Sometimes in life, the good things are worth waiting for. With Girls Aloud on hiatus (soon to end though, if this interview is anything to go by), its high profile members have not been letting the grass grow under their stilettoed feet…although with mixed results. Cheryl Cole blazed into both a solo and TV career that has faded of late, Sarah Harding fancied herself as an actress, Nadine Coyle’s expected success completely failed to materialise and Kimberly Walsh has contented herself with some low key presenting work. It took until late this year, however, for Nicola Roberts to throw her hat into the ring and guess what? The member who has endured more criticism and brickbats than most yet who emerged as a campaigner against tanning products, managed to come up with an album the trump the lot of them.
Jennifer Gannon has already waxed lyrical about Cinderella’s Eyes here, but we want to know is why it took her until now to get round to launching her solo career. “It took me that long to write”, she says. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I wouldn’t let anything see the light of day until I thought I couldn’t do it any better. You get to the point where something has to give and you’ve got to put the record out there. Also I had to find my sound and that took me a little while, but getting the songs that I wanted on the album was the main thing. I’d have six great ones and 15 others that were just alright, but I wanted to have the same feeling about all of them. I didn’t want anything to be a filler, it all had to be there because I loved it”.
Was there a moment when you felt it all fell into place?
“Things didn’t really click until I wrote ‘Yo-Yo’, then I knew where I was going. You know when you make a spider diagram and but the subject in the middle, with all the stems coming off it? ‘Yo-Yo’ was the thing in the middle, I knew I’d have safer stuff than that but also quirkier stuff. I needed a middle ground and I found it with that song”.
You weren’t content with turning out a few hits and letting the rest of the record take care of itself then?
“Absolutely not, good God. Some albums have just three singles and the rest is filler but luckily for me I haven’t heard that from any of the reviews. Everybody has personal standards with everything. Working with (long term GA producers) Xenomania for all of those albums since I was 17 was key. With Brian and Miranda there are no rules for any of the songs. I’m like a sponge, I wanted to take everything in and learn. I took on whatever tips they gave me, I wrote it all down. Before I even started writing the album I wanted to learn everything possible while we were on our break….being at the studio, singing, writing, learning about songs. I wanted to submerse myself into that world and just be better at it. That’s how I feel about the album. I love it and I’m really proud of it, but I can see what I’ve learnt from it and have even more experience. Now when we go into the studio I can move forward again”.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the album is the lyrical content, which prove Roberts to be an incisive, witty and boldly honest writer. ‘I’ lets rip on a number of subjects, while ‘sticks + stones’ is the real show stopper, a moving retelling of her early time with Girls Aloud and the bullying she received from the media.
Was it a hard decision to use such personal lyrics?
“Not really. I’d say that kind of stuff in a conversation anyway. It’s not like I’ve made a conscious decision to be ‘personal’, I wrote it, it’s what I think. If I don’t write that, what am I going to do – write a lie? If that’s what you think and you’re writing a record, that’s what’s going to go on there”.
‘sticks + stones’ is quite a song…
“If there’s truth in a lyric then it’s always going to cut a little bit deeper. It’s not polished, it’s a situation that is really true to me and happened in my life. It’s not a great situation but if people are able to relate to something like that….it’s why I wrote that song, so people could identify with the lyrics. There’s always a song on an album that relates to you at that particular time, look at Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. It just goes to show how many people around the world are going through what she’s singing about at one particular time. It’s amazing. For a song to represent how people feel is incredible”.
Yes, but a simple relationship song is one thing. To make people sympathise with a pop star is another altogether…
“I wrote it because I know a lot of people do feel like that. Sometimes you do feel like you’re the only person in the world who is going through a certain situation. It’s not until you can take a step back that you realise that you’re not on your own. I hate that. I wanted to say that you’re not alone. We put the song up on YouTube before the album was released and the comments that we had just showed that what I thought in the first place was right. People were leaving paragraphs, saying things that they probably wouldn’t even tell their best friend”.
Do you think it helps to see someone you admire admit to those kind of feelings?
“I don’t look at it as ‘admitting’ to anything. That was just a situation and that was how I felt about it. It wasn’t about writing it so people would be shocked or surprised”.
For someone who’s seen as the quiet one, Cinderella’s Eyes is a very confident sounding record…
“I have to feel that something’s come from me before I can do it, or be overly passionate about it. I can’t do stuff that I don’t believe in. If I’m wearing something that I don’t really like then I wind myself up and have to get changed, otherwise I’m in a bad mood. That’s what I’ve got with this album, I can totally own it. I know it inside out. I know why I say the words on it, I know why the vocals are louder in one mix and the snare in another, because I felt that it needed to be that way. That’s the most amazing achievement”.
How do you think you’ll find it returning to a band situation?
“This is something I’m doing at the minute. The band is the band and I love it. I’ve always been a team player. It’s not like I’m shit at working in those conditions. I love everything about the band so it’s not like I’ve had total control and now I’m going back to the band situation. I’ve always had to make sure that people are part of the team, whether it be the producer or management or whoever. Everyone works together, that’s how it works”.
Hang on a moment, “something I’m doing at the minute”? That would seem to suggest that, despite their vague comments on the subject, Girls Aloud have reunited ahead of next year’s tenth anniversary. We try to pursue the subject, subtly – enquiring whether the experiences that the five have had over the past two years have brought anything new to the table but the open, chatty Roberts of the past fifteen minutes suddenly departs. “Hmmm…”, she laughs. Obviously those years of media training have come in useful. We just hope that this latest version of Nicola Roberts can keep her voice amongst the crowd. She may just turn out to be their secret weapon.
Cinderella’s Eyes is out now on Universal.