Exclusive! Star mumpreneur Fearne Cotton talks about her Happy Place

The occasion for my latest interview with the incredibly talented mumpreneur Fearne Cotton, one of the UK’s most popular broadcasters, is the release of the album Happy Place for Decca Records that she has curated for the very first time as Executive Producer. Happy Place features original songs with a blissful narrative, written and recorded by a collection of inspirational artists and friends including Emeli Sande, Sam Fender, Ludovico Einaudi, Billie Marten, Amahla, Tommy Ashby, Larry Pink The Human, Luke Sital Singh, Ryan Lewis, Geejay, Kye Sones, Amelia Warner and Stephan Moccio. They have all contributed unique songs, that focus conversation and communication around mental health and well-being.

Fearne created the well-being brand Happy Place in 2018 as a destination for happiness & joy in the everyday, a safe space where differences are celebrated, the extraordinary is discovered and kindness dwells at its core. Happy Place engages a community of 10.5 Million on social media, a frank and honest No.1 Podcast with over 32 million downloads and an emerging festival brand with over 12,000 attendees in its first year. Guests featured on these inspirational podcasts include Ellie Golding, Hilary Clinton, Russell Brand, Gary Barlow, Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Elizabeth Gilbert amongst others.

My selfie with Fearne during the pandemic

Work aside, Fearne is a mother of 2 and continues to find time to support a range of charities with seemingly no challenge too big for her. She has a very warm and genuine personality and is not afraid to speak up and dare to be different. This is what I like the most about her and why I consider her a great inspiration for all mothers.

You have co-written Lockdown Kittens Dancing’  with GABA and music from Amelia Warner and narrated by Dame Helen Mirren. What is the inspiration behind this piece?

FC: I cannot quite believe that Helen said yes. She really loved the lyrics and wanted to be part of this project, which makes it even more meaningful for me. I really wanted someone with gravitas and wisdom, so that when it’s been narrated you listen to those lyrics and take heed because it’s an individual with great life experience saying them. Musically, I did not have anything to do with it as I am not musical at all, although I am deeply passionate about music but I don’t play an instrument. Amelia Warner gave us the gorgeous composition that floats in the background. I wanted to hear a recreation of that Baz Luhrmann’s song Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen because to me that was one of the ‘90s most poignant piece of music. I have never heard anything like it since. That’s where the idea started. I emailed my friend Adam (Martin) who hosts the podcast GABA, which I am a huge fan of and loved lyrically how he writes the meditation scripts for GABA. He luckily said yes and then we brainstormed ideas about mental health, self-esteem, social media, the important things we experienced during lockdown. That’s thematically how the song was formed. I am glad people are getting something from the lyrics. For kids it could be a soothing bedtime story.

Music is fundamental in all our expressions. Musicians cannot do anything at the moment. They have been really struggling during the pandemic. This is why with this album, in particular, I wanted to champion emerging talents. It’s so important to get new artists on there who this year might have been booked to do a guest slot at a festival or support another band and now cannot do any of it. We had to look at supporting them in a different way. It is crucial for everybody’s expression whether you are an artist or on the receiving end of that as a fan because music is so enjoyable. I feel even more grateful at the moment to have worked on this album because of the circumstances we find ourselves in and because we are missing the live experiences and the human connections. 

The album starts with the song Sometimes It Snows In April by Ludovico Einaudi. I interviewed him in a mini episode on the Happy Place podcast and he said that lockdown stopped him from relentless gigging so he wrote a small song every day like a diary to remember how that day felt. How genius is that! His collection of lockdown songs encapsulates the feelings of the time we are living in. What we wanted to capture on this album is the mood of this time and how people have dealt with it and I feel really lucky that I have had the most brilliant group of musicians working on it.

Mental health and music have always been linked. It might not be immediately recognisable but music has the potency and power to help us work through difficult emotions, understand ourselves a little better and release unlocked feelings that have been suppressed. I have personally always used music to cathartically work through tough patches or to boost me when there is heaviness present.

I really hope this album envelopes the listener in support as each musician/artist has poured a little of their own emotion and experience into each song. Some of the tracks may elevate emotions to move through a low, others may offer up solace as lyrics resonate and melodies create movement & enjoyment.

I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with such a pool of talent during the making of this album. As a massive music fan, it really is a dream come true to work with some of my favourite artists in marrying my passion for music and interest in mental health. This album will soothe on a stressful day and is a great soundtrack for meditation. It was made with 100% love.

I particularly liked California Blue by Luke Sital Singh.

FC: Everybody I am talking to says the same. Melodically, it’s such a brilliant song that seems to resonate with people. Each song really tells a story so one might really leap out at you and be a song that you may listen to when you are in a thoughtful mood or others might jump out at you and you may want to play them when you feel quite joyful. That was certainly my hope for it.

What’s your own Happy Place? What makes you really happy?

FC: Just being outside in our local park. I also love being by the sea. That’s not often, unfortunately. The older I get the more I crave being in nature. I am currently working from home so if I have a free hour I turn off the phone and walk around and listen to the sounds. That’s enough to ground me and get me back in the room if I had a tough time. During lockdown when we could go nowhere, we just went to the local park. We’d sit there for hours and my kids would play on the stream and look for newts and frogs. Simple good stuff like that is my favourite.

As you get older, you re-evaluate things and focus on the important things like family, health and the planet. You start not look so much for external cues to feel happy like buying stuff, wanting things or desiring certain people in your life. It’s more about an experience of just being peaceful and that for me is definitely about being in nature. That’s the biggest kick for me, always.

How have you coped during lockdown? 

FC: It’s been tough seeing family members going through difficult moments health-wise and I’ve had a lot of anxiety trying to support them. Going back to basics and making it all about love has been my coping mechanism. Expressing our love for each other has shone through. On a daily basis there have been struggles with home-schooling. We coped with that by not worry about this anymore. We just took our kids to the park every day rather than make them sit down at home to do things they did not want to do. It’s been heart-breaking seeing people going through bad times globally so we tried to stay optimistic and helped people as much as we could. That always drives the work that I do. Naturally I am a hermit so I did not need to worry about going to work events. That hasn’t been happening so I felt no guilt or pressure from anyone. I love staying at home. I watched my husband’s documentary, read a book in bed. I have been the happiest I could be at home.

What’s your parenting style?

FC: I have asked myself that question a lot. I am just trying my best every day like most people. I get things wrong and then I try again. Jesse and I have got a really good ongoing dialogue where we talk to each other about how we are feeling and how we are dealing with the stresses of parenting. My son is a real live wire and has got so much energy. He doesn’t know the word ‘no’ very much, he doesn’t like to be told anything quite frankly. When I hit a wall and I am done with him, Jesse takes over. We would do that and fresh energy would come in and tackle with whatever drama is going on. We try not to beat ourselves up if we loose our cool or if we do give in. We tell ourselves that tomorrow is another day and we can start again. We are all tumbling down this life together. I don’t have set rules but I feel passionate about apologising either to each other (me and Jesse) or to the children if we have lost our cool or if we are grumpy because saying sorry is a lesson that I want the kids to understand. As an adult saying sorry to someone is one of the hardest things to do, but is really valuable. Now my kids come to me and apologise a lot and I reassure them that we can move on quickly. Of course, life is chaos and I often forget to pack the right stuff for school. But, if you always go back to the values you want to instil in your kids then you are on the right path.

There’s so much pressure on modern day parenting: you have to eat certain things and do lots of activities at after school clubs. This September we made the decision not to enrol in any after school activities because kids are exhausted. They can draw and watch TV (but they are not allowed screens like iPads). They are really creative kids. I don’t need to enforcing judo and cricket and tennis and all these extra curriculum activities if they don’t want to do them.

I am trying to take away all the external mondaine modern-day parenting pressure and just instil the things in them that I believe in, i.e creativity and being artistic which is getting out in nature and learning valuable lessons like saying sorry. As parents, we have to create our barometer of what’s important and what’s not rather than adhere to what’s been imposed on us from general benchmarks. Parents should take that stress out and do what they think is right for them. It’s a much less stressful way of approaching modern-day parenting which is really full on. None of us want to be stressed. I never read any parenting books because I did not want to feel any pressure. My son is not a very good sleeper so I spoke to a child therapist but he did not respond to that so we started to follow his needs instead. For me it’s always been about going to reduce the stress and not follow books to then feel like I am failing because I am not doing it right. The best you can do is chat to your mates because they would always give you their honest opinions. There are no perfect angels. We are all complicated humans so why are we expecting our kids to be simple and to follow rules? It’s never going to be the case. I was a terrible child to my parents because I am a single-minded person, stubborn and independent. I was probably a nightmare. But that works quite well for me for my career.

My mum and dad never played games with me. They just let us get on with it. The most important thing which has been totally eradicated today is that our parents let us get bored. It is so important. That’s how my imagination became so vivid and wild. Because I was dreaming up amazing things. Parents don’t let their kids get bored today. It’s all about keeping them entirely occupied, entertained, stimulated with every extra curricula, games on the iPad. Just let them get bored. There’s a middle ground that we can meet which is in-between ‘70s –‘80s parenting and modern-day parenting where we take the good lessons but we also don’t occupy all kids’ time and we let them get bored.

What would you say it’s the highlight of your career? 

FC: It’s really what I am doing now. There have been great moments with Comic Relief and other charity work but Happy Place is a joy and I am so happy about that. I feel lucky to be able to interview incredible minds each week for the podcasts. It is really exciting, explorative and new.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

FC: This is an interesting question because I don’t like to be bound to anything. When I was a kid I wanted to be an actress, a TV presenter and I ended up doing that. And then I changed my mind. In my thirties I started creating this Happy Place. When I grow up from now, I would love to still be championing conversations around mental health in exciting new and surprising ways and also learning how to just be a bit more. Rather than attaching everything to gold, I would like to making more space to experience life as it is and as it comes. That’s something that I haven’t done because I filled all my time up. I get super busy and set myself goals. I’d like to unlearn that and open up more space to simply walk in the park and experience random things that are happening. I want to just be and feel inner peace in more moments in my life rather than stress. I want to find inner peace from being in the moment.

‘Happy Place’ is out on Decca Records now.

Your Mood Journal is a new activity journal for children aged 7+ publishing 26th November 2020 – Hardback – £12.99

Your Mood Journal is a customisable engaging journal divided into seven colourful, fully illustrated chapters focusing on the different emotions of sadness, happiness, anger, loneliness, worry, fear and excitement. In this book  Fearne Cotton condenses the intricacy of emotions into child-friendly, easy to follow steps designed to help young readers explore and understand them.

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