Cast your mind back to the nineties and Natasha Hamilton and Ritchie Neville’s sugar-coated songs were dominating the airwaves. Atomic Kitten and 5ive’s slick dance routines, matching outfits and love-struck lyrics were part of a phenomenon, but as the nineties became the noughties, their fame went on the wane.
All that changed last year when their bands – along with the likes of B*Witched, Liberty X, Blue and more – reformed for ITV2’s The Big Reunion. The show saw Tash and Rich really hit it off, beginning a relationship and having Ella – their first child together – just last month.
Now, they’re appearing with their brood (Tash has three sons from previous relationships) on ITVBe’s Seven Days With which sees the couple under constant surveillance for an entire week as Tash plans her baby shower and prepares to give birth.
RadioTimes.com caught up with the pop star pairing to debate why 5ive are cooler than Atomic Kitten and whether music nowadays is just too cool….
So, what can you tell us about Seven Days With…?
Natasha: It’s basically what it says. The family were filmed before Ella came along and it’s just us at home, living life as we do. Long days, bits of us working, bits of us at home, organising my baby shower.
Did you struggle having cameras in your faces all the time?
Ritchie: In all honesty, it wasn’t a breeze having a camera from 6am to 11:30pm. Tash was heavily pregnant and she couldn’t get the power naps that she needed. I did after a couple of days get a bit protective because they were still interviewing us late into the night and then they’d want to be back at six in the morning – I was getting a little bit concerned for her and the baby.
N: It was fun but it does encroach on your life. After the first 24 hours we thought ‘How do people film their lives for a whole year?’ It’s just mad. Fair play to them but seven days was more than enough for us.
So you’re not about to become Britain’s answer to the Kardashians?
N: No, although I wouldn’t mind the endless supply of clothes they get sent and the hair and makeup artists every day – that would be nice.
R: I think we’re more like the Osbournes.
You both appeared on the first series of The Big Reunion – it looked like you were having great fun…
N: It was brilliant. We kind of took it for what it was – we didn’t have all the pressure on our shoulders like we did when we were kids.
R: It was the fun that it should have been in the first place. And 5ive definitely are cooler than Atomic Kitten.
There seems to be plenty of appetite for nineties nostalgia nowadays – do you think it points to something lacking in today’s music industry?
R: I think nostalgia is always a fun thing for the people who lived through the time because a lot of them were teenagers. Now they’ve got kids, life’s hit them like a ton of bricks. They’re paying bills and it reminds them of a time when summers were long and sunny and they were carefree. There’s always room for that. And another nice thing is there are younger people whom it would have passed by but who are getting into the band now. I think that there are times, not always, where music tries to be a bit too cool and not enough fun. And I think that’s where our bands our fun.
What do you think has changed most in the music industry and celebrity culture since you first became famous?
N: In terms of the word “celebrity” – I always saw myself as a performer or a singer whereas now anyone can be a celebrity and I think the word “celebrity” is what has changed a hell of a lot.
R: I’m going to back that up and go a step further – for me, naming no names, at least people sang and danced and acted and did things that people enjoyed to watch but people are famous for almost being a bit stupid or something and I’ve never liked that very much. I’ve never been a massive Big Brother fan. I like it, I can see the appeal of it but I think in many ways, I know it’s funny but I’d like it if it got back to teenagers liking people because they aspired to be something.
N: People are getting booked for personal appearances and they’re not singing or entertaining any more – they’re just standing because they’re in a reality show.
R: Each to their own. If you’re into that, good on you. If you get a kick out of it, you enjoy it and if it’s not harming anyone then it’s fine by me but I don’t personally get it.
So, what’s going on with both your bands at the moment – are you making sweet music?
R: Obviously it’s been an interesting year [for 5ive]. Abz (above, far right) left the band via Twitter – he just left three days before a big show in Holland that we were headlining which was really random and weird. It’s not just unprofessional, it’s beyond that. It’s personally quite disrespectful. But anyway, we picked our chins up off the floor, we went over to Holland and we absolutely smashed it. A lot of the time, I’m not sure Abz really wanted to be there on stage which again, I found a bit disrespectful to the people who’d paid for tickets so we’re now looking to the future. We might have some exciting things to announce after the tour.
N: [Atomic Kitten] have had a maternity year because obviously I’ve had Ella and Kerry’s had DJ but we’ve got an exciting project coming up next year and we’ve got Christmas gigs coming in. I’m going to take a little bit of time to chill as a new mum but getting back to work as well.
Speaking of, how are you finding life with the newest addition to your family?
R: I’ve never had a child before. It is magical having a newborn around – it’s precious and very special. You see the world differently, your outlook changes, especially from my past being a bit of a hellraiser and being a bit edgy – all of a sudden I’m like, ‘Oh my god, the children are the future, man.’ Not to sound corny and cliché but they are.
You’ve not got a traditional family set-up (Tash has three children from three different fathers) – was it nice to show people your side of the story?
N: Here’s what my thing was: Why do people want to see us? Why did they ask us to do the show? Oh right, because we’ve got a different dynamic to 2.4 families. But it was nice to give people an insight into how normal we are and how loving we are and how we work as a family because people have said some nasty things and you can’t judge until you know how people are. We put the kids before anything, we love our family home and yes, I suppose it was nice to be able to show that.
Does what’s reported in the press hurt or are you able to ignore it?
R: Tash takes it a little bit more to heart than I do.
N: Do you know what? It’s because when we announced we were having Ella, I was unbelievably happy. It was a bit unorthodox but we were happy and to get the negative comments – and it wasn’t even negative, it was downright rude and nasty and spiteful comments on social media – really hurt me because this is my happy day. I was in the early stages of pregnancy so you really take it to heart when you’ve got that many hormones rushing around your body and I did feel very down by what I read because I just thought people were so judgemental. If we’re happy then why do people feel the need to put the boot in and say such negative things? This year has been a big learning curve.
R: You’ve got to not give a f**k.
N: And also I’ve just learnt to get thick enough skin. At the end of the day, sticks and stones and all that. People can have their own opinions. As long as you know your truth and you’re happy, just get on with it.
Ritchie Neville and Natasha Hamilton appear on Seven Days With tonight at 10pm on ITVBe