When did you decide to make a solo record?
"When I was about five or six. I always wanted to make a solo record from when I was a little girl. It was just a matter of when it was all going to come together and how soon I could will it to happen. Finally it's come - it's been a long road - but I'm fortunate that I'm one of the people this actually gets to happen to. All my life I've been working towards this. Everything I've done is another stepping stone laid before me to get to this."
Do you regard the Pussycat Dolls as a "stepping stone"?
"I look at it as a great platform. I couldn't wait to be a part of something so different and unique and raw. When they asked me, I was like, 'Oh my god of course! But wouldn't it be great if I could have a solo deal too, thanks'."
Has it been difficult to balance work on Her Name Is Nicole around your Pussycat Dolls commitments?
"It's been so hard, babe. I'm a pretty tough worker - people don't realise how much work it takes to really get there. As far as work goes, the last couple of years have been the hardest years of my life, because I was working on this album while we were launching the Dolls. I didn't really have any spare time when I was with the Dolls, but I had to make that time to figure out what sort of album I wanted to make, what the music was going to say and how it was going to sound."
How is this album different to the Pussycat Dolls record?
"It's definitely personal. It's got a different kind of sound and I think it's a lot more vulnerable than my Pussycat Dolls fans would think. I deliberately worked with many different collaborators because there are so many different sides to me and I really wanted to pull them all out. I've written some spiritual songs, some cool, sexy dance songs and some intimate, romantic songs too."
Were you keen to show off your vulnerable side after being so confident and sexual in the Pussycat Dolls?
"It's not that I wanted to show it off - it just came out! It's just who I am as a person and as an artist. You know, in the Dolls I got to sing songs like 'Stickwitu' and 'Feelin' Good', but other than that we were a group with a really strong girl power message. Being a solo artist now, it's great to be able to say whatever I want. When I start writing, that's just what tends to come out. I'm just a big, mushy sucker inside."
That's the side you show on 'Baby Love', the single. Is it about anyone in particular?
"Not really - it's about a few relationships in my life that really gave me that feeling of what love felt like. It's a reminiscence, really."
You worked with an amazing array of people on this album - Kanye West, Pharrell and Timbaland to name but three. How on earth did you get them all involved?
"I don't even know how I pulled it off! I didn't even intend for it. It wasn't how I set out to be - I would never be so presumptuous as to say 'I'm going to get all these people to work with me!' I actually started out the process really simple, just heading into the studio with a few of my friends who I collaborated with on the Pussycat Dolls album. Over a couple of years, word got around that I was making an album, and people just jumped on board. I couldn't believe that all these people really wanted to work with me - it's such an honour. I must be doing something right! I even got Sting on board, you know."
What was he like?
"You know, I didn't even have to pay him! He's exactly as you'd expect - everything wonderful. He has real mystique, real calmness and strength - this really silent, serene strength. It's almost like Sting can lift a house with his eyes or his soul - one yoga move and the world will turn upside down! I was so nervous."
Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol has written a song for the album too. Did you get to meet him?
"It was a beautiful experience. When I got to meet him, I definitely knew that the song came from him. I just feel honoured that I was able to take it and make it mine."
Have you started working on the second Pussycat Dolls album yet?
"I guess you could say I have. Having written 75-100 songs for my solo album, I'm definitely keeping some in mind for the Dolls! It's going to be uptempo again, because that's what we do: we dance and we sing and we get the crowd going. I've got some songs in mind - sassy songs, songs with real attitude that are really hip and cool. We're still trying to figure out the overall direction, but right now everyone knows that they've got to focus on the Her Name Is Nicole album."
Jamelia recently said she banned her six-year-old daughter from watching Pussycat Dolls videos because of the sexy dance moves. How do you feel about that?
"Well, she mustn't let her daughter watch a lot of videos on MTV or VH1 then, because when I watch them they make me blush! That's the darn truth. You know what, if I had a six-year-old daughter, I probably wouldn't let her watch my videos, so I'm right there with you Jamelia! Her daughter can watch my solo videos too - they're not as full on."
You recently helped Sharon Osbourne to pick her X Factor finalists. What advice would you give to her girls as they progress in the competition?
"Just to be themselves and not be too hard on themselves - I know what that's like. They should remember it's a learning and growing experience, and that they'll find the confidence they need when they get to know themselves better."
'Baby Love' is released on November 5. Her Name Is Nicole follows in 2008.