Florence Welch

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Florence Welch
An adult woman wearing orange and white suits and white pants, performs to the audience, with her backing vocalists and blue smokes in the background.
Welch performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2015
Background information
Birth name Florence Leontine Mary Welch
Born (1986-08-28) 28 August 1986 (age 32)
Camberwell, London, England
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • percussion
Years active 2006–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website florenceandthemachine.net

Florence Leontine Mary Welch[1] (born 28 August 1986)[2][3][4] is an English musician, singer, songwriter and producer. She is the vocalist and songwriter of the indie rock band Florence and the Machine.

Florence and 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 positive reviews from critics, and topped the UK and US charts.[5][6][7] The band's fourth album High As Hope was released in 2018.

In 2018, Welch released a book titled Useless Magic, a collection of lyrics and poems written by Welch, along with illustrations.

Early life[edit]

Florence Leontine Mary Welch was born in Camberwell, London, England on 28 August 1986 to parents Nick Russell Welch, an advertising executive[8] and Evelyn Kathleen Welch (née Samuels), an American emigrant from New York City[8] who was educated at Harvard University and the Warburg Institute, University of London.[9][10] Evelyn Welch is currently Professor of Renaissance Studies, Provost, and Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences) at King's College London.[11] Through her mother, Welch has both American and British citizenship.[12]

Florence is the niece of the satirist Craig Brown[8] via Brown's wife and Welch's aunt, Frances Welch,[13] 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.[13][14] Welch's maternal uncle is actor and director John Stockwell.[15]

During her youth, Welch was encouraged by her Scottish paternal grandmother, Sybil Welch (née Russell),[13] to pursue her performing and singing talents;[16] Welch's deceased grandmothers inspired numerous songs on Florence and the Machine's début album, Lungs.[17] She also sang at family weddings and funerals.[18]

Welch's parents divorced when she was 13 years old, and her mother eventually married their next-door neighbour. Around this time she witnessed her grandmother, who had bipolar disorder, end her own life.[18][better source needed] Florence began drinking the next year to cope with an unstable home environment. "There was chaos at home so I drank. I never progressed to anything hard, luckily. I got a lot out of my system, went to wild parties, met some bizarre, amazing people and did mad things like running around naked in fields in Cornwall covered in leaves." [4]

Florence was educated at Thomas's London Day School then went on to Alleyn's School, South East London, where she did well academically.[1] Welch often got in trouble in school for impromptu singing.[1] She was also diagnosed with mild dyslexia as a result of dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder that doesn't affect her reading ability, but caused issues with organization.[19][20][4] Music and books gave her reprieve from what she felt made her different from others. "I used reading as a form of escape. I was shy and sensitive, and so reading gave me a safe space."[21] 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 [she] never went back".[22]

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 band name "Florence + the Machine" had "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][23] 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".[24]

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.[25][26] Following its 25 July 2009 release for download in the United States, the album debuted at number seventeen on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart,[27] ultimately peaking at number one.[28] The album was released physically in the US on 20 October by Universal Republic.[29] The album was produced by James Ford, Paul Epworth, Steve Mackey and Charlie Hugall.[30]

Welch contributed vocals to David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's 2010 album Here Lies Love, an album about Imelda Marcos.[31] As of January 2011, Welch was working with Drake on material slated for his upcoming album.[32]

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.[33][34]

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

Florence and the Machine concert at the Berkeley Greek Theater on 12 June 2011.
Welch singing at the Berkeley Greek Theater on the Lungs Tour 2011.

The band's second album, Ceremonials, was released on 31 October 2011. In the album, Florence's "obsession with drowning" is represented through the use of repeated water imagery.[35] It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the US Billboard 200.[36][37] 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.[38] 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.[39][40] 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.[41] Welch expressed excitement about putting new material together for a third album once the band finished touring at the end of September 2012.[42]

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.[43][44] The group performed in Times Square on 31 December 2011 for the 40th annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve special.[45]

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.[46] 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.[47]

On 29 November 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 the headline band. They headlined the festival for the first time on 26 June 2015.[48]

In September 2016, during an interview with Heat Radio, American singer Lady Gaga revealed that she and Florence recorded a song together. The track, titled "Hey Girl" was later featured on Gaga's fifth album Joanne.[49]

In March 2017, Welch appeared in Song to Song directed by Terrence Malick.[50]

In May 2017, Welch contributed a song titled "To Be Human" to the Wonder Woman soundtrack. Co-written with Rick Nowels, the song is performed on the film's soundtrack by Sia and Labrinth.

On April 12, 2018, Florence and The Machine released a song titled "A Sky Full Of Song" and an accompanying music video on YouTube, directed by AG Rojas. The song was released for Record Store Day on April 21, which supports brick and mortar record stores; a limited edition 7" vinyl was also released.[51] Also in 2018 "Hunger" was released. Florence and the Machine's fourth studio album High as Hope was released on 29 June 2018.[citation needed]

In July 2018 Welch published her first book Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry. The book showcases her lyrics and poetry, alongside corresponding artwork from the time of her first album Lungs to her 2018 release High as Hope.[citation needed]

Artistry[edit]

Kate Bush performing
Tori Amos performing
Welch's vocal style has been compared to those of Kate Bush (left) and Tori Amos (right)

Florence has been compared to other female singers such as Kate Bush,[52][53] Siouxsie Sioux,[52][53] PJ Harvey,[52] Shirley Manson,[54] Alison Goldfrapp,[55] Tori Amos and Björk.[53] When describing her debut album, Lungs, Welch said, "When I was writing these songs, I used to refer to myself as Florence 'Robot...because I really like what a machine thinks organic instruments really sound like."[32] Welch has a wide contralto vocal range.[56]

Influences[edit]

During interviews, Welch has cited Grace Slick and Alanis Morissette as influences and "heroes."[57][58] She listed in her early influences the likes of John Cale, Siouxsie, David Byrne, Lou Reed.[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".[52] 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 Welch, her father, 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]

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."[63] 2011 saw Gucci dressing her for her summer tour and a performance at the Chanel runway show at Paris Fashion Week.[64] Welch describes 1970s American drag queen troupe The Cockettes and French chanson singer Françoise Hardy as fashion mentors.[65]

Welch has also named Fleetwood Mac pop/rock singer Stevie Nicks as a musical, fashion, and general influence. A 2010 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."[66] Welch can sometimes be seen in concert paying homage to Nicks' famous billowing stage dress.

Personal life[edit]

Welch considers herself to be an introvert, and is passionate about reading and literature. She's held many events with her fan-run bookclub, Between Two Books. "It’s a huge generalization to say that all readers are introverts; I’m sure there’s a lot of extroverted bookworms out there, but, for me, it’s nice to know people of similar inclinations can actually come together in a social way and talk about something that is inherently solitary."[67]

Although many of her songs contain religious themes and elements, Welch has said she does not follow any particular religion. "I went to Catholic school, and the first songs I remember liking were hymns. I find it's nice to mix the mundane and the magical, the irrelevant with the huge themes. Sex, love, death, marriage, guilt — mix that with seeing a huge sky or going for a walk or turning the page of a book. Living is dealing with the everyday and the notion that you're going to die."[68]

In 2015 Welch broke her foot after leaping off the stage at the Coachella Festival.[69] Welch revealed that she used to drink alcohol before every performance, telling Billboard Magazine: "I'm quite shy, really—that's probably why I used to drink a lot. But I don't anymore. When I finally took time off to make this new record, I had time to strengthen. And when I was coming back into the fray, I really didn't want to lose that. I thought I could go dive-bomb back into it, but look what happened. I dived into it and literally broke myself."[18]

Discography[edit]

As featured artist[edit]

Single Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
UK
[70]
AUS
[71]
AUT
[72]
CAN
[73]
GER
[74]
IRE
[75]
NZ
[76]
NOR
[77]
SWI
[78]
US
[79]
"Sweet Nothing"
(Calvin Harris featuring
Florence Welch)
2012 1 2 29 15 19 1 2 13 36 10 18 Months

Album appearances[edit]

Title Year Album
"Here Lies Love"
(David Byrne and Fatboy Slim featuring Florence Welch)
2010 Here Lies Love
"I Come Apart"
(ASAP Rocky featuring Florence Welch)
2013 Long. Live. ASAP
"Midnight" Cosmo
"When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29)"
(Rufus Wainwright featuring Florence Welch and Ben de Vries)
2016 Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets
"Wild Season"
(Banks & Steelz featuring Florence Welch)
Anything But Words
"Hey Girl"
(Lady Gaga featuring Florence Welch)
Joanne

Songwriting credits[edit]

Title Year Artist(s) Album Credits Written with
"Goodnight Gotham" 2016 Rihanna Anti Co-writer Robyn Fenty, Paul Epworth
"To Be Human"
(featuring Labrinth)
2017 Sia Wonder Woman: OST Richard Nowels Jr.

Filmography[edit]

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
2012 MP3 Music Awards The HDT Award "Sweet Nothing" (featuring Calvin Harris) Nominated
2013 British Fashion Awards Best British Style Florence Welch Nominated
NME Awards Dancefloor Anthem "Sweet Nothing" (featuring Calvin Harris) Won
MTV Video Music Awards Japan Best Collaboration Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Best Editing Nominated
Billboard Music Awards Top EDM Song Nominated
2014 Grammy Awards Best Dance Recording[86] Nominated
iHeartRadio Music Awards EDM Song of the Year Nominated
World Music Awards World's Best Song Nominated
World's Best Video Nominated
World’s Best Female Artist Florence Welch Nominated
World's Best Live Act Nominated
2016 Grammy Awards Best Rock Song[86] "What Kind of Man" Nominated
2017 Ivor Novello Awards International Achievement Florence Welch Won

References[edit]

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External links[edit]