MARTINE McCutcheon is hard at work on her first new album in five years.
The actress and singer's last record, 2017's Lost and Found, reached number 17 in the UK chart, and Martine is relishing putting together a follow up.
She recently teamed up with her singer-songwriter husband Jack McManus for a track on the Fisherman's Friend One and All film soundtrack and the creative juices are flowing once again.
In an exclusive interview, she says: "We’ve literally just started writing new material and writing new music.
"I love such a mixture of music and the arts, and I’d just like to reflect that on the album. I love pop classics. The last album I did was more rocky and a little bit darker really just because that’s where I was at that time in my life and I did it for me, and it just happened to be signed so I was really thrilled when it did well.
"I just want to do what I love, which is a real mixture, singing songs that need a voice to sing them, beautiful lyrics, beautiful melodies, gorgeous production. I just want to do great songs and we’ll see what they end up being. I definitely want to perform in front of live audiences again. This full on project of the album will probably be taking up a lot of this year."
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Motherhood transformed Love Actually icon Martine's life and she put the brakes on her successful career to focus on raising her son Rafferty, seven.
The mum-of-one, 46, famously played Tiffany Butcher in EastEnders for four years in the nineties before having a number one single with Perfect Moment and a number two debut album You Me & Us.
She then scooped an Olivier Award for her performance as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and starred opposite Hugh Grant in Christmas classic Love Actually.
The talented singer recently shocked fans when she returned to the spotlight as the character Swan on the Masked Singer, which gave her the opportunity to show off her vocals once again.
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"It’s an amazing show," she smiles. "There aren’t many shows like that anymore with those production values, where you get the big glossy floor show and the outfits and the outrageousness of it all.
"I thought it would be so exciting to do, to get up and sing again and to do it with no one knowing who I was, and it’s Rafferty’s favourite TV show. So I did it, and I had to sign this form that basically said your life won't be worth living if you tell anyone what you’re doing.
"I’ve never known anything like it, it was like a full on military operation. We had Daft Punk masks on, don’t speak to me, pulling up in some car park and then getting into some car where there’s security. It was one of the most bonkers processes I’ve ever gone through."
But the whole rigmarole was more than worth it to see Rafferty's reaction as they watched the pre-record together on the sofa.
She says: "His reaction was just priceless. That swan head I wore. You’d think they’d go easy on you and make it out of foam or paper mache, but it was made out of wire like scaffolding, it weighed a tonne. I had to have physio for a week afterwards but it was worth it for his reaction. Suddenly I was cool in Rafferty’s eyes doing something he never would have thought in a million years mummy would do."
Health conscious Martine has now teamed up with Flora ProActiv to raise awareness around high cholesterol for National Cholesterol Month.
The star discovered her family has a history of high cholesterol and is a keen advocate of healthy living to prevent problems associated it such as strokes and heart disease.
Speaking about her aunt and mum, she says: "They turned it around with lifestyle [changes], changing their diet, having Flora ProActiv as opposed to butter and dairy and all of that stuff they cut back on.
"We’ve still got to talk about it because new research shows that although 9 in 10 Brits know what cholesterol is, 49 percent don’t know what their levels are still and they’re turning a blind eye. The thing is prevention is better than cure and the things that can happen with high cholesterol aren’t always pretty.
"Having that empowerment, taking ownership of the things we can and take care of ourselves; it's so simple to do."
Martine lives with chronic conditions ME and fibromyalgia making her lifestyle choices even more important.
She's focused on healthy eating and swears by daily walks in the countryside to preserve her mental health and keep in shape.
"I juice a lot and have Flora instead of full fat butter. For me, I’ve never been a gym bunny, I hated it and so does my mum, but we love walking in nature. The things we’re doing you should just do for good health anyway, we’ve just forgotten the way life’s become.
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"I walk every day, come rain or shine, for 20 minutes and it’s good for my mental health, it’s good for my joints for my fibromyalgia and ME; I know it’s a preventive measure for high cholesterol.
"There’s a lot of misunderstanding around ME, unfortunately, and fibromyalgia, it’s all linked. Basically it’s something that can flare up and something that can go away to the point you feel you don’t have it. For me, stressful situations and not looking after my diet. A lot of it is keeping my nervous system calm. I meditate everyday, I walk, I eat well, it’s something I can’t take for granted. I’m really lucky because I take care of things I’ve managed to keep under control."
Martine McCutcheon is working with Flora ProActiv to educate people in the UK on the importance of understanding and testing cholesterol levels and the simple steps they can take to manage high cholesterol through diet and exercise this National Cholesterol Month.
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