Posted by Admin in Jul 26,2011 with No Comments
Cheryl is laying low, Nadine and Kimberly have gone all quiet, and Sarah has become a TV presenter, but what about ‘the quiet one’ of Girls Aloud? Alan Corr meets Nicola Roberts and finds out that she’s not so quiet after all
“I was at home in Liverpool and I put my little brother and sister in the car, burnt it off on to a CD, drove to this deserted field and put it on so loud that the trees were shaking. I looked at my brother, this 14-year-old lad, and he went, ‘That is cool.’ Then my little sister, she’s 21 and a real girls’ girl, said, ‘That is fly.’ I’m so proud of it. I can’t believe it’s mine.”
Nicola Roberts is talking about her recently released debut solo single, Beat of My Drum. It’s the first song from her debut album, Cinderella’s Eyes (out sometime in September), and the ‘quiet one’ from Girls Aloud is justifiable proud of the song’s wired collision of jittery beeps, beats and bleeps. Beat of My Drum is a song that sounds like it’s had too many espressos but Nicola herself is a rather deep-thinking customer who chooses her words carefully.
And so she might. Roberts, for some reason, was always the overlooked Girl Aloud. She was the one who was subjected to some pretty outrageous criticism in some media quarters for not being pretty enough, for being too pale, too ginger, and for lacking the sass of her fellow band members. Nicola’s reserved nature was often misinterpreted as an aloofness that gave her a reputation as a porcelain ice maiden in a gang of party girls.
However, the magnificent success of Girls Aloud has meant she could no longer be ignored or victimised and besides, Nicola learnt a long time ago to damn the begrudgers. Her single is not called Beat of My Drum for nothing and she will quietly defy expectations once again with Cinderella’s Eyes, not least for her choice of collaborators – Diplo (MIA, Beyoncé), Dimitri Tikovoi (Goldfrapp, The Horrors) and very good English act Metronomy.
“All five of us have very different musical taste in Girls Aloud”, she says, very much talking in the present tense about her full-time band. “I suppose that nobody sees that because the only music they get from us is the sound of Girls Aloud records. If you have five cooks in the kitchen you’ll never get the bloody meal done. We all contributed in our own way, so I think inevitably when you come to make your own record, the things that you’re into are obviously highlighted. Cheryl’s record is very different to mine and very different to Nadine.”
It’s all a big departure from Xenomania, the pop assassins who delivered most of Girls Aloud’s considerable run of hits. But did she feel in any way trapped by their working methods and tastes? “No and I would never say that because I’m a massive team player and I’ve only ever known that”, she says. “I literally went from school into the band. Being in a team is the way I love to work. I don’t necessarily like it when it’s all about me. I think it’s very egotistical to enjoy something like that and it’s not all that genuine.
“With Xenomania, everything was a team effort and everybody contributed and that’s how I’ve made this record too. When Girls Aloud took a break I’d gone from a safe haven, literally having gone from school to eight years of having the support of the a whole team – management, the same stylists and hair and make-up – it was like going from a family to being on my own.”
There is a song on the album called Sticks and Stones in which Nicola sings, ‘How funny that I was too young for so many things/ Yet you thought I’d cope with being told I’m ugly/ Over and over’. “It’s about being 17 and not being old enough to go to the shop to buy your own bottle of vodka to drown your sorrows”, she says. “But being old enough for people to think you can cope with being called ugly. Those real-life lyrics bring darkness but that’s what makes me feel something. I get nothing from songs that just rhyme, it doesn’t feed me.”
The song that ‘feeds’ her the most on Cinderella’s Eyes is the one she wrote with Metronomy. It’s called I and Nicola says it’s her favourite. “I love it. It sounds like a funeral song.” Is there a darkness to her that we may not have seen before? “I don’t know about darkness but I like what’s real. I can’t be arsed with bulls***. I like what’s real. Real life is hating the people that leave, horrible, s***** comments on the internet.
“Real life is hating it when you placed an order and it comes and they’ve messed up all your sizes or hating that boyfriends wear bad disguises a lot of the time. Bad boyfriends wear beautiful disguises. I like things that are real and I suppose in that sense, there can be darkness.”
Despite the overwhelmingly positive response to her solo work, Nicola still seems in a state of disbelief. Her website forums may be stuffed full of fans wishing her luck, but she says she takes it all with a handful of salt. “With every good comment comes a bad comment and I think it’s stupid to take anything on board”, she says. “People change their mind like the wind. I haven’t had one bad review from the critics though and that’s so rewarding after you literally spend your life in the studio, from 10am to 3am in the morning and all of the hard work was worth it for the good reviews. They shocked me a bit. I am amazed that people are supporting me, it’s like ‘why, why?’”
Why are you surprised? “I live in reality. My body is in this dream world where I love what I’m doing. I can’t believe I went from a normal little girl to being in a band and then having a solo record. But I have to keep my head stuck firmly in reality so that I’m always aware of everything that goes on and I’m aware what people think of me, good or bad. I have to be able to have that and I think that when you are like that it keeps your feet on the ground.”
Unbelievably, next year marks the ten-year anniversary of Girls Aloud. They may be on a prolonged break but they can look back at a run of hits (including their finest moment, The Promise) with some pride. As for her fellow band members, Nicola is in regular contact with most of them but she politely declines to answer questions about the embattled (by the media) Cheryl.
She does reckon she has an insight into why people write all those “terrible things” about her however. As well, as loving music, Nicola professes an interest in psychology. “I’m a proper geek! I never read many books about psychology but it’s just a natural thing”, she says. “I don’t know how, but I think I have a gift that allows me to understand why people do things and why somebody says something. If someone says something that I don’t necessarily agree with, I read their body language and say it back in my head and take on their mood. It’s so bizarre. Sometimes I think I’m a total nutjob!”