Four years on from Girls Aloud’s break-up announcement, and seven years since her debut solo offering ‘Insatiable’, Nadine Coyle is back on the scene, and back together with Xenomania, the production that helped rocket her old group to the top of the charts.
Ahead of the release of her new solo offering, ‘Go To Work’, HuffPost UK caught up with Nadine to talk about the track, her forthcoming solo album, her highs and lows of being in Girls Aloud, the advice she gave to Sarah Harding prior to her stint in the ‘CBB’ house last month and, of course, her errant passport.
Here’s what she had to tell us...
It’s been seven years since ‘Insatiable’, why was now the right time to come back?
Now is the time, because now we have really good songs. It took all that time.
I mean, I hadn’t been working, it wasn’t like I’d been trying to do songs. After ‘Insantiable’ I didn’t do anything, literally I didn’t sing at all until the Girls Aloud reunion tour, and we did ‘Something New’.
And after that, I stopped singing again, but when I started back with Brian [Higgins, the founder of Xenomania] it was almost like something clicked. It was like, ’that’s right, that’s right, I love doing this stuff’.
I had been, like, ‘I don’t wanna be a singer anymore’, so dramatic, but when I was [recording with Brian] I was like, oh my god I love this, I love these songs, I love what this is. And then we just kept on working and working until we got more songs.
How did the two of you wind up working together again?
Basically, we have always had a great time together in the studio. I was in a car somewhere in London, and there were these amazing songs on [the radio], and I’d just moved back to London. And I was like, ’I wanna do [that]… who does amazing songs?’, and then I was like, ‘Brian Higgins, let me text him!’
So I sent him a text, and he was like, ′Nadine, I’ve been trying to get hold of you, you must have changed your number’. So we met a couple a days of later, and we were in the studio not long after that.
How was it getting back together after such a long gap, did it feel like anything had changed?
It didn’t feel like a day had passed. And it’s funny, because I’ve known Brian since the very beginning, since I was still auditioning to be in the band. And it feels like time hasn’t moved on. We’re still the same way, and still as focussed and as passionate about it as what we were trying to do the first Girls Aloud album.
When you started out, were the two of you conscious of trying not to replicate Girls Aloud’s sound?
It was more about just singing a load of stuff. Because my voice has changed since then. So it was about what’s going to mix in. I’m not gonna sing about jumping in tutus now, because it might seem a bit weird, you know?
So there was that thing of, ‘what kind of stuff would it be now’, ‘what kind of stuff can I sing?’, ‘what sounds best?’... but it was a blank canvas, we weren’t trying to make it like Girls Aloud, we weren’t trying to make it completely different. We just wanted to do stuff we enjoyed, stuff that’s fun and that we feel really good about, and that’s what happened.
Does that mean your new stuff is more mature than Girls Aloud’s material?
No! No!! I don’t feel like it’s mature, it’s just different, basically.
Brian Higgins has a notoriously intense working style, has that changed at all since the early days?
No, that’s exactly the same. He is a master, and I had the privilege for the first time ever of sitting in with him when he was doing the mixing of ‘Go To Work’, and to hear the detail of how things are put in, and how things are faded in, it was amazing. It’s like, ’this is a masterpiece, Brian, stunning, stunning’.
If you were in the mixing booth, does that mean you’ve been a bit more hands-on this time around?
I have no interest, really, in being hands-on, to be perfectly honest with you. That’s not my role, you know?
I was just [in the mixing booth] because I was there and we were in the middle of singing and Universal wanted it turned over really quickly, I just happened to be there, I wasn’t like, ‘oh I must be involved’... no! Brian knows how to do that stuff, I can sing and do all that, I can do my part.
You must feel like you have more of a hand in the way this album has turned out than Girls Aloud’s music, though?
Ummm… I mean, I didn’t feel, as part of Girls Aloud, that my opinion wasn’t heard, or they went and did certain things and I had no say, or we had no say. I feel like I had enough say in everything back then, and I feel like I have enough say now. So I feel good with that.
Can you tell us about the album, how different are the rest of the songs to ‘Go To Work’?
All the songs are very distinctive. They don’t sound like each other, really. At the minute we’re working with a collection of four singles, and the next one [she later reveals it’s titled ‘Something In Your Bones’]… if the next one is what we think it’s going to be, it’s just a massive, massive song.
Literally, you’ll feel like you’re getting attacked through the speakers. It’s massive, in your face, so powerful.
Do you feel like we’re going to see more of ‘the real you’ than ever before this time around?
Yeah, I think for the last album that I had done [‘Insatiable’, released in 2010], it was my first step into going into writing sessions, and writing with all sorts of people and things like that, which is intimidating in itself. This is much more what I’m comfortable doing, it feels completely natural.
But even today, a journalist asked me if I’m excited to ‘show people I really am, and I’m like… I feel fine! I feel like people know who I am, and if they don’t, then let’s get to know each other. But I don’t feel like I have anything to prove, I’m not trying to be like ‘this is me’. It’s not anything like that, it’s just fun songs, throwing my hair around.
That’s probably the main thing the fans want to see
Well, they will see it! The video, there’s a lot of weave and there’s a lot of hair-whipping all over the place.
What else can you tell us about the video?
It’s a very glam surrounding… it’s really, really good. I’ve got 12 models in it, and I mean models as in, these people actually are in Vogue and stuff. They’re all six feet tall and just… they literally took my breath away when I first saw them.
I was like, ‘you’re all so gorgeous, I think you should just come everywhere with me’. So they’re included in the video really, really well, some really good meme-worthy parts in it that are hilarious.
Are you thinking about the charts at all?
Aye absolutely, definitely. Like anybody else that’s releasing music, you just want it to be as big as it can possibly be and have as many people hear it and love it as is humanly possible.
But you just never know, you just never know. I know the song’s good, I feel really confident in that, and everything else is just left up to… it’s like jumping off a cliff isn’t it? We’ll know in the next couple of weeks, we’ll see.
Are chart positions something you’re particularly conscious of after ‘Insatiable’ [which peaked at no.47]?
No, not really, because the last album was never really… you couldn’t really buy it anywhere, you could only buy it in certain shops.
‘Insatiable’, the album, was more of a project, really... it was more like a songwriting excursion and an exclusive deal that hadn’t really ever been done that often before… me being like, ‘ooh I’m an entrepreneur’, rather than ‘this is my singing career’.
Does that mean this feels more like a debut album than ‘Insatiable’ did?
Yes, absolutely. Yeah.
Obviously, we can’t not talk about Girls Aloud because it’s such a huge part of your history, how do you feel when you look back on that time of your life?
I love it, I absolutely love it. I have so many great friends, so many great memories, so many great pictures, so many great songs, so many great relationships with people. I definitely feel, for the last 15 years, that I spent my time very wisely. And that’s a great thing to be able to look back at.
Was there one particular high-point of being in the group?
Just every time we did a single, every time we had an amazing song that people loved, and that became a huge part of people’s lives. That was always a good moment. And how many singles did we have? To have that twenty-something times, that was always a highlight.
But it was all a highlight. Girls Aloud, full stop, was the highlight.
On the other hand, is there any one moment that you look back at and really cringe?
Because there were four other people [in the band], a lot of times in interviews, I didn’t realise that my face was so expressive. I had no idea, and people would would be talking about things [on camera] and I’d be completely in a different world. Left the room!
I didn’t realise that I was so much like that until I watched things back, but I look like I’m not even there! So yeah, I cringe when I see that, like, snap! Out of it! Back in the room, Nadine.
Are you more used to not having the other members of the band around you now?
I just feel so happy that I’m with Brian and Xenomania, I really feel that I work much better as part of a team. Everybody has their role, it’s a team thing, and as long as that is happening, then it’s not all on me.
It’s not like the ‘Insatiable’ stuff where I was the songwriter and I had done everything, and then I was like… ‘what? I’m not prepared!’ Whereas now it just feels very, very natural.
Do you ever miss being in the group?
I loved being in the group, and some of the things that we were able to do were amazing. And I hope that I can get to do those things again, but I will always have those memories, and feel so proud of that.
And I can always listen to the songs, any time I want.
Is there any one Girls Aloud question that you’re really bored of being asked about?
I don’t mind being asked anything! Not at all. I tell you what is annoying, is when you say something and somebody writes something that’s completely different to what you said, and you’re like, ‘well that’s not nice, because that’s not what happened’. That’s what isn’t nice, but I have no problem talking about any of it, or any of them.
On that note, what did you think of Sarah in ‘Celebrity Big Brother’?
Well, she called me beforehand to tell me she was going into it, and I said ‘don’t, please don’t’. I said, ‘I’m going to Spain, why don’t you come to Spain with me instead?’
I was like, ’come, don’t do it, don’t do it’. And then when she told me she was doing it, I just said, ‘OK, well don’t drink. Don’t drink.’ And she said she wasn’t going to.
Not that there’s an issue with that! It’s just when it’s such a short period of time and everybody’s the same when they have a drink, you can get a bit more loose-lipped, it’s natural. But I am so happy that she won it.
Were you surprised when she won?
No, I wasn’t surprised at all. Even towards the end.
Was the Sarah we saw on screen the Sarah you knew?
That’s Sarah! That was absolutely Sarah. No editing, she… she will just tell you how it is. If her shoes are uncomfortable, you will hear about it. Or if something’s going on in her life, you will know about it. In detail.
She has no filter whatsoever, she was always like that. But she is her own worst enemy, she will never do another human being any harm whatsoever, but she knows how to self-destruct on herself.
Have you spoken to her since she left the house?
Yes I’ve spoken to her, I’m trying to meet up with her, but the thing is, I know it’ll be a late night, and I am really busy, I’m up at, like, 6am… so I need a night with her once there’s a day off.
Have you offered her any advice?
What can I advise her? No. I gave my advice at the beginning, I told her not to do it, but I’m glad she did because she won.
And how about the other three members of the group? Have you had any contact with them?
No, I haven’t. Not since the end, not since the tour, not since we broke up.
Is that good, is that bad..?
It’s… I’m indifferent. In an ideal world, we would be all great friends, and it would be a great thing.
But I’m really supportive of things that they do, and you can’t help but feel happy for somebody when something great happens, you know, they have a baby or, you know, great things! I feel happy for other people feeling happy. I can take joy from their happy moments.
Do you ever miss them, just as people?
Um. It’s moved on. But I do love everything that we did together.
Fast-forward 18 months, and what do you want to have achieved?
I want to have all, or at least, the four songs to be out. And I want everyone to love them. And I want everyone to play them at their birthday parties, and their Friday nights, and when they’re getting ready. And I want them to be a part of people’s lives when they’re doing fun things, that’s what I want.
Finally, in the past 15 years, have you managed to take better care of your passport?
I just got a new passport! Thank God, because the photo for the old one was horrific. But yeah… my passport is in pretty good shape right now.
Do you know where it is right now?
I couldn’t say exactly for sure. But it’s in one of a few places.
Nadine’s new single, ‘Go To Work’, is out now.