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

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

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

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

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn