7:00am Saturday 29th November 2008
Alesha Dixon releases her new album, The Alesha Show, on Monday November 24. We talk to the former Mis-Teeq member about her music, life after Strictly Come Dancing and intrusion into her private life.
By Andy Welch Most people don't look forward to turning 30. It's the age when a sense of responsibility kicks in, when life gets serious.
Alesha Dixon celebrated her 30th the day before our interview, but the only thing bothering her is a slight hangover from one too many rum and blackcurrants.
"You have to respect the rum and b," she says, smiling.
"I think I am entering a more mature phase of my life now," she continues. "Because I'm happy at the moment, I don't care about turning 30. If things weren't going so well, maybe it would be depressing."
Things are indeed going well, but it hasn't always been so rosy.
After splitting up from one of Britain's premier girl bands Mis-Teeq in 2005, Alesha began a solo career.
But after spending about 18 months making her debut album, Fired Up, her label decided not to release it.
"I was devastated," she says.
"I was building and building towards this moment that never happened, so it was a strange time.
"It was very kind of the label to give me the record back, so now I own the rights to it. We ended up putting it out in Japan and it did quite well over there."
Without a new deal or any songs to record, things looked a bit bleak for Alesha until she got a phone call from Brian Higgins, the mastermind behind Girls Aloud hitmakers Xenomania.
"I'd been introduced to him when I was making my first record, we did a song called Knock Down," she explains.
"After I was dropped, Brian rang out of the blue to say he liked my songwriting, and asked if I wanted to carry on working with him. I went to his place in Kent and we started making the record early 2007.
"The plan was to make the whole record with Brian without talking to any record labels, we were just going to wait until we had made something special and then approach people with a finished album."
Before that could happen though, Alesha signed up to take part in Strictly Come Dancing.
Impressive from the off, she soon became one of the favourites to win, and eventually waltzed off with the title.
This exposed Alesha to a new audience, and going back to continue work on her record with Higgins, this was something she felt she had to address.
"We'd started [current single] The Boy Does Nothing before I went on Strictly, and it was a jazzy number," she says.
"Winning the show changed a lot of things, so we had another look at the song, and now it's this mambo song, really energetic.
"'Bottled happiness', I call it, and people need that at the moment. Someone told me it sounds like an anti-credit crunch anthem!" she says, erupting into a filthy laugh.
Alesha laughs a lot, and considering she's nursing a bit of a headache, contemplating her future and is nervous about her album coming out, it's hard to imagine someone with a more carefree attitude to life.
Aside from changing her fanbase, winning Strictly has also made Alesha more conscious of her dance moves. Her new single's accompanying video features a routine even judges Goodman, Horwood, Phillips and Tonioli couldn't find fault with.
"In the days of Mis-Teeq, it was more about doing our own thing, and if we did dance in videos, it was more street dancing," she says.
"Now, I've learned a more disciplined way of dancing, my footwork is neater and my arms are cleaner."
The Alesha Show features eight collaborations between Alesha and Higgins. Elsewhere, there are songs written with Steve Booker (who penned Duffy's smash hit Mercy), The Underdogs (who've worked with the likes of Jordin Sparks, Justin Timberlake and Beyonce), and RedZone, the outfit responsible for Rihanna's chart-topper Umbrella.
"I got to record a Diane Warren song as well," she says.
Diane Warren is the Grammy-winning songwriter behind Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing, LeAnn Rimes' How Do I Live and an arm-long list of other hit ballads.
"It's called Do You Know The Way It Feels? and it could be on a movie soundtrack, you know, where the two characters have been torn apart for years and finally get together. It'd be playing in the background when they get to meet on a beach and kiss."
There comes that laugh again.
Life hasn't always been one big laugh for Alesha, however.
In 2006, the singer split from her husband and former So Solid Crew member Harvey after she found out he'd been cheating on her with former Eurovison singer Javine Hylton.
Not surprisingly, the story was big news.
"It was so horrible being in the papers," she says now.
"When it comes to men, I like to be private, so it was quite daunting knowing that everyone knew my business.
"I say I'm a private person, but I'm famous, so one could argue what is and isn't private.
"But then I didn't sell my wedding to a magazine like some people do," she continues.
"There are these couples who sell their weddings pictures, but then complain when they get written about.
"When you sell your wedding, you invite the country into your marriage, so you can't complain when someone writes about it.
"I felt like I had a right to be annoyed when my marriage ending was exploited, because I never did the 'at home' crap, it's not my style. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it, I'm just saying don't complain when you get the attention because you've done it."
She says she's now stronger than ever, but despite her stunning looks and infectious personality, she's currently single and claims she finds meeting men difficult.
"If I meet a guy, I wonder if he's talking to me for me, or because he's seen me on TV," she says.
"How would I know? I suppose I have to use my instincts, but it's hard, plus I have my album coming out," she adds.
"I don't have a social life at the moment, I'm crazy busy. Hopefully I'll have a bit of time off at Christmas, and then release another single.
"But if I have days off, I go mad. I like to keep busy."
ALESHA FACTS :: Alesha was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, and still lives nearby.
:: After working on music in America, Alesha was romantically linked with N*E*R*D star Pharrell Williams. She played down the reports, saying: " He's cute, but he's too short and I didn't fancy him."
:: On her days off, Alesha walks her dog with her mum and nan, who have five dogs between them.
:: When Alesha was looking to release The Alesha Show, she was offered a deal by Universal, the label who dropped her in 2006.
:: In the final of Strictly Come Dancing, Alesha danced the waltz, the cha cha and the jive with partner Matthew Cutler. They beat Matt Di Angelo and partner Flavia Cacace in the final.
:: Alesha Dixon releases her new album The Alesha Show on Monday November 24. Her single The Boy Does Nothing is out now.
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