It has taken Nadine Coyle two years to lovingly craft her highly anticipated debut solo album, Insatiable. After seven years as the lead vocalist in Girls Aloud, the most successful British girl group of the 21st century and amongst the most successful of all time, she has had to afford herself the luxury of both the time and space blossom as an artist in her own right. Splitting the recording over an international itinerary that took in London, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Stockholm and Miami, Insatiable became a true labour of one singer and songwriter’s love. Cherry-picking the cream of international writing and production talent as her natural collaborators, Nadine is about to erupt with an album that breaks every convention in the pop rule book.
With interest from almost every major record label, Nadine wanted to retain complete artistic control of the record she had always wanted to make and career . In an unprecedented marketing and sales deal with the High Street supermarket Tesco giant she has been allowed to set up her own imprint, Black Pen. ‘Look, the whole music industry has completely evolved since I started in it,’ she explains. ‘Back then there was Top of the Pops and Smash Hits. Pop bands were everywhere. There was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. I think we have learned that the traditional model for selling an album doesn’t really work anymore. Everyone’s panicking. This feels like exactly the right thing to do to get as many people as possible to hear it.’
If in modern music industry terms 2 years seems like a lengthy gestation period for an album, consider for moment how long Girls Aloud were given to put their five records together. Nadine Coyle has certainly earned her dues. At the end of every one of their ever-increasing tours, Nadine would be sequestered off to the house of GA producers Xenomania in deepest, darkest Kent. She’d work with producer Brian Higgins for two weeks, three maximum, putting vocal licks for songs together, run off on holiday for a week and then return. A week for mastering and bingo! There’s your album. Six weeks, maximum.
‘We developed a machine-like mentality,’ says Nadine now. ‘I don’t regret a second of it. It taught me amazing discipline. I learnt everything I needed to learn about myself as a singer and songwriter from Brian. We made some amazing records with him. And I got to do that alongside four great girls. I was barely out of school when I joined Girls Aloud. I’d only opened a bank account a year before and it had no money in it apart from the odd tenner babysitting cash. I didn’t go to stage school so I had no idea what lay ahead. Where I came from in Derry people would look at you as if you were mad if you said you wanted to be a pop singer. I’d been at a convent school. I’d never left Ireland or my mammy and daddy’s.’
Nevertheless, Nadine had a pop dream that she wanted to see through. ‘When I thought of pop stardom I imagined, and I still do have these same visions when I think about it, watching a Diva’s Live concert in Vegas and seeing women in amazing long gowns singing their hearts out. The light show’s amazing, the band are tight and the backing singers are going crazy. That’s what my dream of being a singer was. It still is! Being able to sing with the full back-up of a live-band songs that every line means the world to you.’
She says that the closest she got to that dream with Girls Aloud was when the five girls were individually stitched into their sparkling gold gowns for The Promise video. She thinks The Promise is among the top five songs Girls Aloud ever made. The public seemed to agree, making it the Best British Single of 2008 and gifting them their first Brit Award.
Nine years after hatching her first pop plans, at the grand old age of 25, the powerhouse vocalist and captivating stage presence of Nadine Coyle is edging ever closer to the dream she promised herself as a teen. She is inching towards fulfilling on the promise she’d shown as a 16 year old schoolgirl at her first TV audition. Finally, she is ready for her close-up. ‘It had to be right. It had to be my sound and my songs. Insatiable feels like that’ she says, still visibly a little nervous about stepping out alone. ‘I stand or fall on this one by myself.’
Ironically the opportunity to pursue a solo career presented itself to Nadine in a different guise years ago. The day before her first audition for Irish Pop Stars, the then unrecognisable Irish manager Louis Walsh took her aside and expressed an interest in her pursuing solo success. In the interim between Irish Pop Stars and Pop Stars: The Rivals, the show that spawned Girls Aloud, Walsh approached her again about setting up a showcase for her in Dublin. ‘I just wasn’t ready. I was a wee girl. I’m not that girl anymore. I’m ready now.’
After seven years of relentless work and a nationwide sell out tour, Girls Aloud decided to take an indefinite break. Straight after the Girls Aloud 2009 Wembley Stadium shows, Nadine set about writing sessions by herself. The American wing of EMI Music Publishing had suggested a canny starting point. Because she had responded as a vocalist so readily to bass-lines in the Xenomania studio, her first sessions were up in the Hollywood Hills with No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal. ‘I was so nervous about doing this on my own that I got my boyfriend to drive me up there and made him wait outside in the car to see that I was OK.’
As it turned out, everything was peachy. After playing throughout the night, she began demoing at her home studio. Keen to take her time, she toiled over her craft before handing anything over to EMI to see if other songwriters were interesting in co-writing with her. The first hand in the air was golden era-Robbie Williams collaborator Guy Chambers. They worked on one of her demos together in Malibu and Insatiable, the song that would set a blueprint for the tone of the album, was born.
‘I just knew we had something special when that song came along.’ She was right. Bouncing out of the speakers with the energy of a racing car on hot tar, the singalong chorus lodges in the brain after one listen. ‘I’m a pop artist,’ says Nadine, ‘and that’s what pop songs should do at their best.’
With a renewed confidence boost from the Chambers sessions and interest gathering apace in her own demos, and now a successful businesswoman with her own Orange Country bar Nadine’s Irish Mist up and running, Ms Coyle began collecting collaborators like butterflies in her musical net. Madonna’s mid-90s career rejuvenator William Orbit jumped aboard to help fashion an album highlight, Nadine’s self penned Unbroken. Over what sounds like the chord sequence from Primal Scream’s Come Together and an intricate array of post modern electronics, Nadine swoops up into her highest vocal register for another killer vocal. ‘If you listen to all the Girls Aloud records, they’re in a really low register. It was because I’d just come off tour and we had to record with my throat tired from three months singing at full energy on the road. I didn’t want to have the same constrictions this time.’
If being crammed full of killer pop songs were not enough, Insatiable is very much a singer’s album. She joins the hallowed realms of Beyonce and Fergie on the country-ish power ballad You Are The One by writing with If I Were A Boy and Big Girls Don’t Cry author Toby Gadd. She’s at her most Tina Turner-ish on the irresistible Motown propulsion of Red Light. To lend everything a fresh sheen, most of the production has been turned in by red-hot relative newcomer Ricky Riccardi.
‘I am so unbelievably proud of this record,’ says Nadine, ‘Nadine sounds very proud of her first solo album. ‘I am. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. Now I’ve just going to work my hardest and keep my fingers crossed, I just hope someone’s watching over me and everyone gets to hear it.’