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
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil