Nadine: I'm still one of the girls
Girls Aloud singer tells Maureen Coleman of her fabulous life in California, her new man and those rumours of a solo career
There’s no mistaking that familiar voice when Nadine Coyle introduces herself on the telephone. “Hello, is that Maureen? It’s Nadine from Girls Aloud here. How are you doing?” she says.
The Derry brogue is as strong as ever, with only a slight hint of the American twang she’s been accused of picking up since setting up home in California two years ago.
While the nation adores Cheryl Cole’s heavy Geordie accent, poor Nadine’s has been castigated by some sections of the Press. Indeed, she was forced to tell off both Jonathan Ross and Alan Carr for poking fun at her on air.
And it’s been claimed her accent may even hinder her career prospects in the US, where Americans — allegedly — have been struggling to understand her.
“Do you know what, I’m a Derry girl through and through,” she says with pride.
“This is the way I talk. I’m from Derry, it’s my home.
“And even though I’m living out here, I’m surrounded by my family, so I hear the Derry accent every day.”
Although she claims she hasn’t embraced the LA approach to health and fitness quite as fastidiously as some other well-known ex-pats, there can be no denying that the lifestyle seems to suit her. The hair is blonder, the skin more sun-kissed and those famous pins are leaner than ever.
But Nadine maintains her attitude is more laid-back than Los Angeles.
“Where we live in California is only a stone’s throw away from the beach,” she tells me.
“Every evening me and my sister sit there, looking out, saying that we’re going to get up at 6am and go for a run along the beach.
“Then we get up, her kids go off to school, and we just never seem to get around to it.
“I went for a long walk the other day and the next day my legs were absolutely killing me. Can you imagine me trying to run in the sand then?
“I’m not into that whole LA approach to fitness. I keep telling people, I’m more European in my attitude. I’m Irish for God’s sake, we don’t work out!”
Nadine was introduced to the charms of California when she began dating Desperate Housewives actor Jesse Metcalfe three years ago.
While her on/off relationship with Metcalfe might have ended, her love affair with the Californian sunshine didn’t and Nadine decided to up sticks and move across the Atlantic.
Not only did the singer uproot, but her family did too — her parents, two sisters, brother-in-law and young nephews. The Coyle clan set up home in the Orchard County and are currently in the process of setting up their own Irish-themed bar.
Nadine says: “I loved everything about the place – the weather, the people — so I decided to give it a go.
“My parents have lived in Derry for almost 50 years and they thought ‘why not?’. Derry will always be there and we’ve still got our homes there too.
“They just thought it would be a nice wee venture for them and they haven’t looked back.
“We’re coming to the end of the construction of the bar and I have to say, it’s looking gorgeous. It’s on Sunset Beach, but you can’t put up a light or a brick without alerting the whole Sunset Beach community to it.
“The system is a lot different here than at home and it’s taken a while, but we’re hoping to be open very soon.
“We just wanted to make sure it was all done properly and we’re delighted with it. It’s really beautiful and I can’t wait to have people from home come over to see it.”
Nadine may have settled in to life in California, but Derry is never far from her mind.
“My granny still lives there and we love getting home,” she says.
“There are always trips home and I’m really excited about getting back to Northern Ireland when Girls Aloud play the Odyssey next month.”
Joining her on the visit back to Belfast, she hopes, will be boyfriend of six months, Jason Bell. The strapping footballer, who plays for the New York Giants, has never been to Ireland before and Nadine is keen to entice him across the water to watch her on tour.
The 23-year-old is clearly smitten as she talks about Jason.
“He’s a really nice guy and we’re still going strong,” she says.
“He wants to see me on tour, so I’ve told him there’s no better place to come than Belfast.”
Next month Girls Aloud embark upon their biggest UK and Ireland tour to date, playing a hat-trick of shows at the Odyssey Arena.
Nadine admits that while she is looking forward to the Belfast shows, she always feels more nervous playing at home.
“The last time we played Belfast, my parents were flying in from the States and we were organising a surprise party for mammy,” she says.
“But I was so sick with nerves I couldn’t get organised.
“I locked myself away in a quiet room filled with candles to try and relax, but I was that nervous, I really thought I was going to be sick.
“I get like that when we’re shooting DVDs as well, I don’t know why. I suppose when we’re playing in front of a home crowd, I feel under more pressure. I always bring loads of people up from Derry, then spend my time worrying that I’m not going to sing right or something will go wrong.
“The Odyssey is such a huge arena too, I can’t help getting nervous. It’s just the way I am.”
Nadine’s modesty is endearing — and at times she seems to forget that she is one fifth of the biggest girl group on the planet.
She recalls a recent incident the night before the Brit Awards, when she came face-to-face with Bono for the first time.
“We were doing a camera run at Earl’s Court and there was U2’s dressing room opposite us and Coldplay’s behind us,” she says excitedly.
“It was like, ‘oh, there’s the Kings of Leon over there’ and ‘there’s The Killers’ there.
“I was in the toilets and I heard the rest of the girls out in the corridor.
“When I came out, they were all chatting to Bono. I ran down the corridor to join them and he was like, ‘Hello Nadine, it’s lovely to meet you’. He actually knew who I was.
“It was like an out-of-body experience. I never imagined he would know me.”
Meeting the U2 frontman might have been a special moment for the band, but nothing could top their joy the following evening when they scooped the Brit award for Best Single with their chart-topping song The Promise.
Nadine says: “We’d all had a month off and I’d just flown in from the States a few days earlier. We were really excited about performing at the show, wearing the costumes, seeing the fans. But we never thought for one moment that we were going to win.
“We always thought we deserved to win, you know, after seven years together.
“But even so, we couldn’t believe it when they called out our name. We were absolutely delighted. We didn’t have speeches prepared or anything and going up there to collect the award, it was all just in slow motion.
“What made it all the sweeter was that the fans voted for us.
“Afterwards our record company, Universal, threw a big party for us.”
With 20 Top 10 singles under their belt, and an entry into the Guinness Book of Records for Most Successful Reality Television Group, it was “about time” — as Sarah Harding said — that they did win their first Brit.
Later this year Girls Aloud will support Coldplay at their Wembley Stadium shows.
Nadine is beside herself with excitement.
“Can you imagine Coldplay wanting us to support them?” she says. “I love all of their songs and can’t wait for the concerts. I’ll treasure those moments forever.”
In the meantime Girls Aloud have a pretty hectic schedule themselves — a new video to shoot to accompany their next single Untouchable, a few television appearances and a tour to undertake.
“We have our playlist and stage set all ready and we’ll actually incorporate these into the Coldplay shows as well,” she says.
“We’re all really looking forward to getting back on the road. The tour has sold really well. I mean three gigs at the Odyssey. I remember going to see Westlife there and thinking how wonderful it must be for all these people to come and see you play so many nights. I never imagined it would happen to me.”
When she’s back in Belfast Nadine intends to visit the Northern Ireland’s Children’s Hospice again in her role as ambassador.
Her last visit three years ago ago was a memorable occasion for the children who receive care there — and for Nadine herself.
“It’s such a wonderful place and the standard of care is unbelievable,” she says.
“The children and staff are just brilliant and I remember leaving there thinking that the world was a good place, with really good people in it. I’d like to think my visit made a difference, I know it certainly made a difference to me.”
During that particular trip home, Nadine was spotted crying after a charity gig and there was much media attention focused on the incident.
Whether it was down to the emotions of being back home, her tempestuous relationship with Metcalfe at the time or the reports of a feud within the band, Nadine’s not saying, but those constant rumours of a split just will not go away.
So can she set the record straight?
“The story is that Girls Aloud are not about to split,” she says defiantly.
“Why would we, there’s no need? We’re very successful, we have a tour coming up, we’ve just won our first Brit.
“Ever since we formed in 2002, there have been rumours that I’m going to go solo, they started after about the first week we’d got together.
“I spent six months trying to get into this band, why would I leave?”
Nevertheless, speculation has been fuelled by her move to California and her recent signing with a new manager, Bruce Garfield, who also looks after the careers of Sinead O’Connor, Grace Jones and Mica Paris. All solo female singers.
Despite her protestations that she’s not about to leave the band, she does hint that a solo project won’t be ruled out in the future.
“Within the band we can go off and do our own thing,” she says. “We’re all supportive of each other.”
And what of the allegations of internal feuding and jealousies over Cheryl Cole’s X Factor success?
“We’re five girls who are friends and we all support each other,” she maintains. “We’re all very proud of each other.”
The fact that Nadine is based in California means she is undoubtedly isolated from the rest of the girls.
But she says she is getting used to the constant travelling and that it does not affect her position within the group.
“I’ve been coming out to the US for four years now and living here for two, so it’s fine. I’m used to jumping on and off planes now. It’s no big deal.”
I ask her how, given her busy itinerary and the amount of time she must spend in the air, she still manages to look as perfect as she does.
Nadine bursts out laughing.
“Are you joking?” she asks incredulously. “I might look good from a distance, but wait till you see me up close — I’m wild looking sometimes, honestly.”
Nadine has the looks, the voice and the backing to break the States as a solo star — something I believe she will do sooner than she claims. All she needs to do now is work on that ‘wild’ Derry accent.