'I am not going solo because Cheryl did... there really is no competition'
It’s the most anticipated pop duel of the year, with Nadine Coyle set to release an album at the same time as bandmate Cheryl Cole, but the Derry singer insists there’s no bad blood.
She was often hailed the voice of Girls Aloud - the stand-out singer most likely to make it as a solo artist. Even before Nadine Coyle took part in Popstars: The Rivals — the talent show that created the glamorous girl group — music mogul Louis Walsh had taken her aside and advised her to go it alone.
But the young Londonderry pop starlet was keen to be part of a band and chose to ignore Walsh’s insightful guidance.
Now, five chart-topping albums later and never-ending reports of alleged feuds and fall-outs with the rest of the band, Nadine has taken the first tentative steps towards a solo career, with the launch of her debut album Insatiable.
It’s been two years in the making in LA, where she is now permanently based with the rest of her family and where she has established a successful bar, Nadine’s Irish Mist, on Sunset Beach. But any plans she might have had to be the first solo star to emerge, butterfly- like, from the band were scuppered by a certain Cheryl Cole.
While Coyle was busy writing material for her debut in her sunshine studio — and getting engaged to New York Giants footballer Jason Bell — Cole’s star was already on the ascent. The X Factor judge released her solo album 3 Words last year and thanks to her teary-eyed empathy with contestants on The X Factor, managed to wheedle her way into the hearts of the nation.
If Press reports are to be believed, Cole is Coyle’s nemesis — the Robbie Williams to her Gary Barlow. But when the C-word is mentioned, Coyle is ever-diplomatic.
“I don't feel there's any competition,” she says in her thick, transatlantic tinged Irish accent.
“I'm not doing this because of Cheryl. It depends who I'm up against in the charts that week. It's more about working. I'm not going to work in my bar, I can't do that, and I can't really do anything else. I'm a singer. This is what I do.”
She also concedes that Cole has done ‘amazingly well’, before adding: “Although I would have been exhausted doing what she did. I was exhausted just watching her, do you know what I mean? I needed time for myself and distance from the last album too.
“To write about stuff that wasn’t just about the way my life had been.
“You know, I woke up today and got my hair and make-up done.”
Coyle obviously considers herself more of a natural musician than a celebrity and despite Cole’s recent fall from grace, over the Gamu controversy — is not keen to replace her as the Nation’s Sweetheart.
She is at pains to praise her bandmate. “Cheryl’s great, you know, and we get on. And I wouldn’t be good at stuff like judging The X Factor. I would be the worst. Partly because I would want to be the one up there singing, with the lights and stuff. Also I’d be going, ‘That’s not good, never mind, let me do it. Just watch me’.”
Coyle says she never really intended to write an album.
“I had a publishing deal with EMI and I really enjoyed the sessions with other writers and using the loops and samples on GarageBand (industry-standard music software on the Mac),” she says.
“Then someone heard them and now I'm here promoting the solo record.”
That someone was William Orbit, who's worked with Madonna among others, suggesting it wasn't as much a case of happy coincidence as Coyle would have us believe.
The pair worked on one of the album's songs, Unbroken, together, while other collaborators include Robbie Williams's old musical director Guy Chambers, and German producer Toby Gad, the brains behind Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry and Beyonce's If I Were A Boy.
Rather than signing to a conventional record label, Coyle's Insatiable will be released by Tesco, with the supermarket being the only stockist of the physical CD.
Of course, it will be available from digital stores like iTunes, but it represents something of a brave move.
“It's where I buy my CDs,” she reasons. “Especially before Christmas, it's where everyone gets their records from.”
With the release of Insatiable, Coyle is immediately putting herself under a lot of scrutiny.
Ever since Girls Aloud announced they were taking a year-long hiatus — which quickly turned into a break of indeterminable length — Coyle was quickly turned into the villain of the band by the Press.
She was the one who seemed to be distancing herself from the band by failing to show at the 2008 Brit Awards, when Girls Aloud were up for their first Best British Group award and again, if gossip columns were to be believed, she was the one holding off the reunion.
But even back in the early days of Girls Aloud, it seems Coyle was something of a separate entity from the other four girls. In a surprising revelation, she says that from the band’s debut album onwards, she sang all the initial vocals in the studio.
“From day one,” she says. “Well, maybe not day one, but definitely week two. And then they (the rest of the band) would come in and do their parts and they would have their holidays.
“We were very, very separate. We didn’t know it any other way.”
On the much-speculated subject of a split, she is less reluctant to talk. “After the last record, it was the right time to go and do our own individual things and then come back together when the time was right, if the time was right,” she says.
When pushed for an answer on whether or not Girls Aloud are getting back together she eventually replies: “Yes, I would imagine so. Apparently I called the other girls this morning for ‘clear the air' talks. The Press likes to do it with girl bands, to create cat fights. But I understand how hard it might be to fill a paper every day.
“I don't read them, to be honest. I'd rather live in ignorant bliss of thinking that I looked fine and that everyone loves me. I don't want to read that's not the case or see those unflattering pictures of myself.”
Coyle's weight is another area of ongoing controversy. She's undoubtedly slim, but healthy looking in that Californian beach babe way. She is certainly not as frail as she looked in paparazzi shots of her over the summer.
“Do you know where that came from?” she asks. “I was on my way to Guy Chambers's studio, and walked right out of my shoe in front of photographers. My feet have shrunk, I think they were always swollen from dancing in heels in Girls Aloud, but now all my shoes are too big. And there it was, I had an eating disorder.
“You can't dwell on it though. I just ignore it, and focus on all the positives.”
After the success of Girls Aloud — 20 consecutive Top 10 singles (a chart record for a female group), four No 1s, two No 1 albums, Coyle also feels she can afford not to worry too much about criticism.
“I think it just takes time, doesn't it,” ponders Coyle.
“Look at Girls Aloud. When we
first started off, Sound Of The Underground was an amazing song, but as a band, we weren't really that good.
“We had to learn the trade, learn our stuff. Four years in we'd cracked it, and then after eight years we were really very good.
“My solo work is completely different, and I don't feel like I have anything to prove, to myself or anyone else.
“I wouldn't put myself under that sort of pressure, it would be too much. I definitely don't want that.”
What Coyle does want, however, is to live out her girlhood fantasies of performing her solo material with a live band.
“When I was little, I dreamed of being a singer. I did imagine videos with big sweeping camera angles, big lights, dresses, the whole works, and now I can live that out a bit.
“I'm going to be auditioning a whole load of good-looking, buff eye candy dancers as well.
“You know, it's just me being thorough,” she says with a mischievous cackle.
Nadine Coyle releases her debut solo single Insatiable on Monday, November 1. The album, of the same name, is released the following week