Kimberley Walsh: from Girls Aloud to showtunes

As her bandmates cornered pop, Kimberley Walsh needed to find her own niche. The answer, she tells James McNair: Strictly, showtunes, and a future on Broadway

“How can you go to Barbados and catch a cold?” says Kimberley Walsh, sniffling absently. Her fleeting glumness segues to Saturday-night-TV smile and suddenly she's in promo mode. That's showbiz.

Now 31, the Girls Aloud singer and joint runner-up of last year's Strictly Come Dancing hoof-off has been putting her best gloss on things since starring in a George at ASDA advert as a child. When we meet in London's West End to discuss her debut solo album Centre Stage, a big freeze is homing-in outside. Walsh's recent, much paparazzied beach holiday with boyfriend Justin Scott – “Look at that Strictly-toned stomach!” ogled one red-top – must seem a distant memory.

The Brucie and Tess Daly-helmed Strictly has been a profile-raiser for Walsh. Her determination and girl-next-door charm were a good fit for the programme, and, though she won't reveal any details, she confirms she's since been inundated with other TV offers.

“Strictly was a lot tougher than I thought it would be, though,” she says. “I got a shock. I went to stage school [at Stage 84, Bradford], but the dancing there was more 'just try and copy this', whereas with the Strictly stuff, everything I thought I knew how to do, I was doing wrong.”

The programme's producers had been courting Walsh for a number of years, but only last year did her schedule allow participation. She also played the ogress Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2012, but the requisite fat-suit, green makeup and fake snoz were small beer, Walsh says, compared to the physical demands of Strictly.

How did her boyfriend feel about she and the Russian-born pro Pasha Kovalev dancing to Beyoncé's “Naughty Girl”? “It is intimate, and it is bizarre”, says the singer in warm West Yorkshire tones, “but Justin's really chilled out and he can see it for what it is: part of my job. It isn't as glamorous as it looks, either. You're standing on each other's feet, knocking each other over, and seeing each other when you're all sweaty. It's hard graft.”

Graft is clearly something Walsh relishes. Before recording Centre Stage, a collection of songs from well-known shows, she returned to singing lessons. In ITV's 2008 documentary series The Passions of Girls Aloud, Walsh gamely auditioned for a West End production of Les Misérables, but it transpired that years of singing low-to-mid range pop in unison had left her ill-equipped to scale the heights of “On My Own.” This time out she's much better prepared, however.

“I learned a huge amount doing Shrek,” says the singer. “It was crazy to get to 30 and suddenly realise that if I changed this movement in my larynx I could belt it out or move up into my third voice. Doing ”Defying Gravity“ [from Wicked] on the new album was a challenge, but I think I nailed it. My producers were like, 'Do you want us to bring it down a notch or two?' I was like, 'Nope.'”

Walsh seems content to pursue a solo musical career that will likely please mums and dads more than it does “the kids”. She says she still loves pop, and she's clearly relishing going on tour with Girls Aloud again. “I didn't want my solo album to be pop or R&B,” she says, stretching out leather-trousered legs that end in Kurt Geiger wedge boots. “Cheryl [Cole] and Nicola [Roberts] have got that covered. This was a way of distinguishing myself from the other girls and I think it's true to who I am at this point.

“I've done a kind of Sixties version of ”Somewhere“ from West Side Story and ”I Still Believe“ from Miss Saigon.”

Walsh was born in Bradford. Her father John, a kitchen salesman, and mother Diane, a music teacher, split up when she was six. Kimberley's three siblings, Sally, Adam and Amy also went to theatre school (“I think they gave us a group discount.”). Sally went on to play Emmerdale's Lyn Hutchinson from 1997-2000.

Little sister Kimberley acted in The Book Tower, the Yorkshire Television children's show that dramatised popular novels, but of course it was talent show Popstars: The Rivals that brought Walsh to the fore. On 30 November, 2002, she and her Girls Aloud bandmates were thrown together by that most curious of agents, telephone voting.

“It gave the public a connection with us,” says the singer. “I think they thought they owned us a little bit, but then they watched us grow as a group and grow up as individuals. After [debut single] ”Sound of the Underground“ went to No 1 we actually had a bit of a shaky spell. It was a difficult time for pop music and our record company nearly dropped us. ”Love Machine“ [a UK No 2 in September 2004] was a turning point, though. That was when I thought, 'OK, we're gonna get a few more years out of this.'”

Two nights before our chat, Walsh and the rest of Girls Aloud had a meeting to finalise the stage-set for Ten: The Hits tour 2013. “Afterwards I couldn't sleep,” she says excitedly. “Everybody's taking it very seriously in terms of making it as good as it can be.”

Girls Aloud go on, then, but what if Broadway beckoned? “It's the ultimate dream for someone in my position,” says Walsh.

'Centre Stage' is out on Decca on 4 February. See Andy Gill's review, page 20

This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar Magazine

Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering