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‘Jack and I just sat in our kitchen and wrote an album … it was magical’: Martine McCutcheon on her new music and happy home life

Martine McCutcheon
Martine McCutcheon

GOING through so many difficult times in recent years has made the life that Martine McCutcheon now enjoys even sweeter.

She has her health, a beautiful son, a devoted husband and her career is back on track, with a new album released this week.

But it wasn’t so long ago that the 41-year-old was declared bankrupt, struggled to start a family and was unable to work due to battles with ME and Lyme disease.

“I’ve fought to be who I am now,” Martine admitted.

“Life is difficult and has its challenges. Some people seem to sail through life or maybe they are just less open than I am – if someone asks me, I’ll tell them about my life.

“It’s not always rosy but I have a lovely life now. I have a beautiful husband, son and house, and I love what I do.

Martine Mccutcheon and Jack Mcmanus

“To bring all of these pieces together has taken a long time.

“I think you have to draw strength from what you can and dig deep. I feel proud of where I’ve come to.”

Martine first found a place in the nation’s hearts as Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders in 1995. Her final appearance in the soap, when she was killed off in an episode shown on Hogmanay 1998, drew 22 million viewers.

The Londoner went on to launch a successful pop career, scoring a No 1 with the ballad, Perfect Moment, and starred opposite Hugh Grant in Richard Curtis’s much-loved Christmas classic, Love Actually. She also won the Laurence Olivier Award for best actress in a musical for her performance as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady at the National Theatre in London.

But her productivity slowed as ill health took hold.

“It went on for years and it did feel relentless,” she admitted.

“You ask yourself why it’s happening and think life is so difficult, but then you turn on the news and see some of the terrible things that are happening and it puts it into perspective. Everyone has their battles.”

Eastenders Grant (Ross Kemp) and Tiffany Mitchell (Martine McCutcheon) (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Martine married musician Jack McManus five years ago and it was his encouragement that led to a return to music.

“I had always written down my thoughts, but when I became unwell and I wanted the baby that eluded me, I didn’t even feel like doing that,” she recalled.

“But Jack said he thought it would do me good emotionally and, even if it was just one song every few months, I should give it a try.

“So what I wrote was never intended for public consumption. I wrote and recorded it just for me.

“It was magical – we sat in the kitchen of the house we had just moved in to, which had hardly any furniture, and just wrote. When things are that simple and peaceful it’s the best environment to write.

“After it was recorded, one of Jack’s friends heard it and said it really should be released.

“It was only when all that started to happen that I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s going to be out there and everyone is going to hear it’. I didn’t have that to worry about when we were recording it at our home studio.

“With what I do, being in the public eye, so much that’s written is wrong. But the one thing I have control over is my material.

“Yes, it’s hard sometimes when you’ve put everything out there about yourself, but then you realise it can help other people and it’s not just me who is going through this or that.

“Others come forward when they hear it and say ‘that happened to me as well’, and I realise my life is not more difficult or precious than other people’s, it’s simply more public.

“The only stressful part was trying to choose the songs to put on the album, because there were so many, but we tried to choose the ones that told my journey.

“Now we just need to see what the public thinks and if it does well then that will be the cherry on top.”

Eastenders star, Martine McCutcheon, on stage at the Wicked Women concert.

Martine’s first album of original music in more than 15 years, Lost And Found, is released on Friday. While the ballads are still there, her sound is rockier than before.

“Two of my idols are Barbra Streisand and Stevie Nicks. Barbra is probably represented in my older material and Stevie in my new songs.

“Being a certain age and having had to grit my teeth through difficult times, my voice has become richer and huskier – maybe it’s just the wear and tear of getting old,” she laughed.

Martine and Jack had a son, Rafferty, in February 2015.

“A massive part of me knew I was meant to be a mum and that it would make me so happy,” she enthused.

“It felt like one of life’s purposes and when it happened it made me feel complete. It was wonderful and it empowered me. But I have no rulebook for being a mum. I could try to be the smug mother but I don’t have it sussed at all. One minute I’m star mummy, the next I’m running around doing the shopping before my mum comes round.

“I’m paddling frantically under the surface so that everything looks fine up top!”

Having Rafferty also put Martine’s health back on track and now she’s able to work again regularly.

Earlier this year she reprised one of her best-loved roles, Natalie from Love Actually, with Richard Curtis directing a mini-sequel for Comic Relief.

“I never thought we would do it again,” Martine said. “But when Richard said we were going to do a mini-film, I thought it was genius and it worked out great. I think it happened at the right time. There has been so much bad news in the world recently and I think we needed a big hug from those characters again.”

Martine is feeling so much better these days that she’s preparing to go on tour later in the year, although as things stand Scottish fans will have to make the trek to Gateshead to see her live.

“Getting up on stage and doing my own music is one of the greatest feelings in the world and I can’t wait to perform the concert I’ve wanted to do for years,” she smiled.

“Hopefully I’ll get to play in Scotland soon, as it’s always gone well for me there.”

It seems that after so many tough years, Martine has finally found her Perfect Moment.

“Life has changed because I feel so much more content,” she added. “You never know what’s going to come round the corner but I’m having fun trying it all.”

Lost And Found is out on Friday. Martine plays Sage 2, Gateshead, on November 10.