'I know I'm no Mariah Carey'
S HE may be one of the most written-about celebrities in Britain, enjoyed more hits as a solo artist than the other members of Girls Aloud, clocked up ten million record sales and followed two No.1 albums with the recent No.2, A Million Lights, but Cheryl is only now about to embark on her very first headline tour.
And despite her level of fame, she has no delusions about her status as a singer.
"I am very aware of my ability, I know I'm no Mariah Carey," says the 29-year-old, who grew up on a Newcastle council estate.
"But I think the emotion in the song is what matters. It's making people feel what you're singing about."
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And with a nod to her album title, she adds: "I know when I take to the stage and I see a million little lights it really is game time."
It was a decade ago that Cheryl Tweedy appeared in ITV's pre-X Factor talent show Popstars: The Rivals and won a place as a member of Girls Aloud.
While the "rival" boy band One True Voice disappeared after two Top 10 singles, Girls Aloud went on to sell millions of singles and albums, achieve 20 Top 10 singles and sell out four arena tours.
The group have never officially split, but the five girls haven't worked together since 2009, when they proposed a year off to pursue solo careers.
"On the first album I was ****ting myself after seven years with Girls Aloud," she admits.
"I had to step forward on my own and prove myself. Now, with 3 Words and Messy Little Raindrops, I have had two number one albums so I feel I know what I'm doing."
It hasn't just been the music she's had to deal with. Her marriage to England defender Ashley Cole in 2006 made her one of the most written-about wives in Britain.
But when her husband's extra-marital affairs became public, she had to deal with an unprecedented amount of press intrusion.
"I've grown as a person," she reflects. "I'm bulletproof. I feel as hard as the times I've had."
She adds: "I think everything happens for a reason, even if you can't always say what that reason is."
She and Cole divorced in 2010 and there's a nod to the split on her latest album with the track, Craziest Things, written with will.i.am.
"Will and I did this song for anyone who's been in a volatile relationship. One day you're in love, then you hate each other, but you just can't be without one another. We basically had an argument and recorded it. I remember just singing, 'you think the sun shines out of your ****'. Nobody in America knows the expression and thought I was a lyrical genius," she laughs.
The Voice UK judge, Black Eyed Peas member, producer and songwriter, has become Cheryl's mentor, as well as her friend, manager, producer and collaborator.
"Will is a crazy genius," she says.
"He said to me three years ago the next popstars will be DJs. Enter David Guetta, Calvin Harris et al. Will's got amazing foresight and he's super smart. He looks at me with an outside perspective and has really encouraged me, especially as a writer."
She adds: "I don't care if people know I wrote six songs on the first album or not. It can take a lifetime to master your craft and for me that's getting on stage and performing, entertaining the crowd with a song. I live for that.
"Sometimes for a songwriter that's their worst nightmare."
Although this tour is her first as headliner, she spent the summer of 2010 opening for the Black Eyed Peas on their European tour.
When she comes to Nottingham next month, where she'll be supported by Tinchy Stryder, Cheryl will be performing tracks from all three of her hit albums.
"I could really relate to the idea of arguing with yourself and 'who are you'," she says of her current favourite track, Girl In The Mirror.
"I fit into my own shoes now. I'm simply not worried anymore. I feel brand new."