Charlotte Church: The fall and rise of little voice

Angel, little devil, motormouth, mother. Six albums and thousands of column inches in, Charlotte Church talks about life in the limelight to Charlotte Cripps

Charlotte Church is wearing a leopard-print dress and is gobbling down a cheese and pickle sandwich, with a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. She looks happy and radiant and is a lot more grounded than I had first imagined.

It's not been easy being in the public eye ever since she emerged as the 12-year-old "Voice of an Angel". Even when she goes out for a cigarette via the back door of her publicist's office in St John's Wood, where we meet, she is greeted by paparazzi.

"I don't want to be a walking soap opera character," she says. "I want to be a singer."

It's been five years since she released her teenage-angst album, Tissues and Issues. Its first single, "Crazy Chick", about needing therapy, reached No 2 in the UK charts in 2005. Now she's back with her new melancholic break-up album, Back to Scratch, with its twinkling title track about being left on her lonesome.

The 24 year old admits that this song echoes her own feelings over her recent split, in April, from Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson, currently strutting his stuff on Strictly Come Dancing. The period when they "pulled the plug on their relationship", as she refers to it, gave her plenty of melancholic material for her new album.

But she is matter of fact about her return to the pop world. "I'm a bit of a crap pop star to be honest. I'm not skinny enough, I'm not very good with style and fashion, and mainly just because I don't care what I look like most of the time," she says defiantly.

Now she is dating the guitarist Jonathan Powell, who also helped her write the album. She also has a new live-in best friend, Naomi, who doubles as a nanny to her two children Ruby, 3, and Dexter, 20 months.

"Naomi lives on top of the garage," says Church. "It's a really nice self-contained flat. She was still living at home, so I thought why not live with me? We are going to have a blast. I've known her since we were five years old."

Church has come to London today from her home in Cardiff to appear on ITV's Loose Women before heading off to see the new Harry Potter film. Since moving out of the sprawling manor house she shared with Henson just outside Bridgend, she now lives in Canton, a district of Cardiff not far from her parents' new B&B, Dexby Town House, named after the singer's two children.

She fondly recalls her last pop album as the type of music melodramatic teenagers write in their bedrooms. "I'm not saying that in a horrible way. But since then I've learnt life's lessons. I'm more patient – realistic – and I'm a better person. I hope so: you are meant to be egocentric as a teenager," she says. "My writing is a lot more reflective and has more depth. I've found a much more comfortable place to sing within myself. I've learnt how to incorporate my two voices which were warring – this big belter voice matched with this classical voice that can be sweet and high or quite operatic. That's an ongoing process because my voice is pretty versatile. I don't get stuck in a rut; it's boring."

Born in Llandaff, Cardiff, Church is an only child who was adopted by her mum Maria's husband James Church in 1998. Her own biological father left when she was six months old. "He only contacted me when I became famous," she says.

She has a huge extended family and says she has no interest in a relationship with her real father. "I don't need anything to complicate my life – it's already complicated."

These days she knows what makes her happy: "I know what is important to me now: happiness. It's about my family and my friends and of course my children, who are the be-all and end-all of my every decision."

It was at the age of 11 that Church stunned the nation when she sang "Pie Jesu" over the phone on the daytime ITV show This Morning. So angelic was her voice that she appeared on ITV's The Big Big Talent Show. She got a singing scholarship to the private Cathedral School, in Cardiff, before she met manager Jonathan Shalit, who now manages N-Dubz, and he negotiated a deal with Sony BMG. Her first album, Voice of an Angel, at the age of 12, made her the youngest artist to have a No 1 album on the British classical charts.

Since then it's been one scandal after another in the press, from her mum sacking her manager ("that's when mum went bipolar"), her mum going into the Priory in her battle against booze and self-harm ("I love her to bits, but she is high maintenance"), the public countdown to her losing her virginity at 16 ("that was strange") to drunken nights out and bad-boy boyfriends ("I was drinking vodka with my friends – big deal! I was a teenager"), to being called fat ("it could have destroyed me").

Church claims her feet have always been firmly on the ground. "I've never moved away from Wales and don't have celebrity friends," she says. "I stay close to my family and friends. The trouble with Gav is that we were just so different. It was sad because we did love each other, but it was the right decision." Celebrity is a curse, she adds. "At least I know my children will never want for anything financially. I've paid all my family's mortgages off on their houses."

Now Church is planning on a pop career in the US if she gets a deal for her album. "It was my biggest market – I sold more than six million albums there – but I haven't done anything in America for eight years. Apparently my name recognition is still pretty strong there."

Worth an estimated £11m, Church, who has sold about 11 million albums, has always worked hard. Her debut, Voice of an Angel, was followed by her second, self-titled album, which included the Top 40 operatic hit "Just Wave Hello". Her Christmas album Dream a Dream, in 2000, was followed by Enchantment in 2001, which was a bit more upbeat, with some pop and Broadway added into the repertoire. In 2002, at 16, she released Prelude: The Best of Charlotte Church and joined Julie Andrews on the Royal Christmas tour – before switching her singing attentions to pop.

She was often photographed out partying with friends or slouched somewhere drunk. "When you've been the Voice of an Angel, there's only one way you can go. Everyone was waiting for my fall from grace. Which I think I accomplished in spectacular fashion. I was just a normal teenager... As I've grown, I suppose I've got a little more careful. But I think I've come out of it pretty well. I think I'm a good person and a good mum and that's all I really care about. And hopefully I'll be a good artist as well."

In 2006, when her deal with Sony ended, she took a break from music to have two children. Now she has released Back to Scratch on her own record label, Dooby Records. It features her new poppy single, "Logical World", out on Monday, which sounds less bland than the track "Back to Scratch", as well as "The Actors", which Church performed on the talent contest Over the Rainbow, and a cover of "Ruby", originally recorded by the French singer Camille, which reveals Church at her best. The song "The Story of Us" is about her mother, who Church has always been close to despite her problems. The lyrics include: "I'll hold you in my arms, but you can't feel this warm embrace/ And you can't see the steady love from everyone, that's all around but never enough/ That's the story of us... " "The song is kind of sad," says Church. "My mum cries every time she hears it."

But while there is no doubt that Church has the voice of an angel, it is perhaps the lack of any edginess that is missing from her latest album. Older pop songs like "Let's Be Alone", from 2005, about being hated and never left alone in the press were rock chic. Now she is wholesome and sweet again. It's a mixed blessing.



The album 'Back To Scratch' is out now. Her new single "Logical World" is out on 29 November

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin