Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor (born 10 April 1979) is an English singer, songwriter and model. She first came to prominence in the late 1990s, as the lead singer of the indie rock band Theaudience. After the group disbanded, Ellis-Bextor went solo, achieving widespread success in the early 2000s. Her music is a mixture of mainstream pop, disco, nu-disco, and 1980s electronic influences.
Her solo debut album, Read My Lips, was released in September 2001. The album reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The record experienced international success, selling more than 2 million copies worldwide. It produced four singles, three of which reached the top three in the UK. In 2003, Read My Lips won the Edison Award for “Best Dance Album”. Ellis-Bextor’s second album, Shoot from the Hip, was released in October 2003. The album reached number 19 in the UK and produced two top ten singles. Trip the Light Fantastic, her third album, was released in May 2007 and reached number seven in the UK. The album produced three singles, one of which reached the top ten in the UK.
In 2009, Ellis-Bextor released the Freemasons collaboration “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)” (reaching number 13 in the UK) and her first extended play, Sophie Ellis-Bextor: iTunes Live in London. Her fourth studio album, Make a Scene, was released in April 2011 (reaching number 33 in the UK), with its lead single “Bittersweet” peaking at number 25 in the UK.
In 2014, Ellis-Bextor released her fifth studio album, Wanderlust which became her highest charting album since “Read My Lips”, peaking at number 4 in the UK. Coinciding with the album’s release, the lead single, “Young Blood“, reached number 34 in the UK. Her next effort, the Latin America inspired Familia earnt critical acclaim in 2016. In Autumn 2018 she will release her first greatest hits compilation, called The Song Diaries, which will consist of orchestal reworkings of 16 singles.
Ellis-Bextor was born in London to Janet Ellis, who was later a presenter on BBC‘s children’s television programmes Blue Peter and Jigsaw, and Robin Bextor, a film producer and director: they separated when she was four. As a young girl, she appeared on several Blue Peter items, with no indication given on-screen that she was Ellis’s daughter.
She attended St. Stephen’s School and later Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith. Among her earliest public performances were with the W11 Opera children’s opera from the age of thirteen, and she is now a patron of the organisation. She is a lifelong supporter of Fulham F.C. and revealed in a 2012 interview that her brother Bertie had been on the club’s books for a while.
Ellis-Bextor has said “I didn’t see myself as a good-looking girl and that was good, because I didn’t rely on it…. I’ve now found lots of like-minded weirdos so it’s OK.”
1994–99: Early career and Theaudience
At the age of four, Ellis-Bextor appeared on the BBC’s That’s Life! programme, which her father directed. She began her musical career in 1997, singing lead vocals in indie band Theaudience.
Theaudience released four singles, including the UK Top 40 hits “I Know Enough (I Don’t Get Enough)“, and “A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed“, and one self-titled album (theaudience (1999)). Videos for the band’s singles were directed by her father, Robin Bextor.
While in Theaudience, readers of Melody Maker voted Ellis-Bextor number one in a poll of ‘most sexy people in rock’. The band split in 1999 after demos for a planned second album were rejected by their label Mercury Records, who then dropped the band.
Ellis-Bextor recorded a duet with Manic Street Preachers — “Black Holes for the Young” — as a B-side for their 1998 single “The Everlasting“, and in 1999, made an appearance on the Departure Lounge album Out of Here.
2000–03: Read My Lips
After Theaudience split, Ellis-Bextor took a year off from singing.
In 2000, Ellis-Bextor collaborated with Italian DJ Spiller, adding vocals to his then-instrumental club track “Groovejet“. Before recording, Ellis-Bextor’s lyric was partly reworked by Rob Davis, who replaced her hook “And so it goes… how does it feel so good?” with “If this ain’t love… why does it feel so good?”, thereby providing the song with its subtitle. “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” entered the UK charts at number one, just beating former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham on her first solo outing to the top. Since then, the two have been described as rivals Both women deny, however, that there is any rivalry between the two of them. “Groovejet” won several awards: No. 1, Pop Top 20; No. 1, ILR; No. 1, Radio 1; No. 8, top dance track of 2000 and single of the year in Melody Maker. In the Metro Newspaper, it received ninth place in the contest for the Greatest No. 1 of all time. In 2000, it was a finalist in The Record of the Year. In that same year, it won the awards for Best Single and Best Ibiza Tune at the Ericsson Muzik Awards. In 2010, the song was named the most played record on UK radio of the previous decade.
Ellis Bextor in Poland, 2011
In 2001, Ellis-Bextor released her début album, Read My Lips. It reached number two on the UK charts and spawned four top-twenty hit singles. Her rework of Cher‘s “Take Me Home” reached number two, as did “Murder on the Dancefloor“, which became Ellis-Bextor’s biggest single and was on charts for twenty-three weeks. “Murder on the Dancefloor” became Europe’s most played song of 2002. In 2002, Read My Lips was re-released with two new songs (and a live version of “Groovejet”) and Ellis-Bextor won the Recording Artist Award at that year’s Showbusiness Awards. Her third single, “Get Over You / Move This Mountain“, was released in June 2002 and reached number three. The fourth single, “Music Gets the Best of Me“, rose to number fourteen in December. At the beginning of 2002, Ellis-Bextor was nominated for the “British Female Solo Artist” BRIT Award, going on to be nominated for a further two consecutive years.
2003–06: Shoot from the Hip
Her second album, Shoot from the Hip, was released in October 2003 and yielded two further top-ten singles. The album reached number 19 on the UK charts and was certified silver in 2013 for shipments of 60,000; its two singles were “Mixed Up World“, which reached number seven, and “I Won’t Change You“, reaching number nine. Around this time, rivalry against Victoria Beckham was suggested again; Beckham’s single “This Groove“/”Let Your Head Go” reached number three, a higher position in the charts than “I Won’t Change You”. During this time Ellis-Bextor became pregnant and plans for a third and fourth single from the album, as well as the Shoot from the Hip Tour, were scrapped. After that, Ellis-Bextor took a break from her musical career to take care of her first child. In early 2005, she performed on a track by the duo Busface, entitled “Circles (Just My Good Time)“; she was credited as “Mademoiselle E.B.” to not have this be mistaken for a single from her next album.
In 2006, her track “Dear Jimmy” was released on the Popjustice compilation album 100% Solid Pop Music.
2007–08: Trip the Light Fantastic
Ellis-Bextor performing at G-A-Y in 2007
Her third album, Trip the Light Fantastic, was released in May 2007 and débuted at number seven on the UK Albums Chart. Fred Schneider of The B-52s, Richard Barone (formerly of The Bongos), Shelly Poole (formerly of Alisha’s Attic), Cathy Dennis and Kerin Smith (formerly of Theaudience) contributed to produce an album of disco-pop music. Before the album, two singles were released: “Catch You“, which charted in the UK at number eight, and “Me and My Imagination” (number twenty-three). The third single, “Today the Sun’s on Us“, débuted on the UK Singles Chart at number sixty-four.
Ellis-Bextor supported George Michael on his UK tour leg in June 2007. Her own UK tour, the Trip the Light Fantastic Tour, was due to start in August 2007, but it was postponed after Ellis-Bextor was invited to be the “special guest” on Take That‘s Beautiful World Tour, which commenced in October 2007. Ellis-Bextor stated that her tour would be rescheduled for March 2008, with all tickets purchased being valid for the rescheduled concerts. The tour was never rescheduled, and Ellis-Bextor subsequently refused to discuss the issue in interviews. In September 2007, Ellis-Bextor took part in Sopot Festival 2007 in Poland, representing the UK.
The song “If I Can’t Dance” was announced as a single but later retracted, as was “Love Is Here”; Ellis-Bextor was supposed to release a single in late November to promote a greatest hits album, but the release date was pushed back to March 2008, and subsequently cancelled. However, “If I Can’t Dance” has appeared on several compilations in Spain such as Supermodelo 2008 CD and Disco Estrella 2008.
2009–11: Make a Scene and Bittersweet
According to Ellis-Bextor in April 2008, recording sessions for her scrapped greatest hits collection proved fruitful, so she decided to release a fourth studio album.Dolly Parton song “Jolene“; the track was released on the soundtrack to the BBC2 sitcom Beautiful People. In November 2008, Ellis-Bextor recorded a track with the French DJ Junior Caldera, “Can’t Fight This Feeling“, for his 2009 album Début. Released as a single in February 2010, it reached the top 20 in France.
In October 2008, Ellis-Bextor covered the
In August 2009, she released a five-track live EP from the 2009 iTunes Festival, during which she performed previous singles of hers and a new track, “Starlight” (not included on the EP). Freemasons worked with Ellis-Bextor for their album Shakedown 2 on “Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)“, which was released as a single in June 2009 and peaked at 13 in the UK.
Ellis-Bextor’s fourth album, Make a Scene, was released in June 2011. She described it as “very much [a dance album]—more so than any of my other albums.”
Looking to her next effort, Ellis-Bextor said she was planning an “album that’s really different. I think I need to do something different now and move on from the dance stuff. I might come back to it, but I think this album is a good way to bow out of the dance sound for now. I think it’s finishing on a high.” She worked with Calvin Harris, Armin van Buuren, Richard X, Dimitri Tikovoi, Hannah Robinson, Metronomy, and Liam Howe from the Sneaker Pimps. The first single from the album, “Bittersweet” (co-written by Freemasons and Hannah Robinson), was released in May 2010 and reached 25 on the UK Singles Chart. “Not Giving Up on Love” was released as the second single from the album, in August 2010 in Europe, followed by “Starlight” as the third single in May 2011. “Off & On” was the fourth and final single.
2012–14: Wanderlust and collaborations
Ellis-Bextor performing in November 2012
In May 2011, she revealed that she had begun work on her fifth album. She resumed touring internationally that year, playing venues such as Jakarta‘s SoulNation festival, as well as returning to Australia by performing in Sydney and Melbourne. Ellis-Bextor collaborated with French DJ Bob Sinclar on a track titled “Fuck with You”, which was included on his album Disco Crash and was a huge club hit in Continental Europe.
Ellis-Bextor’s collaboration with French DJ Mathieu Bouthier, “Beautiful”, was released on 16 July 2012 in France through iTunes.
Beginning in 2012, Ellis-Bextor worked with British singer and producer Ed Harcourt on a “more concept driven record“, and possibly having as few as eight tracks. On 23 November, she performed at a London charity gala, including a new song, “Young Blood”.
On 26 March 2013, a demo of “Young Blood” was released as a complimentary digital download from her website, as a thank you gift to her fans. On 14 October 2013, Wanderlust was revealed to be the title of her next album, along with the album’s cover art. On 15 May 2013, Ellis-Bextor confirmed completion of the album.
Ellis-Bextor performed a headline sold-out show to support Wanderlust’s release on 21 January 2014 at Bush Hall, London, and also performed at Union Chapel, London on 14 April. Ellis-Bextor then announced a 10-date UK tour, which finished in Glasgow on 20 April 2014.
“Young Blood” was released as the lead single from the album on 21 November 2013, peaking at #3 on the UK Indie Chart and #34 on the UK Singles Chart.
The album was released on 20 January 2014 and peaked at number four on the UK Albums Chart and number one on the UK Independent Albums Chart. Wanderlust also debuted inside the Scottish Top 10 Albums Chart, charting at number nine.
Aside from her Wanderlust project, she has also collaborated with Guéna LG and Amir Afargan on the track “Back 2 Paradise”, which was released on 23 June 2014. The single became a club smash and was the number 1 “breakout” in October 2014 on the US Billboard Dance/Club Chart. It later reached number 25 on the Dance/Club Chart. Ellis-Bextor then featured on the song “Only Child”, produced by up-and-coming new electronic music project DedRekoning, which was released in September 2014. The track was remixed by Paul Oakenfold, Roddy Reynaert and Pearson and Hirst, among others.
2015–present: Familia and The Song Diaries
After spending 2014 promoting Wanderlust, on 28 January 2015, Ellis-Bextor revealed on her Twitter account that she had begun working on her sixth studio album, once again with Ed Harcourt. She performed at Carfest South on 29 August 2015, heavily pregnant, and announced that was her last big gig for a while, and that she was going to take some time off.
On 3 November her fourth child, Jesse, was born. In January 2016, Ellis-Bextor posted an image on Instagram captioned “Last song written. Next stop – rehearsals! #album6 #whatthehellshouldicallit.” She also posted a YouTube video of the making of the album.
Ellis-Bextor announced on Facebook that the new album was inspired by her most recent visit to North America, particularly Mexico. It was titled “Familia”, a title that implied a sound closer to that of her earlier albums. It was announced before the release of “Familia” she would be headlining the new Priory Park Festival in Chichester.  Referring to “Familia,” Ellis-Bextor explained that she “wanted something with a Spanish or Italian feel.”
Familia was released on 2 September 2016. Along the album pre-order buyers could download “Come With Us”, the first available song and single from the album. As well as the album version, the radio version with an extended mix and a ‘mixshow’ mix were all made available on a separate EP, with all three versions being produced by F9. Three other singles were released off the album, all of them with videos directed by Sophie Muller. None of them entered in any important charts, but the album entered the UK Albums Charts on #12 and got celebrated by music critics.
After taking time off for the birth of her child in late 2015, she resumed touring in 2017, mostly at small venues in the UK.
In November 2017, she announced via Facebook she’s going to release an Orchestral Greatest Hits album – a selection of her greatest hits reworked with an orchestra. She also announced it would be released in 2018. In February 2018, she announced via Instagram the album will be called The Song Diaries and will consist on sixteen re-recorded tracks spawning her career from theaudience to Familia’s “Wild Forever” plus a new track co-written with Ed Harcourt. The album’s artwork was drawn by David Downtown.
In September 2013, the BBC announced that Ellis-Bextor would be a contestant on the forthcoming eleventh series of Strictly Come Dancing. She was partnered with Brendan Cole. In week two of the competition, the couple were at the top of the leaderboard with their Charleston and were at the top again in week four with their Foxtrot. On 15 December Ellis-Bextor became a competition finalist alongside Abbey Clancy, Susanna Reid and Natalie Gumede and ultimately finished in fourth place. The following year she returned to the ballroom to compete in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. She was paired with Aljaž Skorjanec and danced an American Smooth to the song “White Christmas” and scored a 39. She had the second highest score of the night, but ended up losing to Louis Smith.
In 2001 Ellis-Bextor auditioned for the 2001 movie Moulin Rouge! for the character, Satine.
In 2007, Ellis-Bextor appeared at Christmas in the Robbie the Reindeer episode, “Close Encounters of the Herd Kind”. Ellis-Bextor was depicted as a female alien at the closure of the story, singing the song ‘Supersonic’, the last track on her third solo studio album Trip The Light Fantastic. In November of that year she also launched the npower Greener Schools Programme, which aims to give schools in the UK a ‘green makeover’ by providing free energy audits, implementing tailor-made energy efficiency measures to reduce their carbon footprint, and educating children on how to be greener She also launched Capital Radio‘s Capital 95.8 ‘Lights Out London’ campaign, which asks Londoners to switch off their lights for one hour in a bid to save 750 MWh and send a message to the world on the importance of climate change.
In 2008, she features in the short musical film The Town that Boars Me by photographer Ben Charles Edwards. The film also features Jodie Harsh, Kelly Osbourne and Zandra Rhodes. The film is set to début in late summer at the Portobello Film Festival and is produced by Glass Loves and Shoot to Kill Productions.
An advocate for animal rights, she posed for PETA‘s anti–fur clothing advertisement. In 2008, she fronted a campaign for The Children’s Society encouraging people to log onto the Hundreds and Thousands of Childhood Memories Website to donate their favourite childhood memory.
In May 2008, Ellis-Bextor was hired by cosmetics brand Rimmel as one of their new faces. A new song performed by Ellis-Bextor is featured in one of the Rimmel London’ spot for the line “Sexy Curves”. Ellis-Bextor is appearing as an advocate for Verdi on BBC World News classical music programme Visionaries. On 24 August 2008, Ellis-Bextor performed a live cover version of Carly Simon‘s “Nobody Does It Better” outside Buckingham Palace as part of the Visa London 2012 Handover Party in the Mall.
On 4 October 2008, Ellis-Bextor sang at the Keep The Promise Rally in Trafalgar Square to end Child Poverty.
Ellis-Bextor and her husband Richard Jones launched a DJ club project, called “Modern Love” in London.
Ellis-Bextor and her mother Janet Ellis appeared on Channel 4’s game show The Million Pound Drop Live playing for charity. Despite losing on the final question, £5000 was donated to their chosen charity.
Ellis-Bextor has made a cameo appearance in the BBC2 sitcom, Life’s Too Short, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, which centres on an angry entertainment agency boss who exploits his fellow dwarf clients. The sitcom premiered on 10 November 2011.
On 22 March 2013 she performed outdoors at Old Republic Square in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
In June 2014, The Music House for Children announced Ellis-Bextor would become their patron alongside Bill Bailey in celebration of their 20th anniversary.
In September 2014, the Pretty Polly hosiery company announced that she was their latest “face and legs”, and would be designing and modelling for them.
Ellis-Bextor married The Feeling bassist Richard Jones in 2005. Jones has said “something kind of smacked us in the face. The chemistry was incredible – it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced“, and their first baby was born 8 months after they met. Together, the couple have four sons. She suffered from pre-eclampsia (the onset of high blood pressure) during her first two pregnancies resulting in both deliveries being premature.
Awards and nominations
Current band members
- Drums: Phil Wilkinson
- Bass: Richard Jones
- Keyboards: Ciaran Jeremiah
- Guitar: Seton Daunt
- Backing Vocals/Violin: Gita Langley
- Backing Vocals/Violin: Cat Parker
- Studio albums