When Louise Nurding left EMI's multi-million selling soul/pop group Eternal two years ago the critics were sceptical that either could survive. But both acts have flourished since the split, and the next month sees releases for Louise's second album and a greatest hits package from Eternal, and both are likely to be firmly lodged in the UK Top 20 for Christmas.
EMI president and ceo Jean Francois Cecillon attributes the success to insisting Louise release a single and get back into the Top 10 quickly after leaving Eternal and to concentrating efforts on both their careers in parallel. "They will be in the Top 10 singles and albums charts at the same time again and at the forefront of the media, which is one of the reasons for their success. It may be Blur vs. Oasis or Gary vs. Robbie but it's not Louise vs. Eternal because they are radically different artists," he says.
Louise's first album Naked was released in 1996 and has now sold more than 400,000 units in the UK. She was nominated for best british female artist at this year's Brits and also picked up awards from Smash Hits and Live & Kicking. Eternal's Vernie and Kelly admit that they were disappointed by Louise's decision to go solo, but the group's success remains undiminished by her departure. This year Eternal claimed their first UK number one with I Wanna Be The Only One. A greatest hits album might seem premature, but in five years Eternal have scored 11 Top 10 hits and look certain to add a 12th with Angel Of Mine, out on September 29, which has already been A-listed by Radio One.
EMI's group A&R executive, Julian Close, who is working both projects, says, "A lot of us in the company were surprised when the split happened, but you just have to make the best of it. Fortunately it's worked well for both Louise and Eternal; both acts have blossomed." Close believes Louise's new album Woman In Me can triple the million worldwide sales achieved by Naked. "For my money, there are 10 potential hit singles on this record. The problem is choosing the five to release," he says. "Obviously we'd be very happy if the Eternal album is an obvious Christmas stocking-filler - we'll be promoting it heavily through Christmas and beyond."
Louise's first single is Arms Around The World, a typically upbeat pop number, with a cover of the Average White Band's Let's Go Round Again to follow. The latter retains the disco-era flavour of the 1980 original, much like Take That's remake of Relight My Fire. Louise's album features writer and producer credits for established hitmakers such as Simon Climie, Steve Levine, Nigel Lowis (producer of Eternal's I Wanna Be The Only One) and John Holliday and Trevor Steel (who wrote Louise's top five hit Naked).
Louise remarks, "I'm aware of where my audience is at, but I also wanted to grow with this record. I'm two years older, so obviously I'm more confident and the music sounds a lot more mature. This album is definitely a step up for me. I wanted to reach an older audience but I also wanted to hold on to the people who bought the first LP." At 22, Louise is also about to embark on her first solo tour, a 21-date nationwide trek which includes a show at London's Wembley Arena. Both Louise and Julian Close acknowledge the tour as an important step for her.
She admits, "I am nervous about the tour. This is the next big thing that I had to do. You're not a major artist unless you can really perform live. Wembley Arena is going to take some filling." Close adds, "This is a big tour. This and the new album will take Louise to a new level. She wants to be seen as a serious, credible artist, and this is a big step in that direction." In addition, Louise's profile has been heightened by increased exposure in style magazines like Sky, which acclaimed her "the sexiest woman in the world", and FHM, which has just run a second Louise cover feature. She adds, "Those magazines have really helped me reach people who would never have heard my music otherwise. Although some things are not written the way I'd have liked."
Louise still shares management with Eternal (First Avenue) and says of the Greatest Hits album, "It feels really strange to hear those old songs again. It almost seems like another lifetime because I feel like I've been solo for ages." While Eternal's Vernie says, "Most people would think we're too young to do a greatest hits but there are enough hits." For Eternal, the release of Greatest Hits does not mean a break from the intense workrate of the past five years. "I don't think our management knows anything about time off," jokes Kelly. They have already started writing for their fourth album and will begin recording in October.
Sean 'Puffy' Combs is among the producers slated to work on the project. America is a priority for the trio on this next album, and a new US deal is currently being finalised following the dissolution of the North American division of the EMI Records Group. Whatever Eternal's long-term future with the company is in the US, there is no doubt that both Louise and Eternal will be a winning combination for EMI UK in coming months.