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Interview ♦ September 12, 2017

“My favourite smell is bleach,” says Nadine Coyle.

“If I walk into the house and there’s things being bleached, it just makes me feel at home, euphoric almost.”

She pauses and laughs. “I can’t believe we’re having a whole discussion about bleach. Real pop star things!”

The topic has come up because Coyle’s new song, Go To Work, is a withering riposte to a lover who’s not pulling their weight.

“Tell me what I got to do / To get you up in the morning?” she sings over an infectious house piano. “Why don’t you go to work?”

The song sees the 32-year-old reunited with Xenomania, the songwriting geniuses behind her old band Girls Aloud. Together they scored 21 Top 10 singles, more than any other female band in history, before calling it a day in 2013. (Coyle says the split was “silly” and refused to put her name to it. But more on that later.)

Go To Work was inspired, says Coyle, by “general annoyance” with people “who just don’t do anything” to help out, at home or at work.

But she’s quick to point out the lyrics have nothing to do with her partner, American Football player Jason Bell.

“It’s funny, we were watching this programme, Married to a Celebrity, the other night, and people had to write lists of whinges about their partner.

“I said to Jason, ‘what would we write on our lists?’ and he said, ‘I wouldn’t write anything.’

“I was like, ‘that’s a good answer. Well done, Jason!’

“We live really well together,” she adds. “He doesn’t cook and he doesn’t clean, but he makes really good coffees.”

Feel-good pop

Home life has been Coyle’s priority since Girls Aloud split in 2013. She moved back to Northern Ireland after nine years in Los Angeles to raise her three-year-old daughter Anaiya.

Now, though, she’s all fired up and ready to return to the charts.

Nadine’s first solo record was released, somewhat disastrously, in partnership with Tesco.

Six years on she’s signed a deal with Virgin EMI, home to Justin Bieber and Katy Perry, and says there’s already a “four-single plan” for her new album.

Coyle had almost 100 songs to choose from, recorded over a two-year period in Brighton. The overwhelming theme, she says, is feel-good pop.

“We’re not trying to change the world. There’s enough people trying to do that,” she explains.

“We just want songs you can put on and have fun, that make your day better for those three minutes”.

Born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland, Coyle first came to attention in 2001 on the Irish version of reality show Pop Stars.

She made it through to the final band, Six. But then it was discovered she was 16, two years below the show’s age limit, and had been lying throughout the audition process.

The revelation saw her make a tearful exit from the competition. But Louis Walsh, a judge on the series, kept in touch and encouraged the singer to audition for ITV’s Pop Stars: The Rivals in 2002.

She was the third member to be selected for Girls Aloud, joining Cheryl Tweedy (as she was then), Nicola Roberts, Kimberley Walsh and Sarah Harding.

What followed were some of the best, most unconventional pop hits of the 21st Century.

Biology, for example, took two minutes and five (five!) musical movements to get to the chorus, while Sexy… No! No! No! grafted a lyric about sexual liberation onto a ’70s heavy metal sample.

To begin with, Coyle was very much seen as the star.

“She’s the one with the big solo career,” Louis Walsh told the BBC in an (unpublished) interview from 2005. “All she wants to do is sing.

“She’s kind of lost in the group really, because no one knows how good she is. But if they were the Supremes, she would be Diana Ross.”

It didn’t quite turn out like that.

When Cheryl signed up for X Factor, she began to eclipse her bandmates. On later Girls Aloud albums, she received a bigger share of the lead vocals.

And it was Cheryl’s solo career, not Coyle’s, that produced platinum albums and number one singles.

But there was no bad blood, and Coyle happily signed up for a Girls Aloud reunion tour in 2013 – an experience that nearly ended in disaster when a floating platform malfunctioned during rehearsals.

“We came down on the platform and it tilted and nearly tipped us off,” she recalls. “We were all screaming and clinging on for dear life. Thankfully, we were all fine.”

The tour was a huge success. After 20 dates, though, the band called it a day, announcing their split in a brief tweet.

The statement was famously issued against Coyle’s wishes.

Informed of the decision just 20 minutes before they were due on stage for their final show, Coyle refused to sign a contract formalising their separation.

“I was in my robe and I’d got my hair and make-up on, and I was like, ‘What? Everybody wants to do that?’ And they said, ‘Yes, everybody’.

“I thought it was silly. Why would you want to do that? I thought everybody was tired because it was the end of the tour and they’d change their minds.

“Then they said, ‘We’re going to put out a statement’ – and it was a tweet.

“I thought, ‘What? What?! We came back with a press conference, and you’re going to end 10 years with a tweet? Then remove my name completely from the whole thing. I do not agree with any of this.'”

The statement may have gone out but, to this day, Coyle has not put pen to paper – technically making her the sole remaining member of the band.

“I’m not saying that!” she guffaws. “You know that’s what the headline will be! ‘Nadine says she is Girls Aloud!'”

But she’s still in touch with the rest of the band, and says she voted “all day” for Sarah Harding to win the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother.

Following the band’s split and the birth of her daughter, Coyle signed up to appear as Erin the Goddess in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance – finding herself dumbstruck by the dancers’ physical prowess.

“It’s like a sport,” she says. “When they were getting ready for the big finale, they would literally jump way above the height of me, just to get themselves pumped up.

“They were like gazelles, then they’d run on stage.”

Did she ever harbour ambitions to join in? “Are you joking?” she laughs.

“I tried Irish dancing when I was younger but I wasn’t any good. I just thought, ‘this is a waste of time.'”

No, singing has always been in her blood – from her early days in a local restaurant called The Drunken Duck, all the way to Wembley Stadium.

You get the sense that nothing makes her happier than being in the vocal booth, running through scales and recording harmonies.

Making the new album with Xenomania supremo Brian Higgins, she says, pushed herself to discover new shades and tones to her voice.

“Brian would say, ‘Oh, there’s a lot to get through – we’ve got 25 vocal parts to record, but we’ll do it over two or three days’.

“And I’d be like, ‘No, we’ll get this done in two hours.’

“You have to get into a zone where you’re so focused that you’re hearing melodies you’ve never heard before.”

Coyle says her favourite songs on the record include Girls On Fire, a celebration of strong women, and I Fall, “which is about feeling connected to somebody, even when you’re not in the same room.”

Soon enough, though, she’s back to talking about domestic life and describing how she pined for the Irish winter when she was out in America.

“I love being at home and hearing the rain on the window,” she says. “I missed that cosiness.”

Nor was she impressed by LA’s health-conscious food trends. “You know how everybody’s into this ‘fresh from the farm’ organic produce? That’s how we grew up!

“You went to the farm to pick up your eggs and your potatoes. We were on that years ago – now it’s trendy!”

If her music’s as ahead of the curve as her diet, we’re sure to be hearing a lot more from Nadine Coyle over the next 12 months.

Go To Work is out now on Virgin/EMI.


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