Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Alesha Dixon: Diverse Diva

Alesha Dixon
Alesha Dixon Alesha Dixon Alesha Dixon Alesha Dixon

Having first hit the Top Three back in 2000 as one-third of award-winning UK Garage trio Mis-Teeq, Welwyn Garden City-born Alesha Dixon has, in the last three years, seen her solo career explode across the entire media spectrum as a Platinum-selling singer/songwriter; universally-acclaimed dancer; front-cover-gracing model; compassionate philanthropist; plus popular, high-profile television presenter and personality.

All of which seems a far cry from the “dark days” of October 2006… When poor sales of her first two solo singles found a devastated Alesha being dropped from her label (Polydor Records) the same fortnight as her marriage to former So Solid Crew MC Harvey fell apart due to his affair with singer Javine Hylton. Indeed, it was only following the resilient Ms Dixon’s decision in 2007 to become a contestant on the BBC’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ show (which she of course eventually won before later impressively going on to help judge) that her across-the board career comeback began. Ultimately resulting in a rejuvenated Alesha signing a new record deal in 2008 with Atlantic Records’ Asylum label and the ensuing pan-European success of her first album release ‘The Alesha Show’. Whose Platinum sales were boosted by its two Top Five single smashes ‘The Boy Does Nothing’ and the BRIT-nominated ‘Breathe Slow’.

… Which in turn today brings us to an ever-bubbly Ms. Dixon happily reuniting with ‘Blues & Soul’’s Pete Lewis over morning drinks at Trafalgar Square’s trendy The Albannach. As the two talkative, long-time industry acquaintances begin their breezy chat by discussing Alesha’s loudly-assertive new single ‘Drummer Boy’’.

“Well, ShamRock - who’s one of Akon’s protégés - produced the track”, begins Alesha in instantly-familiar Hertfordshire tones: “And, as soon as I walked into the studio with him and (the song’s co-writer) Nate Walker - an incredible young talent who’s already won a Grammy for writing Jamie Foxx’s Number One’ Blame It’ - I instantly just felt something special! The second I heard the music to ‘Drummer Boy’ it immediately just sparked something off in me - to where I was like ‘I have to have that SONG!’!.. You know, I’m always looking for something that’s just full of life; that’s different, quirky, and that can’t be put in box... So, with ‘Drummer Boy’, I understood it straightaway! Because I wanted a song that fitted my personality, my character… Plus I loved the TOUGHNESS of it! I particularly loved the fact that it is female-empowering, but not in a feminist trying-to-wave-the-flag-and-be-rude-about-men kind of way. Instead it’s more about me just being a female in a strong position -which just hits exactly where I AM in my life right now!”

The thunderously beat-heavy ‘Drummer Boy’ meanwhile also acts as an effective taster for Alesha’s forthcoming second solo LP release ‘The Entertainer’. Whose diverse vibe is already being dubbed “fun, fearless and forthright - the sound of modern UK R&B with an unapologetic commercial edge”: “Well, it’s definitely a colourful album!”, enthuses the ever-energetic, 31-year-old Ms D: “For a start the MC in me is back on a track called ‘La La La’, which I did with an amazing producer called Busbee (Katy Perry; Timbaland): “It’s just a fun explosion of me MCing and saying I’m back and flying high with the UK flag! Then there’s also tracks that are quite personal. Like ‘Cool With Me’, which Toby Gad (Beyonce; Alicia Keys) produced. Where I’m saying that, having been through the war, nothing rocks me easily; that I’m now in a place where I’m comfortable in my own skin, I’m doing my own thing - and I’m not gonna let any guy come along and RUIN that for me! You know, it’s just a real nice groove - a real feelgood song that’s definitely a bit of an anthem for the girls!”

“Plus, in addition to those songs, there’s also more CONSCIOUS efforts on there”, she continues eagerly: “Like one song in particular called ‘Love In A Box’ - which was done by a British producer, Naughty Boy (Chipmunk; Wiley) - talks about the pressures women are under to look a certain way, and the lengths that women will go to - and the money they’ll spend on the cosmetic surgery, the creams, the pills, the diets - to basically keep the person that they love happy, or to appear a certain way to another person... Then on the flipside there’s tracks like The Baddest Chick’. Which is just me being a bit cocky, almost playing a character and saying ‘I’m a tough girl! Don’t mess with me!’ kinda thing! Which was fun to do, ‘cause I’m usually always so NICE! Plus I also have a song called ‘Tug Of War’, which talks about the love/hate relationships people get into... So yeah, as a record it I think you get fun, you get tough, you get vulnerable... And hopefully you go on a bit of a JOURNEY! And to me it just feels like a really nice, natural sort of transition from ‘The Alesha Show’.”

So how does Alesha now look back on those troubled days of October 2006? Which, within the space of just two weeks, signalled the end of both her then-record deal and her marriage - in turn understandably resulting in her hitting “rock bottom” and suffering from depression…

“Well, the experience of actually making the (ultimately unreleased) ‘Fired Up’ album for Polydor was great”, she reveals openly: “Obviously, I’d just left the girls (Mis-Teeq); I was on my own… You know, here I was for the first time singing these songs solo. Which was quite a liberating and freeing experience that I learnt a lot FROM! And so in that way, for me as a solo artist it was almost like college - where I got to write and experiment and sing to my heart’s content with no pressure on me… So naturally, when it all came to an end, I was obviously heartbroken - because I’d worked so hard for it. Plus music is my LIFE, and I couldn’t imagine life WITHOUT it! So, with me obviously at the same time splitting up with my partner, it was just really hard to work out why it was all HAPPENING!”

“You know, I work hard, and I think I was a good wife”, she continues with honesty: “So, when all these things happen, you think ‘What have I done that’s CAUSED this?!’!... But then, sitting here today, on reflection I think it was probably a good thing I DID go through it. Because it did make me STRONGER! I mean, through it all, one of the things I never lost was the belief that I COULD DO this! I always believed that this is where I was meant to BE - I never lost that VISION! So I guess going through all that was like a life lesson that things don’t always go your way. Sometimes it’s just not the right time; it might not be the right music; it might not be the right team... It could be a combination of EVERYTHING! And so you can’t help but look back and think ‘Well, that must have happened for a REASON! And if I hadn’t gone through that, then I wouldn’t be here now doing what I LOVE!’!.. So in that way it was a negative that turned out to be a POSITIVE!.. And it is great to now be able to sit here and SAY that!”

With Alesha’s victorious stint as a competitor on the 2007 season of the aforementioned ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (not to mention her prestigiously going on, in 2009, to occupy a seat on said programme’s judging panel) bringing her full-on national mainstream attention, she has since admirably continued to use her high public profile to advance numerous causes that are dear to her heart. Including completing a gruelling climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (alongside such fellow UK celebs as Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow and Chris Moyles) to help raise over £3 million for Comic Relief; becoming the face of Nickelodeon’s See Something Say Something anti-bullying campaign; plus acting as a patron of the African-Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT), whose main aim is to increase the number of black and mixed-parentage people on the UK Bone Marrow Register.

“Well, I like to get involved with things I’m passionate about”, explains an ever-warm-hearted Ms Dixon: “Like I have a documentary coming out over here in November called ‘Don’t Hit My Mum’, that coincides with Children In Need and actually deals with how children are affected by witnessing domestic violence. It’s basically an idea that I came up with which, fortunately, the BBC commissioned - just like they did with the LAST documentary I conceived, which was about absent fathers. And, because I do find these documentaries really touching, my long-term goal would actually be to eventually have a show that incorporates all these different social issues. Because, while I think being in music is wonderful, there does come a point where you want to do things for other people and where it’s not all about YOU!”

“You know, by doing these documentaries and by getting involved with these charities - Help A London Child; The Princes Trust; The ACLT - it does give me an outlet to another area that’s not about me, not about music... But is about worthy things that are really IMPORTANT in life”, adds Alesha compassionately, as our revealing conversation draws to a close: “You know, being in the entertainment industry I do feel I have a responsibility that comes with my fame. And, while some celebrities may spend their time moaning about the negative things that come along with being famous, my thing is, if you ARE in the limelight then why not try to find the POSITIVE things that come with it?... And for me the most positive thing is shedding light on subjects that matter but don’t normally get a look-in!”

Alesha’s single ‘Drummer Boy’ is out now. Her album ‘The Entertainer’ follows on November 22, both through Atlantic/Asylum

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