MUSIC / The making of a UK soul diva: Dina Carroll is British, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming a double-platinum soul sensation. Interview by Sabine Durrant

These days, when Dina Carroll arrives back in London, after promoting her album in Japan, say, or the USA, there's a limo to meet her at the airport. She's still getting over it.

'I've had some horrific cars,' she says, screwing up her face. 'It used to be like dodgy old mini-cabs, chain-smoking Irishmen who were maniacs on the road. And the seats were filthy, like you'd expect rats to leap out at you . . .' Then she pauses, flicking her hands as if to shake off the dirt, and regains her habitual ironic distance. 'The record company does worry about my safety now,' she says with a lift of her elegantly curved eyebrows. 'I guess they've got too much money invested in me not to.'

For Dina Carroll (who, incidentally, was born in a Newmarket taxi on the way to the hospital), the switch has happened fast. This time last year, she was just another hopeful newcomer at A&M. She'd been in the music business since she was 16 - first working for StreetSounds studio; later as the singer for the dance act Quartz (with whom she had a fleeting Top 10 success). Her status then was, as Nigel Lowis, her current producer and co-writer, says: 'Call her up, come in, do this, thank you, goodbye.'

Not any more. This is Week 2 of Dina Carroll's sell-out 21-date British tour. She's been compared to Whitney Houston, to Mariah Carey, even to Aretha Franklin. Her first album has 'gone double platinum', selling more than 350,000 copies, up there with the Stings and the Bowies. She's floating on her sixth successive Top 20 hit. She's been on the Arsenio Hall Show. She was on the shortlist for the Mercury Prize and was nominated for a Brit Award. And (take this how you will), Andrew Lloyd Webber has asked her to release one of his songs - 'My Perfect Year', which she sang live for the first time last week and on which the bookies will offer you odds of 12-1 for the No 1 Christmas slot.

All of which pales before the real confirmation of stardom: Dina Carroll, 24-year-old 'party-loving Dina', 'all-night Dina' has won the attention of the tabloids. 'They got into my house,' she says, 'they read cards, they looked at photographs . . . I was just completely . . . I've never been so angry; I was shaking with anger. I was like 'Do I need this?' . . . But then, as I told my sister later, you can't blame people for being curious.'

Some people may well be curious about how it happened in the first place. Carroll has a lovely voice - sweet with tough edges - and extraordinary looks - almond-shaped hazel eyes that look back at you inquiringly, a large mouth that curls up slightly at the corners for most of the time, then bursts open at the seams into a big, wide grin. Her manager, Oliver Smallman, had trouble placing her demo tape ('It would be unfair to reveal all the labels that turned her down'), but Steve Wolf, the A and R man at A & M, and Howard Berman, the company's managing director, were won over the instant they heard her. 'I picked up the demo on the Friday,' recalls Wolf, 'and the deal was safely being worked on on the Monday. We were that impressed.'

Nowadays, though, it takes more than talent and enthusiasm. Carroll also owes her title of 'Britain's soul diva' to carefully tuned production and canny marketing. Nigel Lowis, her co-writer, neatly judged the sound of her album, So Close, so that it would corner two markets. 'With the uptempo numbers, we wanted to be like the trendy dance producers C J Mackintosh; a sound that has an instant club appeal. But we also wanted the quality of the melodies of, say, Barry White - classy, with the strings and everything. And in the middle of it all, we placed her lovely voice.'

The record company, meanwhile, released three singles before letting go of the album: 'putting an artist's wares in the shop window' to quote Berman. Most cleverly, though, with a poster campaign that zoomed in on Carroll's face, her head swathed in an exotic headscarf, they presented her as an enigmatic creature, someone about whom you might want to find out more. 'They didn't want it to be the normal dance pose in street clothes,' says Carroll. 'We wanted to cause a bit of a stir and get people questioning: what is this shot? What's the song like? Who is she?'

'We're not sure what we're wearing yet,' says the record company dresser, waving around a plaid shirt on a metal hanger. 'We think the black jacket's good, but Dina's quite keen on the lovely cream jumper she bought in Dublin.'

It's 'back stage' at Elstree Studios, as Carroll prepares for her ninth Top of the Pops appearance. This time her usual lush look - velvet swathes, etc - is to be replaced by something more relaxed. 'We think it's about time,' says someone else from the record company.' And doesn't she look nice?'

Carroll rehearses in the black but, for the interview, she's slipped on the cream. Sitting in the dressing-room, knees touching her chin, her thick dark hair swept back, she looks well wrapped up and cosy. Usually, she smokes, but for this tour she's wearing nicotine patches ('I think the dosage is really extreme - the first night I wore one I was buzzing round my bedroom, I was all over the place. I took it off and I was out like a light'). They seem, at least, to have banished her habitual pre- show nerves. 'God, I can be nervous,' she says, 'horrifically. The more famous I get, the more pressure there is on me and the worse the nerves have become . . .' The soul diva leans forward, confidentially. 'I go through phases when I'll have this horrific coughing fit before I go on. My throat tightens and I sing higher than I should. And I get, you know, nauseous. Once, I came very close to being sick. I was, like gagging. They said, 'And DINA CARROLL]' and I thought, 'Oh, God, I've got to get it together,' so I ran up the steps, but I could have just burst into tears.'

It doesn't take long to realise that there's one thing standing between Dina Carroll and the trappings of superstardom: Dina Carroll. 'No way,' she says about the prospect of leaving Cambridge, where she lives with her mother. 'Not if they paid me.' She lives in the same street as always, hangs out with the same friends, goes to the same pubs and clubs, and finds the constant recognition (the bulk of her fans are gay men and teenage girls) less of an ego-thrill than a social embarrassment: 'I get caught up in hour-long conversations and I'm saying, 'I've gotta go, I've gotta go.' They're so hyped, I can't be rude. I mean it's my own fault, I got into the job. So there I am grinning.'

She also hates the USA - though she's half American herself and speaks with sharpened vowels - and she loathes LA. 'I can't stand it,' she says. 'I know if my next project takes off, I'm going to be under pressure to move there, but no way. No wa-ay.' The door opens then and 'a member of the record company' walks in. 'Uh- oh,' she says, 'Hope they didn't hear me.'

It tends to be in LA that Carroll's worst happens: meeting other stars. 'More and more I'm getting the opportunity now,' she says. 'People whose music I enjoy, say, and I hate it because a lot of the time I'm really disappointed. They can be so rude. I did meet - oh God, what's his name? Melvin Franklin, the bass singer in The Temptations, who are my all-time favourites. It was a really embarrassing situation. We were in LA and the people I was with were, like, 'He's in the lobby, he's in the parking lot. Dina's a great fan, get him over.' And they dragged him over and he did the star bit - the smile, the handshake, the carefully chosen, beautifully executed words - 'Hi, nice to meet you,' not listening to a word I said. One of those. And I knew, because I've done it myself when I'm tired, and I hate doing that. And I thought to myself, 'I didn't want to meet you anyway.' '

Dina Carroll does not do the star bit. Not now anyway. But things change. And a soul diva with no money in her pocket (the royalties have yet to flood in) who is picked up at the airport in the record company limo is very different to a soul diva who has a limo of her own. (So far, Carroll's only concession to her new status is to update her 'beaten-up banger' with a Suzuki Vitara Jeep.) Soon, perhaps, she'll find dancing in public makes her feel less 'self-conscious', she'll stop living off packets of crisps and she'll start believing people when they tell her they like her voice: 'I usually think it's crap.'

But one thing's for sure: she'll never be attending a musical tribute. 'That tribute to Aretha Franklin in the States] It was so American. I mean, Robert De Niro - I was devastated] I was so disappointed by him. 'Oh, I love Aretha and it's great to be here and I've listened to her since I was a child . . .' It was like, you're making me sick, they were all so sycophantic. It was revolting. I thought to myself I am never doing anything like that. I'll say I'm sorry. I'm ill.'

Dina Carroll appears tonight at the Hammersmith Apollo, London W14 (081-741 4868). The tour then continues nationwide

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower