Superwoman Rebecca Ferguson claims new album helped her through the pain of being a single mum
X Factor star Rebecca Ferguson will be performing at The Ipswich Regent on November 9 but before her big night, she revealed all to entertainment writer Wayne Savage.
Rebecca was so happy last time we spoke. There was a new man in her life and she was feeling comfortable and confident in her own skin. That changed when she fell pregnant and he confessed he had another girlfriend before abandoning her.
“It was a betrayal and rejection, not just of me but of my baby as well, that’s what was the most hurtful thing,” says the singer, who has never named the father of her daughter, Arabella, now two.
She’s not one for speaking about her personal life. Already mum to Lillie May and Karl from a previous relationship, she’s had sleepless nights before interviews promoting latest album Superwoman; unsure how to speak about its origins without being really honest.
“Then I thought there are so many women who’ve been left with babies or rejected in similar ways. To just be loved so much and then rejected within a day... This is their album really.”
Rebecca, who shot to fame on ITV1’s The X Factor, confesses to being all over the place when he left.
“I was completely heartbroken... I just fought through it, well I fell apart first and you’ll hear that. There’s a song on the album called Hold Me and there are moments where I did fall apart and then slowly, even after writing the album, I built myself back up.
“It took a lot of friends, a lot of support. It took about two years to be honest, but in that two years I’ve got myself to the position where I’m like ‘okay I’m over that now’.
“You’ll never fully get over it, but I’m over it enough that I can talk about it without any bitterness, any anger, any resentment. I think the minute you can speak about that situation and not be full of pain, hate or whatever, all those emotions people go through; that’s when you know you’ve conquered it and that’s why it’s titled Superwoman - it’s like I overcame all that with a smile.”
Another track, Don’t Want You Back, is a clear dig at her ex. Written by somebody else, the song was first called I Want You Back. Rebecca was having none of that.
“There’s no way I was singing that. I’m not going through all that so I can sing about how much I want a man back. I rewrote it to be a sort of ‘no, don’t say you’re sorry, I don’t care’, sort of song. A lot more bitter than the original, but true... It was the right thing to do.”
Is Arabella’s father involved in her life?
“Not at all... It’s their choosing but now I feel like it’s probably for the best.”
There are so many children born and rejected and no one talks about it, says Rebecca. No matter how a child enters the world, they should be celebrated. Which is why she set up a website for other single mums.
“That was like my therapy really. I haven’t focused on it lately and I need to but I’ve been swept away with the album. It’s something I’ll get back to but I’m only one person and I try to spread myself too thin,” she laughs.
She was really bothered she couldn’t find a site to help.
“Carrying a baby alone isn’t really spoken about. There’s a lot that goes on emotionally and hormonally; you’re a complete mess. As a human being you’re not meant to not physically be with the person you’ve created the baby with. You’re all over the place and I couldn’t find one website that helped.
“I could find the odd forum, but it’s a very taboo subject. I thought this is shocking and it’d be nice for women to share their scans together. Not being able to share your scan with the father is really hurtful. I wanted to build a community where all the single mums carrying children alone can be like ‘oh what’s your scan like’ or ‘I got this scan today’.
“The depression I was under carrying a baby alone was unbelievable and I felt so sorry for these women. I had my music to distract me and an amazing career but imagine being a single mum in a council house carrying a baby on your own, trying to get through it. It really pained me that there was other women out there suffering.”
Penning Superwoman helped her through those dark days. She believes vulnerability is a strength not a weakness. We all have moments where we’re not perfect but that’s life, part of being human.
“There’s a lot of criticism on women to be perfect mothers, perfect everything, but we’re not. We’re all just learning really and we don’t always get it right.”
Getting what she was feeling down and sharing it was important, no matter how uncomfortable it was at times. She didn’t want to pass the album off as being just about female empowerment. Honesty, she adds, is always the best policy.
“I can’t write about things I’m not going through, I can but it doesn’t sound as good,” she laughs. “The whole album is about not taking any crap. It’s not pretty but I’m here to say you’re going to get through it if it happens to you, you’ll be fine. If I at least help someone get out of bed that day and feel like they can put their make-up on and get out the house, then I’ve done a good job.”
Every song is a time capsule of how Rebecca - who delayed her tour to finish the album - felt the day she wrote it.
Her perfectionism hasn’t come without a price. Second album Freedom came after a protracted period of huge turmoil as she found out the hard way the music industry wasn’t always just about the music. It was a long and painful gestation period which saw her question everything, creatively and professionally.
Her plauded third release, a remake of Billie Holiday’s classic Lady Sings The Blues, was recorded and promoted during her relationship breakdown - although no-one knew it as she dragged herself to work every day, describing that time as “a proper chore”.
Rebecca is used to taking care of herself. Raised by mum Anne after her parents split, she later spent time with family friends, foster parents and in care when Anne became seriously ill.
Her dream of a pop career stalled when she fell pregnant as a teenager, winding up as single mother-of-two. Qualifying as a legal secretary, she had several stabs at making it on to various talent shows. It paid off in 2010 when she finished as runner-up to Essex’s Matt Cardle on The X Factor.
She’s admitted to being very nervous and self-conscious for a long time afterwards, speaking about attracting the wrong type of people; clingers-on who wanted to use her.
“I think people did mistreat me, but people will only get away with what you allow them to. I’ve learned to take ownership (of her decisions) because it’s so easy to blame other people for how they treat you,” she told me when we last spoke.
There have been ups and downs.
She reached an out-of-court settlement with Modest Management in 2013 after they sued her for breach of contract, her argument being the company didn’t care for her wellbeing and forced her to continue with interviews even after she’d collapsed from exhaustion. After that she was in court to face a former friend who conned her out of almost £50,000 by pretending to be an accountant. Rebecca Taylor was jailed for 16 months for her part in the scam.
Describing herself as a sweet girl who thought everyone was nice and out to help her, Rebecca’s no victim. She doesn’t think people viewed her as a business starting out but that changed once she took control and learnt more about the world she was in.
She’s chirpy when we speak, despite confessing to feeling a “little bit ropey” after a night-out without the kids.
“We all went out for drinks. I thought ‘ooh, I’ve got a night out’,” she laughs.
Her children keep her grounded, telling her what they do and don’t like. Chart positions and album sales don’t matter when it’s tea-time. She’s looking forward to bringing them on tour.
“They’re going to get tutors because obviously they should be in school but it’ll be fun for them coming back stage - me son acts a bit shy about it but really he’s proud.”
• Rebecca Ferguson visits the Ipswich Regent November 9.