x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kimberly Walsh takes centre stage on the world's music scene

The Girls Aloud member Kimberly Walsh tells James McNair about her solo album, a collection of songs from well-known stage musicals, that's out today, the band's forthcoming UK tour and her hopes of starring on Broadway.

British pop group Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh. AP
British pop group Girls Aloud's Kimberley Walsh. AP

Born in Bradford, England, Kimberley Walsh first came to the fore with Girls Aloud. In the UK they are the biggest-selling girl group of this century. The band is about to tour for the first time in four years. Walsh, 31, is also releasing her debut solo album Centre Stage, a collection of songs from well-known stage musicals.

Girls Aloud will shortly embark on a UK arena tour celebrating 10 years together. What’s the secret of your longevity?

I think the fact that we were put together through a TV programme [ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals in 2002] gave the public a connection with us and they thought they owned us a little bit. Then they watched us grow up as a band and as individuals. The five of us are very different, so most girls can relate to at least one or two of us. We’ve always tried to keep the music fresh, too.

What does Centre Stage say about you that Girls Aloud doesn’t?

What I bring to Girls Aloud is completely different. I still love pop music but I was trained in musical theatre as a child and it’s always been a passion. I didn’t want my solo album to be pop or R&B – Cheryl [Cole] and Nicola [Roberts] have got that covered. This was a way of distinguishing myself from the others, and I think it’s true to who I am.

Musical theatre has a huge repertoire – how did you decide which songs to cover?

I worked with Tom Lewis, the director of A&R at Decca, but I know my stuff with musicals and he gave me free reign, really. I’ve done a kind of 1960s version of Somewhere. That song has a lot of good memories for me because we did West Side Story at the Alhambra in Manchester when I was a kid. I’ve also covered I Still Believe from Miss Saigon. I did it with Louise Dearman, who’s playing Elphaba in Wicked at the moment. Miss Saigon is my favourite stage musical – it’s such a dramatic story. I can put the CD on and be crying in no time.

You were a runner-up in BBC Television’s celebrity dancing competition Strictly Come Dancing last year. A good experience?

Yes, but it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I got a shock. The bruising was quite spectacular. So were the blisters. I got Runner’s Knee, and then I dislocated a couple of ribs during the tango week when we were doing the lifts. That injury stayed with me until the final, so I had a guy there just going “Krrrk!” [mimes bones being clicked back into place]. Fortunately Pasha [Kovalev; Walsh’s dance partner] knew this amazing physio who became, like, my guardian angel during that time.

Wasn’t your boyfriend Justin [Scott] jealous of you dancing with Pasha?

It is intimate and it is bizarre, but Justin 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.

You also played the ogress Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical at The Theatre Royal in London last year. What if Broadway beckons?

It’s the ultimate dream for someone in my position. Maybe it can still happen, or maybe I’ve missed the boat. Every time I go to New York and walk down 42nd Street, I imagine how it would feel to be performing there night after night. If the right offer came up, I’d happily skip off to New York!

Centre Stage (Decca) is out today