Louise Redknapp has spent 28 years in the spotlight, as a member of Eternal, then as a solo artist with such bangers as Let’s Go Round Again and 2 Faced then as a wife to Jamie Redknapp and a mother to her two sons.
Now, as she releases her first album in 15 years, Heavy Love, Louise candidly reveals to us that the album is a symbol of the woman she has become. Having let go of the need for everyone’s approval, overcoming intense sexism in the reports around her marriage and having the ‘film of perfection’ wrapped around her ripped away from her, Louise emotionally reveals she finally feels like she can be herself.
This is a new Louise, so much so she is more than comfortable ordering a Vodka Slim Line Tonic at 4.30pm on a Monday during an interview. “I would never have ordered gin and tonic after an interview, before,” she laughs. “I would have had a mint tea before!” Now that is our kinda girl…
Heavy Love is your first album in 15 years. How nervous do you feel about putting yourself out there like this?
I didn’t realise I was nervous actually until a couple of days ago and I started to think I was very anxious about it and stressed out. I think I’ve completely blocked it out as it was finished ages ago and it felt like it was never going to come out at some points. I think in one way it’s a really positive feeling because I feel like I’ve got nothing to prove. I’m not expecting to set the world alight in the music industry. At the same time, I feel that I’ve got a lot to prove to myself in a way. There’s been a massive change in my life especially in my personal life. I put so much focus and energy into the album becoming my life for 18 months. I was solidly just songwriting and being in the studio. Now it’s coming out and it can be picked apart in a good way or a negative way. That part, I think, is a little bit scary.
Why do you feel like you have something to prove to yourself?
I think coming from the music industry where I was all those years ago, it’s a very different experience to this album. I was a pop singer and we churned out what we did. Even though Eternal was amazing, and we wrote so much of that album when I left it was what I call, ‘fast pop.’ It was always a fast turnaround, touring, and ticking boxes, and I couldn’t have done then what I’ve done on this album. I wouldn’t have had the life experiences, the emotion, the knowledge, that I have now. This time I went out there and co-write an album during such an emotional time of my life. I am putting my soul out there, more than I have ever done before.
I think I’ve always been, until this, very protective. I have had this ‘film of perfection’ around my life. Whether it be as Louise the girl next door pop singer to Louise the perfect life. And that film I feel like over the past year has been ripped away tenfold. There’s not film anywhere. It’s like my life went from being the most unscrutinised, really as I was quite private. People only ever really got what they were given which was very small amounts. Then everything was out there. There was nothing that wasn’t written about me for a period of time. With this album I have bared my soul. I am really proud that I’ve done it and it really helped me.
This album isn’t just about your marriage though, it’s about your own personal journey…
The album isn’t all about the marriage which I think people may be thinking. You can’t write a whole album about marriage and I wouldn’t do that to Jamie. The one thing I can be honest about is my feelings, being a mum, being in a famous marriage and how I felt in those moments. That’s all I could draw on. But there are positive songs too. There’s one song called ‘Settle for Nothing’ and whenever I’m having a bit of a day where I’m feeling a bit crap, which I have, I’m a girl. I don’t have a partner, I don’t have a boyfriend, I think that’s what’s wrong with me. I put that on as I wrote it when I was feeling really positive. I was really lucky that I had the kids, my family, and very good friends – even though a lot of them went to the other side in the break up. But I also got a career that I was given a second chance at. You know, that was like my saving grace, I think.
How do you feel like your relationship has changed with yourself in order for you to be able to be this honest?
I think I’m back to myself now. I don’t think I was myself 15 years ago. I needed everyone else’s approval. I needed Jamie’s approval, I needed family’s approval, I needed everyone to approve what I was doing. I think now I’m totally okay to back myself against even if no one else does. I think that has come with age, heart break and dealing with having really nasty things said about you, on a really big scale. There were positive words too, though but it’s hard not to focus on the negative.
What has this album taught you as a person?
It taught me that it’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to not have to always portray perfection on how I look. I do not care about perfection anymore. I think it taught me that it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to be honest to people that you don’t know. I think I’d always been so that kind of veneer of, “I need to say nothing.” But actually, from opening up and not being scared to be honest I feel so much better. I was a broken mess at some points doing this album.
Do you think letting go of your pursuit for perfection has been one of the most liberating experiences for you?
Yes, everything that has happened has taught me that it’s all right to f**k up. You come out the other side. I think that’s why I got given quite a hard time in the papers. It was almost like if anyone was not going to f**k up and these things weren’t going to happen to, it was me. Coming from Strictly Come Dancing left me open to criticism with my marriage.
Trying to be perfect is exhausting…
I think always putting your best foot forward can be a job in itself. Anyone that knows me well beyond our industry would probably say I am the biggest train wreck there is. I’m completely unorganised and a complete mess. I think it’s been nice to know that I got f**king dragged through that particular year being loved, hated, all of those things by different people. And you come out of it and you go, “Okay, I’m all right. I’m all right. So, what’s the worst that can happen now? That was tough but I’m okay.”
I went from everyone thinking I had a perfect marriage to waking up and reading some of the most horrific things that were being said which was heart breaking to someone like me that had never experienced that and cares quite a lot. It hits me where it hurts. It really debilitates my day. Now I let people have their say and their judgment and I breathe through it. I’m much more resilient than I thought I ever would be.
What was the biggest trigger for you in the headlines and articles you were reading?
As a mum to read that you’ve left your children was quite heart breaking because I never, of course, left my kids. We co-parent brilliantly together. Jamie is an amazing Dad. Now looking back on it I know I wasn’t being heavily judged by everyone, but you think every time you step onto the street that people believe the things that they are reading. No one comes up to you in the street and goes, “Oh, don’t be stupid. We see you with your kids all the time. Don’t be ridiculous.” You just get horrible things being said on social media and you start to think everyone thinks that. I wasn’t strong enough to say, “Hang on a minute. This is the deal. This is what’s going on. Give us some time. My kids are totally with both of us all the time.” But I couldn’t deal with it head on, then.
How isolating was it for you to feel like everyone knew your life when actually they barely know anything at all?
People see such small parts of it, especially behind a 20 yearlong marriage. How can you know everything about that? It’s impossible and it’s not something I’ve ever discussed. They get the bits that they think they know, and they are set in their opinion. At the time it just felt like a railroad running away in front of me. There were a few tears along the way.
There was a lot of sexismin the way your marriage break up was reported, a lot of the negativity was focused on you. How did you feel about that?
I think I’ve never experienced it really until getting divorced. Even when I was a girl in a girl band growing up 20 years ago in the music industry when you would expect it to have been quite bad, I never really experienced it. Maybe I was just really sheltered – I don’t know. So, when I experienced it recently it would always shock me. This is no fault of Jamie’s at all, but it would be, “What a great Dad. He’s taken his kids on holiday what an amazing man, what a great Dad.” I just thought hang on a minute, I’ve done that for the last 15 years on my own when he’s been working, or on a golf trip. No one turns around and says to me, “Well done!” I used to find things like that infuriating. That’s not his fault but I just think in this day and age we are still applauding someone for doing what they should be doing. I would have one night out, and I would get punished for it in the press.
A lot of people will call this album, ‘a comeback’ but what has been your greatest personal comeback?
I think the biggest comeback for me as a person would be not even about the music. I think just feeling stupid little things like stepping out onto a Brits red carpet, or not being embarrassed to be somewhere after all of that. For a little while I thought I would never be able to go out anywhere again. Just stupid little things like getting out of the car at a big event and it’s all the crowds and you think, “Please don’t boo me. I’ve done nothing wrong.” That kind of panic, that sheer panic of stepping out there and realising everything’s okay and actually people aren’t that judgmental. And people actually do just want to see the good in people. I think that would be my biggest comeback. At first you feel like when you are walking into certain situations you feel like a completely different person but actually to everyone else, you’re still the same person. But you don’t feel like you are. Sometimes now I forget I’m not married. Sometimes I still go, “My husband.”