The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
What would your younger self make of your life today? 41, Singer-songwriter
‘I’m lucky no social media was around. There is probably stuff I wouldn’t get away with’
Ithink a lot about what my younger self would make of my life. I imagine my school teacher giving me an envelope of pictures of the house I’d end up living in, who I’d end up marrying and pictures of all my kids. Finding pictures of these five boys, I think I’d wonder whether I had the right envelope. But looking back the seeds were sown from a pretty early age.
I was an only child until I was eight so I spent a lot of time with grownups. A lot of my mum and dad’s friends didn’t have any kids my age so I was quite independent, quite used to being inside my own imagination, playing with my own stuff.
I had quite a small group of friends but I wasn’t ever really an alpha, I always felt a bit on the periphery. I think I might have been someone who seemed quite confident but had a lot of anxiety on the inside; I used to worry quite a bit.
Everything changed when my brother, Jack, was born. That was the start of the happiest bit of my childhood. I just loved having a sibling and having that family life. I used to look after him all the time: I bathed him, put him to bed, changed him, played with him, everything. I completely doted on him.
From the age of eight I’ve often had a baby on the hip, be it one of my siblings (I now have three sisters and two brothers) or any of my children. Since I was looking after Jack, the longest we’ve gone without a new baby in the family is six years which isn’t long really. There’s always been a small person around. I’ve always equated new babies with new chapters and happiness.
Similarly, I think I take being a good friend quite seriously. Most of my girlfriends are people I’ve known for at least 15, 20 or even 30 years. I’m lucky enough to know a lot of lovely people who give me really good counsel. A lot is made of people changing with fame but actually, what tends to happen more often, is that the people around you change. Thankfully, I’ve never had anyone in my life who has been starstruck by anything I’ve got up to.
I think that’s a healthy way to exist. I like the fact that no one is impressed by what I do: that’s absolutely fine with me!
My friends were the best thing I got out of school. I could take it or leave it. I always had a feeling my real life would start afterwards. I didn’t start singing until I was about 16, but I was always obsessed with music and my walls were covered with band posters. I distinctly remember buying my first ever single, Our House by Madness, on a 12-inch vinyl with my dad when I was four.
It has a nice feeling but there’s sadness there too because it’s about the kids being young and that chaos of people coming in and out of your house, and people going through different stages of life, and none of that lasts forever.
It’s come full circle for me, in a way. Our House was the final song of our first set of
Kitchen Discos [throughout lockdown Ellis-Bextor and her family live-streamed from their kitchen each Friday night], and since then I’ve worked with Very on a music video to it for their “Our House” campaign. Every family has their own way of alleviating stress and for us, it’s to party.
When I meet people who tell me they’ve met me 20 years ago I think, “I hope I was nice.” I have a feeling that I was a bit brittle, because I was always worried about what people thought of me. I’m concerned that came across as rudeness. I think I’m lucky there wasn’t any social media around. There’s probably a lot of stuff I wouldn’t be able to get away with.
It’s quite nice that I can have quite a selective memory over a lot of what I got up to as I was starting my career. The way that people get taken to task on social media for one thing they say terrifies me. That whole cancel culture, fingerpointing – I think that’s scary.
I’m not sure where this current trajectory will take me. I’ve always said I’d end up like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane with the glitter make-up, warbling my way through Murder On The Dancefloor. I still have decades left in me, guys!