UK singing star Rebecca Ferguson is all loved-up in her private life – she’s also taking full control of her career after a turbulent recent past. A new album on its way – superstar Nile Rodgers at the helm.
The Scouse songbird speaks candidly to Music Republic Magazine editor Simon Redley about her new-found positive mindset – on the eve of a two-week residency at exclusive London nightspot Boisdale…
Well, we are well into the first month of a brand new year and many people will verbally making promises under the guise of New Year Resolutions, that they will not keep for long.
Lose weight, spend less on the credit cards and pay off debts, visit certain friends and family more, quit smoking and cut down on the booze.
But there are those of us who make more serious promises to ourselves about important and permanent life changes, with every intention of sticking to them.
Singing star Rebecca Ferguson has already begun her determined effort to begin a new year in a happier place emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. As she revealed during a frank and very open chat over the phone from her village home in the South of the UK.
After much publicised troubles such as a court case brought by her former management for breach of contract and lost earnings, a criminal case against a former accountant for fraud – when Rebecca lost £48,000 and closed her beauty salon; heartbreak from failed relationships and bringing up three kids as a single Mum.
A live TV revelation that she was sexually abused in a care home when she was eight, and then being bullied at school for being “poor”…..32-year-old Rebecca has a positive new outlook on life.
I am quite the fearful person…
“My resolution this year is to live in less fear. I am quite the fearful person; quite nervous, always thinking of the worst-case scenario. My resolution is to not think that way, and to live happy, and to live thinking that the best thing’s gonna happen tomorrow – not the worst.
“Just to be happier and to do things that I love, as well. Be more positive. Yeah”. So, what has been her biggest fear? “The court case with my old manager has literally really ruined my last year, and it made me ill; physically ill.
“It really took a toll on me, and it stopped me from being able to go to the studio and work, because I was not in the right mental head space.So, I’m fearful when I should have been focused on creating music; I was busy thinking of the business.
“This year, I have learned to accept my talent, because it’s took (sic) me years to be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘you’ve got a unique gift’.
“I felt like I was gonna lose it…someone would take it away….”
“I’ve only just got to that, like now actually. It’s OK to say that you’re talented. No one’s gonna think bad of you, and now I can look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m talented’.
“Whereas before, I always felt like I was gonna lose it somehow; like someone’s gonna take it away from me. I have lost that feeling. Because no matter what manager I have, no matter what record company I have, no matter what PR person; my talent will always be there.
“So, I have let go of that fear now, knowing that my talent stands no matter what, and everyone else can come round that and complement it. But ultimately, the talent is what makes it and what drives it”.
How about this court case with your previous management? Is that over? “The case is still ongoing, but I have a different mindset to it. I was very personally involved in it, but now I just leave it to solicitors. “I won’t look at it. I don’t let it bog me down. I just leave it. I don’t worry about it. It is what it is, these things happen. I just need to keep creating music, and to keep moving”.
Rebecca tells me she no longer allows management to make decisions for her. She has the final say to all aspects of her career; and will only say yes to things she knows she will enjoy. Fame and fortune are not the driving force in her life or career.
“I like to do things I enjoy now. I spent eight or nine years of doing things that people wanted me to do, to make them money. It was hard.I do things now that are motivated by what I love to do, not what monetise other people. I am very much in control of my career now, whereas I wasn’t.
“My whole career… I haven’t had control of anything; my finances…no control of anything. I am finding the position where I am in control, and so I do things that maybe might not look on the surface as being as successful as say a tour.
“I have been offered two big tours this year. I haven’t accepted one and the other I am considering. But now I just go, ‘what will I enjoy the most?’ I think that is the most important thing to me at this time. It won’t always be, but at this time; what will I enjoy?
I drive the ship…
“I have got a manager, but it is very led by me. I make the decisions. I decide what I do. I’m driving the ship though, definitely”.
Rebecca was a teenage Mum, but still went to college and qualified as a legal secretary in Liverpool. But she dreamed of being a singer, and unsuccessfully auditioned for The X Factor (twice) and for P. Diddy’s “Starmaker” contest in New York. She had a third bash at the X Factor auditions and got in. But she didn’t have an easy time when competing in the 2010 show; reaching the final; runner-up to the winner Matt Cardle.
Painfully shy, nervous and emotionally fragile from a broken relationship, Rebecca came across as a timid and pained soul with a world class voice, but little self-confidence. Today, she refuses to watch that show because she feels they do not give enough support to the young contestants to prepare them for the pressure.
“I don’t watch the X Factor, no. I am very honest about my reasons. It’s not that I don’t respect where I’ve come from, because I really do; massively. But I feel that there should be more duty of care, post-show and during. So, I don’t support it any more. It would be so much better if the duty of care was there.
“I think the actual show is a great concept and it’s finding amazing talent. But the talent should be nurtured, and it should be cared for. There’s a duty there as well, because you are dealing with young kids who’ve never known fame. Never known what it is to earn vast amounts of money, and that should be managed and cared for properly, so that people are OK”.
“I’d like to be a judge on The Voice…”
But she reveals that she WOULD accept an invite to be a coach on The Voice, if they asked her. “I like the Voice. I’d do that; I’d actually judge on that. It seems it doesn’t judge them by how they look. It is just based on the talent”.
Rebecca has no contact with anyone from X Factor these days, including her X Factor mentor Cheryl or the boss Simon Cowell. She is rarely seen at showbiz bashes and shuns the spotlight unless she is on stage.
“I live a very low-key life, in a very normal house in a very normal village”. She is the mother of Lillie-Mae (14), Karl (12) and Arabella (4).
Rebecca is recently on record in the tabloid press as saying she couldn’t date, as she did not trust any man. And had been let down too many times. But she reveals to me the total opposite of that fiction. The 32-year-old mother of three is actually well loved up…..
“I definitely wouldn’t say that. I’ve got a nice boyfriend, he’s really lovely. I’ve been with him for a year-and-a-half and he’s amazing.
I found love in the end…
“I found love in the end. He lives with me. He is not in the music business; he works in sponsorship and PR, and things like that. I’m really in a great chilled place, because I’ve took (sic) a step back from mainstream industry as well”.
When fame came calling, she moved to Surrey from LiverpooI, and spent a time based in France. “I am settled now where I am. The kids are settled in school. It’s a nice little place just outside London. A little village, very peaceful”.
There were also recent stories in the press that Rebecca was “secretly” seeing Bros heartthrob Matt Goss, romantically. Was she?
Did she date Matt Goss?
“I have never dated Matt. He became a really nice friend and is someone I’ve got a lot of respect for. Yeah. He’s a nice person”.
Rebecca has released four albums so far, from her first in 2011 to her last one in 2016, and all have been certified as multi-Platinum or Gold, and given her UK Top Ten chart hits; and spawned major hit singles. Hitting charts around the world too, and winning her many awards and nominations.
She reveals that she has begun recording her next album, with Chic superstar Nile Rodgers as Executive Producer. She has reunited with mega song writer Eg White to write the songs for this record.
The Grammy-winning writer has penned hits for the likes of Adele, Kylie Minogue, Florence and the Machine, Dua Lipa, Sam Smith, James Morrison, Pink and Joss Stone. He co-wrote the songs with Rebecca for her smash hit 2011 debut album “Heaven”.
Our chat is interrupted by a knock at her door, a delivery of a parcel from Amazon for one of her kids from their Christmas money, and then a brief check on her four-year-old daughter Arabella, who is happily drawing at the table in Mum’s home-office.
“Yeah, the new recordings sound really good. We have recorded about four songs, probably a bit more than that. When I go in with Nile, we leave with a solid song. There’s no ‘umming or arring’. No, ‘is that a hit or isn’t it’. They are all solid songs. It is very easy when I record with him.
“We are just about to see what magic can come from me, Eg and Nile writing together. I think it will be an amazing album. I am very determined to make this album better. It must be and it will be.
“I am determined to make sure it is a masterpiece. I am not rushing it, and I’ve got no need to rush. No deadline on me, I can relax. I can do it. I want to really perfect it and make something that is timeless”. Rebecca reveals that two major labels have made offers to release the new album, but nothing is confirmed at this time.
The theme of the new songs and the new album? “Mainly what I am writing about is letting go of your old self and being happy. Living. Accepting that life does have hard times; but isn’t life great. So, it’s a lot more positive.
“I think Nile’s influence will be great, because he writes music about people dancing and living, and having a laugh. I want to balance a bit of my words with that notion. God willing, I am hopeful that it will be a good album”. She aims for it to drop later this year.
Rebecca tries to live by the advice she was given by her Stepmother, before she passed away in 2016, as Rebecca was about to turn 30. “Beccy, go live your life and do not have regrets”. Rebecca concedes: “Life has ups and downs but it always balances out in the end”.
She was very open and honest during our chat. Still humble and down-to-earth, but a lot more self-confident since our paths last crossed back in 2012. A lot more focus on quality of life and a passion for staying in her happy zone and that balance between career and family time.
So, how would she sum herself up as a person in one sentence? “Ohhhh. Erm, what would that be? It would be, erm. Ohh, I don’t know what I would sum myself up as really. Erm, a work in progress!”, she giggles. How about now summing up Rebecca the singer? “Ahh..Ohhh…I’ve gotta have a bit of self-love here, haven’t I? She sings with love; big love”. That’ll do nicely, girl….
What makes her different to most other artists, then? “My voice has changed and sounds different to when I was 21 or whatever; it’s a lot more husky. Someone said, that is because your soul has changed, you’ve been through a lot; had a tough life. It reflects the pain in your voice.
“I don’t know what I’ve got, but what I do know is, we channel through our voices, our experiences as singers; with storytelling. I always try and tell a story when I am singing and try to reach the person who I am singing to. Tap into what they are going through, as well”.
I said no to Donald Trump…
One decision she made in the last couple of years, is one she stands by today, and is very pleased she made….To turn down an invite to sing at Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
But Rebecca did not just say “no thanks” or make an excuse about being otherwise engaged on that date. She said she would sing, but only if she was allowed to sing the song “Strange Fruit”.
A controversial song written in 1937 by US teacher, writer and poet Abel Meerepol – under the pseudonym Lewis Allan – protesting about American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.
It was famously recorded by Billie Holliday in 1939. The song was dubbed, “a declaration of war … the beginning of the civil rights movement” by Atlantic Records owner Ahmet Ertegun.
Rebecca’s demand was rejected, so she declined the invite. End of story. Today on reflection, she is glad she didn’t go, but says that invite should not have ever reached her door. “Yeah, it should have never come to me really. Shouldn’t have been an offer that anyone ever brought to me (sic) door.
“I don’t have any hate or love for Donald Trump. People are people and they do stupid things, but it wasn’t right for me and it shouldn’t have come to my door. I am glad I made the decision I did, and I am glad I suggested the song that I suggested, and it was declined”.
Rebecca has done six headline tours since she was part of the X Factor Tour in 2011 – her last tour was 2018’s, “The Revolution Tour”. But huge sold out venues night after night across the country, are a far cry from what she signed up for this month…
Hosting her own residency at Boisdale in Canary Wharf, London. The upmarket, celebrity-haunt restaurant and bar where she did her first residency exactly a year ago, which was a complete sell out every night and won her rave reviews.
There’s no hiding…
Is it harder to work a more intimate space than the much larger venues she is used to filling? “There’s no hiding, you can’t hide, you’ve got to get on with it and be good. There’s no huge BVs (backing vocalists) masking any bum notes.
“You have got to look people in the eyes; they are so close. It’s a lovely gig, really nice; because you can see everyone’s face, and everyone generally seems to enjoy it. It is a lovely atmosphere. It’s good training, like the old days; there every night in the same spot.
“This set is more jazzy, and it is a lot more relaxed on stage, a lot more chilled. Nice to be chatting away to the audience. More jazz and blues to it than touring sets”. No hotel room for Rebecca after the gigs. She has a car take her home after every show, to a village about an hour from the City.
She is content in her ‘job’ and her private life and has, in her own words, “found love in the end”. We have established that this singing star is also now fully in control of her own career. But this contrasts nicely with the final words from Rebecca, as we say au-revoir at the end of the call.
“Oh dear…..Arabella’s painted everything, as I have been on the phone. She’s painted the whole table!” Rebecca’s loud laughter and my own mental image of that messy scene, bring our chat to a conclusion……
- Rebecca Ferguson and her band are in concert from 7th – 11th & 14th – 18th January 2019 at Boisdale of Canary Wharf, Cabot Place, London, E14 4QT.
By Simon Redley
Live photos: Jason Sheldon