Florence Welch grew up in England in a family of writers and professors. She began singing at a young age and formed her own band, Florence and the Machine. The band found success in 2006 and rose to prominence a few years later with their debut album, Lungs (2009). Welch’s voice can be heard on popular tracks like “Kiss with a Fist” and “Shake It Out” on the album. Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine’s second studio album, was released in 2011.
Florence Mary Leontine Welch was born in Camberwell, England on August 28, 1986. Welch was raised in a family of talented writers and intellectuals, and she attended Camberwell College of Arts before dropping out to pursue a musical career.
Welch inherited some of her abilities from her father, Nick, an advertising executive who was a musical performer in his twenties. Evelyn Welch, a renaissance studies professor and academic dean of arts at Queen Mary, University of London, also inspired her daughter, although in a very different way. In an interview with Q Magazine, Welch stated that a lecture given by her mother impressed her and encouraged her to write music about “some of the big themes—s.ex, death, love, violence—that will still be part of the human tale in 200 years’ time.”
Welch got his big break in December 2006. Welch caught host Mairead Nash of the DJ duo Queens of Noize in the restroom while drunk at London’s Soho Revue Bar and performed to her Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Grip on Me.” The Queens of Noize welcomed Welch back to open for their club night a week later.
“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.'”
The Machine and Florence band began with Welch, her friend Isabella “Machine” Summers, and a drum kit and grew to a seven-piece by 2009. Welch recorded with the band Ashok in 2007, and the album included the first version of her song “Happy Slappy,” which was subsequently renamed “Kiss with a Fist” and became a smash. Welch resigned from Ashok shortly after the album’s release.
Florence and the Machine grew to prominence after signing with Nash. Lungs, the band’s debut album, was released in the United Kingdom in July 2009 and was a huge success, peaking at No. 1 in the United Kingdom and No. 2 in Ireland. When it became available for download in the United States a few weeks later, it debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Heatseekers Album chart.
The album’s lead hit, “Kiss with a Fist,” was included on a number of film and television series soundtracks. A number of the band’s other singles were either used as theme songs or featured in episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and So You Think You Can Dance. The band themselves appeared in an episode of Gossip Girl in 2011.
Welch was described as the “most unique and widely praised female vocalist of the moment: poetic, literate, hurricane-voiced, prime to climbing on lighting rigs on stage” in The Sunday Times of London. Welch is described as “a befuddling concoction of cake-berserk 7-year-old child, mystical soothsayer, and will-o’-the-wisp for whom life is a ‘continuous acid trip.'”
More Career Successes and Challenges
In early 2010, while writing music for Florence and the Machine’s new album, Welch was offered the opportunity to come to Los Angeles and work with producers and composers of American pop music. Despite being enticed at first, Welch changed her mind, saying, “No way! No way! No way! That’s something I can’t do. This is absurd. I can’t just up and leave everything that gave birth to Lungs “according to a Billboard.com piece from September 2011.
Instead, the band issued Ceremonials, its second studio album, in October 2011. It featured songs by Summers, Paul Epworth, Kid Harpoon, James Ford, and composer Eg White. A video for the album track “What the Water Gave Me” was published as a buzz single on iTunes and on the band’s VEVO page on YouTube, where it received 1.5 million views in two days.
Ceremonies went on to become a huge success, selling over a million copies. In addition to her work with her own group, she recorded with rapper Drake in January 2011 on material for one of his recordings. Welch also sang on Calvin Harris’ “Sweet Nothing,” which reached the top ten of the American pop charts in 2012.
In July 2012, she sustained a vocal injury, forcing her to miss two European festival appearances. Welch stated in a Reuters piece published in The Vancouver Sun, “My voice has finally given out on me. Really, I felt something shatter, and it was terrifying.”
Welch returned to form with the release of Florence and the Machine’s third album, How Huge, How Blue, How Gorgeous, in June 2015. She had to overcome some obstacles before the record’s release. Welch fractured her foot while playing at the Coachella music festival in April of that year. Yet she didn’t let her injury stop her. Welch captivated viewers as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live that May. Later, for “What Type of Guy,” she received a Grammy nomination for best rock song. High as Hope, the band’s fourth album, was released in 2018.