Louise Redknapp shares the challenges of restarting her career: 'I needed that purpose'
Watch: Louise Redknapp on the importance of her sons' support
In 2016, Louise Redknapp entered the 14th series of Strictly Come Dancing.
It was the singer’s first starring role after taking a 17-year career break from recording music to be a parent – and marked the start of the second chapter in her career as a performing artist.
Today, she appears unstoppable.
Redknapp has headlined major West End musicals such as Cabaret and 9 To 5, and moved into straight acting. With her music career back on track, she is also about to launch a Greatest Hits album.
Yet, as the woman who shot to fame with 1990s R&B band Eternal, told Kate Thornton on podcast White Wine Question Time, none of this was planned.
“I loved being a mum to the boys and being at home,” Redknapp, now 48, said, of her recording break to look after sons Charley, 18, and Beau, 14.
“When I went off to do Strictly, I wasn’t doing Strictly with the idea of working again – that was not the plan.”
The reason, she explained, was that her children were becoming “older”, plus her mother “loved the programme so much”.
“I just thought, ‘This is going to be really good for me,’” she said. “I'm gonna get fit, and just give myself a little something to do – a little bit of a project.” It was after that, she revealed, that work became “a real reality”.
Looking back at the first chapter of Redknapp’s career, it’s not a surprise perhaps that her work took off again so quickly, despite the “real nerves” she told Thornton that she felt.
At age 10, Redknapp won a scholarship to one of the best stage schools in the world, Italia Conti. By 15 she’d been spotted by music producer Denis Ingoldsby in a nightclub. In her twenties, she was selling millions of albums, first with Eternal and then as a solo artist.
“Everyone that knows me well knows that I love a challenge,” she joked with Thornton. “And when I mean business, I mean business.”
It was a commitment that she also wanted to put into parenting, which she described to Thornton as the “best job in the world”. Yet, a return to the Strictly stage, Redknapp admitted, reminded her of the “thrill” of the music career she was so “passionate” about. “It's just really what makes me happy.”
“You can't just get rid of those kind of adrenaline rushes,” she continued, “especially when you love music and you love doing what you do.”
In the years that followed Strictly, Redknapp relaunched her career – not, however, without feeling some judgment.
“I did think, ‘Well, I'm really opening myself up for as much abuse as someone can get right now,’” she said. “But… something in me just kept on going – I'm proud that I gave my career another shot.”
The star was well aware that she had “one chance” to make a credible return to recording music.
“No one's gonna go, ‘Oh, well, that song was pretty cr** but hey-ho, let's give her another shot,’” Redknapp said. “I needed to go in there, and make no wrong moves.”
Her solo album Heavy Love was released in 2020 to critical acclaim.
Redknapp’s decision to start a new chapter in her career also led to the new challenge of taking a straight acting role in the thriller play Fatal Attraction.
Her response to the offer, she told Thornton, was initially: “’Oh, no, no, no, I don't do plays, I'm not a straight actress… there’s absolutely no way I can do that.’” Yet, she continued, “Sometimes [you] need someone to go, ‘*Kick up the bum* – you can!’”
Redknapp took on the “massive” role.
“I think I was only off stage for maybe 10 minutes throughout the whole thing … so line-wise, and commitment... it was huge”. It became an experience where she “learned so much”.
“I just think, just throw everything at something,” she said. “Whatever that may be, you have to be a bit fearless in life sometimes.”
There was, however, one limit that stayed in place.
Redknapp described how “every night [her co-star Susie Amy] had to kind of strip off a little bit” for her 'bunny boiler' role in the play.
“I don't know if I could have got through those sex scenes without laughing,” Redknapp continued. “That’s where my confidence would fall short – I’m not ready for that.”
Redknapp is delighted to report that her sons are now very supportive of her career.
She joked that her younger son did say, “It's nice to see you fully clothed in this music video!”
Redknapp clarified, with a laugh, that this was just “banter”. “I’d never do anything that they’d be really embarrassed [about].”
“I know they are so proud,” she continued. “They're my biggest champions.”
Listen to the full episode to hear Louise Redknapp discuss her career break to raise her two sons, being on Strictly Come Dancing and her new acting career
In June she will do a special one-off concert at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire to promote her new Greatest Hits album, which contains five new songs.
“I’m really grateful that I get to make music and do what I do,” she told Thornton.
“I feel like I'm a much better artist now than I've ever been, because every word I sing is with so much emotion and passion.”
“Whatever I do, I do because I really want to do it.”