Paloma Faith, Interview
Interview with Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith may still only be at the ripe young age of twenty-six but already she's achieved more than many peers twice her age. An accomplished singer, songwriter and musician, her unconventional take on jazz infused pop via a dash of rhythm and blues (the true definition not the post-Beyonce one) has swept a breath of fresh air through the UK music scene since debut long player 'Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?' dropped in 2009. Spawning the hit singles 'Stone Cold Sober' and 'New York', the album attained platinum status within a year of its release, no mean feat in these hard times of the present.
Next month sees the release of her long-awaited follow-up, 'Fall To Grace'. Enlisting the services of esteemed studio boffin Nellee Hooper on production duties, it represents a major re-invention for an artist some were calling "the new Amy Winehouse" not so long back.
Aside from her music, Paloma Faith is also a well-respected actress, having appeared in the 2007 remake of 'St Trinians', Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and numerous television shows over the years. Here, Contactmusic gets the low-down on her new record, label expectations and what the future has in store for the East London based songstress.
What are you up to at this present moment in time?
Paloma Faith: I'm at home in London and I'm about to audition some drummers for my band. There's one I particularly like but I don't want to say too much in case I jinx it!
Your new album 'Fall To Grace' is out at the end of May. I guess you must be pretty excited about it.
Paloma Faith: Excited and scared. It may mean I'll have to change my whole life again if it doesn't do that well.
You've made references in the past about expectations from your label. Do they have a lot of expectations riding on the success of 'Fall To Grace'?
Paloma Faith: I think so. Well, I know there are. Most record labels want the same thing and they're lying if they don't. Basically, they just want it all.
That must put a lot of unnecessary pressure on you?
Paloma Faith: Not really, because I'd only put it on myself if they didn't.
'Fall To Grace' seems to have taken a long time in the making after 2009's 'Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?' Were there ever times when you thought it wasn't going to happen?
Paloma Faith: No. I think it's weird when people say it's taken a long while to make because it does take a long time to make something good. I don't understand why people think you can just vomit an album out. I don't think it's really taken all that long to make; it's taken an adequate amount of time but nothing overboard. I spent two years touring the first record and didn't even start writing 'Fall To Grace' until after I'd finished. I've only actually been working on this album for a year, which is not an excessive amount of time really.
Nellee Hooper's producing the album. How did he become involved and what did he bring to the recording sessions?
Paloma Faith: Well, a new managing director came into my label, Colin Barlow; he's been here since January and he replaced all the old A&R people; and he basically said, "Why don't you meet Nellee Hooper?" So we met and hit it off really well. I told him what I wanted the record to sound like and we totally understood each other.
Were you a fan of any of the records he'd previously worked on?
Paloma Faith: I was but I pretended that I'd never heard of him!
Does 'Fall To Grace' meet your expectations?
Paloma Faith: It's met my expectations and more! I remember the first time I played it back. Basically, I recorded the vocals and then I had to go away for four days and leave Nellee and Jake Gosling, who's the co-producer, working on it. When I came back I was so nervous because I'd left them on their own with the record, and they just sat me down on this chair in front of these two big speakers and played me one of the songs they'd been working on, and I became really emotional because it had achieved so much more than I expected. It was obvious that Nellee and Jake had understood what I wanted and exceeded it, and I remember saying to them at the time this is scary! Nellee asked why, and I said because it sounded so much better than me and Nellee replied that's what a record should do.
It seems quite a personal record. 'Just Be' for example, which contains the lyrics "There's no one else I'd rather be unhappy with."
Paloma Faith: Yeah, it is. I can't help it but I do feel quite exposed by this record. I did my first showcase in front of people for the label the other day, and I said before I went on stage that I wouldn't do my normal jokey banter in between songs, and I nearly started to cry when I was singing so I ended up having to make jokes in between to stop myself! I feel very vulnerable about this record. I find it hard to detach from the songs when I'm performing them.
There seems to be a common theme running through 'Fall To Grace'. Are all of the songs about one person or a particular period of your life?
Paloma Faith: It's all about a period of my life. I'm a serial monogamist!
'Thirty Minute Love Affair' is another song on the album that stands out. What's the story behind that?
Paloma Faith: That's actually a really old story. When I was fourteen me and my friends used to hang around Shaftesbury Avenue; we didn't look old enough to be able to get into clubs and nobody had fake I.D. back then; and we used to get chatted up by the boys in Trocaderos, and then one day we went to Leicester Square. One of my friends was into different blokes to me. I prefer the more sensitive types whereas they tended to go just for good looking, rude boy types, and I ended up meeting this busker, who I thought was beautiful. He was singing, so I sat down and started singing songs with him, and then all my friends wanted to go to Trocaderos and so I asked him when we could next meet and he promised he'd be there tomorrow. He said he was there every single day so I went back the following day and he wasn't there. I ended up going back for ten days in a row and he wasn't there. I was only fourteen and he was never there again, and I used to dream about him so the song is about that. It's saying that he was beautiful because I never really got to know him, so therefore he's always remained perfect to me. I think that when you get to know people, you do tend to pick up what their annoying habits are, whereas I only got to know him for thirty minutes or so, so that's what 'Thirty Minute Love Affair' is about. Just how amazing someone can be if you only spend thirty minutes with them.
'Picking Up The Pieces' is coming out as a single the week before the album. Was that your choice or the record label's?
Paloma Faith: You know what, I wouldn't know a single if it hit me in the face! I like all the songs so if it was left to me they'd all be singles!
With the first album, the label seemed to carry on releasing singles well over a year after the record came out. Looking back, do you think that was a good decision?
Paloma Faith: Definitely, because all those singles just kept selling my album, really. It seemed when people bought a single they also bought an album. It's the same with this record. I think that's why they're putting the single out the week before, in the hope that people buy the whole album straight after.
Do you see 'Fall To Grace' as being a natural progression, or complete re-invention even from where you were with 'Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?'
Paloma Faith: I would say it is a re-invention but in the sense that it's what I am. It's the honest version.
How do you think the music press have perceived you so far?
Paloma Faith: It's been quite mixed. I feel like I've been quite lucky in that there's quite a lot of goodwill surrounding me, just generally. The main gist what I've picked up on is something like "This girl's got massive potential but she hasn't quite achieved what she could have done yet." I'm hoping this record will answer that but we'll see. Either that or they say I sound like Amy Winehouse.
Really? Which Amy Winehouse record are they listening to then?!?
Paloma Faith: Exactly!
You've collaborated with many artists in the past such as Ghostface Killah and Cee-Lo Green. Are there any more lined up to coincide with 'Fall To Grace'?
Paloma Faith: I haven't had anyone approach me yet. Usually that comes off the back of how well the record's doing or how often you've been seen on people's televisions in my case. Quite often people have been sat watching the telly and then I've come on and they've rung my label asking to do a duet!
'Desire', the song you recorded last year with Graham Coxon and Bill Ryder-Jones is one of my personal favourites. Do you see yourself working with either of those two again in the future?
Paloma Faith: Absolutely, yes. I hope so anyway. That was actually devised by Converse. They had this idea of connecting artists who they thought would work well together together. They had this campaign for interconnectivity, getting people together to make original compositions, and 'Desire' came out of that.
You've also embarked on a successful acting career having appeared in several films and television dramas. Is that something you're likely to pursue in the future and have you anything new lined up?
Paloma Faith: I'd like to pursue it, but obviously time wise its difficult because I've been working on my record, but now I'm a bit more open to that stuff. I did actually get attached to a couple of films but it proved difficult to get the funding for them to be made, so unfortunately it doesn't look like either of those will happen at this present moment in time. In the meantime, I am making a little cameo appearance in a new BBC drama called 'Blandings'. It's set in the 1930s, and its starring Timothy Spall and Jennifer Saunders. I'm only in it for one episode. I play a character who's a cabaret performer from London, so I guess I'm basically playing myself!
And singing one of your own compositions?
Paloma Faith: No, I don't like mixing my music and the acting. I think they should be separate.
It's interesting that artists like Plan B seem to have successfully combined the two. Do you see yourself writing or producing a screenplay in the future, maybe a musical even?
Paloma Faith: I would like to write a film but not a musical. I'd like it to be about anything other than music.
Will there be a tour to coincide with 'Fall To Grace'?
Paloma Faith: Yeah, I'm due to go into a meeting about that later this week. I think what they'll probably do knowing my label is wait and see what the first single does and then depending on that, organise some shows. I like the record to come out before a tour so I can hear everyone singing it!
You are confirmed to play the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in May. Have you been pencilled in for any other festivals?
Paloma Faith: Not at the moment. Hopefully they'll come flooding in when I take over the world!
The album 'Fall To Grace' is released on Monday 28th May through Epic Records.
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