It's a weird thing when show business' most secretive celeb decides to lay her private life on the line. But Piers Wenger hears her out.
One of my favourite celebrity anecdotes ever comes courtesy of Louise. My friend Dave was interviewing her for a magazine story a couple of years ago. Despite his efforts he was having problems extracting the kind of memorable anecdote that it's any self-respecting journalist's job to deliver. Finally in a desperate bid to walk away with anything noteworthy at all, he plumped for the kind of no-brainer question usually guaranteed to deliver the thinnest slither of insight into the celebrity personality.
Him: "Tell me five things you really hate." Her: "Er... hate... er... no... er... how do you mean?" Him: "You know. Hate. The things you'd least like to be trapped in a lift with. Bad things. Snakes!" Her (contemplative pause): "Yeah. Snakes. But I would like to say it's not like I've got anything against reptiles generally." Conclusion: Louise is not someone you'd turn to if you were trying to start a revolution.
True, but is Mrs Redknapp-of-the-last-two-years as pliant as her mild manners suggest? After all, she held her own amid the tyranny of the Bennett sisters' no alcohol, no sex and no skirts law during her eternal teen years (no mean feat for someone with a set of pins like hers). She went to chalk up six top 10 singles and shifted more than half a million copies of her first two albums. Love or hate her for it, she's spent the last two years resolutely refusing to prostitute her marital status at the greedy hands of the nation's gossip mags. and most notably of all, in the current climate of pedophile pop, she's the solo recording artiste least likely to make you feel like you're gatecrashing the Music and Movement class down your local kindergarten every time you flick onto MTV. It may sound like a line straight from Jilly Cooper, but as The Guardian once decreed, "She looks more Bambi-ish than ever as she speaks, but the confidence in her voice is formidable."
In actual fact, she does look more Bambi-ish than ever as she speaks but it's her estuary accent that's formidable. Still, the sentiment stands all the same. As July 10 - the day that her new single, 2 Faced, hits the shops - dawns, the real reason to give Louise a spin is unleashed: the music. She's no Roisin Murphy, but the new stuff is slightly smarter, a touch more truthful and autobiographical, and slightly less embarrassing to sing along to in an office than anything she's done before. You probably wouldn't choose it as the soundtrack to your Goar idyll, but the proposition is an enticing one nevertheless: it's the celebrity relationship played out to pop music. The big question, then, is how much will the reborn Mrs Redknapp really reveal?
2 FACED IS SLIGHTLY MORE BALLSY THAN ANYTHING YOU'VE DONE BEFORE. ARE YOU READY TO KICK ASS?
Well, I absolutely hate bitchiness among girls, and occasionally I found myself on the receiving end. You know girls putting me down in the street - "Ooh, she's not up to much" or "You're not as good in the flesh." I know I'm not the only person to experience this but I just got sick of it. 2 Faced is my take on all of that.
YOU SEEM A LOT HAPPIER TO TALK ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE THESE DAYS.
In the past it's always been a conscious decision not discuss my marriage and my private life but you can only write songs about what you know. Bear in mind that this is the first album I've written, the first album where a set of lyrics hasn't arrived in the post. Falling in love and getting married, dealing with success and dealing with criticism, they're the big things that have happened to me.
SO THIS ALBUM IS YOUR OWN PERSONAL OPRAH.
Since the wedding I'm probably happier than I've ever been. I've taken two years off. I spent the first year just enjoying being married to Jamie, decorating the house and going on holiday, and the second figuring out what i wanted to do with this record. I spent three weeks in Bermuda on holiday at Elbow Beach - the place where Jamie and I were married. I did a lot of thinking while I was there and feel like I know myself much better now.
WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING LOUISE REDKNAPP?
That I'm at the age where loads of my friends are having kids but they're still so glamorous and strong - such individuals. I think it's brilliant they're able to hold on to all of that.
ARE YOU UP FOR HAVING KIDS YOURSELF?
Oh yeah. maybe in a year or so. not quite yet. Who knows how many? We'll see.
WHEN YOU STARTED WRITING, WERE THERE EVER MOMENTS WHEN YOU THOUGHT, "ACTUALLY, THAT'S REALLY RUBBISH"?
Well, there were times when it did get a bit cheesy but the producer I was working with, he brought a cheeseboard into the studio which he'd hold up when we [Louise and her two female co-writers] got carried away.
DID ANY CHOICE LINES SLIP THROUGH THE NET?
I suppose you could say that line "Why take a kiss from a stranger's lips when you have the best?" from First Kiss (The Wedding Song) is a bit cheesy, but actually it's one of my favourites. I Love it.
HOW DOES JAMIE THINK ABOUT HIS GOB BEING SUCH A TALKING POINT?
I think he was a bit embarrassed by that one. He was like, "Do you have to call it The Wedding Song?" He might get the odd comment from the other boys in the club, but on the whole the players are brilliant, and his close friends are always asking when they can hear stuff. I'm like, "I don't think it's really your thing."
IS JAMIE A BIG LOUISE FAN?
Oh yeah. And he's probably a bigger music fan than I am. He's more into rap and hip hop, but while I was making the album he was my ears. He was my general pubic. I'd play tracks to him after a day in the studio and he'd give me an honest opinion. He'd tell me if he thought they were bad.
DOES HE GET THE HUMP WHEN YOU DISAPPEAR OFF TO DO PROMOTION?
Well, I try not to be away for more than a week or 10 days at a time - I don't want to be. I need to go home to get back to reality. But I always fill the fridge before I go, not that he'd freak out if I didn't.
FOOTBALLERS AREN'T ALWAYS SO LIBERAL. JAMIE'S DAD, FOR EXAMPLE, ONCE MADE SOME PRETTY DODGY COMMENTS ABOUT A FOOTBALLER'S WIFE'S PLACE BEING IN THE HOME.
I'm sure he never said that. I know Harry very well and he's brilliant with me. I think Jamie, though he's proud of what I do, would ideally like me to be at home but he always says to me to do that when the time's right for me. He know s that if I did it just for him, in a few years time I'd be a complete nutcase going "You made me stop work."
WHAT ARE YOU TWO LIKE TOGETHER AT HOME? I HAVE A FANTASY ABOUT HIS-AND-HERS SHELL SUITS.
We just do the normal things. Visit friends - I see Paula Baob and Claire Ince (wife of fellow Liverpool player phil and Middlesborough midfielder Paul) - go out for dinner and watch videos. We liked Sixth Sense and american Pie - that's totally my sort of humour. I can't remember the last time we did something celeby like going to a premiere.
WELL, THAT'S HEALTHY. TV SHOULD PLAY A LARGE PART IN EVERYBODY'S LIFE.
Oh God, I love the soaps - all of them. I'm so sad. Hollyoaks, Emmerdale - whatever's on, I'll watch it. I've even got one of those projector screen TVs to watch them on.
YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE SOMEONE WHO SPENDS THEIR DAYS LOAFING IN FRONT OF FAMILY AFFAIRS.
Up until about a month ago I had a personal trainer who I'd run two and a half miles with about four times a week. But now I've let it go and all the hard work's gone to waste. To tell the truth, when it comes to exercise I honestly can't be bothered.
ARE YOU HIGH PROTEIN OR HIGH CARB DIET GIRL?
Oh, I did that Atkins [no carbs] diet for a week and put on half a stone, so neither actually.
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON PRODUCT?
I get everything from Planet Organic on Westbourne Grove. Obviously, it's all 100% natural and is just very gentle on your skin. I don't wear much make-up when I'm not working though.
BUT I BET YOU CANE IT ROUND THE SHOPS.
Oh yeah. I love shopping. I might go into London with my Mum but the shops up North are really good as well. Stella McCartney's my favourite designer at the moment - I love the way she does sexy stuff that has a bit of an edge. Occasionally, I'll go with Jamie. He's got pretty good taste so I probably would trust him to shop for me, but in that respect I'm more than capable of taking care of myself!
Which is the big contradiction with Louise. meeting her is almost a humbling experience: it's hard to think the mildest of mean thoughts about someone whose turbo-charged niceness is there, written all over their face and their body - the huge doe-eyes. the tiny bird-like physique, the little trembly lips. And yet interviewing her and getting acquainted with her skill for deflecting questions with utterly non-specific replies, leaves you thinking, "Louise, well, she looks good in photos."
It's after our lunch (mushroom soup, which she picked at), once the tape recorder's been turned off, that we talk and for the first time her lips are moving and we're actually communicating. She's telling me about the charity work that she and Jamie do and without a hint of ickiness she mentions a terminally ill boy she visited and raised money for, and how he died and she went to the funeral. The best I could manage was, "Hmm, that sounds a bit heavy," and that's when it dawned on me. Louise may spout platitudes in interviews, but she understands her celebrity well enough not to be precious about using it for more unglamorous ends. She shows the same balance of vanity and compassion that most people in her position would - or should. In fact, she's such a pro, she can intrigue by saying nothing at all.