Florence Welch

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Florence Welch
A photograph shot from below Welch as she sings into a microphone
Welch in 2013 at The Sound of Change Live
Background information
Birth name Florence Mary Leontine Welch
(1986-08-28) 28 August 1986 (age 28)
Camberwell, England
Genres Indie rock, baroque pop, art rock, indie pop, neo soul
Occupation(s) Musician, singer, songwriter, arranger
Instruments Vocals, drums
Years active 2006–present
Labels Moshi Moshi, Iamsound, Island, Universal Republic, Republic
Associated acts Florence and the Machine, Calvin Harris, A$AP Rocky

Florence Leontine Mary Welch[1] (born 28 August 1986)[2][3][4] is an English musician, singer, and songwriter. She is best known as the lead vocalist of the indie rock band Florence + the Machine. The band's debut album, Lungs, was released in 2009; on 17 January 2010, the album reached the top position, after being on the chart for 28 consecutive weeks. The group's second studio album, Ceremonials, released in October 2011, debuted at number one in the UK and number six in the United States.

Early life[edit]

Florence Leontine Mary Welch was born in Camberwell, London on 28 August 1986. Her British father is Nick Welch, an advertising executive,[5] and her mother is an American expatriate from New York[5] and the Harvard University- and Warburg Institute, University of London-educated[6] Professor of Renaissance Studies and Vice-Principal for Arts and Sciences at King's College London, Evelyn Welch.[7] Nick and Evelyn later divorced in 1990,[8] and both remarried;[9] when she was 13 years old, Welch, her mother, and her two younger siblings moved in with their next-door neighbour and his three teenage children. According to Welch, "We get on brilliantly now, but it was a nightmare then. I just used to stay in my room and dance around".[10] Welch is the niece of the satirist Craig Brown[5] via Brown's wife and Welch's aunt, Frances Welch,[11] and granddaughter of former deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph and former Daily Mail parliamentary sketchwriter James Colin Ross Welch, originally of Cambridgeshire.[11][12]

Welch's fascination with terror and doom was intensified by the death of her grandparents within a few years of each other.[1] At 10 years old, Welch witnessed her paternal grandfather Colin's deterioration following a stroke and death on 28 January 1997;[9] four years later, her maternal grandmother, an art historian who had suffered from manic depression,[8] committed suicide.[1] During her youth, Welch was encouraged by her Scottish paternal grandmother, Sybil Welch (née Russell),[11] to pursue her performing and singing talents;[13] Welch sang "Over the Sea to Skye" at her paternal grandmother's funeral, following her death from a stroke.[13] Welch sang at her maternal grandmother's funeral as well.[14] Welch's dead grandmothers inspired numerous songs on Florence and the Machine's début album, Lungs.[15] Although she has an American passport via her mother, growing up, she did not spend much time in the United States.[14]

Florence was educated at Thomas's London Day School then went onto Alleyn's School, South East London, where she did well academically,[1] despite her diagnoses of dyslexia and dyspraxia.[16] Welch often got in trouble in school for impromptu singing.[1] Upon leaving secondary school and "just bumming around Camberwell where I lived, working at a bar and thought that I should start doing something with life", Florence studied at Camberwell College of Arts before dropping out to focus on her music.[1] Initially, she had intended to take a year out from her studies to "see where the music would go and then it started going somewhere so I never went back".[14]

Music career[edit]

According to Welch, the "Florence + the Machine" as a band name "started off as a private joke that got out of hand. I made music with my friend, who we called Isabella Machine, to which I was Florence Robot. When I was about an hour away from my first gig, I still didn't have a name, so I thought 'Okay, I'll be Florence Robot/Isa Machine', before realising that name was so long it'd drive me mad".[1][17] In 2006, Welch's performances with Summers in small London venues under the joint name Florence Robot/Isa Machine began to attract notice.[citation needed]

In 2007, Welch recorded with a band named Ashok, who released an album titled Plans on the Filthy Lucre/About Records label. This album included the earliest version of her later hit "Kiss with a Fist", which at this point was titled "Happy Slap".[18] She signed a contract for Ashok with a manager; but, feeling that she was "in the wrong band", she resigned, which cancelled the contract.[1] Florence and the Machine is managed by Mairead Nash (one half of the DJ duo Queens of Noize), who decided to manage the singer when an inebriated Welch followed Nash into the toilets at a club[1][16] and sang Etta James' 1962 song "Something's Got a Hold on Me".[5]

Florence and the Machine released their debut album Lungs in the United Kingdom on 6 July 2009. The album was officially launched with a set at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South East London. It peaked at number one in the UK and number two in Ireland. As of 6 August 2009, the album had sold over 100,000 copies in the UK and by 10 August it had been at number two for five consecutive weeks.[19][20] Following its 25 July 2009 release for download in the United States, the album debuted at number seventeen on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart,[21] ultimately peaking at number one.[22] The album was released physically in the US on 20 October by Universal Republic.[23] The album was produced by James Ford, Paul Epworth, Steve Mackey and Charlie Hugall.[24]

Welch singing at the Berkeley Greek Theater on the Lungs Tour 2011.

Welch contributed vocals to David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's 2010 album Here Lies Love, an album about Imelda Marcos.[25] As of January 2011, Welch was working with Drake on material slated for his upcoming album.[26] Following her rise to fame, Welch suffered a bout of depression, in part due to the demands of touring and loneliness.[27][28][29]

The band's second album, Ceremonials, was released on 31 October 2011. It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the US Billboard 200.[30][31] On 12 January 2012, Florence and the Machine were nominated for two Brit Awards, with the awards ceremony taking place on 21 February 2012 at the O2 Arena, London.[32] On 26 April 2012, the band released "Breath of Life", a song which was recorded as the official theme song for the film Snow White and the Huntsman.[33][34] On 5 July 2012, a remix of "Spectrum" by Scottish musician Calvin Harris was released as the fourth single from Ceremonials, becoming the band's first UK number-one hit.[35] Welch has expressed excitement about putting new material together for a third album after the band finishes touring at the end of September 2012.[36]

On October 2012, she was featured on Scottish singer-songwriter and producer Calvin Harris's song "Sweet Nothing", which debuted and peaked at number one on the UK singles chart, marking Welch's second number one.[37] The song was taken from Harris's third studio album 18 Months and is the fifth single from the album. "Sweet Nothing" also peaked at number one in Ireland and number two in Australia and New Zealand. "Sweet Nothing" was certified Platinum in Australia. "Sweet Nothing" received a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.

Artistry[edit]

Florence has been compared to other female singers such as Kate Bush,[38][39] Siouxsie Sioux,[38][39] PJ Harvey,[38] Shirley Manson,[40] Alison Goldfrapp[41] and Björk.[39]

Influences[edit]

During an interview, Welch cited Grace Slick as her influence and "hero".[42] Florence and the Machine's style has been described as "dark, robust and romantic".[38] Their music is a mix of "classic soul and midnight-on-the-moors English art rock".[38] Welch stated that her lyrics related to Renaissance artists : "We're dealing with all of the same things they did : love and death, time and pain, heaven and hell".[43] Welch has used religious imagery in her music and performances, though she has stated "I'm not a religious person. Sex, violence, love, death, are the topics that I'm constantly wrestling with, it's all connected back to religion."[44]

Nick contributed a "rock and roll element to the family mix"; in his twenties, he lived in a West End squat and attended the Squatters' Ball organised by Heathcote Williams where The 101ers played regularly.[45] A self-confessed "frustrated performer", if Nick, as he put it, "nudged Flo in any way, it's only been to listen to the Ramones rather than Green Day".[45] Evelyn had an equally strong yet completely different influence on her daughter. A visit to one of her mother's lectures left teenage Florence deeply impressed. She explained, "I aspire to something like that but with music. I hope that my music has some of the big themes—sex, death, love, violence—that will still be part of the human story in 200 years' time".[45]

Public image[edit]

When discussing her fashion style, Welch said that, "For the stage, it's The Lady of Shalott meets Ophelia...mixed with scary gothic bat lady. But in real life I'm kind of prim".[46] Welch has become noticed for her red curls (though she is actually a natural brunette)[47][48] and a style that has been described as daring but nonchalant. As a teenager she read fashion magazines more often than music magazines. Early in her music career she dressed in a tomboy style. 2011 saw Gucci dressing her for her summer tour and a performance at the Chanel runway show at Paris Fashion Week.[49] Welch describes 1970s American drag queen troupe The Cockettes and French chanson singer Françoise Hardy as fashion mentors.[50] Welch has also named Fleetwood Mac pop/rock singer Stevie Nicks as a musical, fashion, and general influence. A Huffington Post entertainment article quotes her as telling a reporter that "I'm pretty obsessed with Stevie Nicks from her style to her voice. I like watching her on YouTube and her old performances, the way she moves and everything". Welch can sometimes be seen in concert paying homage to Nicks' famous billowing stage dress. She later sings in the song "Sweet Nothing" by Calvin Harris showing her as a man in the beginning of the music video on YouTube, and later showing her as a woman (revealing clothing).[51]

Personal life[edit]

Welch had a long-term relationship with a literary editor, Stuart Hammond, from 2008 to 2011. Their temporary split in 2009 provided inspiration for much of the Lungs album.[52] Welch says, "He prefers me not to talk about it. It's funny then singing about it."[19] The couple broke up in 2011 by mutual decision because of conflicting career demands, and the break-up provided material for Florence + the Machine's second album, Ceremonials.[53]

Welch lives with her mother, younger sister, younger brother, stepfather, two half-brothers, and half-sister.[5][9]

Discography[edit]

As featured artist[edit]

Single Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
UK
[54]
AUS
[55]
AUT
[56]
CAN
[57]
GER
[58]
IRE
[59]
NZ
[60]
NOR
[61]
SWI
[62]
US
[63]
"Here Lies Love"
(David Byrne and Fatboy Slim featuring Florence Welch)
2010 Here Lies Love
"Sweet Nothing"
(Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch)
2012 1 2 29 15 19 1 2 13 36 10 18 Months
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Album appearances[edit]

Title Year Album
"I Come Apart"
(ASAP Rocky featuring Florence Welch)
2013 Long. Live. ASAP
Midnight 2013 Cosmo

Filmography[edit]

2014 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (filming)

2014 - Untitled Terrence Malick Project (post-production)

References[edit]

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  4. ^ Gannon, Louise (14 August 2010). "'The only time my dad worried about me was when Pete Doherty proposed': The world according to Florence Welch". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Ryan, Francesca (4 June 2009). "Florence and the Machine interview: sound and vision". The Telegraph. 
  6. ^ "Interview with Evelyn Welch". Association of Art Historians. 
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  10. ^ Brinton, Jessica (31 May 2009). "Florence and the Machine: Wild at Heart". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 2 June 2009. 
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