THERE is a track at the end of Louise Redknapp’s new album – her first in 20 years – so raw it catches the breath. The very heartbreaking Wrong details the collapse of a relationship (we can hazard a guess at which one) and its lyrics almost feel like an intrusion on a private conversation. Louise, 45, confides she’s nervous about singing it live.
The mere mention of it in our interview causes tears to spring in her eyes. “I’m scared about that song,” she says softly. “Even thinking about it makes me cry. Sometimes I wonder, god, have I opened up myself too much? I actually recorded it thinking it’d never go on the album. Ever. But everyone was like: ‘Please…’”
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Louise was persuaded and, well, here we are. “I think it will resonate with just what happens in life. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just…” She tails off and apologises. “I’m so sorry to be upset. That is the one song… It’s just a really emotional song, as you can see.”
When Louise and Jamie Redknapp announced their split in 2017 after 19 years of marriage it was a huge showbiz shock, and the public fallout was long and painful. More relatable than the Beckhams, they had always seemed so strong – successful, good-looking and parents to two longed-for boys after Louise had initially struggled to conceive.
He was a footballer turned popular pundit. She’d enjoyed a chart-topping ’90s music career with girl band Eternal, as well as having three studio albums and nine Top 10 singles as a solo artist before giving it up to focus on staying at home and being a mum.
Over the years she worked on various projects including some TV presenting and several brand endorsements, but it wasn’t until she signed up for Strictly in 2016 that something shifted. The show proved something of an epiphany, reigniting her love of performing, and the marriage began to unravel.
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“I never went into Strictly thinking I wanted to achieve anything or do more. I went in thinking: ‘God, time’s running away.’ I was a bit lonely. My kids were getting bigger and Jamie was very busy. He had a very, very full life and I was just going: ‘Well, what’s next for me?’
“So I made myself say yes to it, and I realised that performing is what I love, it’s what I grew up doing, it’s what I went to stage school for. That’s what makes me, what defines me. It’s what gives me confidence and makes me feel I’m worth something. Even though I had a lovely life and there’s nothing more important to me than my boys, I felt like I needed to have a little fire again.
“And whether I’m singing in front of 10 people or 50,000, it doesn’t matter. That’s all I know how to do and without it, I think I just felt a little bit… worthless.”
Louise stops again. She wants to choose her words carefully so as not to cause hurt to Jamie, 46, who she still cares for deeply and co-parents Charley, 15, and 11-year-old Beau with.
“I adore him and always will. Jamie was the absolute love of my life. I guess I was happy to be invisible for a little while, but at the same time I felt I was becoming less and less of a person. And being less and less visible was kind of hard to take when I used to be a pop star.”
In Wrong she describes clipping her wings before adding a sting in the tail: “You said I don’t need them, you would lift me up. You were wrong.” And towards the end of the track she ruefully admits: “I should have fixed it before it was unfixable.”
“Yeah,” she says when reminded of the line. “I’m saying it’s not all your fault and I should have dealt with things earlier. I’m not the kind of person that ever would be damning of anybody, and this album is very much about how I felt. It’s not meant to be mean or unkind.”
None of the 15 tracks come across as that at all. In fact, the overriding feel of Heavy Love is upbeat, kick-ass and entirely genuine. “I can’t not be genuine,” she says, tears in her eyes again. “I can’t help but wear my heart on my sleeve. And I think that’s probably my biggest downfall in life. I give. It’s just the hardest thing in the world to go through. But I’ve got kids. I have to keep going and I would’ve been fine until you mentioned that song!”
She smiles. Louise is extraordinarily candid and endearing, and her story will undoubtedly strike a chord with others feeling similarly lost.
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“This is about how I felt as a person and I think so many women – and men, but predominantly women – will really understand it. But I respect Jamie, and I would never say a bad word about him – he doesn’t deserve it.”
Asked if Jamie has listened to it Louise winces slightly. No, he hasn’t. Does she think he will? “I don’t know. I doubt it. But I don’t know. He knows I would never be unkind about him.”
Since reaching the Strictly final where she finished as a runner-up with dance partner Kevin Clifton, Louise has hardly stopped working. On top of the album, she’s also been a most excellent West End leading lady in 9 To 5 The Musical, as well as starring in the touring version. Which must make her wonder whether she shouldn’t have done this years ago.
“With hindsight, yes. But I hardly missed any of my boys growing up and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Also, I don’t think I would have been able to write an album 10 years ago. I think it would have been really boring! [What’s happened] is what created the passion. I certainly don’t think I would have made a video like Stretch 10 years ago. I would have been mortified!
The video she’s referring to was for the single she released last year and features an awful lot of writhing around in a backless bodysuit. Louise looks completely awesome (in the flesh she’s barely changed since her ’90s pop days), but it’s maybe not the vibe many would expect.
“I could have played it safe and been the girl-next-door Louise that people think they know, but that’s not really me,” she says. “I’ve got more gumption and I’ve got loads to bloody say.
" I want to be heard and I’m strong → enough to say what I really think. And when I was coming back, I thought: ‘You know, I have nothing to lose any more. So let’s do this!’ Take Beyoncé and J.Lo, they’re sexy but not tarty, they’re just strong, gorgeous women. A little bit of attitude never killed anyone. I didn’t want to go in and be vanilla.”
'Jamie was the absolute love of my life'
Do you know, she asks, what her biggest concern was? “That people were going to be so judgemental that I was a certain age and I’ve got kids. I don’t get pictured leaving places with different men and putting myself out. I’m very private. But I thought: ‘No. It’s classy, not slutty and it’s done in an empowering way. If I want to put on a leotard and dance around sexily in a good music video, hell, I’m gonna do it!”
Louise knows that as a woman in the public eye, she’s held under greater scrutiny than her male counterparts. In the wake of the split, she was cast as the mother who had walked out on her kids and the difference in how she was treated compared to Jamie was a real eye-opener.
“Massive. I mean Jamie didn’t… He got nothing about it at all, which I’m pleased about because I wouldn’t want him to go through the same things I did. I remember days where I was just begging for it to stop. Just, please. I don’t want to have to come out and defend myself. I wanted to scream: ‘Could you please give us some time? I’m a human being and I’m breaking.’
“No woman wants to be talked about in the way I was. No mum wants people to think she’s left her kids, which of course I hadn’t. I’d walk over the ocean to protect my boys. But I was frightened of fuelling the fire so I kept not saying anything and it just snowballed.”
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She’d put a picture up on social media of herself on a night out and be bombarded with accusatory questions about why she wasn’t with Charley and Beau instead.
“It would be: ‘Not with your boys?’ In reality I probably was indoors making spaghetti Bolognese and the picture was from four nights before. But I shouldn’t have to prove to anybody when I’m with my kids. The day I have to prove that I’m a good mum to society is the day it’s really gone wrong for me. My boys know, and I know, and that’s all that matters.”
On the flip-side, there’s also been tremendous support, and it’s the words of encouragement from other women that have touched her the most.
“I’m not in this to get men’s approval,” she says. “I’m in this because I want to feel good and as strong a woman as I can. It means something when I get comments from women saying: ‘Looking great, love it, go and smash it!’ They’re the ones that make me hold my head a little higher and put my shoulders back. I’ve found a real solidarity with other women through this.”
The boys have also been her rocks. Louise loves them ferociously and it was profoundly upsetting that people thought she’d left them.
“My kids have been through a lot. I’m so proud of them. Unless you’ve been through it you can’t imagine how much you want to protect these kids you’d give anything to. I want to protect them from the pain I’m inflicting on them with my decisions. And on top of that, it being so public. It’s not been easy. But I was watching my eldest son play rugby the other day. He’s 6ft 2in! I was with a few of the mums and I said to one stood next to me: ‘God, when I watch him, my heart swells with so much pride it almost hurts.’”
At the end of his match, Charley walked off the pitch and straight into her arms, no hint of teenage embarrassment. Louise clasps her chest.
“I wanted to melt. I always say to my boys that charm and kindness are the things that really define someone. That’s where the real star quality comes from. It goes much further than looking perfect on your social media. My boys are amazing. I could walk them into any room in the world and I know they wouldn’t let me down.”
She has a policy of complete honesty with them and says that when she meets someone else (which she hasn’t yet, but obviously will) they’ll be the first to know.
“I’m very open, my phone’s always out, I don’t hide anything. If I’m going out with friends they’ll ask: ‘Oh…anything?’ and I’ll say: ‘No, nothing!’ Because I should be so lucky to go on a date. It’s a running joke now. If I was ever to meet anybody again – listen to me, I say it like it’s never going to happen – I’d be honest.”
Has she really not been on a date since the split? “No!” she insists. “I’ve not had one dinner date since I was single. What’s wrong with me? I said to the guys on the shoot just now, can you make me look hot in these pictures because like, hello! I don’t know why. I’d love someone to ask would I like to go out for dinner. I’d say: ‘That would be lovely!’ Hasn’t happened.”
She was linked to former footballer John Halls a few months ago but denies they were an item (“No, he’s a mate.”). Would she ever consider making the first move herself? “God no – imagine if they say no! I couldn’t. I’d be too embarrassed. Dating is the one part of my life that’s a big grey area.
I get a bit flabbergasted because don’t get me wrong, I’ve got groups of friends and we all hang out and you meet people that way, but nothing where I’m dating in the old-fashioned sense, no. I’ve had so much to contend with, though, so it’s not been the most important thing in my life. But I’d love to meet someone and it would nice to be asked out on the odd date. I’m human!”
She’s not in touch with Kevin, who’s in a relationship with Stacey Dooley, after they won the show in 2018. “Not for ages,” says Louise. “It’s one of those things. Obviously we were great friends and you try and keep in touch with everybody, but it’s a working environment and afterwards everyone goes and does their own thing. So it’s not in a bad way and I wish him all the luck.”
She’s relishing the year ahead with an album tour planned, plus another West End stint in 9 To 5. She says she tries not to have any expectations, preferring to see what happens and to go with it.
“It’s bizarre how the time goes and I kind of wonder what was I doing for those 20 years? Life just went in such a different direction, but it’s good to be back doing something I love. I love music. I love song-writing. I feel so lucky that I’ve been given another opportunity, because they’re not easy to come by at all in this world. Let alone to get a second one.”
In the final line of Wrong, Louise almost whispers: “Thought that I’d be nothing, nothing without you… I was wrong.”
And she was. “I take every day as it comes,” she says. “With every twist and turn I’ve just got to hope that I’m all right. I have good days and bad days. I’m doing my best.”
No regrets? “I don’t look back. If I did then I’m finished. So no, no regrets.”
- Louise’s new album Heavy Love is out Friday.
Book you read?
One Day by David Nicholls. I just got his next one actually.
Box set you watched?
Movie you watched?
I watched Taken with Liam Neeson the other night.
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