Sophie Ellis- Bextor looks back at being dropped by her label aged 20: 'I was high and dry'

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor said being dropped by her record label at 20 was 'really tough' (Image: Getty Images)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor said being dropped by her record label at 20 was 'really tough' (Image: Getty Images)

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor says being dropped by her record label at a young age was really tough for her.

While she is best known for her solo pop-dance tracks such as Murder On The Dancefloor, Ellis-Bextor actually started her career with indie band, theaudience back in 1996. While the band clocked up two top 40 hits, they were eventually dropped by Mercury Records in 1999.

Speaking on White Wine Question Time, she told host Kate Thornton that it was particularly hard for her as all her school friends were moving on with their lives.

“My first band being dropped before I'd turned 20 was really tough,” she said.

“I'd left school and gone straight into this record deal. My friends had all gone off to uni, and so suddenly, before they'd even finish their degrees, I was already high and dry.”

WATCH: Sophie Ellis-Bextor on dance music, disco, and doing what makes you happy

The band were part of the new Britpop movement that had taken the charts by storm and Ellis-Bextor was the darling of the indie music press, even being voted the sexiest person in rock by readers of the now defunct Melody Maker. However, when her band were dropped, she saw another side to the music press.

“When my band got dropped, the music press wasn’t very kind,” she exclaimed.

UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01:  Photo of THEAUDIENCE  (Photo by Patrick Ford/Redferns)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor with theaudience (Patrick Ford/Redferns)

“It was fine — that's partly what they were there for — but it was quite nasty.”

Read more: Sophie Ellis-Bextor reveals her whole family loved lockdown kitchen discos

After taking some time out to consider what to do next, Ellis-Bextor was then offered a song that would change her career totally. 

In 2000, she released Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) with DJ Spiller, which went straight to number one and launched her career as a solo artist. However, it nearly didn’t go that way.

LISTEN: Sophie Ellis-Bextor talks about the realities of having a premature baby in the latest episode

“I was an indie kid, so when I first got sent Groovejet, I was quite insulted,” she told Thornton.

She continued: “I was like, ‘Why am I being sent a house track? This is not what I do.’ Back in the ‘90s, if you were an indie kid, there was not the idea now that we have of people cross-pollinating. When I was first singing, you picked your genre, you wanted to be credible, you proved your own stripes. It was quite serious in a way.”

Read more: Skunk Anansie’s Skin on being shunned in the Britpop era

The song, which was a huge club hit as well as topping the charts, also won lots of critical acclaim, which Ellis-Bextor said was never in her thoughts. She originally took on the project because she wanted to do something different.

Groovejet was a bit of a kind of a ‘Sod it! I'm going to do something that's you'd never write about',” she said about music press such as Melody Maker and NME.

Sophie Ellis-Bexter, seen here performing as part of her first band Theaudience, said being dropped by her record label taught her not to fear failure  (Photo by Nicky J. Sims/Redferns)
Sophie Ellis-Bexter, seen here performing as part of her first band Theaudience, said being dropped by her record label taught her not to fear failure (Photo by Nicky J. Sims/Redferns)

She continued: “I really liked the feel of the track, and I just thought, ‘This is just a good thing for my head, to just lift me out of it and give it a bit of perspective’. 

"I didn't know it was going to be a big song. And I didn't know it’s something I’d still be singing like a couple of decades on. I just thought, ‘Oh, this is, this is a good chance to just have a bit of an adventure!’”

Read more: Sophie Ellis-Bextor talks about her appearance on The Masked Singer

While the experience of being dropped wasn’t pleasant, Ellis-Bextor said having the fear of failure taken away made her feel “a little bit more fearless” – and despite being in the industry for 25 years this year, she says she still loves every single bit of it.

LONDON - FEBRUARY 17:  Sophie Ellis-Bextor performs at G-A-Y at The Astoria on February 17, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor performs at G-A-Y, 2007 (Jo Hale/Getty Images)

“It's brilliant,” she declared.

“I mean, I love making videos and all of that, and being in the studio and writing songs. It's just, it's a treat, I'm still I'm still as in love with it now as I was then actually. I think it's great fun.”

Hear Sophie Ellis-Bextor talk about how her kitchen discos helped her family deal with lockdown in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Buy now: Songs From The Kitchen Disco: Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Greatest Hits | £10.99 from Amazon

Pre-order now: Spinning Plates: Thoughts on Men, Music and Motherhood | £16.99 from Amazon

WATCH: Why Sophie Ellis-Bextor hates being asked, "Are you pregnant?"

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