I’m finally the pop star I dreamed of becoming – and I’m in my forties | Alexis Strum

Twenty years ago, I had just signed a worldwide recording deal with Warner Records. My first single “Addicted” was about to be released, and everyone was telling me I was the next big thing. I was ready. I’d been in bands for years and had been writing and producing my own music since university. 

I never in a million years imagined I wouldn’t make it – but when I didn’t, it was still a huge shock.

I can’t pinpoint the exact “dominos falling” moment, but it didn’t help that I was banned from a pivotal live TV performance on the TV show Lorraine, due to a misunderstanding about banana ice cream. Unbeknownst to her (I’ve since found out), her producers mistook a lyric about “Chunky Monkey”, my favourite Ben & Jerry’s flavour, to be about crack. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I felt like the Pablo Escobar of pop (even though the hardest drugs I’d ever taken were Nurofen). Press and radio panicked, the label got cold feet. Before I knew it, I was dropped.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I’d been to LA, been in Smash Hits magazine and played Party in the Park with Busted and Craig David. I even managed to get two songs from my shelved album covered by Kylie and Rachel Stevens. I stayed positive and wrote a new album.

Amazingly, I was offered a second record deal, this time with Universal.

Things were looking good for my new single, “Bad Haircut”, and the accompanying video, co-starring Lucifer star Tom Ellis, was all over MTV. 

But then it happened. Again. Changes within the label meant I was dropped for a second time. I’d been so eager to share these songs with the public, but they never got to hear a single note. It was like writing a whole novel, and then having someone delete the file. 

I felt just like my albums: discarded and unheard. It was such a waste, particularly as the album is actually really good – soulful singer-songwriter pop, co-written with legends such as Billy Steinberg (“Like A Virgin”, “True Colours”). The title song, “Cocoon”, is still my favourite – written while I was having a breakdown, the chorus refrain, “tell me that I’m safe” just breaks me every time I hear it. 

Twenty years ago, I had just signed a worldwide recording deal with Warner Records. My first single ‘Addicted’ was about to be released, and everyone was telling me I was the next big thing

(Alexis Strum)

This time, I was done. I turned my back on music altogether. I worked variously as a receptionist, IT trainer and, in recent years, as an actor, writer and comedian. I couldn’t even listen to music on the radio anymore and felt embarrassed singing to anyone but my daughter. I’d lost myself. Without singing, who was I?

Cut to this summer. Some hardcore fans had reached out saying I should try and release my former Warner and Universal albums. It ignited something in me. I wrote a tweet thread about my pop star past in my lunch break. It connected and went viral, so I wrote more.

I couldn’t believe my tweets reached 500k views in total. Even Lorraine Kelly got in touch and was a real sport. Suddenly, people I’d never met before were urging me on. Here I was, a 45-year-old single mum, juggling a day job and an eight-year-old, attempting to get some Taylor Swift-esque justice over her recording masters. 

I reached out to my old record labels. It was like contacting old lovers. Warners immediately said they’d be happy to put my music out on digital and Universal said I owned my masters and could do the same myself. If only I’d known it’d be this easy, I wouldn’t have waited 20 years!!! 

By now, I was sharing my story far and wide and a label called Double J Music saw the buzz and immediately offered me a deal to put Cocoon, the Universal album, out. My first instinct was fear, could I really become a pop star again at 45? And then I thought, why not?

I looked at my pop idols Kylie, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Beyonce. All magnificent women over 40. Why shouldn’t female pop stars be over 40? Over 50 even? 

I can’t wait to introduce my music to a whole new generation. The album Cocoon will have a full release on the 6 October, and Addicted, my Warner album, will be out over the summer. I’m also writing a book about my mad, crazy journey. In a few months, I’ve gone from nothing to having two full-length albums out! All because of one Twitter post. And, hopefully, I’ll finally get to sing on Lorraine after all!

‘Cocoon’ will be released on 6 October by Double J Music, and is available to pre-order here

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