Rebecca Ferguson is back with a fourth studio album that's packed full of class, with a helping of sass.
The X Factor runner-up's new record Superwoman sees the Liverpudlian return to original material for her most personal collection yet. Working with esteemed songwriters and producers such as Eg White and Troy Miller, Rebecca lets rip at her ex-partner while telling her story of personal survival and resurrection through the 12-track journey.
OfficialCharts.com sat down with Rebecca to learn more about her return to songwriting (Rebecca co-wrote all but one song on Superwoman), her desire to work with Mark Ronson and how it feels to be the last act standing from her series of X Factor.
So Rebecca, album 4 into your career and you've said it's your most personal yet. Does it get easier to lay your emotions down on record?
"This album has been daunting, no, I'm nervous because it is about a really personal matter. I always speak about relationships and what's gone on and be really honest. But, this involves my daughter so it is a bit more personal. It is much closer to home. I cried a little bit writing this album... which was a bit awkward for poor Troy the producer! But at the same time, it was like a therapy really getting through it. I would like to think I've made quite a positive album as well. I wanted to make an album that was uplifting and could help people get through tough times."
How has working with the likes of Eg White helped you evolve as a songwriter? Where do you start when putting music together?
"Melody and lyrics normally come first and normally that comes from me and then we join forces and work together. Generally I come in with ideas and I think of ideas every single day. I record them on my iPhone and play them to the producer and he'll build around that like the piano."
Not to take anything away from your recent album of Billie Holiday covers, Lady Sings The Blues, but would you prefer to writing your own material from now on?
"Yeah it is. Definitely. I think Lady Sings The Blues was a necessary step; Freedom came out and then I found out I was pregnant and there was no way I would be able to promote that album to its full potential. Then the opportunity to do Lady Sings The Blues came around and it fitted in perfectly.
"As well as that, it was a real training ground for me. I started working with jazz musicians. I believe that everything happens for a reason and there's a freedom in jazz, so a lot of the musicians I would get on stage with, I'd be panicking in that same shy girl mode asking 'what if I make a mistake?' and they would say to me 'you can't make a mistake – it's jazz! If you forget a word, make it up.' And I loved that. They're just a bit mad! Getting around them taught me a lot about stage persona and being more relaxed on stage."
Would you ever release another collection of covers?
"I don't see it happening anytime soon. It's not something I'm desperate to do. Maybe when I'm older. You never know, I may have a little Christmas album in me. I could do a little bit of jingle bells! [laughs]
Bones, the lead single from Superwoman, is a cover, isn't it? Were you worried about releasing it so soon after a covers album?
"It was meant to be on my first album. It has been right there since Heaven days and people were like 'Come on Bec, sing it!' I was snobby and said 'I write my own music. I'm a real artist' like one of those absolute idiots, so I said no, even though it was a really good song. I love it. Freedom again, I thought about it because it's an amazing song but then with this album, people know I can write now. There is no point in being snobby. It's a song I really liked listening to so I went with it."
Is Bones a good indication of what's to come on the album?
"Oh, I'm going to sound all X Factor-ey! It is a journey! You start off the natural way you feel when you have just broken up with somebody. It's feeling a bit vulnerable, feeling a bit down. And then throughout the album, you can hear when I'm building myself up, starting to feel better about myself and starting to feel positive.
"The album covers every emotion. When you're feeling lonely and want them back. Then there's moments when you don't want them back and you just want them to leave you alone, hence the song Don't Want You Back. Then you've got Superwoman where I actually admit that I'm not coping very well. Without A Woman is then a really empowering anthem. It has a bit of everything for everyone really."
We heard you at Hard Rock Cafe and the new material sounds brilliant! What is the song you are most excited for the fans to hear?
"I like them all! You know what, I really enjoy listening to Mistress. Superwoman or Mistress, it is a toss between those. Mistress, I just had fun making that. We had fun with the synth and had a right laugh making that song."
You've previously collaborated with John Legend. Was it a conscious decision not to include any guest appearances this time around?
"It was suggested to me but I didn't want it too feel forced. I didn't feel right to pursue it. Like, 'the album is nearly done, who can we get to feature on it?' The only people I really want to collaborate with are Tracy Chapman, Kings of Leon, Kanye West would be amazing. I don't want to feature people on it just to up album sales. I think that's a bit naff. If it doesn't feel right, I can't perform it well so there has got to be a genuine connection. Just because someone is doing well, it doesn't mean I want to get them on it."
You were rumoured to be working with Mark Ronson on material for Superwoman. Was this true?
"No! There's a few people saying that. It's a nice rumour; let the rumour commence! Troy Miller has worked a lot with Mark and Amy Winehouse so I think that's where that has come from. He's great. I would like to work with him. He's an amazing producer."
All three of your previous albums went Top 10 and were critically acclaimed. Do you still get nervous about the public and press reception?
"I always get nervous before album release. I work really hard and I feel weird when I'm not working, I'm constantly trying to push it. You just want everything you do to do well because it is something you've worked so hard on. It is so personal as well.
"I'm not going to lie, I would be disappointed if the album didn't go Top 10. It's just something I've worked so hard on, I've put everything into it. At the same time, I can't lose touch of what I do it for. As long as it is helping some people and bringing something positive to people who are listening to it, it shouldn't matter about chart success, but the normal human in me wants a Number 1. Who doesn't?! [laughs]"
Looking back to your series of X Factor, you've released more albums than standout acts like Matt Cardle and Cher Lloyd and completely outlasted One Direction? How does it feel?
"It feels quite nice now that you put it like that! High fives all round! I was a bit of an underdog in that show. Backstage, it was a real tough one and I had to fight for everything including good songs. It is nice to know.
You're the last woman standing Rebecca!
Rebecca Ferguson's fourth studio album Superwoman is out now.