Sophie Ellis-Bextor's lockdown listening: 'A child could understand it – stay at home'

Ahead of her final kitchen disco livestream, the singer has been listening to Prince’s rudest hits and doing Lion King numbers with her kids

Time alone has been in short supply. In the mornings, when I get up with Mickey, my youngest, we’ve been watching Grayson Perry’s Art Club and Celebrity SAS. When I put the kids to bed, I quite often take a glass of wine and do some Lego. I got this massive Ninjago City set for Christmas, and I just finished it. That’s been really good for my head.

Doing the kitchen discos has meant an incredible amount to us. It’s been an anchor for each week, but also escapism. I’ve been singing songs I haven’t sung for years. It’s a portal – suddenly you’re 17 and in an indie club. I discovered disco in my early 20s once I started listening to dance music. As someone who sings along to stuff, I like stories, and disco is the first place that dance music told stories.

When I do the last one today I’m pretty sure I’m gonna cry because it’s been so special. When lockdown first started, we felt there would be a big distinction between lockdown and “out you go into the world again”. It became apparent that’s there’s going to be a slow re-emergence into a new normal. I wanted to keep the discos going until there was a change in the wind.

Re-emerging is going to be harder, in some ways, than what’s been happening. While this has been incredibly intense and peculiar, until now what’s been effective about the instruction is that even a child could understand it: stay at home. This hybrid part puts so much pressure on us as individuals to keep ourselves safe and protect other people.

[The government response to Dominic Cummings’ actions] is so insulting because the guidelines were pretty obvious. To bend it when so many people have sacrificed so much, it’s astonishing. It feels a bit like gaslighting: “We’re sane, you’re the crazy ones for thinking that isn’t something you can do.” We’ve spent two and a half months following the line as much as we could, to the letter. The story’s not done.

I’m halfway through making a new record, my third with Ed Harcourt. We haven’t managed much songwriting during this period – I’d rather do it when we can meet up. It’s electro, synthy; the last thing I did was an orchestral record. This really wasn’t the thought at the beginning, but as we got further into the kitchen discos I thought: why don’t we do a kitchen disco tour next year? I would absolutely love it.

The Lion King OST – Circle of Life

Carmen Twillie, Lebo M: Circle of Life – video

We’re not massive Lion King fans but one of the older kids taught the youngest how to do the cry at the start of the song. Mickey’s 16 months – if you sing that to him, he will repeat it in his husky baby voice. Around the house, if someone shouts that out, someone will respond with the same thing. That’s provided us with a lot of entertainment.

Christine and the Queens – People, I’ve Been Sad

Christine and the Queens: People, I’ve Been Sad – video

We’ve been listening to loads of 6 Music – radio has come much more to the forefront for us, we have it on most of the time. That song was on the playlist when lockdown started. It’s a very apt sentiment. The tensions have been up and down here – like everybody, you feel OK, then suddenly something small will happen that will trip you. I’m definitely a fan of Christine’s – she’s so effortlessly cool and talented. I love the fact that her records don’t try too hard.

Amii Stewart – Knock on Wood

Amii Stewart: Knock on Wood – video

When lockdown started I found myself listening to a lot of feelgood music, I suppose in the “guilty pleasures” camp – not that I subscribe to that as a term, because I don’t feel guilty about things generally. It’s a keen puppydog of a song. It goes: Here I am! I’m a big bold pop record.” It makes the kids dance.

Prince – Gett Off

Prince: Gett Off – video

On Twitter I recommended telling young listeners that it’s about a kid who wants to go on a climbing frame but his mum wants him to get off. It is pretty rude. What a brilliant songwriter Prince was. I’ve loved this since I was really young, I sung it with my girlfriends. I realised that so many of the songs I’ve been putting in the disco are love letters to people I can’t see at the moment – for my mum, my dad, my friends, my band. They’re little messages saying: I miss you.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Take Me Home

Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Take Me Home – video

I still love singing it. I’d been in a band that fizzled out by the time I was 20, so I was left feeling quite high and dry, and that maybe my music career was behind me. Once I decided to do Groovejet and that picked me up and twirled me around, and I was making a solo album, it just was incredibly overwhelming: suddenly I was doing the thing I love again. Experiencing what it felt like when it all went wrong it made me a lot more steady on my feet.

  • Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s final kitchen disco will be streamed live on her Instagram account from 6.30pm on 29 May.


Interview by Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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