Sophie Ellis-Bextor talks finding her "creative sweet spot" on new album Familia

"I feel like I can do whatever I like now..."

It's release week of Sophie Ellis-Bextor's new album Familia, and she's not feeling the least bit nervous about it. 

"I don’t really get nervous, it’s more just excitement these days," she said when we called her up for a chat about the record. "I always say that I make a record with the hope of being able to put out another one, and I definitely feel like that’s the case with Familia. Ever since I finished this album I’ve just been really excited for everyone to hear it.”

Familia is Sophie's sixth album and her second independent release without major label involvement following 2014's Wanderlust - a collection of eastern European inspired folk-pop that, she says, was borne out of the feeling that she "didn't want to make dance music forever". By contrast, Familia is warm, firmly rooted in pop and includes a generous sprinkling of disco tunes, thoughtfully created with the help of Wanderlust's producer Ed Harcourt. 

The decision to bring back disco Sophie was, she insists, "a case of me making the record I wanted to make," rather than trying to recreate the past. "The whole thing was such an enjoyable and pleasant experience, working with Ed again and the same band we’d recorded Wanderlust with. That said, we recorded the majority of it in ten days, so it was also quite an intense period of time."

In fact, she believes the success of Wanderlust has since given her almost total creative freedom. “I don’t think I really realised it at the time," she explained, "but I think recording Wanderlust was quite significant for me. I was 34 at the time and I didn’t just want to keep making dance music forever, and the making that album and the reception it got really gave me room to grow.” 

"I’d essentially written it off being a commercial success, and in terms of costs I thought of it more as a creative gift to myself. For it to sell what it did and get that kind of reaction was really surprising.”

Now two independent albums deep, would Sophie ever be tempted back to major label? "I mean I’ve taken stuff to labels before and they say they love it, but they don’t know what to do with it or how they’d sell it. I think they do to some degree underestimate the general public’s appetite for something different. People are saying everything sounds a bit samey, but it’s all cyclical in pop music, we’ve been here before and it’ll no doubt go back the other way.  

"That’s not to say I think record labels are bad – they can help you in so many ways. I was signed to one for ten years, and they have the ability to give you reach, which is something that’s very hard to do independently. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I’d have the kind of fan base I’ve got in other countries outside of the UK." 

Sophie's described Familia as the "bolshier, more extrovert little sister to Wanderlust," and may release a third installment to the series, though it won't necessarily be the next album. "I’m really terrible for not thinking that far ahead," she admitted. "I feel like there might be a third part of the story to tell after Wanderlust and Familia, so who knows. What’s great is that I now feel like I’m in a bit of a creative sweet spot where I can do whatever I like."

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's new album Familia is out now.