Canadian Music Week: Charlotte Church gets extreme musical makeover

Charlotte Church Creative Commons

Classical singer raising eyebrows with outlandish costumes and thundering pop sound.

By: Nick Krewen Special to the Star, Published on Fri Mar 22 2013



These days, Charlotte Church is running from her past just as fast as her voice can carry her.

Although she implements a bit of her classical crossover singing technique in her latest EPs One and Two, her new dramatic, percussion-heavy, thundering pop music approach is an apples-to-oranges comparison of the Bach, Mozart and Andrew Lloyd Webber repertoire that comprised her early career and fuelled global album sales of 15 million.

And Church, who introduces her new sound during a Saturday night set at the El Mocambo, couldn’t be happier.

“It’s pretty different to anything I’ve done in the past,” Church, 27, says over the phone from Venice Beach, a short break from a short tour that has her playing a week of showcase gigs in venues ranging from South By Southwest to Joe’s Pub in New York City.

Is it ever: Large, sweeping string-shaped vistas featuring a pair of drums and a synth overlay on “Beautiful Wreck” from One, and the creeping electro synth intensity with an occasional dab of her soaring soprano on “Glitterbombed” from Two would probably not sit well with the Upper Crust acolytes who believe music begins with Bach and ends with Beethoven.

But Church, while being respectful of the genre that established the Welsh singer in the U.K. at the age of 11, says it was the restriction of the classical genre that prompted her desire for emancipation.

“I think that’s why I didn’t want to sing classical music anymore either,” Church admits. “I was never an opera singer — I was always crossover. But by the time I was 16 I was like … I want to write my own stuff. I don’t want to sing somebody else’s music. And you have to sing the notes on the page for the length that they’re written for. I found it a bit restrictive and I wanted to branch out a little.”

After flirting with pop with 2001’s Enchantment and taking more of a plunge with 2005’s Tissues And Issues — even scoring a no. 2 U.K. hit with “Crazy Chick” — Church then had a couple of kids with her boyfriend at the time and hosted a comedy show, all the while being ceaselessly targeted by the U.K. tabloids.

The woman who has sung for Pope John Paul II and the Queen released another commercial pop album in 2010, Back To Scratch, produced by Martin Terefe (Coldplay, Ron Sexsmith) before deciding to regroup.

“I’d been in the industry for 15 years and I was sort of disillusioned with things, but my partner is really creative and always writing, so I got back into it and ended up building a studio in my garage,” says Church. “I still live in Wales, so I rounded up loads of local musicians — it’s more of a band project than it is a solo project — and it’s been an incredible experience.”

Focused around Church, her guitarist and boyfriend Jonathan Powell and bass player Jamie Neasom, the plan is to release five EPs over the next year and slowly introduce the public to the new Charlotte Church sound.

“I realized that because of my kind of musical history, credibility is going to be difficult for me to gain,” Church explains. “So rather than shoving it down people’s throats, I’d rather just let the music speak for itself. I’d rather do word of mouth and have fans feel a little bit of ownership over you, like it was their discovery. I’d love people to feel that way.”

Church has also raised eyebrows back home with some outlandish stage costumes, wearing feathers in her hair and unusual eye cosmetics.

She says the new look suits the music.

“I want it to be a show,” she explains. “I love the material and it’s really dramatic, and I just find it much more interesting to do some crazy makeup rather than just put on some pretty blush and lots of mascara. I find that sort of boring now.
“If you can’t dress up on stage, where can you dress up, really?”

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