Charlotte Church: ‘I thought I was going to faint on The Masked Singer’

Charlotte Church live on stage at her Pop Dungeon at Clapham Grand, London.
Charlotte Church live on stage at her Pop Dungeon at Clapham Grand, London. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian

The singer answers your questions on the Leveson inquiry, the climate crisis and Welsh independence – and the difficulties of dancing dressed as a mushroom

Of all the songs you sing, which stirs your emotions the most? 25aubrey
When I was little and doing the classical stuff, it would have been My Lagan Love – a beautiful Irish air – or a Welsh song Mae Hiraeth Yn y Mor [“there is longing in the sea”]. I don’t long for my pop stuff but the EPs had a lot of pertinence. The song Nerve is really emotionally hardcore. In Pop Dungeon [Church’s live covers show], the one that gets me is With Every Heartbeat by Robyn, which is such a lean song but packed full of pathos, meaning and glory.

You collaborated with the likes of Eg White, Corinne Bailey Rae, Guy Chambers, Marcella Detroit and Rob Davis on 2005’s Tissues and Issues. What was it like to work with such a stellar cast on your first contemporary album? VerulamiumParkRanger
I didn’t quite appreciate the experience, to be honest. If I worked with those people now, I’d appreciate that they’ve written incredible pop songs, but I was desperate to break out of the mould that had been created for me. I really wanted to go to Atlanta and work with R&B producers and writers, but the record company wanted pop. They said they’d make me a “pop princess”, but I was in love with Black music and wanted to sound like Jill Scott.

Church, aged 14.
Church, aged 14. Photograph: Ed Wray/AP

What advice would you give to your pre-fame self? sbgbfab
That there will be a lot of darkness, whether it’s boyfriends selling sex stories, my parents being bonkers at different times, the press or people in the industry being villains. In the 90s and 00s, mainstream culture was very hostile towards working-class women who were trying to do something different. So, I would say: concentrate on the core you that is peaceful and calm. That kept me resilient and loving and not twisted or fucked up by mad experiences.

Do you still have fond memories of being a mushroom on The Masked Singer? VerulamiumParkRanger
I loved being a mound of mushrooms on mainstream TV and people’s reactions to my singing was lush, because I hadn’t had that for a long time. However, I was really struggling with long Covid, so breathing in that mask and trying to dance about was really difficult. I thought I was going to faint.

Charlotte Church as Mushroom in The Masked Singer.
Charlotte Church as Mushroom in The Masked Singer. Photograph: Vincent Dolman/ITV

How was singing [Welsh national anthem] Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau for Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s Welcome to Wrexham docuseries [about the Hollywood actors’ ownership of Wrexham AFC]stephenw1979
Everything I had imagined. They were super kind, accommodating and funny. I said I’d have to bring my children and they were very sweet to the kids. They’re doing a beautiful left-of-centre thing because they care about Wrexham.

Do you think that the press learned their lesson from the Leveson inquiry? wheelybin
No. The press was very exploitative and vindictive about individuals, but now it’s a tool of the wealthiest in society to control the masses. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and there are mainstream outlets that do brilliant journalistic work, but the print media still have a great deal of power and can be toxic, which is damaging to democracy.

Charlotte Church singing for Rob and Ryan on Welcome To Wrexham.
Charlotte Church singing for Rob and Ryan on Welcome To Wrexham. Photograph: FX Networks

You made a great TV presenter when you had your show Charlotte Church: My Family & Me on Channel 4. Would you ever consider a return? Flappy
I’d love to do a blistering comic sketch show that would be social commentary, ripping apart the people who are tearing the world apart.

Do you still shop at the Spar in Cardiff or have you poshed up these days? the-sulks
I try to do as much ethical and sustainable shopping as possible. However, when you’ve got three kids in the house and you run out of stuff, sometimes you’ve just got to run to Tesco.

What are the aims for your wellness centre? Cathy247
To reconnect people with community, nature and the healing power of sound and music. We all need healing, because rampant consumer capitalism has given us inter-generational trauma. The name the Dreaming comes from aboriginal culture, because Indigenous cultures are inside nature in ways that we’ve forgotten.

Charlotte Church’s Pop Dungeon review – a festive farewell to a glorious covers band

Really interested in your [forest school] the Awen Project – how do you think education needs to change to meet the needs of the 21st century? axolotly
The Awen Project is a free, properly democratic learning community where every participant has an equal vote in what they learn. The future job market will be about everything that computers and AI can’t do, so creativity, community, collaboration and compassion. So we need to teach young people to be the most human they can be and help them figure out who they are. Currently, education is a big Goliath teaching everyone the same stuff. If people can gravitate to what they’re good at, then we’ll have millions of young people who are trained and passionate about lots of different things.

Church with her parents Maria and James Church in Charlotte Church: My Family & Me
Church with her parents Maria and James Church in Charlotte Church: My Family & Me. Photograph: Adam Lawrence/Curious Films/Channel 4

I have long admired your environmental stands but do you have any tips for getting people who can really change policy to take urgent action around our climate and biodiversity crises? ProfWoody
If you want to get people to do stuff, form a bond with them. It doesn’t work by lecturing or making people feel ashamed. At the moment, my motivation is not to build relationships with power. The more we’re in our tech worlds inside buildings, the less we make decisions that are good for nature, so we need to be in nature more. The next couple of decades will be cataclysmic. We’re going to lose a lot of people and land, but I believe that we can save the world.

Have you ever thought of becoming a full-time activist? MartaLPerez1983
The likes of Extinction Rebellion and the People’s Assembly do marvellous work, but I felt I’d gone as far as I could in terms of banging the drum. I wanted to put my money, time and energy where my activism in and started living it. So Pop Dungeon, the Awen Project and the Dreaming are activism. I’m not perfect: we’re all doing the best we can. Or rather we’re definitely not. That’s the problem.

Church attending the People’s Assembly against austerity demonstration through Central London in 2015.
Church attending the People’s Assembly against austerity demonstration through Central London in 2015. Photograph: Mike Kemp/Corbis/Getty Images

Independence for Wales: yes or no? Pipini
Yes, but I am not a Welsh nationalist. It’s about trying to creating a fairer political system because I don’t feel I can have any influence over Westminster. It’s not just about the vote, it’s about the quality of the people who are leading us.

You released an album of Christmas carols early in your career (Dream a Dream in 2000). What is your favourite Christmas song or carol? VerulamiumParkRanger
This Christmas by Donny Hathaway, an absolute tune. And I bloody love a bit of Once in Royal David’s City, and a Catholic one, the Angel Gabriel [which she proceeds to sing, beautifully].

Charlotte Church: ‘I literally follow my nose. Like: Yeah, that sounds fun. I’ll do that.’
Charlotte Church: ‘I’ve always had loads of hardcore, unnecessary abuse’
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What would be your specialist subject on Mastermind? VerulamiumParkRanger
Singing and singers. I’d love to say neuroscience, but I’d be fucked [laughs].

What’s next, musically? MiaSchu
I want to leave Pop Dungeon as this slightly mythical live experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else. If you’ve been to one, you’ll understand. Over the years, I’ve sung sacred songs, folk songs, pop, art rock and ambient. I’m like a synthesiser, drawing on lots of different elements that I’m passionate about. My next thing is to be a sound healer and use my voice in a different way. It will be more true to my soul and a culmination of all the crazy shit

I’ve done.

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