to the extent of The Rise, but in other songs it’s even higher. It’s quite diverse.”
Church’s new material certainly demonstrates an ease with her vocal talents that her pop albums didn’t seem to have – she no longer seems to be rejecting her classical background, nor is she sheltering in it entirely. It’s a balance, and one that she seems pleased with.
The subject turns, briefly, to Church’s children when I ask her if she ever listens back to her young performances. “I’ve started looking back at bits and bobs a little bit, because I showed my little boy a video of me when I was 14, and he just would not believe that it was me. He was like, ‘No it’s not, Mummy’!” She laughs.
How would she feel then, if he wanted to go down a similar career path? “I’d feel… really, really not good. It’s a horrible industry to be honest. I mean there’s a lot of horrible industries about, but the music industry’s pretty cut throat, it’s pretty harsh. And unfortunately there’s a lot of…” there’s an extremely lengthy pause, during which no doubt many words are flying through her mind. Clearly though, she decides to censor herself, or perhaps she just stumbles across the most accurate one; “a lot of false people.”
Church was a judge on BBC’s Over the Rainbow, a show that searched for a Dorothy to star in the new West End production of Wizard of Oz, so I’m surprised by her response when I ask if she’d accept a judging role from Simon Cowell. “No,” she responds, bluntly. It seems this might be all she wants to say on the matter, but after a pause she adds, “It goes against my every nerve. It’s not that I don’t like it, I don’t want to slag it off, I just don’t think that’s the best way to actually find creative talent. People think that’s the top of music, that it’s the pinnacle, where to me it’s so far from that it’s unbelievable.”
Finally, we discuss the Leveson inquiry. I worry, after the interview ends, that we spent too long discussing the role of the media in Church’s life. But after a quick google of her name, I am reminded of the iron grip the media has over her public life (and private life – although their own, vastly fabricated version of it). Be it her fast food joint of choice, or the status of her relationship, the sheer volume of tabloid attention Church receives has always threatened to overshadow her singing career.
So it seems only fitting really that much of my time with her was spent discussing this – after all, Church's own words are what is often missing from these articles. “There are a lot of really lazy journalists who work for tabloid newspapers that don’t know what the word research means... And it doesn’t particularly matter, because nothing has to be based on truth” she says, making no attempt to hide her sarcastically blasé tone. Will anything change, then, following Leveson’s report? “Unless there are some really strong guidelines, you know, some really strong deterrants, then I don’t think anything will change. But it all depends on what Leveson says.” Fingers crossed, then, I say. “Yeah”. Another pause. “Otherwise I’m in trouble!”
Charlotte Church is performing at Fibbers, York, on the 28th July. Tickets are still available here