Charlotte Church is aware of precisely why the press turned on her. “Well, it was due to the fact that I smoked and I drank and I went out with my friends and I had sex… all normal things,” says the Welsh singer. Normal, sure, however not from the lady that they had dubbed “Voice of an Angel”.
If you’re over a sure age, you’ll in all probability bear in mind when an 11-year-old Church first gripped the nation: after phoning into This Morning to sing “Pie Jesu”, she made her debut TV look on Jonathan Ross’s The Big Big Talent Show a few days later. She was candy, doe-eyed, precociously cheeky. “You’re 11 years old, and you’re into opera?” requested Ross, bemused. Then she stood up, and that huge soprano voice emerged. After that, she sang for popes, princes and presidents – Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Pope John Paul II and Prince Charles amongst them. Her debut album, 1998’s Voice of an Angel, offered greater than 10 million copies, and Church went from a regular Welsh schoolgirl to a bankable commodity in lower than a 12 months.
The media scrutiny was virtually instantaneous – nevertheless it obtained worse as she entered her teenage years. The world of fame on the flip of the century was a significantly disagreeable one, and the “brutal” British tabloids hounded her. In 2002, the radio host Chris Moyles supplied reside on-air to take her virginity when she reached 16. Just a few months later, she received the Rear of the Year Award. When she began pursuing teenage pastimes a little too publicly – she was usually photographed out partying or slouched someplace drunk – the papers had been positively gleeful.
“The press just decided to go with this narrative of the fallen angel,” says the now 35-year-old from her house in Cardiff, taking large mouthfuls of a “crisp sandwich”. “There was a whole ‘ladette’ thing around that time as well. And they totally pushed this idea of, you know, ‘chavs’. And I was totally seen as a chav. The tabloid press, they’re creating fables, over and over again. It’s almost like fairy tales, but as sordid a fairy tale as they can make it.”
By the age of 19, Church had moved from classical music into pop. She launched the teen-angst album Issues and Tissues in 2005. Its lead single, “Crazy Chick”, reached No 2 – however Church loathed its anodyne melody and cliched lyrics, later calling it “throwaway pop” and admitting that she had been compelled by the label to file it. The Charlotte Church Show launched on Channel 4 in 2006, and ran for 3 sequence regardless of combined critiques. All the whereas, the press nonetheless hounded her.
There had been different younger ladies being handled brutally again then, too: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan. “What they were subjected to…” says Church. ‘There was a way in which young women were presented, and particularly young working-class women. And because I didn’t have any life expertise, and since I hadn’t stepped into my feminine energy in any manner, form or kind, I allowed that narrative to be advised. I even performed together with it, as a result of it’s what folks needed.”
Suddenly, one thing catches her eye. “Is that a gong there? You’ve got a gong?” she asks, bursting with pleasure. I’m undecided what she’s speaking about? “Over there!” It seems it’s the geometric patterned cowl of my ironing board she’s noticed.
She will need to have inside design on the mind. Church has landed her first actuality/way of life TV present, reworking her new derelict home in rural mid-Wales into a luxurious wellness retreat, marriage ceremony venue and glamping spot. Charlotte Church’s Dream Build – which airs on Really and Discovery+ from 11 January – will comply with Church over eight episodes, as she renovates the property with the assistance of her stepdad, James, and a crack workforce of builders. She’s additionally filmed being mum to her youngsters – 13-year-old Dexter and 14-year-old Ruby, from her earlier relationship with Welsh rugby star Gavin Henson, and her 18 month-old daughter Freda together with her “super lush” husband of 11 years, guitarist Jonathan Powell.
“I’m trying to do my bit to help save humanity and help us live more consciously and more fulfillingly with the natural world,” explains Church, “because western civilisation is doing none of us any favours. I want to be a part of the story of saving the world.” And glamping will do this? Or does she see herself as a wellness guru, like a nicer, Welsh model of Nicole Kidman’s character in Nine Perfect Strangers? “I won’t be microdosing people as she did,” she says with a snort.
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She is coaching as a “sound healing therapist”, although. “I think that [saving the world] is through helping people to relax, to slow down, to face themselves, to find beauty and nature, and to be loving. All of the practices of capitalism are deepening our unhappiness, and our inability to live with ourselves… This constant entertainment, this constant distraction, means that we can’t be connected.”
Rhydoldog House, the previous house of designer Laura Ashley, has 49 acres of woodland and grounds. It’s a whole bombsite, with crumbling partitions and collapsed ceilings. “I’ve blown my life savings” on this challenge, she says. She’s obtained a £750,000 mortgage and her mother and father have given her £300,000 – “because I gave them a whack of money when I was a teenager”.
This all happened, Church explains, as a result of “I feel like I’m recovering from Western civilization. No matter who you are, no matter what strata of society, you’ve been f***ed over… And it hurts.” Being famous simply amplifies all that. “I’ve lived through all sorts of s*** and trauma, chaos and pain. Being famous is like being in a psychological grinder. Like, you’re constantly questioned and rejected and betrayed a lot of the time. People sell stories and, you know, it’s big. It’s a lot.”
In 2011, Church testified earlier than the Leveson Inquiry about media intrusion into her private life. She spoke about her telephone being hacked – after which tales started showing in papers about her mum making an attempt to kill herself and her father’s affair – and about “suffering the indignity of paparazzi trying to take photographs up my skirt and down my top”. She additionally revealed that she was pressured into waiving a £100,000 price to sing at Rupert Murdoch’s marriage ceremony in change for a promise of “good press”.
They didn’t preserve their facet of the cut price. Church and her mother and father acquired £600,000 in damages and authorized prices after settling phone-hacking lawsuits with Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers. “I started to understand how this rot ran through the whole system, in ways it made me feel a bit helpless,” she says now. “It taught me the way in which the press and the political system was so insidious. Like, so much of what we have is propaganda, especially when it comes to Rupert Murdoch.”
Over the previous 10 years, “I’ve had a much quieter life”, says Church. “I wanted to make that space in my mind and in my life to be a mother and just take time to recuperate and understand who I am, what I want, and what I want to do.” A “quiet life” is subjective, although, and whereas her solo pop materials may by no means have taken off, her famous membership evening Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon has prompted one thing of a Church renaissance. With her covers band, she works via an eclectic set of pop songs – “anything from Nine Inch Nails to David Bowie to Destiny’s Child” she says – and feels “like a wild woman” performing it.
“People absolutely loved it – so we just carried on,” says Church. It’s cathartic for all concerned. “People have been so starved of joy. From the never-ending Brexit news cycle to the terrible warnings about the planet, to declining mental health and rising anxiety … So we just kept doing it because it was so joyful. And people would just completely lose themselves in it. They would be singing their hearts out, dancing, and crying. I mean, it’s really powerful.”
If there’s one factor the Pop Dungeon and the brand new wellness centre challenge have in frequent, it’s that they each come from Church’s need to attach with folks. “It’s not about the surface level things – it’s about this deepening of existence,” she says. “And I just want to be of use.”
If meaning investing her life financial savings, then so be it. “I’ve been in an incredibly fortunate position, where I earned a lot of money as a kid, which I’ve been living off with my family,” she says. “We’ve had a lovely life but now it’s getting to the time where it’s like,’ I’ve got to get out there and work. I’ve got to earn it.’ I’ll figure it out.” She laughs. “If I have to sell my house, it’s not the end of the world.”
‘Charlotte Church’s Dream Build’ premieres on 11 January solely on Really and Discovery+ at 9pm