■ The singer, 38, on her Covid-inspired single, lockdown reading and a terrifying health scare
What’s your new single about?
It’s called Together In This — it’s about how we’re all going through something crazy and devastating with Covid and how connecting with other people really helps. It was written for Jungle Beat, which is a children’s animated movie. It’s very popular with younger children.
This isn’t the first song you’ve done for a film soundtrack is it?
No, I’ve done seven others or more — Easy A with Emma Stone was one of them, I did the Tinker Bell movie and some others. This is the first one I’ve done since I’ve had a kid. He loves Jungle Beat.
What were your favourite cartoons as a child?
I loved Tom And Jerry and Disney movies. Dumbo was one of my favourites. I love the music in that film and I loved how he overcame some difficult things like bullying. My sister and I used to watch it again and again.
What have you been up to during lockdown?
We’ve been trying to make the most of each day. My son [Solomon] is two-and-a-half and I’ve been trying to keep up with him and think of ways to keep him entertained. I recorded this song in lockdown and I’ve been writing and reading.
What have you been reading?
The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr, who is a Franciscan monk, The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki and some child-care books. I’ve been trying to learn things. You’ve got to take care of your health and put some good stuff into your brain and your heart.
Your son was very ill last year — what happened?
I was about to perform at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York in November. I was going to fly there with my son and I woke up in the morning and it looked like he’d had a stroke. He couldn’t talk, walk or move his arms. We rushed him to hospital and were told he had an abscess in his brain. We were in hospital for five weeks. He had two operations and he’s better now. He’s regained his speech and movement — he had the most amazing doctors and surgeon. They’ve said it all should be resolved now and that’s it’s just something that can happen. It’s made me more watchful — if he had a sniffle or something I was more worried than usual and then Covid came along. But it’s been lovely to see him recover and flourish.
How are you now?
It’s one of the most traumatic things I’ve gone through. But my friends came around me and showed me so much kindness. That’s why this song means a lot to me — I’ve experienced that, I know we are all going through hard stuff and it really does come down to the people around you. And now if he’s being cheeky or spilling stuff all over the floor I’m just glad he’s healthy enough to be doing it.
Your comeback album Roll With Me came out in August — have your personal troubles derailed all your plans for that?
I was planning to release other singles from it and I was going to tour more — but motherhood has really changed me in a good way. It makes you be less about yourself. I toured with my son last year — he came to London when I did my gig there and reconnected with some really hardcore fans. It doesn’t feel that 15 years has gone by. The main change in the music industry now is that there are so many different ways of getting music out — it’s so different to when I signed with a record label. You had to get permission from lots of guys in suits if you wanted to release anything. They’re very controlling as they see you as an asset. I released my current album on an independent label, it was really fun, and now I’m working on plans for the next project.
How much are you missing performing?
I love performing — I feel most at home on stage. I love it. But there is so much hard stuff people are going through that missing performing isn’t a big consideration. People are losing their jobs and people’s relatives are dying of Covid.
Are you still in touch with any of your pop contemporaries from the noughties?
Yes, there are people who I’ve stayed in touch with who have dealt with similar kinds of things. Nicole Scherzinger has always been the sweetest person and we have so much fun together. Brandy, who is one of my favourite singers, I was a fan when I met her and now she’s a friend. India Arie — I really respect her. There’s a whole bunch of people.
What’s your brother Daniel up to these days?
He’s being his wonderful self. We don’t really speak for each other when it comes to what we’re doing. We both live in Los Angeles and I saw him recently at a responsible social distance.
■ Together In This is out now