After scoring huge success in the classical genre as a teen, mom of two Church rocks in her return.
"I suppose when I was younger, I was a commodity," Charlotte Church mused in a recent visit to Billboard's New York City studios. "I totally didn't expect the success that I had here in America.
"It was pretty mentally mad."
At 13, Church tallied the first of her five No. 1s on Billboard's Classical Crossover Albums chart, 1999's "Voice of an Angel," which led the ranking for a whopping 53 weeks, marking the longest reign for an album by a woman in the chart's 20-year history. Her 83 cumulative weeks on top are also a record among women (Sarah Brightman is next with 65 weeks at No. 1.)
Church's last leader, however, a best-of set, ruled the chart in 2002. Church recently told Billboard that by the mid-2000s, she had "just had enough of working." She departed Sony Music "to go and do some normal stuff with friends and fight with my parents and be a reasonable teenager." Since, she launched her own variety TV show, the award-winning "The Charlotte Church Show," became a patron of the Topsy Foundation U.K. charity, acted on stage ("Over the Rainbow") and in movies ("I'll Be There") and give birth to two children (daughter Ruby, now five, and son Dexter, three) with Welsh rugby star Gavin Hensen. (On the day of her visit, she couldn't hide her excitement about taking a family trip to the famed FAO Schwarz toy store in New York's Times Square following the shoot.)
Still, despite a lengthy break … "I just couldn't keep away from (music)," Church says. "It's in my blood."
Church self-released the EPs "One" and "Two" digitally on March 12, the first two editions of a planned five-part series, one that takes her far from classical music and squarely into crunchy alternative, although still, at times, with ethereal instrumental and vocal flourishes that reflect her past catalog. "I recently discovered that drums and beats are what really get me," she says. "I need to be able to dance."
After so much time away from recording, and having taken such a turn in musical direction, Church doesn't expect an instant return to chart-topping status. "Because of my complicated musical history, I think I have to earn credibility more (now) and show myself more as a musician and as an artist," she says. "I think that's going to be a long road, but it's one I really believe in and I really want to take."
Church is proud to have recorded "One" and "Two" in her native Wales employing only local musicians. "I've built a studio in my garage. It was all pretty organic.
"When we go back to Wales, we'll start recording EPs 'Three', 'Four' and 'Five' and who knows what they'll turn out like?" she says. "I think that as a band and as songwriters and producers, as well, because we really are doing it all in-house, we're growing and learning.
"It's just a really exciting process to be a part of."