If you have followed this space, you know I've been extolling the virtues of Miss Paloma Faith going back to early 2009 when she was emerging onto the UK pop scene. When I saw her play London's Scala, I knew she was a performer who's going places. She a hell of singer, a great stage presence and tremendous personality -- whip smart, funny and out-going.
It took four years, but Paloma is finally making her mark in the U.S. with her second album, Fall to Grace. It finds the singer going to newer, stronger heights with songs that have tremendous flare and theatricality.
So I felt it was time to reconnect with P while she was on tour through the UK. Her bus broke down, but we manage to have a sparkling talk about her humble beginnings, the challenges of making a second album and how she will never dress down. I would like to welcome Paloma Faith to this space.
She starts off the chat:
I know you. I know all about you. Your whole life story.
Wow, I don't know how to respond to that. We met a while ago at your Scala show.
Yes, that was such a fun show. That was ages ago.
That leads me into my first question. Do you feel like a different person now then back in 2009. Do you feel more confident as a performer?
Yes and no. I feel stable at this moment in time, but I take nothing for granted. The success of my second album has been amazing, but it makes me nervous about making another album.
Let's go back to the beginning. Did you grow up in a musical household?
I was always surrounded by music, but my parents were not musicians. There was always a piano in the house, and people who came by were always encouraged to play it. My parents were just massive music fans, but I didn't have any training when I was younger.
What kind of music did they expose you to?
My father was a massive jazz fan. He has one of the biggest collection of vinyl that you'll ever see. He has every BlueNote record ever released. My mum was more into the power of music from the 60s -- a lot of political stuff. She was into Bob Dylan, Carole King and Nina Simone.
Growing up, were you sort of a rebel, a punk, nerdy or geeky?
Hmmm, I wasn't really a rebel, because I was always accepted at school. It wasn't until my adult life that people treated me as a little bit of a rebel or a trouble maker. Growing up, everybody aloud me to be myself. I had a lot of creative freedom in school because I was an intelligent kid in a rough, troubled school. I was seen as an angel compared to the other kids. So I was and wasn't a rebel, you know what I mean? Like, if you took a helicopter and picked me up and put me in the countryside, I would definitely be a rebel just by comparison.
Not really. I have such diverse and electric tastes. I've always been the type of person who seeks out different subcultures. I've infiltrated mod, garage, hippie, punk and dance scenes. I have trouble focusing on one thing, so the people I work with find it difficult to link all those things together. I'm happy about that. The albums I've done, it's not the same all the way through. It's a reflection of who I am.
What were some of your first gigs like? Were you playing to 10 people at some tiny club somewhere?
I've always been a sociable person. Luckily, I've always packed every venue I played at when I was starting out. I have played really tiny clubs that held like 20 people, but I made sure that they were full of my friends. I'm a good social networker.
Indeed, you send out very interesting tweets.
Even before Twitter, I was using MySpace to promote my own club nights, just to get local neighborhood people to come out. I worked doubly hard to make sure my shows were well attended.
Were you disappointed that your first album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, didn't get any play in America? It did very well in the U.K.
Hmmmmm. Not really. It just reinforced what I thought about it. I felt like I didn't have the freedom to make the record that I wanted. This one I had a lot of freedom, so it will have a broader audience.
When it came time to make the second album, were their certain goals you wanted to achieve?
I wanted to make an album that sounded like a movie soundtrack.
That's my favorite song on the album.
Mine too. That's why I brought it up. So what was it like working with him?
It was wonderful. He totally gets me and how I express myself. I think in pictures really. So I would e-mail him pictures of what certain songs would sound or feel like. He totally went with that.
What photos did you send him for Let Me Down Easy?
Since that's a cover, I told him that I envisioned a really low submarine with sort of a sinister feeling. It would have a guttural feeling.
The album starts off dynamically with "Picking Up the Pieces". Was the plan to start off with big, bold statement?
We didn't know what the singles would be or the tracklisting when we were done recording. It came apparent which songs stood out.
When it comes to your songwriting, do you have a song that is a statement song on who are and what you are about?
They all are really, even the cover songs. That's hard to pin down. They are all facets of who I am.
Your fashion and stage costumes are a big part of who you are as well. Do you dress on how you feel that day or do you have a plan on what you'll wear for certain shows?
I have a strong sense of occasion. I know what type of events I'm going to and dress appropriately, even when I'm not feeling up for it. I just have to pick myself up and push myself on. I've always admired tragic people like Marilyn Monroe. She always had a sadness in her eyes even when she looked great. I kind of glamorous and romanticize that. So I never dress down in public situations.
I'm a world travel, as I'm sure you are. Do you have favorite places that you've played?
Oh my God! Anywhere in Scotland is amazing. The Hampton show on this tour was fantastic. In America, I'm all about New York. The audiences were really involved and enthusiastic. It made feel like I didn't have to bust a gut to please them. Everybody has been so nice to me.
You're going to love the rest of America.
I'm so looking forward to it.
My finally question. The Brit Awards are coming up, which you are nominated. Do you need a date?
I do. I haven't got one.
Well, come on. Don't be shy. Here I am.
I own a tuxedo with a Burberry tie. I'm good to go. The only problem would be that I'm tall.
Ohhh. Now that I think about it, I haven't seen my friends in a long time so I'll probably take them with me. *laughs*
Well, if you change your mind. You know where to find me. I'll jump on a red eye and be ready to hold your purse at a moment's notice.