Charlotte Church freed from music industry after spiritual awakening

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Welcome to‘s The Big Questions, where we ask, well, the big questions (and the smaller ones too), and this week, we’re diving deep with Charlotte Church. 

Bursting onto the scene at 12 years old, Charlotte Church snatched up the title of Britain’s songbird sweetheart. Travelling the world, performing for TV shows in Japan, popes and crowds boasting unfathomable numbers, the pre-teen had the Earth in the palm of her hand – or did she? 

Recalling how her creativity was stifled by monstrous record labels that viewed her more as a ‘mouth’ than a human being, the 37-year-old star opened up about early life in the glaring spotlight. 

Amid her move into the wellness whirlpool, Charlotte looked back on her journey as a pop artist and explained how spirituality was a guiding force for as long as she could remember. 

She grew up a Catholic but it wasn’t until she flipped the pages of The New Science and learnt about universal powers and quantum physics that her mind truly released itself to the possibilities of her existence – or so she said. 

No final straw, no big fallout, the Pop Dungeon princess shared how she gradually said ‘f**k it’ to the machine and went her own way. 

Charlotte Church is on a spiritual path (Picture: Rex Features)

Pulling on her wellies, she has since set up camp in Wales at her glorious mansion and is lending her musical ear to bathing The Dreaming retreat guests in sound practitioners tipped to heal grief and allow individuals to reconnect with nature. 

Charlotte exclusively told what it was like flying close to the sun as a teen pop sensation and why she ultimately let it all go to find her true self and pursue ‘cultivating awe as an emotion’. 

The dreaming retreat – why did that become a venture that you wanted to get involved with? 

The core of it is that I really wanted to live my values a bit more.

I’ve been quite a vocal activist around sort of social inequality and around people’s quality of life but also climate issues. It feels like The Dreaming is sort of the outcome of all of that really and me trying my best to walk the talk. 

I’ve had family members, friends, my own mental health issues… I think everybody does. We all go through different phases in our life and obviously now we’ve got a mental health crisis and so The Dreaming is really a way for me to do my bit, do my bit to try and help people find their joy and their purpose – grieve if they need to. The Dreaming is a space for all of that to occur as well as giving back to the land.

We’ve got 47 acres of beautiful land there which we’re sort of rewilding and bringing the woodland back very, very slowly over the next 50 to 70 years to its former glory. 

The former songbird sweetheart has opened a new wellness retreat in Wales (Picture: Discovery Communications.)

How has this changed your life as an individual?

I mean, massively. I feel so alive when I’m there. It is humbling to hear people’s stories, what people have been through, what people are currently going through but then also just to watch people reconnect with that joy, start to reconnect with nature.

Sometimes I just feel completely ecstatic when I’m there. I’m part of the process and I feel massively humbled and it’s definitely helping me on my own healing journey. 

The place has just got so much powerful, strong energy there from the land, from the experience and the way that we’ve crafted it. It feels really magical. I’m learning so much from everybody who lives and works there and the guests that are coming through. 

It’s totally changed my life path. I’m regularly there as a sound practitioner bringing all sorts of sound meditation – it’s using my voice in a different way. It’s weird because I’ve traversed so many different types of music from doing classical, sacred music when I was younger to sort of the pop and now doing Pop Dungeon – which is super fun – and actually, they’ve all got real commonalities with the sound healing or the sound meditation work that I’m doing now. 

I see my role there really evolving as a practitioner and I just really, really enjoy holding space for people and helping them get through a process. It feels like a really zingy next chapter for me, which I’m incredibly excited about. 

What’s your personal definition of well-being? 

Interesting. Wow. I’ve heard it described by the guy who started all of the research into forest bathing. A Japanese guy. He describes it as the ability to go between an active state and a restful state and how easily you can traverse the two if you.

So it’s moving from that active to that restful state and how easily you can move between the two for me. 

Well-being is about finding awe. I think cultivating awe as an emotion is hugely beneficial for our mental health, for our ability to access those sorts of more ecstatic, joyful states.

There is no magic pill. We lose people, we have upsets, we struggle at work, we have breakups – there is pain and suffering, which is absolutely unavoidable – but it’s our ability to be able to deal with and cope with that, but also to really feel and enjoy the highs and the happiness and the joy when it comes.

We do that through a million different ways at the retreat – whether it’s silent disco dancing at dawn, whether it’s foraging in nature, crafting, forest bathing, painting at the full moon, whether it’s getting yourself really acquainted with the dark and the night sky, the celestial bodies and how they relate to human myths and folklores and different cultures.

What I’m trying to do is create a real sort of buffet of wonderful things to do. I’m just totally blown away by how it all feels already. I’ve been dreaming this into existence for around three years now so to see it alive is… oh, it’s giving me chilly bumps even now!

How did your spiritual journey come about – or when did you first become interested in all of this, as well as dealing with all the madness of what you were doing in your earlier career?

I’ve been really interested in all of this stuff since I was quite little. I was brought up a Catholic and so that sort of ritual and ceremony was in my early life and then when I was a teenager I was really into philosophical books and writings.

I was always really drawn to the sort of existential questions of life. Also, singing is a deeply spiritual thing and especially the range of music I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of.

Of course from the outside looking in, it might be like, oh, this is a bit of a departure but actually for me, in my soul, I’m like, oh yeah, of course, this makes so much sense. 

When I was in my mid-twenties I was reading The New Scientist and I started really understanding more and more about cosmology and quantum and particle physics and that was existentially awakening for me. 

I was just fascinated and it just made me feel so calm and so I think that also then started to open my mind and the parameters of what I thought was possible.

And within all of these new learnings, how did that affect how you were going about your music career? 

Charlotte said ‘f**k it’ to the music industry after finding freedom (Picture: Redferns)

A lot really. It also coincided with me meeting my now-husband Johnny and so I got out of the rat race – I got out of that big record company. I got out of being a commodity. 

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I started writing, I started making pretty weird music, which I absolutely adore and it was tough. It was a real struggle. We were doing the sort of indie toilet tour as they call it, where we’re doing all the smaller venues around the UK.

Sometimes it’d be quite popular, we’d have 100-150 people there but sometimes there’d be like 15 people there and so that was really tough. I’d come from this place where I would go and do concerts all over the world to thousands of people.

It was really humbling but I just stuck at it, I found my grit, I found my resilience and I was like, no, this is me. This is what I want to do.

It’s massively influenced the musical journey that I’ve been on and that will just continue. I will always make music and it’s just like absolutely in my bones, my blood, my DNA. 

I’m looking at it through not just the lens of now becoming a sound practitioner but also through the lens of everything I’ve learned from Pop Dungeon – which is basically the most fun a human being can have in an hour.

We really take people to super ecstatic, joyful places through the use of just pop music and rhythm and singing.

It’s so incredible to hear your evolution as an artist and how it’s all connected so deeply to a spirituality that seems to have guided you in new directions. 

I’ve always been a deeply intuitive person and I think in part that’s because… maybe that’s just partly who I am but also being thrust into the limelight at 12 and then going all over the world to perform on, TV shows, for popes, presidents.

It was so high pressure and it was such a different set of circumstances and countries and languages and songs that I’d have to learn overnight, for a Japanese TV show, say. 

I just had to really tune in to my spidey senses, to my intuition and just completely trust it because everything else – the logical stuff – just didn’t cut it.

I was really living on my instinct but I definitely think in part, I can only take so much credit for it because I do feel like this is something that I was birthed with into existence. I feel like this is something that the land was calling for.

Reflecting a little bit on when you were that 12-year-old and it all first started happening for you, what was that like? 

Much the same in any industry. There are really wonderful people, really, really caring, nurturing, passionate, wonderful people – and then there are absolute d***s. 

We went around the world and we travelled and we worked with so many different people, different agents, managers, promoters, record company executives, just so many different people in so many different territories around the world.

Some of them were absolutely delightful and some of them were really wonderful with the fact that I was a child. They would build in cool stuff for us to do in Australia or in Canada and then other places it was just like really hardcore, that they were like, here to work, let’s go.

My mum always had to be like, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, you’ve got three hours of tuition in a day.; We also wanna try and have a nice time and explore a bit when we’re here but yes, I have had my fair share of being part of a consumerist capitalist machine, which really doesn’t see you as human – whether that’s the press or whether it’s people in very powerful positions in the music industry where it’s just like you’re just another mouth.

Especially because I went so stratospheric so quickly so my sort of artistry or my creativity wasn’t very much considered throughout my career. 

It’s been a very interesting path. It’s also made me pretty resilient.

Do you have a memory of a particular time that made you realise it was time to follow your own creative urges and break away from the record label shenanigans? 

It’s a slow grind, it’s a build-up where all of a sudden you’re just like, f**k this! 

I am a human being and I cannot live under this bulls**t anymore. We’ve all got our breaking point. 

So I don’t think it was a specific time necessarily, it was just a gradual build-up and then I suppose you realise that you’re giving away your power and then you’re like, Ooh, that’s mine and actually, I can take that back and that belongs to me. 

That journey has been very interesting, arduous, difficult at times because you fail along the way or it’s perceived as failure but once you get past that little bit, you realise there is no such thing as failure, it’s all lessons. 

Describe your experience of fame? 

I’d actually like to talk about the light side of fame and say that the general public are lush. 

All the time, people who come up to me and interact with me to say, oh, I went to this show that you did, or, I love the TV show that you did, or you were great, whatever it is – are so delightful and so kind. 

I feel part of it is because a lot of people have known me since I was a child, so there’s an unusual sense of them being slightly protective. 

I often feel really loved and held by people that I don’t know. I get a lot of really, really wonderful love from people that I don’t know.  

Of course, there is a shadow side to this stuff but I wouldn’t take back any of it. I would live it all again.

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