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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Life as a mum-of-three helps soul singer Rebecca Ferguson to keep it real

The 29-year-old soul-stress is arguably one of the few artists to emerge from UK reality TV with credibility and longevity.
Rebecca Ferguson’s new album, which will be released in a few months, has elements of classic soul with a modern twist. Getty Images
Rebecca Ferguson’s new album, which will be released in a few months, has elements of classic soul with a modern twist. Getty Images

Behind all the glitz and glamour, many celebrities are just like you and me. None more so than down-to-earth Liverpudlian Rebecca Ferguson. When we called for our interview, we were asked to wait a few minutes while The X Factor star changed her baby’s nappy.

The 29-year-old soul singer is arguably one of the few artists to emerge from UK reality TV with true credibility and longevity, her smokey soulful chords drawing comparisons with Macy Gray and even greats such as Aretha Franklin.

This weekend, Ferguson will performs an intimate lounge set at Bagatelle Dubai, backed only by a pianist. Expect to hear stripped-back hits alongside standards found on last year’s Lady Sings the Blues, a reinterpretation of Billie Holiday’s classic 1956 LP of the same name, released to mark 100 years since the jazz legend’s birth.

We’re talking to you at your home, I gather.

Yes, not so glamorous at the moment at all.

Looking forward to Dubai?

Oh, it’ll be lovely, I can’t wait. Last time, I came to sing at the IWC party for the Dubai International Film Festival. It was a really nice night, me and my band have got really good memories.

Was that the year Cate Blanchett was on the jury?

I ate with her, actually. We had dinner, which was really surreal, but she was really lovely. She’s so much more beautiful in person – on screen she looks beautiful, but in person, it’s like, extra. She can be quite intimidating – she’s got a strong personality.

Why did you decide to revisit Billie Holliday for your latest album, Lady Sings the Blues?

Someone asked me to do it, if I’m honest. At first I was a bit apprehensive because I’ve written my other albums, so it was a new thing for me. But it actually turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done. I had to listen to a lot of Gershwin. I was working with some of the best musicians in the world – people who had worked with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr – and they taught me a lot about melodies and lyrics.

Has that influenced the songs you’re working on now?

I’ve got a new album coming out in a couple of months, and it’s definitely influenced by working with those kinds of musicians – it changed my ear. I’ve got more discipline now. The new album is very heartfelt – it’s about being a strong independent woman and is very empowering. I wrote most of the songs myself and I also co-produced it. It’s got elements of classic soul with a modern twist.

You were runner-up on The X Factor in 2010. What’s the greatest lesson the show taught you?

Human nature – I was only 23 when I went on the show, so I was young, stressed, I was a mum. I was in my own little bubble in Liverpool, so when you’re in that kind of competition, you really see human nature – good and bad. It was good training for me, as someone who was perhaps a little too timid.

Did being a mother put you at a career disadvantage? [Her children are 11, nine and one.]

No, because I was grounded. If you’re a 22-year-old kid who is been told “you’re amazing, you’re great”, that’s going to really go to your head and it can really go the wrong way. But if you’ve got to go home to nappies – when you were trying to call me earlier, I’d been up all night. My baby vomited seven times last night – that’s my life. So as much as I have a glamorous life – I play in Dubai and get to meet these amazing people – but then I come home and I have to face reality. Without that I don’t think I’d be the person I am. It gives you an advantage, because you’re probably a bit more humble. It’s quite nice getting dressed up to go to work, and them coming home and putting my onesie on and watching cartoons.

• Rebecca Ferguson will perform at Bagatelle, Fairmont Dubai Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, on Saturday at 10.30pm. For reservations, call 04 354 5035

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: February 10, 2016 04:00 AM

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