Singer and actor Louise Redknapp talks about getting back on stage and into music
Despite the powersuit and pussybow blouse she wears in 9 to 5 The Musical, which hits Edinburgh next month, Louise Redknapp has never actually worked nine to five. Nine till nine, ten, eleven and beyond in her career as a singer and actor, starting in her teens, and round the clock in the home as mother to sons Charley, 15 and Beau, 10, now with a new album and forthcoming tour, but she’s never worked office hours.
“Do you know what? I’ve never had a nine to five job apart from when I was very young and got a Saturday job in The Sock Shop.”
Bet she’s got a sock drawer whose organisation would spark joy in Marie Kondo...
“Yes. And I’m quite partial to a sock. I’ve some glittery ones which I like on a night out,” she says.
Glittery socks make sense for the girl who was discovered when she was out clubbing at 16 and Redknapp can’t imagine making a living doing anything other than singing and dancing.
“This world has always been my job, and my life and it’s all I can do – another job would be a disaster. You work hard, you most definitely don’t work nine to five that’s for sure, more like nine to ten or eleven. But it’s a job I love and don’t take for granted. I’m grateful every day that I’m given another opportunity to still be in it.
“I love singing, I love dancing and I love acting so outside of making records, to do theatre is natural for me. I went to stage school and trained to do it so when the opportunity came along to do this, I couldn’t turn it down.”
9 to 5 The Musical, with music and words by Dolly Parton, has been working hard since it first ‘tumbled outta bed and stumbled to the kitchen’ in 2008. Based on the comedy film of the same name, starring Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the screenplay was in turn based on a book by Patricia Resnick and follows three female employees, Violet (Redknapp) Judy (Amber Davies) and Doralee (Natalie McQueen) as they take on their sexist and abusive boss, Franklin Hart Junior (Brian Conley).
Redknapp, now 44, plays Violet as “slightly sassy, because that’s what comes naturally.” She laughs.
“She’s very in charge, very strong, knows her job inside out and back to front, but she just ain’t got a lot of empathy towards the women and guys she works with at first. She’s a mum and very much happy to play her mum role too. She just believes in what’s right, and is not scared to stand up for equality and what she believes in. She finds friends in the two other women and together they make changes.”
Redknapp may not have done the 9 to 5 but she identifies with other elements of Violet’s life and the multiple roles women manage.
“I’ve been a mum, I’ve been, obviously, the wife. I’ve worked, I’ve done all of it. I just have one rule and it’s be kind, stand up for what you believe in, and everybody’s equal.
“The show is very light-hearted with a big comedy element, but at the same time there’s a strong underlying message which is very, very important and very current today – even though it dates from the 1980s. You can take from it what you want, just have a good few drinks and a laugh and sing along to Dolly Parton’s songs, which I love, or you can take away something about issues that need to be spoken about.”
Born Louise Nurding in Lewisham, London, to Jim a builder and Lynne now a reflexologist, Redknapp first hit the headlines as a member of the chart-topping R&B girl band Eternal, whose 1993 debut album Always & Forever went platinum. Going solo in 1995, she released three albums, Naked, Woman in Me and Elbow Beach, plus two singles compilations, and was given the accolade ‘Sexiest Woman in the World’ by readers of FHM.
At the height of her fame in 1998, she married footballer Jamie Redknapp and worked in the home raising her children as well as fronting various advertising campaigns and presenting TV shows including SMTV Live, CD:UK, The Clothes Show, Something for the Weekend and So You Think You Can Dance, as well as the feature film The Hot Potato alongside Ray Winstone in 2011 while Redknapp furthered his career. But it was a turn on Strictly in 2016 that saw her dance all the way to the finals and back into the spotlight, which coincided with the end of her marriage in 2017.
“Strictly reminded me how much I loved performing. I really missed getting up and going to work every day, and that took nothing away from being a mum. I read a lot of things about myself that aren’t true – I was genuinely very happy being a mum and staying at home for a little while. It wasn’t anyone else’s choice other than mine. Being a mum is the proudest thing in my world, in my life. But having something you’re passionate about and love, if you’ve got that, it’s important to go and do that with your life.”
Now as well as the musical, she has a new album, Heavy Love, due out in January, her first new music in 16 years, her first studio album in 20 and fourth solo album.
Inevitably, the singles have prompted speculation about her private life, which Redknapp accepts comes with the territory. She has come to terms with the fact that her 2017 divorce from her ex-footballer, pundit and A League Of Their Own team captain husband has been played out in the public eye. As a member of Eternal she was used to press attention, and 19 years as a WAG mean she’s used to reading stories about herself in the tabloids.
“Anything that’s that personal, going through it in public is really tough, everything’s out there. But you can’t have it all. If you’re in the public eye you know what you’re doing when it suits you, and obviously you get on with it when it doesn’t. It’s the world I’m in, and I try and respect my family and everyone around me, keep things as private as possible, but at the same time, just be honest.”
Given that singer-songwriters write about their emotions and experiences it’s harder for them to retreat behind a veil of privacy when they’ve written a whole album about their ups and downs. “You can’t help but write about what you feel and it opens up… Huh! A whole discussion of what you’re feeling. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, really.”
Redknapp first poured herself a cup of ambition back at primary school when she knew she wanted to sing and dance.
“I used to sing a lot at, four, five, six, then when I was ten I auditioned to get into stage school. I went for an grant and a scholarship and there were lots of young girls in for it. I hadn’t grown up in a family where theatre or auditioning was something I was aware of, so I just sang songs my mum and dad would play at home, songs I knew, old school Motown and soul. I sang I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor which was maybe slightly different to everybody else. All my first auditions were a mixture of Stevie Wonder, Gloria Gaynor and Diana Ross. Actually I did Radio 2 the other day and sang The Boss by Diana Ross, so I’m still doing it,” She laughs.
“Getting the grant and place at the school made me realise I could sing a bit, that I could do it,” she says.
At the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London she met Kéllé Bryan and they formed Eternal with sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett in 1993. After selling millions of albums and chart success with singles such as Stay, Nurding went solo in 1995 and had a string of Top 10 singles and albums and two UK tours. But after 2004 when she became a mother, with her husband still playing football and TV presenting, life on stage wasn’t an easy option for the singer, something she admits she found tough.
But now after 9 to 5 The Musical and a break for Christmas, Redknapp is back touring the album in the new year, and arrives in Glasgow in March.
With a soul vibe, courtesy of a childhood listening to her parents’ music, the new album, according to Redknapp is “very similar to the first Eternal album. It’s got a real Eternal feel and it’s got quite a disco, funky feel, a bit of old school soul and a bit of pop thrown in for good measure. I worked with Clean Bandit, Eg White, Raye, Karen Poole and Sinéad Harnett, some of the best up-and-coming songwriters there are.
“I can honestly say this is the best album I’ve ever made. And I wouldn’t say that lightly, ‘cos I’ve had some success with other albums. But I would say that this is my proudest moment for making music, because it’s so personal and I’ve poured my heart and soul into it.
“I did write a lot on the previous ones, but I was just so young and there’s only so much you can write about. With this album, there’s definitely a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it – I wrote about four to five records’ worth of songs.”
Four tracks have been trailered online from the album, Stretch, the upbeat Lead Me On, and there’s speculation that the ballad, Breaking Back Together is about her ex-husband or a new romance.
“Everyone assumes it’s about Jamie and I keep reading it’s about a romance, but it’s nothing to do with that. It’s actually, when I was having a tough time with all that, everything my mum and close friends said to me, words that stayed with me and one day I wrote them all down. It’s about coping and getting through a tough time. So yeah, it’s quite a personal song, advice given to me along the way, to say no matter how much you’re hurting now, it will get better. ”
And has it?“Um. It has its days,” she says and gives a rueful laugh.
So does she think there will be a time when she is writing about new romance?
“I dunno, hopefully. It’s not looking promising right now, so…” She laughs and continues, “believe you me, I’d tell you if it was. No new romance at the moment unfortunately, but I’m sure if there is a new romance everybody will hear about it – hopefully me too. I’ve read a few times I’ve got a new romance and I just think ‘I wish I did, that would be nice.’
“I can’t wait to get this new album out, after the 9 to 5 tour and then I’ll tour myself. Then I’ll start work on a second album… songs I’ve got to write. It’s all good, I’ll just keep on as I am, working hard and enjoying doing what I love. I just take the advice of one of my best friends who said: ‘Go out there and be fearless.’ I do my best.” n
Louise Redknapp stars in 9 to 5 The Musical at Edinburgh Playhouse 12-16 November, www.atgtickets.com/shows/9-to-5-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/
Heavy Love is released on 17 January 2020 with the Heavy Love Tour arriving at SWG3 in Glasgow on Sunday 22 March 2020, see https://louiseofficial.co.uk for more