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Thursday conversation with pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor

A quick read with someone in the public eye

By Carrie Gregory

The 35-year-old singer and mum-of-three reveals why she is about to step back on to the dance floor for the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special.

How do you manage to juggle motherhood with your many commitments?

It helps that I really love all elements of what I get up to, so you get that extra bit of energy if you're really excited by things you do. The kids have been brilliant; we've had such a good year. I spent most of this year touring the UK and they've been coming with me. I've taken them to loads of festivals and it's been quite a family year - I've probably been based here a lot more than normal.

You're competing in the Strictly Christmas special. How have the rehearsals gone?

Really good, actually. I haven't had as much time as I probably would have normally, because I'm dancing with Aljaz Skorjanec and we've both had things going on, so we've done a few days. But it was really fun - he's a very relaxed teacher and I already knew him from last year.

You came fourth last time. Are you hoping to better that?

The whole point for me of doing something like the Christmas show was to have fun. I had such a perfect run last year and to get to the final was an amazing achievement and something I never imagined I'd do, so when they approached me about doing the Christmas show, I thought I had such a perfect time last time, I'm not sure if I want to jinx it. But actually, the Christmas show is a different kind of entity because you haven't got any pressure. You're not worrying about being invited back next week; it's a one-off, hopefully entertaining, show so I don't think any of us are thinking about who's going to win.

Have you watched any of this year's series of Strictly?

Yes, I think there have been lots of entertaining people this year, but it's just been really nice not to have to watch it with that nervousness that I used to have on a Saturday night. I've missed the training, but I haven't missed the live shows, because I never got used to that feeling of the nerves and the adrenaline. In some ways, it was exhilarating, but it's been a lot more peaceful for me this year.

What do you love most about performing live?

It's a mixed bag really. I suppose the special thing about this year and my latest album is that I made it independently and it was recorded by musicians who are friends. I was very lucky that they could all come on tour with me as well, so it just felt very relaxed. It's been really lovely - it's probably been my favourite 18 months of my working life.

How do you feel you've grown as an artist in the years since your Groovejet days?

It's hard to differentiate between growing as an artist and as a person because I think you change so much. I'm now 35, but I was 21 when that (song) came out, and I think I feel a lot more secure in myself and less concerned about what's cool and what's not cool. Overwhelmingly, it's just feeling more relaxed and appreciating everything a lot more. Nowadays, I can see that I'm one of the lucky ones to still be doing what I love everyday.

You're also venturing into radio for Radio 2's Murder on the Dancefloor. Is this something you'd like to do a bit more of?

Possibly. Since I started singing (and promoting my music), radio was always my favourite, because it's a very relaxed medium and I think there's a level of familiarity you don't really get anywhere else. I'm a big believer in serendipity, so I don't know exactly when will be the right time, but I'm quite excited about doing this first little show because I think it'll be really fun.

You've never seen yourself following in your mother's footsteps presenting on television?

No, I don't think that'd be quite me. My mum's always been so good at it. I think, as a teenager, I was quite happy when I found music, because it was my version; it was my own thing. It's nice to do your own thing.

So will you actually take a break over Christmas? What are your plans?

Absolutely! We always look forward to Christmas Day, and we're going to have a big family Christmas. There's always about 15-20 of us round the table, so we'll eat dinner together, cook it together. It's always quite a big affair - we really, really like Christmas in our house.

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