Florence Welch

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Florence Welch
Welch performing in 2013
Welch performing in 2013
Background information
Birth nameFlorence Leontine Mary Welch
Born (1986-08-28) 28 August 1986 (age 34)
London, England
Years active2006–present
Associated actsFlorence and the Machine

Florence Leontine Mary Welch[1] (born 28 August 1986)[2][3] is an English singer, the lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the indie rock band Florence and the Machine. The band's debut studio album, Lungs topped the UK Albums Chart after charting for 28 consecutive weeks, and won the BRIT Award for Best British Album. The band's second album, Ceremonials (2011), debuted at number one in the UK and number six on the US Billboard 200. Their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015) received positive reviews and topped the UK and US albums chart.[4][5][6] The band's fourth album, High as Hope, was released in June 2018 and has sold over one million copies worldwide.

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

Family and early life[edit]

Florence Leontine Mary Welch was born in Camberwell, London on 28 August 1986 to parents Nick Russell Welch, an advertising executive[7] and Evelyn Welch (née Samuels), an American immigrant from New York City[7] who was educated at Harvard University and the Warburg Institute, University of London.[8][9] Evelyn is currently Professor of Renaissance Studies, Provost, and Senior Vice President (Arts & Sciences) at King's College London.[10] Through her mother, Welch has both British and American citizenship.[11]

Welch is the niece of satirist Craig Brown[7] via Brown's wife and Welch's aunt, Frances Welch,[12] 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.[12] Welch's maternal uncle is actor and director John Stockwell.[13]

During her youth, Welch was encouraged by her Scottish paternal grandmother, Cybil Welch (née Russell),[12][14] to pursue her performing and singing talents.[15] Welch's deceased grandmothers inspired numerous songs on Florence and the Machine's debut album Lungs.[16] Welch also sang at family weddings and funerals.[17]

Welch's parents divorced when she was thirteen, and her mother eventually married their next-door neighbour, Professor Peter Openshaw. Around this time, her maternal grandmother, who had bipolar disorder, died by suicide.[18] In Florence and the Machine's 2018 single Hunger, she opened up for the first time about a teenage eating disorder. She has also spoken of being a highly imaginative and fearful child. "I learned ways to manage that terror – drink, drugs, controlling food..."[19]

Welch was educated at Thomas's London Day School then went on to Alleyn's School, South East London, where she did well academically.[1] However, Welch often got in trouble in school for impromptu singing and for singing too loudly in the school's choir.[1] Despite an early love of reading and literature, she was also diagnosed with mild dyslexia due to problems with spelling, alongside dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder that does not affect her reading ability, but caused issues with organization.[20][21] 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."[22] 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", Welch 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".[23]


2006–2010: Florence and the Machine and Lungs[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][24] In 2006, Welch's performances with Isabella Summers in small London venues under the joint name Florence Robot/Isa Machine[25] 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".[26]

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.[27][28] Following its 25 July 2009 release for download in the United States, the album debuted at number seventeen on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart,[29] ultimately peaking at number one.[30] The album was released physically in the US on 20 October by Universal Republic.[31] The album was produced by James Ford, Paul Epworth, Steve Mackey and Charlie Hugall.[32]

Welch contributed vocals to David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's 2010 album Here Lies Love, an album about Imelda Marcos.[33] As of January 2011, Welch was working with Drake on material slated for his upcoming album.[34]

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.[35][36]

2011–12: Ceremonials 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.[37] It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the US Billboard 200.[38][39] 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.[40] 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.[41][42] 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.[43] Welch expressed excitement about putting new material together for a third album once the band finished touring at the end of September 2012.[44] 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.[45][46] The group performed in Times Square on 31 December 2011 for the 40th annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve special.[47]

On October 2012, she was featured on Scottish singer-songwriter and producer Calvin Harris' song "Sweet Nothing", which debuted at number one on the UK singles chart, marking Welch's second number one.[48] The song was taken from Harris' 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.[49]

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."

2015–17: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful[edit]

In February 2015, Florence and the Machine announced their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which was released on 1 June 2015. The album reached #1 in many markets including the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada. The record spawned two top 40 UK hits, and earned three Grammy nominations.[50]

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 and the Machine to be the headline band. They headlined the festival for the first time on 26 June 2015.[51]

In September 2016, during an interview with Heat Radio, American singer Lady Gaga revealed that she and Florence had recorded a song together. The track, titled "Hey Girl", was later featured on Gaga's fifth album Joanne.[52] Footage of their studio session was featured in Gaga's Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two.

In March 2017, Welch appeared in Song to Song directed by Terrence Malick.[53]

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.

2018–present: High as Hope[edit]

Welch performing at KeyArena in Seattle during the High as Hope Tour, 2018

On 12 April 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.[54] Also in 2018 "Hunger" was released. Florence and the Machine's fourth studio album High as Hope was released on 29 June 2018.[55]

On 22 May 2018, Florence Welch performed a duet with Mick Jagger, at London Stadium, during the Rolling Stones' No Filter Tour. They sang "Wild Horses".

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.[56]

On 28 April 2021, Welch announced that she would contribute music and lyrics to a musical adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," with producer Thomas Bartlett co-writing the adaptation's music and Martyna Majok writing the book.[57]


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

Welch has been compared to other singers such as Kate Bush,[58][59] Stevie Nicks,[60] Siouxsie Sioux,[58][59] PJ Harvey,[58] Shirley Manson,[61] Alison Goldfrapp,[62] Tori Amos and Björk.[59] When describing 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."[34] Welch possesses a contralto vocal range.[63]


During interviews, Welch has cited singers Grace Slick, Alanis Morissette and Stevie Nicks as influences and "heroes."[64][65] She told Rolling Stone in 2010, “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]

She has also listed in her early influences the likes of John Cale, Otis Redding, Siouxsie Sioux, David Byrne and Lou Reed.[67] 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".[58] 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".[68] 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."[69]

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.[70] 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."[70] Evelyn, Welch's mother, had an equally strong, yet completely different influence on her daughter. A visit to one of her mother's renaissance 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."[70]


Welch is known for her distinctive clothing style, often performing concerts wearing light Gucci dresses, barefoot and without jewellery.[71] Vogue described her style as Bohemian and called her "the queen of Bohemian style."[72]

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."[73] Welch often mixes artistic influences both in her fashion style and music, with a strong nod towards the style of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.[74] 2011 saw Gucci dressing her for her summer tour and a performance at the Chanel runway show at Paris Fashion Week.[75] Welch describes 1970s American drag queen troupe The Cockettes and French chanson singer Françoise Hardy as fashion mentors.[76]

Welch has also named Fleetwood Mac member Stevie Nicks as a musical, fashion and general influence.[77] Welch can sometimes be seen in concert paying homage to Nicks' famous billowing stage dress.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Welch considers herself an introvert, and is passionate about reading and literature. She has held many events with her fan-run book club, 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."[78]

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."[79]

Welch has been open about her struggles with anxiety and depression, as well as with alcohol. Many of her songs reflect these issues.[80]

In 2015, Welch broke her foot after leaping off the stage at the Coachella Festival.[81] She revealed that she used to drink alcohol before every performance, telling Billboard: "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."[17]

In 2016, Welch voiced her support for Remain during the EU referendum[82] on that issue. Welch is also a vocal advocate for LGBT rights, and regularly waves the rainbow flag at her concerts, particularly during her song "Spectrum (Say My Name)".[83][84] In 2019, Welch expressed her support for women's rights during concerts in Las Vegas, Nevada, Chicago, Illinois, Raleigh and Columbia, Maryland. She encouraged her audience to donate to the ACLU instead of buying concert merchandise.[85] In 2018, she tweeted her support for the removal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland.[86] The removal passed and legalised abortion access within the country.


As featured artist[edit]

Single Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
"Sweet Nothing"
(Calvin Harris featuring
Florence Welch)
2012 1 2 29 15 19 1 2 13 36 10 18 Months
"Wild Season"
(Banks & Steelz featuring
Florence Welch)
2017 [A] Anything But Words


  1. ^ "Wild Season" did not enter the UK Singles Chart, but peaked at number 74 on the UK Physical Singles Chart.[103]

Album appearances[edit]

Title Year Album
(Kid Harpoon and Florence Welch (backing vocals))
2008 The Second EP
"She's No Sense"
(The Big Pink and Florence Welch (backing vocals))
2009 Dominos
"Here Lies Love"
(David Byrne and Fatboy Slim featuring Florence Welch)
2010 Here Lies Love
"My Baby Just Cares For Me" (from The Hootenanny 2009)
(Jools Holland and Florence Welch)
2012 The Golden Age Of Song
"I Come Apart"
(ASAP Rocky featuring Florence Welch)
2013 Long. Live. ASAP
"Neon Citied Sea"
(Felix White featuring Florence Welch (background vocals))
(Felix White featuring Florence Welch (background vocals))
(Felix White featuring Florence Welch (background vocals))
(Felix White featuring Florence Welch)
"The Other Side"
(Emile Haynie featuring Florence Welch (backing vocals))
2015 We Fall
"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
"Hey Girl"
(Lady Gaga featuring Florence Welch)
"Wild Horses" (Live)
(The Rolling Stones featuring Florence Welch)
2019 Honk (Deluxe version)
"Cheating On A Stranger"
(Adam Green and Florence Welch (backing vocals))
Engine Of Paradise

Songwriting credits[edit]

Year Artist Album Song Co-written with
2016 Rihanna Anti "Goodnight Gotham" Robyn Fenty, Paul Epworth
2017 Sia Wonder Woman OST "To Be Human" feat. Labrinth Richard Nowels Jr.
2020 CamelPhat Dark Matter "Easier" feat. Lowes David Whelan, Michael Di Scala, Justin Parker


Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Category Category Nominated work Result
2009 Brit Awards Critics Choice Award[104] Florence Welch Won
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[105] "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[106] 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[107] "What Kind of Man" Nominated
Silver Clef Awards Best Female[108] Florence Welch Won
2017 Ivor Novello Awards International Achievement[109] Won
2018 Mercury Prize Album of the Year[110] High As Hope Nominated


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