On Music and Mist Burgers: A Very MuuMuse Interview with Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud

The greatest part about the rapidly globalizing state of the music industry is that, thanks to the the Internet, music lovers worldwide have the ability to indulge in popular music from far-off territories while developing a strong kinship with fellow fans. The downfall, of course, is that no one else around you knows who the fuck you’re talking about.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you haven’t already: Meet Nadine Coyle.

Nadine is best known as one-fifth of a girl group called Girls Aloud.

A super slick, super chic powerhouse quintet originally formed during a UK reality singing competition called Popstars: The Rivals, the Almighty Aloud ruled the UK charts from 2002 to 2009 with their unique brand of edgy, glam pop cultivated and mastered by arguably the greatest pop writing and production troupe of all time, Xenomania.

From kicky drum & bass cuts (“Sound Of The Underground”) to lush disco gems (“Call The Shots”), the Aloud’s chart reign is–pardon the pun–untouchable, having already garnered over 20 Top 10 singles in a row (a Guinness World Record), five platinum selling albums (not to mention a greatest hits collection that went platinum thrice over), and legions of fans the world over. You know, like myself.

On Thursday evening, I somehow found myself sitting down on a bench, outside on a patio in a gorgeous Chelsea loft, with an eager Nadine Coyle sitting directly next to me. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m trying to keep it together,” I said, nervously fumbling at my phone to start recording. “Oh, yar so togaythur,” she reassured me with her thick Derry accent, adding with a smile: “Ay would have no aydeyuh!”

As I looked down at my barely legible notes where scattered thoughts like “‘Graffiti My Soul’/Britney connection?” and “How are the Mist Burgers at Nadine’s Irish Mist?!” were frantically scribbled and squished together, I could only think to myself: What is my life right now?

I’ve now spent nearly a decade listening, watching and hailing the almighty Aloud as one of my favorite acts of all time–mimicking their moves on stage, obsessing over who sings what bit in which song, collecting legendary Aloud .GIFs and impressing all of their music onto (mostly unwilling) family members and (former) boyfriends. (I won’t say one ex’s admission that he skipped every Aloud song on my homemade mix-tapes for him was a complete deal breaker…but let’s face it, it totally was.)

Yet just as with any good Nelly Furtado songs, all good things must come to an end (temporarily, at least).

In late 2009, the girls went on to announce their hiatus in order to embark on their own solo endeavors: Cheryl Cole has undeniably gone on to achieve the greatest mainstream success, both as a judge on the UK’s X Factor and as a solo artist in her own right with two unbelievably successful #1 albums under her fashionable belt. Notorious party girl Sarah Harding found herself involved in various acting opportunities, while Kimberley Walsh showed off her presenting chops as the host of VIVA Channel’s music program, Suck My Pop. And right at this very moment, baby of the group Nicola Roberts is gearing up for the release of her much anticipated, incredibly promising solo album: Cinderella’s Eyes.

Yet of all the Aloud members, it’s the group’s lead vocalist (a risky-but-true description–put down your weapons, Aloud stans) who’s had the most interesting solo journey thus far.

After openly rejecting several major record label bids for representation, the quirky, bubbly Irish chanteuse decided to form her own independent label with a childhood friend–called Black Pen Records–and inked a deal for exclusive distribution with UK supermarket chain, Tesco.

The album’s lead single–the Guy Chambers co-penned “Insatiable”–wound up charting at #26 on the overall UK Singles Chart, while the album itself would go on to peak at #47 on the UK Albums Chart in 2010.

And while the campaign was largely seen as a grave misfire by those accustomed to the unstoppable track record of the Aloud (sometimes referred to as “a flop” on the interwebz), it truly wasn’t in the greater scheme of the industry: Given that the entire Insatiable campaign was led without the promotion or distribution of a major label, Nadine had managed to single-handedly chart through her own efforts–a noteworthy achievement for any indie artist.

Shortly after her album’s release, Coyle flew off to New York in 2011 to begin recording with new producers and writers. Almost as quickly, a song called “Sweetest High” suddenly made its way onto iTunes worldwide in late June.

An up-tempo House track produced by Fire Island resident DJ Vito Fun and Damian Major, the song was a massive departure from the live instrumentation, feel-good sound of Insatiable. “Nadine 2.0!” proclaimed the web mailer that Nadine tweeted out to the world along with a smoldering, mysterious “Sexy! No, No, No”-like image, effectively (and unexpectedly) ushering in a whole new era in Nadine’s solo career.

Yet despite her fans’ confusion with the sudden change in image and sound, Coyle remains pleased with the gradual evolution of her solo career (which she calls “organic”), and plans to continue down the path of spontaneous releases. Having just permanently relocated to…err, somewhere in New York (she bought the place without actually having looked at it yet), she plans to write and record on a daily basis while working toward another album, biding her time until the 2012 Girls Aloud reunion (which is, just to re-confirm, very much still a go.)

Speaking to Nadine (who is truly, truly an absolute sweetheart) helped to clear up a few misconceptions: For one thing, there’s the somewhat common belief running through the UK gossip rags that Nadine’s got beef with the other girls.

In fact, Nadine genuinely loves the girls. “Oh! I haven’t seen this in so long!” she happily cried out when I handed her a copy of the fan edition of Tangled Up to sign, staring at the cover for a while and nostalgically smiling.

Any animosity that the chipper Irish beauty apparently emanates is entirely misinterpreted: She talked about Nicola and her new single with gleeful pride, and when we discussed an Aloud reunion, she spoke excitedly about the possible plans. By the end of conversation, I left with the firm belief that the tabloid drama was merely that: Drama, and nothing more.

For another, she really isn’t bothered by charts and sales: Despite my pressing about the middling success of Insatiable campaign, she couldn’t seem more genuinely pleased with what chart success she managed to attain as an independent artist. The nonchalant worldwide release of “Sweetest High” and her casual response to my questions about her work in New York leads me to believe that Nadine truly does simply enjoy writing, recording and releasing records for the sake of her artistry–any residual chart success would just be grayvay.

So now, without further ado: A very MuuMuse interview with Nadine Coyle.

Queen Nadine & I.

So, okay. One of the most recent things to happen is that Nicola had an interview with PopJustice. She was talking about the process of recording with Brian [Higgins] and Xenomania. She called it a music school–that it was almost as strenuous as going to school. Would you say that?

It was a lot. You become very comfortable in a studio. You just spend days or weeks at a time just singing again and again and again. Doing a lot of different notes; a lot of different keys. Brian would be like, “Take it up! Take it up!” and I’d be shouting at him, like “BRIAN!!!” [Laughs] It was good. It was really good practice. You get really confident in a studio. Now it’s one of my comfort zones. You know, it’s almost like–I love to cook. I’m very comfortable in a kitchen, and I’m very comfortable in a studio. It’s just what you do.

Going back, you have over 20 Top 10 singles.


What would your favorite be?

Oh my God. My favorite single? If I had to play one, I might say “Something Kinda Ooooh.” I could listen to a little of that right now. That’s the thing. Sometimes I’ll just think, like “What do I want to hear? ‘Something Kinda Ooooh.'”

So you can listen to your own music?

Yeah! I love it! I was a huge Girls Aloud fan, which made it so brilliant to be able to go and do live shows and perform. When you love what you’re doing, and you love the music, it’s like…This is really a job? This is the best job.

So what would you say of your albums–there were a lot of singles, but a lot of them didn’t make it as singles. Which one would have wished was a single?

Um, oh God. What did I love doing? We did a lot of the stuff live. We got to do a lot of albums live, so then it meant it was almost like a single. You could fully indulge. I liked “Watch Me Go.” That one, love that track.

Yes, that was brilliant on tour.

Yeah, I loved that on tour. I was just with the mic the whole time… [Sings] “I just wanna do it to ya baby, watch me go…” Woo! [Laughs] Love that one. Love “Graffiti My Soul.”

Yes! Now, I heard that was originally for Britney. What happened?

Brian Higgins wanted it as a single. Britney didn’t want it as a single, so Brian said “Let me take that.” So when we got it, we first heard it with Britney’s vocal on it…

Oh, really? That exists?

Yeah, it exists. Yeah! It’s in existence.

Oh my God. That’s amazing.

I know! [Laughs]

I love that one because it’s so punchy and rocky, and that’s really–around What Will The Neighbours Say?, that’s really where you got your grit…

Yeah! Yeah.

How about videos, though? Which was your favorite to shoot?

Favorite video to shoot? Um…“Love Machine” was a really good video to shoot. The director [Stuart Gosling] was just so on it. We’d done like a 30-second pass on each take, so we had finished the shoot by maybe 10 at night, which is unheard of. We usually start at 5 in the morning and don’t finish until maybe 8 the next morning, so that was a good video to shoot.

“The Promise” was a good video to shoot. “Sexy! No, No No” was a good video to shoot. We’ve done so many! It’s like, twenty…five? Or, no, no, no. Twenty-three? See: This is another thing. I kept racking it up all the time, like “Don’t we have like 25 Top 10 hits?” and someone’s like “No, it’s 21!” and I’m like “No! Okay, I need to write this down.” It’s probably more like 21, so…

Still. You had a reign that was just unstoppable. The whole decade, really. Now, Nicola also said something about being very excited to return to record an album. Is that going to happen?

I assume so. I’m going to assume that that’s what’s going to happen, because in order for us to get back and do more stuff, we need new material. Or we could do a little more Greatest Hits. Because when you do a live show, the greatest hits is always good to do because people know the songs. We’ll get under the discussions about that.

Is there already something underway for a live show?

We’re definitely going to do it. In our reunion, we’re definitely going to do some live stuff, of course. We love the live stuff. Who knows where we’re going to appear from this time? We might appear from New York, like a zip-line from New York to London. [Laughs] We’ve had some crazy entrances.

Yup! I love the “Sexy! No, No, No” one when you came down from the ceiling. Was that scary?

No! No, no, not at all! No! It was so thrilling because it was the first time we could see–the audience was lit, and we were in the dark. Usually we’re lit and the audience is in the dark. But for the first time–so it was like a magical experience to be hanging there, and you could see everybody in the audience. You could see all the tears. You could see where everybody is. And then we had these large industrial fans that we used to blow stuff up, like fireworks. I remember one night, the fireworks went off and the fan blew up some dust, so my eye’s watering like crazy. I’m up there twitching like, “Oh my God! What’s going on? What’s going on?” I had to phone the doctor, like “Something’s in me eye. I think it might be a pyrotechnic.” And they were like “Oh, were you at a concert?” I said “Yes, I was at a concert.” They were like “Were you very close to the stage?” I was like, “Yes, I was close.” [Laughs]

[Laughs] That’s really funny. So you had that huge reign, and then everyone started to do their own thing. And then your solo album came out. So what would you say–it wasn’t a completely different sound, but it was a lot of live instrumentation, a lot of real belting like that–what did you seek to do with your solo album different from Girls Aloud?

I just–because I’m an EMI writer, I’ve always had a lot of material and a lot of songs and stuff, so I had just a huge catalog. It was like, which way do I go with this? Do we go funk? Do we go more pop? Do we go more ballad-based? What do we do? So I decided to just put on stuff that wasn’t a complete departure from Girls Aloud because this was just for the UK, so this wasn’t a massive departure but it was–I had written every song, so it was a very good opportunity as a songwriter to get a band together and do some great shows. It was just a moment of me being able to be an artist and do it for the artistry rather than go on a massive whirlwind. It was kind of just a nice moment in time.

So were you happy with the end product and with how it turned out? I know–you know, with the limited release at Tesco–what do you think about the whole album process? Were you happy with how it turned out?

I was really happy. I’d done it with one distributor who were very supportive. They’re a huge company, but they don’t do it specifically as a label does it, so it’s a whole different process. It was like ten times more work for me. Twenty times more work. So I was really happy how it turned out because I knew how much personal work we’d put into it, and the fact that I’d opened up a label called Black Pen Records. I had one of my best friends from school helping me out with it. So, it was kind of like just us. When the single charted and it was charting against these people from these huge labels and massive promotion teams, and here we are: It’s not on iTunes, it’s one distribution, and it’s in the 20’s? I was like… [Squeals] “I’m so happy!” We had major celebrations. Jumped around the house, you know. We’re just like two Irish girls competing with people who’ve been doing it since before we were born. So it was a massive achievement.

It’s amazing that you accomplished that as an independent label compared to everyone else sort of dominating the charts at the time. From that, you came here to New York. And just completely–a 180–you’ve been working with DJ Vito Fun and everything like that. What happened? Did you decide you wanted to embark on something new?

Yeah! We were going to do–Vito and I were always going to work together. It happened to be that I was at home in L.A. at the time, and I had this like [Sings] “Duh, dum dum, Duh, dum dum”–this like little tune in me head and I was like bopping around the house. I thought “Oh! I think this would be good. I could hear drums on it, so then I sent that vocal piece to Vito and Damian.

The intro?

The intro! And that’s the TV blaring in the background. That’s my house in L.A.! I was like, “I don’t know if there’s anything you can do with this, but can you hear what I hear? I hear a track here. Do you?” And they made a track, and I came out from L.A., Damian came out from Tokyo, Vito came from Brooklyn. We all got together, wrote “Sweetest High” in like 2 or 3 days in the studio. Got it mixed, got it mastered, and two weeks later, we were like “Let’s put it up on iTunes! Yeah! Why not?” You know? And that’s literally what happened.

Wow! So are you thinking you’re going to keep doing that? Are you sort of experimenting writing now, or…?

Yeah, well I have lot of material. I have a lot of stuff. I’ve worked with a lot of amazing producers, and I’m always in the studio. So, there’s always something to put out there. So we’re kind of going on that organic “What should we do next? Which way will we do something?” path. Tonight, if I get the track through for “Insatiable,” I’m probably going to do that at Splash. And then we’re doing something with “Rumours” from the Insatiable album. We’re trying to do like an anti-bullying campaign with The Trevor Project. So things like that. We’re getting a lot of things from the album.

Oh, that’s incredible. So are we working towards another album?

Yes. Always. Always, always always.

Perfect. Okay, just some fun ones now. Ready? Favorite Madonna song?

[Gasps] Um… [Groans]. “Like A Virgin.”

Yeah? Favorite Britney song?

[Moans] I got to say–well, what’s your favorite one to listen to or your favorite one to dance to? If we’re talking about dancing here, that’s why I went with the Madonna one because she did all the cute, like [vogues] “Like A Virgin.” So we’ll do Britney’s–see, I like Britney’s new stuff at the moment, but…let’s do Britney’s “Toxic.”

Okay. Favorite song of all time?

Oof. That is so tough! I’m like trying to like…

I know! Some of your favorite songs then?

Okay. I love, oh…let’s do Michael Jackson‘s [starts singing Jackson 5‘s “I Want You Back”] Wait, what is it, what is it?

Oh! “I Want You Back!”

Yes, yes! I was like…where is it?! [Laughs]

Okay, wait. Let’s talk about Nadine’s Irish Mist, because this is like–I love the idea that you have a restaurant just, like, here. My friends and I want to embark on a journey because we hear that the Mist Burgers are delicious.

They’re unbelievable. The food is really great. Like, I love to cook and experiment with new flavors. I don’t care about the bar, I just want the food to be good. So we have a chef from Alabama. He does really good, like, smoked barbeque stuff. We have some Mexican chefs that do Mexican food and Mexican-flared fusion–like Mexican-Irish stuff, and then we have an Irish chef.

So you’re really heavily involved in it too, it sounds like! That’s good! Most people when they have a restaurant, they attach their name to it and sort of let it go.

Yeah! Yeah, no. When I’m in L.A., I try and eat there as often as possible. It’s just amazing having your own chef and team of people. I love it. I love it.

I’m going to visit for sure.

Please do. Right on the beach, got the harbor right there…

Of course! Alright, what are you listening to right now?

Lykke Li. I like that a lot. I want to get the new Maroon 5 because I like their “Moves Like Jagger” song.

And have you heard Nicola’s…?

Yes! “Beat Of My Drum! I have! Of course!

Little girl growing up!

[Gleefully yelps] I know! Me and Nicola were the youngest in the band. I always felt like I was much older than Nicola for some reason. We’re the same age, but, I don’t know? I always see her as a baby.

Do you still talk to them at all?

I haven’t or saw, or…well, I spoke to Nicola when her song came out. Like, “Good luck! Great, great, great!” That was my birthday. I haven’t spoken to any of the girls in a long time…

Maybe soon, sounds like.

Yes, probably. [Laughs] Back at it again.

Later that night (way, way later), Nadine went on to perform at Splash Nightclub. And while I originally questioned the guess-timation of “about 2 hours” when I heard her management team explain how long the hair and make-up process was going to take, one look at the final product that strutted on-stage just before 2 A.M. thoroughly justified their answer.

As promised, she delivered both “Sweetest High” (watch it here) and “Insatiable” (above)–all while wearing that outfit, with that purple crown, perched atop that hair.

And that, my dear Muusers, is a chronicle of a dream come true.

“Sweetest High” was released on June 22. (iTunes)

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