Daughter of top celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli tells GSN why she chose music over cooking and accidentally learnt the guitar upside down
She may be the daughter of a top French chef, but Christina Novelli’s recipe for success is more about cooking up smoking tunes than serving up the perfect soufflé.
The openly bisexual singer-songwriter from Southampton in England cites Motown, Johnny Cash, Elvis and Tina Turner, along with contemporary names such as Paramore, Pink and Dashboard Confessional, as her music muses.
She started fronting her own bands from the tender age of 17 and her vocal abilities range from R&B to rock pop.
And judging by her latest single Concrete Angel, a thumping dance hit with DJ Gareth Emery, Novelli has all the right ingredients for a successful pop career.
Gay Star News spoke to the rising star who appears impossible to pin down to one genre.
Your sound is quite hard to pigeonhole. Is that deliberate?
The problem is my mood changes every day. When asked, I can never give a specific song which is my favorite because it generally does change with my mood.
I try to keep my music as consistent as possible because I don’t want to confuse people. I do have a certain style at the core which I stick with but I do get a bit wild sometimes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing and I can’t focus on just one genre because I love all types of music, so it really does show when I’m writing.
Were you ever tempted to follow in your father Jean-Christophe Novelli’s footsteps and become a chef?
If I had grown up with my dad and cooking was something that was consistent in my life, then it would have been something that I was naturally doing anyway.
But because I grew up with my mum – I didn’t see much of my dad until I was 18 – I used to do cooking out of my own choice. I always did music and it was something which always made me happy. When I cooking it was like having an affair because I love them both equally, but music more.
Where did your talent for music come from?
I have absolutely no idea. My dad can’t hold a tune and my mum is no Whitney. My family aren’t very musical at all. My mum’s dad enjoyed to sing but nothing serious or professional. I don’t know where it comes from but I know it’s something I am very passionate about and it comes from within.
You say you still love cooking. Have you had any top tips from your dad?
Since I was 18, I started to work with him and he taught me a lot. I went to his cookery school and I still do now when I can. I enjoy it, but doing two things at once is tough. I get very fixated with cooking, to the point when music can go to the back of mind. I get really obsessed with it, so I have to really be careful and do one or the other. I can’t do both. At moment cooking has taken a back seat and I’m just focusing on my music.
I hear you can play your guitar upside down. Why?
I’d never seen a left-handed guitar and when I played a right-handed one I had no rhythm and couldn’t place my fingers properly. So I switched guitar over and that felt far more comfortable. My fingers naturally went into chord positions. Obviously realizing it was upside down I thought, “fuck, what am I going to do?”
I didn’t think to re-string the strings the other way round so I just ended up teaching myself the chords upside down. Certain chords I can’t do, but apart from that it kind of works quite well for me.
Why are so many gay pop stars still in the closet?
I think nowadays it’s different. 10 years ago less people were open to differences. People don’t like change. I’m not too sure about the music side of things. I don’t judge people. I look at someone gay or straight and that’s just their life and who they are. If I see a gay or straight artists, to me it’s completely normal. To me, they are just singers or musicians. It comes very naturally to me.
In my family I never defined someone as gay or straight. They’re just people. It’s about who you are as a person and what you do, not who you prefer to have sex with. I look at the artist and whether they can perform or sing, not their sexuality.
When I get asked questions like this, I don’t know what they’re thinking in the industry or why people make it an issue. You should just be proud of who you are. I know it’s difficult, because not everybody agrees, but that’s just who they are. That’s just life.
I’ve fallen in love with guys and girls before and they’re two completely different feelings. I’m lucky in some ways to be able to experience both sides. I class a lesbian who won’t be with a guy and only want to be with women. But I see the beauty in both.
You were in Channel 5 reality show Candy Bar Girls last year. Did you enjoy it and would you return if they made a new series?
It was such a blast. I met some really wonderful people and two of them are now some of my closet friends. It was something I’d never done before and I like to grow and learn new stuff. It also benefitted my music. If they wanted me to return and play a small part again…yeah, why not? Never say never to anything.
Watch Christina Novelli and Gareth Emery’s single Concrete Angel video below: