Nadine Coyle is back - and she's not messing about. Some seven years after her debut solo album Insatiable, the singer is back and doing what she knows best: working on music exclusively with the production team behind Girls Aloud's hits, Xenomania.
Led by Brian Higgins, Xenomania were responsible for the group's first single after forming on Popstars: The Rivals, Sound of the Underground, and together they notched up 21 Top 10 singles - including four Number 1s.
The first fruits of their two years in the studio together, Go To Work, was released yesterday; and it's a slice of '90s-tinged house pop that feels bang up to date. We sat down with Nadine to find about more about what we can expect from this long, long awaited reunion.
Nadine - you’re back! What took you so long?
"It really was just about getting the songs. The best songs I could get. And a team. It takes a long to get good songs, it really does! But we’re here now."
And the single, Go To Work, is a bit of a banger isn't it?
“It’s classic Xenomania, isn’t just? Just throw all the hooks in there. Why have one hook when you can have ten?”
It’s also perfect timing what with it back the ‘back to school’ period of the year…
“Back to school, back to work, GET ON WITH IT basically!”
What alcoholic beverage would Go To Work be?
“An Espresso Martini. It’s strong but classy. Don’t drink those at night by the way. I had three in one evening and was still up watching the sun rise the next day.”
And if it was an emoji?
“The nail painting one. My favourite emoji is the wink and kiss emoji, but that can come across a bit creepy can’t it?”
There were reports ages ago that you were back working with Xenomania, how long has this all been in the works?
“It’s been in the works for the last two years – although obviously I’ve been working with Brian since I was 17. We’ve been trying to find as many great songs as we can. And when we find a great one, I say, ‘Let’s find an even better one’. It’s our collective work ethic. We’ll work like that until we have an album.”
And you've signed a record deal with Virgin EMI. How did that opportunity come about?
“It was all Brian! Two weeks before Christmas, he came to the label and played the song to Ted Cockle, who’s head of the label, and he signed us up straight away. Brian’s recording studio is in Brighton now, and we’d just had our Christmas party the night before. It was an amazing Christmas present.”
Were you planning to release the music without the backing of a label?
“This was all an accident to be honest with you. Brian was playing them other songs and it was only the night before we’d decided on what version of Go To Work we were going for. Everyone is so nice here I could cry!"
What was it like when you first went back into the studio with Brian and Xenomania? Has much changed from the Girls Aloud days?
“It’s a whole brigade – Xenomania comes as a package. There are lots and lots of people in there looking over stuff and different writing parts. It’s exactly the same as it was in Girls Aloud. It’s all about singing loads of parts of songs and picking the best parts, the best key, re-recording, re-writing. It’s just the same."
That sounds like a lot.
“I love it. I love it. I’ve been doing it that way since the start. When I go into the booth, I don’t want water, I don’t want coffee, I don’t want anything to eat. I just want to be locked in there and sing. I’ll come out when the song is finished and there are no more notes to sing.”
Was the spark still there with Brian?
“It was instant, literally. When I was given my first section of things to learn, Brian was like, ‘why is this song not on the radio?’. That was a couple of years ago, and we’ve worked to better ourselves ever since.
What are your expectations this time around? Was there much thought into what a Nadine record should sound like in 2017 or did the Nadine and Xenomania brief speak itself?
“We weren’t trying to make it anything. Brian - and me to a certain extent – doesn’t listen to mainstream music. He’s so removed that it was never about trying to figure out who’s doing what. It was never like that. It was just making the best songs we could. It was about making things catchier and for me personally, singing them better.”
Is Go To Work at the top of the pile then, as the most recent and therefore best thing you’ve done together?
“Go To Work was the song they signed us on, which was done last October. So personally I think things have got better, and better, and better since then.”
Has it been wall to wall bangers since then?
“It could be, that’s the thing. We could have 12 bangers, but Brian’s thing is about saving something back. Do you do a few singles, or an album with some light and shade with some quirkier statements that wouldn’t necessarily be a single? We’re figuring it out. Thankfully the way music works these days is that you don’t need a one-year plan. We may put another single out next month. It’s exciting!”
Nadine looks like she's had a tough day at the office, doesn't she?
If you're going for light and shade, can we get another Call The Shots please?
“Can you believe that song is ten years old this year? There’s a girl in the studio I work in and she’s 17 and she heard Call The Shots and she was like, ‘what is that song, it’s so catchy!’ She was six or seven when it came out, that age group doesn’t know those songs. They’ve missed out!”
How many songs are finished?
“There are four songs in a complete state. They all sound completely different. As part of the Go To Work package there are two other versions being released, which were potential options as the single rather that proper remixes.”
Your first solo album Insatiable is seven years old now. How do you feel about that album these days?
“Hmm… it was my first step. I had a publishing deal with EMI and I did loads of writing sessions and spent loads of time with different songwriters and producers. For someone to go and let me be that creatively indulgent is mind-blowing really. It was such a short period of time as well, from the recording to the release. It was a whirlwind.
I wasn’t in the best head space at the time. It was really hard work – way more than I had anticipated in terms of structure of learning how everything works. I had to think about stuff I’d never dealt with before, stuff I didn’t need to think about with Girls Aloud. I couldn’t wait to get home to my mummy and daddy. It was like, ‘Help - this is so awful! I just wanted to be in my robe and cook. I was so stressed out.”
One thing Insatiable did was give you a very loyal online following. Do you see all the fan accounts and nostalgic bits of footage of you and Girls Aloud from back in the day?
“Oh yes [laughs]. It’s so retro! Really though? My goodness! I had no idea. You forget that people who were fans of Girls Aloud were about the same age as we were – 17 or so – and now I see them working in the TV or music industry. We literally all grew up together.”
People even dress as your “lost” passport from Irish Popstars to Halloween parties.
“Now that I do see! I swear a couple of years ago it was a really popular costume choice. It’s so funny, really, genuinely funny. I was going to do something with my passport later today, but I’ve forgotten it. I left it behind before we came here.
Are you kidding?
“I’m actually not! Of course I did!”
Listen to Nadine's new single Go To Work: