Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Banker's Wife to Singer: The New Midlife Switch; Miel De Botton, Sister of Philosopher Alain, Is Looking for Love and Launching a Music Career. Shetells Susannah Butter about a Life of Privilege and Pop

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Banker's Wife to Singer: The New Midlife Switch; Miel De Botton, Sister of Philosopher Alain, Is Looking for Love and Launching a Music Career. Shetells Susannah Butter about a Life of Privilege and Pop

Article excerpt

Byline: Susannah Butter

MIEL de Botton is talking about dating. "I look for creative types and they are often confused as to what they want in their lives. It is difficult to meet people I can connect with, or they are seemingly interested but don't call back. I was ready for speed dating and internet dating, thinking they would be fun, but I found it hard." She breaks off to send her mother a picture of herself in the photoshoot dress and make-up because it is all so exciting.

Both dressing up for pictures and the agony of meeting a partner are unfamiliar to de Botton, who divorced Angus Aynsley, a banker turned film producer, four years ago and has since started anew as a musician. Until recently, she left the limelight to her younger brother, philosopher Alain. She studied law at Oxford, worked as a clinical psychologist and focused on bringing up her two children. But last year, at the age of 44, she began to make an album. Magnetic is a collection of reinterpreted French songs from the 1930s-50s and de Botton's own, powerful material. It will be released early next year with an event at the Purcell Room.

She twinkles when talking about her new musical career. "I had this dream since I was a little girl. You don't necessarily think it is going to happen and I went down the academic route, but then it was incredibly organic."

It started with her Pilates teacher, Sheila, who is in a disco band. "I was talking about music and she invited me to perform at an electrician's ball in Kent. It was amazing." Then she met producer Andy Wright, whose previous work includes hits for Simply Red and Eurythmics, through her yoga instructor (she does that as well as Pilates). "He asked if I was very ambitious. I said yes and that's how it started. The kids were more grown up -- Zachary is 15 and Talia is 11 -- so I could try to pursue my dreams as well." Her children have been hugely supportive, and de Botton watches The X Factor with Talia - "though I wouldn't go on it, it is too scary".

Ageism is not something she has directly encountered, although "people have said 'you are too old to be on Radio 1 and Capital'. Robbie Williams is not allowed either, so at least it is across the board. It does seem unfair because if I suddenly wanted to create a Radio 1-type song, why should it matter? That was disappointing."

Alain is her biggest fan. The prolific philosopher is known for capturing the public's attention with books such as The Architecture of Happiness. "I send him and my mother songs first," says de Botton. "He replies with emails that are so beautiful I print them out and put them in my special box." She is not aware, however, of his Twitter relationship with One D's Harry Styles.

The siblings had an idyllic childhood, growing up by a lake in Zurich -- "a tranquil place". "I was a bossy older sister. Alain was very shy, which is hard to believe. He was lovely and cute. We playfought and got on for hours -- our nanny never had to intervene -- and put on plays for our parents."

Her father's job, as founder of Global Asset Management, put them "among the wealthier of the Zurich set but I wouldn't say we were extraordinarily wealthy". Gilbert de Botton was an Egyptian Jew who worked his way up. Her mother, Jacqueline, "was always busy running around helping him". They divorced after Miel had graduated, and when he died in 2000 he left a family trust fund of more than PS200million.

She thinks it is "a little unfair" when people criticise her family for their wealth. "But on the other hand I can't deny that the money has opened up possibilities for us that we wouldn't have had. Publishing books costs money, making an album costs money, and you don't get that money back. We have this help, which is incredible and I am very grateful for it." She does worry about her brother: "He shows me some of the horrible comments he gets. I know how sensitive he is and he does get hurt by it. …

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