Florence Welch

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Florence Welch
A photograph of Welch waving from a stage
Welch in 2013 at The Sound of Change Live
Background information
Birth name Florence Leontine Mary Welch
Born (1986-08-28) 28 August 1986 (age 29)
Camberwell, London, England
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2006–present
Associated acts Florence and the Machine

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.

Florence + the Machine's debut album, Lungs, was released in 2009; on 17 January 2010, the album reached the top position in the UK after being on the chart for 28 consecutive weeks. Lungs won the Brit Award for Best British Album in 2010. The group's second studio album, Ceremonials, released in October 2011, debuted at number one in the UK and number six in the US. The band's third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was released in 2015 to very positive reviews on Metacritic, and topped the UK and US charts.[5][6][7]

Early life[edit]

Florence Leontine Mary Welch was born in Camberwell, London on 28 August 1986. Her father is Nicholas Russell "Nick" Welch, a British advertising executive.[8] Her mother, Evelyn Welch (née Evelyn Kathleen Samuels), is an American immigrant from New York[8] who was educated at Harvard University and the Warburg Institute, University of London.[9][10] Evelyn is currently Professor of Renaissance Studies and Vice-Principal for Arts and Sciences at King's College London.[11] Nick and Evelyn later divorced in 1990,[12] and both remarried.[13] 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".[14] Welch is the niece of the satirist Craig Brown[8] via Brown's wife and Welch's aunt, Frances Welch,[15] and granddaughter of Colin Welch (James Colin Ross Welch), former deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph and former Daily Mail parliamentary sketchwriter, originally of Cambridgeshire.[15][16] Welch's uncle (her mother's brother) is actor John Stockwell.[17]

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;[13] at 14 years old, her maternal grandmother, an art historian who had suffered from bipolar illness,[12] committed suicide.[1] During her youth, Welch was encouraged by her Scottish paternal grandmother, Sybil Welch (née Russell),[15] to pursue her performing and singing talents;[18] Welch sang 'The Skye Boat Song' at her paternal grandmother's funeral, following her death from a stroke.[18] Welch sang at her maternal grandmother's funeral as well.[19] Welch's deceased grandmothers inspired numerous songs on Florence and the Machine's début album, Lungs.[20] Although she has an American passport via her mother, growing up, she did not spend much time in the United States.[19]

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.[21] 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".[19]

Music career[edit]

2006–10: Beginnings with Florence + the Machine[edit]

Florence and the Machine performing at the O2 ABC Glasgow during their Lungs Tour

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][22] In 2006, Welch's performances with Isabella 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".[23] 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][21] and sang Etta James' 1962 song "Something's Got a Hold on Me".[8]

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.[24][25] Following its 25 July 2009 release for download in the United States, the album debuted at number seventeen on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart,[26] ultimately peaking at number one.[27] The album was released physically in the US on 20 October by Universal Republic.[28] The album was produced by James Ford, Paul Epworth, Steve Mackey and Charlie Hugall.[29]

Welch contributed vocals to David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's 2010 album Here Lies Love, an album about Imelda Marcos.[30] As of January 2011, Welch was working with Drake on material slated for his upcoming album.[31] Following her rise to fame, Welch suffered a bout of depression, in part due to the demands of touring and loneliness.[32][33][34] Welch and Dizzee Rascal's performance of a mashup version of the band's single "You've Got the Love" and Dizzee's single "Dirtee Cash", titled "You Got the Dirtee Love", at the 2010 BRIT Awards on 16 February 2010 was described as "a definite highlight of the evening".[35] This collaboration was released as a charity single the following day, peaking at number two on the UK Singles Chart.[35] She reprised the performance when she joined Dizzee on stage during his performance at the Glastonbury Festival 2010.[36] On 27 February 2011, Welch replaced pregnant Dido and sang her portion of Best Original Song nominee "If I Rise" (from 127 Hours) with A. R. Rahman at the 83rd Academy Awards.[37][38]

2011–present: Continued success and solo endeavours[edit]

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

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.[39][40] 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.[41] 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.[42][43] 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.[44] Welch expressed excitement about putting new material together for a third album once the band finished touring at the end of September 2012.[45] Welch led a tribute to Amy Winehouse by performing Winehouse's song "Back to Black" and the Annie Lennox-classic Walking on Broken Glass during the VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul concert held in December 2011.[46][47] The group performed in Times Square on 31 December 2011 for the 40th annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve special.[48]

In July 2012 the group was forced to cancel two European dates after Welch sustained a vocal injury.[49] She was able to recover and perform at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal on 3 August 2012.[50] On 9 September, Welch performed three songs at the wedding of close friend Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.[51] On October 2012, she was featured on Scottish singer-songwriter and producer Calvin Harris's song "Sweet Nothing", which debuted at number one on the UK singles chart, marking Welch's second number one.[52] 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.[53]

On November 29, 2012, Florence joined the Rolling Stones at the O2 Arena in London to sing "Gimme Shelter". Her performance with Mick Jagger was described as "sexy" and "electrifying".

In February 2015, Florence + The Machine announced their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which was released on 1 June 2015.

During June 2015, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters broke his leg on stage prior to his band's upcoming Glastonbury Festival headline performance, causing Florence + The Machine to be as the headline band. They headlined the festival for the first time on 26 June 2015.[54]


Florence has been compared to other female singers such as Kate Bush,[55][56] Siouxsie Sioux,[55][56] PJ Harvey,[55] Shirley Manson,[57] Alison Goldfrapp[58] and Björk.[56]


During an interview, Welch cited Grace Slick as her influence and "hero".[59] In a review of Ceremonials, Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone described Florence and the Machine's style as "dark, robust and romantic", deeming the ballad "Only If for a Night" as a mix of "classic soul and midnight-on-the-moors English art rock".[55] 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".[60] 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."[61]

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.[62] 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".[62] 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".[62]

Welch has stated she is an avid reader, and has been influenced by authors such as Gwendoline Riley, Kirsten Reed and David Vann.[63] The art of literature is important to her.[64] She actively participates in a fan run book club, 'Between Two Books'. Every few months, she will recommend a book to the club which they will read collectively.[65] Welch enjoys poetry, and has mentioned that the poet Ted Hughes was a big influence on her first album, 'Lungs'.[66]

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".[67] Welch has become noticed for her red curls (though she is actually a natural brunette)[68][69] 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.[70] Welch describes 1970s American drag queen troupe The Cockettes and French chanson singer Françoise Hardy as fashion mentors.[71] 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).[72]

Personal life[edit]

Welch had a relationship with literary editor Stuart Hammond from 2008 to 2011. Their temporary split in 2009 provided inspiration for much of the Lungs album.[73] Welch says, "He prefers me not to talk about it. It's funny then singing about it. It's easier to hide things talking about them rather than singing about them."[24] 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.[74]

Welch lives with her mother, younger sister, younger brother, stepfather, two half-brothers, and half-sister.[8][13]

In 2015 Welch broke her foot after leaping off the stage at the Coachella Festival.[75]


As featured artist[edit]

Single Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
"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


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Category Category Nominated work Result
2010 NME Awards Best Dressed Florence Welch Nominated
2011 Virgin Media Music Awards Best Live Act Nominated
Shameless Publicity Seeker Nominated
2013 British Fashion Awards Best British Style Nominated
NME Awards Dancefloor Anthem "Sweet Nothing" (featuring Calvin Harris) Won
MTV Video Music Awards Japan Best Collaboration Nominated
Billboard Music Awards Top EDM Song Nominated
2014 Grammy Awards Best Dance Recording Nominated
iHeartRadio Music Awards EDM Song of the Year Nominated
Music Of Ginger Origin Award Best Honorary 'redhead by choice' musician Florence Welch Won


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External links[edit]