Who Is Florence Welch?
Florence Welch was raised in a family of writers and academics in England. She took to music at an early age and created her own band, which she named Florence and the Machine. The band met success beginning in 2006 and became famous a few years later with their debut album, Lungs (2009). On the album, Welch's voice can be heard on popular songs such as "Kiss with a Fist" and "Shake It Out." In 2011, Florence and the Machine released its second studio album, Ceremonials.
Florence Mary Leontine Welch was born on August 28, 1986 in Camberwell, England. Raised in a family of accomplished writers and academics, Welch received her education at the Camberwell College of Arts before dropping out to pursue a musical career.
Some of Welch's talents came from her father, Nick, an advertising executive who was a musical performer in his 20s. Welch's mother, Evelyn, a professor of renaissance studies and academic dean of arts at Queen Mary, University of London, also influenced her daughter, but in quite a different way. Welch said in an article in Q Magazine that a lecture of her mother's impressed her and inspired her to aspire to make music with "some of the big themes—sex, death, love, violence—that will still be part of the human story in 200 years' time."
Welch's big break came in December 2006. Drunk at the Soho Revue Bar in London, Welch cornered host Mairead Nash — of the DJ duo Queens of Noize — in the bathroom and sang to her Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me." A week later, the Queens of Noize invited Welch back to open for their club night.
"She belted it out, and I was thinking, 'Oh ... my ... God,'" Nash told The Telegraph in a June 2009 article. "I had literally never heard anyone with such a powerful voice ever. I turned to [DJ partner Tabitha Denholm] and said, 'I have to manage her.'"
Florence and the Machine initially consisted of Welch, her friend Isabella "Machine" Summers and a drum kit and ended up becoming a seven-piece band by 2009. In 2007, Welch recorded with the band Ashok, which released an album with the earliest version of her song "Happy Slappy"—later renamed "Kiss with a Fist"—and made a hit. Shortly after the release of the album, Welch resigned from Ashok.
After signing up with Nash, Florence and the Machine rose to fame. The band released its debut album, Lungs, in the United Kingdom in July 2009 and met great success, peaking at No. 1 in the United Kingdom and at No. 2 in Ireland. When it was released for download in the United States several weeks later, the album debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Heatseekers Album chart.
"Kiss with a Fist," released as the album's lead single, was featured on a number of film and television series soundtracks. A number of the band's other singles were also used as theme songs or featured in several American television shows, including Grey's Anatomy and So You Think You Can Dance. The band itself made an appearance in a 2011 episode of Gossip Girl.
An article in The Sunday Times of London called Welch the "most peculiar and most highly acclaimed female singer of the moment: poetic, literate, hurricane-voiced, prime to climbing up lighting rigs on stage." It went on to say that Welch is "a bamboozling concoction of cake-berserk 7-year-old child, mystical soothsayer and will-o'-the-wisp for whom life is a 'constant acid trip.'"
More Career Successes and Challenges
In the midst of writing music for Florence and the Machine's new album in early 2010, Welch was offered the chance to travel to Los Angeles to work with producers and writers of American pop music. Although she was tempted at first, Welch changed her mind, saying, "No. No. No. No. No! I can't do that. This is too weird. I can't just suddenly leave behind everything that made Lungs," according to a September 2011 Billboard.com article.
Instead, the band made its second studio album Ceremonials, which included tracks by Summers, Paul Epworth, Kid Harpoon, James Ford and composer Eg White, and was released in October 2011. A video for album track "What the Water Gave Me" was released on iTunes as a buzz single and on the band's VEVO channel on YouTube: It drew 1.5 million views in two days.
Ceremonials went on to be a big success, selling roughly 1 million copies. In addition to her work with her own group, she recorded with rapper Drake on material for one of his records in January 2011. Welch also performed on Calvin Harris' song, "Sweet Nothing," which hit the top 10 of the American pop charts in 2012.
In July 2012, suffered a vocal injury that caused her to cancel two European festival performances. According to a Reuters article published in The Vancouver Sun, Welch said, "It finally happened, I've lost my voice. Seriously, I felt something snap, it was very frightening."
Welch returned to top form with Florence and the Machine's third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which was released in June 2015. In advance of the record's debut, she had to overcome some challenges. Welch broke her foot while performing at the Coachella musical festival that April. But she didn't let that injury slow her down. That May, Welch wowed audiences as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. She later earned a Grammy nomination for "What Kind of Man" for best rock song. The band released their fourth album, High as Hope, in 2018.
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