tThe first words Sophie Ellis-Bextor said to her future husband, Richard Jones, are immortalized in neon, and are proudly displayed in his studio. “It’s embarrassing,” she says, laughing. I said: Nice amp. It was 2002, they were both in their early twenties, and Jones, the guitarist — who would go on to form the band The Feeling — was auditioning for Sophie’s new touring band.
Richard remembers that they met at a rehearsal studio in north London. “I was like, Wow, look at this beautiful, ethereal woman who is way more beautiful in real life than I ever expected.” (Sophie was, of course, already a super successful pop star.)
“I was 22,” she says, “and it’s really scary when everyone is in your band, and you feel so young and inexperienced.” “I remember thinking, I don’t want to be embarrassed or weird, because all the musicians were my mates.” That’s when she inexplicably chose to compliment Richard on his gear. “I think I was just trying to be totally talkative, normalize everything,” she says.
Both of them were already in relationships, and neither of them was looking to meet anyone else. “The first impression was great,” says Richard. “But, you know, you meet beautiful people.” It didn’t really mean anything.
Sophie chose Richard and his friend, drummer Paul Stewart, for her tour. Richard recently found an old camcorder, where they shot behind the scenes footage. “A lot of it is just us two laughing at things. At the time, we didn’t know anything other than we had a really good time together. We were all having fun, but there was definitely some real kind of…” “connection?” she suggests. Sufi. “I suppose I’m trying not to say the words Love Island,” says Richard. “We had a good friendship, basically,” Sophie adds. They spent a lot of time together, but usually with other people around them. When they did the European tour, they became, as Sophie says, “closer in a different way.”
On the tour bus, he remembers having “a kind of electricity, something in the air”. Was there flirtation before? “Nothing,” Sophie says. “It was weird,” Richard says. “It was like, ‘Oh’ — and you’re on the same page.”
There were two weeks left of the tour, and they each tried to figure out how they felt, knowing that they had to end their relationships with their partners. They met up a month after returning to the UK, both newly bachelors, and Richard drove Sophie to Alexandra Palace overlooking London, “like in an American movie. We wondered if we’d feel the same and it was exactly the same.”
They have tried to keep their relationship private. “This was in the days of paparazzi and, as it turns out, phone hacking,” Sophie says. Then, six weeks later, she found out she was pregnant.
Sophie gave birth to her first child, Sonny, two months ago, which is stressful but very intense in a new relationship. “When we became parents, we had only been a couple for eight months,” she says. “It was absolutely flattering, but my memory is very positive and warm. At the heart of it all, we’ve always felt so excited about Sony.”
“Sophie’s mom gave us the best advice, which was, ‘It may not be the right time, it may not be the right man, but it’s the right kid,'” says Richard. “I thought they were wise words because we didn’t know if we were going to end up together. How could we? We wanted to.” We’d be together, but we were also in the honeymoon period.”
They began living together just two weeks before Sonny was born, and married when he was 14 months old; They now have four more sons. About the time they became a couple, Richard and his co-workers made sense. “I definitely felt a tremendous drive to up my game,” he says. He also felt it wouldn’t work if Sophie was still mainly his boss, but now they work together more often – he plays bass regularly for her, they DJ together, they’ve produced a family cookbook, and he’s born out of a lock-up kitchen disco . Instagram live shows.
Twenty years after they first met, Sophie says she worries about long-term relationship advice, “but I say being friends first is a big part of it, because we always have such great respect for each other. I really like Richard as well as I do and fantasize about him, And I think liking each other is an underrated component of relationships.” “We do have moments where we tease each other, and we just don’t get along with it, all the normal stuff,” says Richard, “but I think we’re both very keen to be nice to each other.”
Sophie Ellis-Bextor is touring the Christmas Kitchen disco from this November. Tickets on sale now
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