It’s almost poetic that we should choose to use the above image to welcome you to our latest pop interview – with UK songstress Paloma Faith. Because it’s precisely where we find our pop heroine when we pop on the phone for a natter. Paloma’s not without good reason, of course. She’s on the verge of wrapping up an exhaustive morning of overseas media commitments, all in promotion of her brand new album ‘Fall To Grace’.
At the time of our chat, her album is No.1 in the UK midweeks, but it’s in the throws of a right royal challenge, leading Paloma to engage in a bit of friendly chart sparring.
“It’s very closely followed by Gary Barlow singing songs about the Queen and it’s the Jubilee weekend and he’s all over the bloody television!” she exclaims.
We chime in with an understanding, “Damn you Barlow!!”
“Barlow, stealing my thunder! He’s had his run, he should just piss off!” she jokes.
Sadly for Paloma, with the surge in national pride surrounding the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Gary’s commemorative ‘Sing’ EP did end up debuting in the No.1 position in the UK on Monday. But ‘Fall To Grace’ ran a close second, giving her her highest chart position to date.
Paloma Faith first appeared on our radar via her stunning debut album ‘Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?’ back in 2009. The album introduced us to a captivating new talent with an unmistakable voice and a style that was hard to pigeon-hole. We talk to Paloma about the differences between that first album and her new record ‘Fall To Grace’.
“When you’re writing your first album, you’re doing it for some time, whilst simultaneously trying to get the support of a record label,” she says. “In my case, I was actually writing songs for five years leading up to actually getting signed. So some of the songs that actually made that record were songs that I’d written five years before, so I didn’t necessarily feel that emotionally attached to them anymore, because as you write, it’s all new stuff and a lot changes over a period of years. You rejuvenate and you heal, so you don’t necessarily feel as emotionally close to those songs.
“But in this case, I’d actually released the (first) album and was still signed to the same label while working on the new album. It was a year and a half in the making. I feel very close emotionally to these songs and that’s the difference really. I’m still feeling the same as I do in a lot of the new songs, which makes it quite hard to perform sometimes, because you’re emotionally connected to them.”
The first single from the album, ‘Picking Up The Pieces’, is an account of devastating emotional torment within a relationship. Paloma admits it’s a little autobiographical.
“I think a lot of it in the song where I sing “perfect heart, she’s flawless”, is about more than what he’s projecting, it’s more about my imagination and how I’m tormenting myself, thinking that I must be inferior to this ex relationship,” she explains. “It’s all about that feeling you get – that insecurity you have about your partner’s past. That’s why in the video I melt into wax, because the situation is all created in my imagination, so the other woman (because I play both, of course) is actually not really real as I’d imagine, so she melts.”
Paloma’s acting abilities in the clip are on show for all to see. She’s pretty convincing in the roles of both the current and ex girlfriends. It’s not surprising, given the songstress has been acting since before her music career kicked into gear.
“Basically I’ve always been a performer and I enjoy the feeling of distancing myself from myself in order to express a message,” she says. “So whatever medium I’m using, it doesn’t really bother me. I quite enjoy the acting now because it’s a bit of a holiday for me. The director’s in charge and I’m not being me. Whereas with the music, I’m in charge of everything and I’m being myself, which is pretty full on. So it’s quite nice to have a break and just escape yourself with the acting.”
Paloma drew inspiration for ‘Fall To Grace’ from a rather familiar, iconic and colourful cinematic source. She describes the overriding message of the LP as one of hope.
“Well it’s about turning tragedy into hope and it’s about channelling all those hard situations and trying to make yourself feel like it made you stronger, but not losing your innocence. I tried to keep a bit of hope in there.
“I was inspired a lot by Judy Garland singing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. There’s tragedy in it and sadness, but it’s hopeful. I suppose the whole record is a homage to film. It’s about me turning my life into a soundtrack,” she says.
Assisting her in doing just that were super-producer Nellee Hooper, who’s previously worked alongside the likes of Madonna, Bjork and Garbage, and Jake Gosling, who co-produced Ed Sheeran’s multi-national smash ‘+’. We enquire as to how the collaboration with them came to be.
“I’d written all the songs before I met them,” Paloma tells us. “I just had a collection of songs on piano and guitar and I spoke to my new A&R at my record company. Colin Barlow his name is. He came in and asked what I wanted the album to sound like. So I said that I wanted it to sound luscious and like a film, but with very heavy drums and basslines to give it a contemporary twist, and he said ‘I think we need to speak to Nellee Hooper’. So he introduced us and then I agreed to have a go with Nellee. Nellee was the one who wanted to do it with Jake Gosling. And he got him in.”
But Nellee and Jake aren’t the only big names Paloma’s recently been collaborating with. She recently spent time with a certain symbolic someone who’s just finished touring Australia and tells us he had a profound impact on her.
“Yes, I spent the weekend with Prince at a festival and he was inspiring because it’s like a big stamp of approval if Prince wants to work with you,” she tells us. “It makes you feel like you are worth it. I am a sensitive person and I did find it quite overwhelming. I didn’t exactly enjoy the weekend – I wouldn’t say that was the right word – because I was just a nervous wreck. I was in bits. I had the worst anxiety I’ve ever had.”
Something else that causes Paloma angst is choosing which of her ‘babies’ get to become singles.
“I do have a say, but I can’t bear it, so I let other people decide. I really can’t bear it, because it means when you choose one, you don’t have another.”
But we suggest that given a successful album project, there might be at least four or five tracks given the single treatment from ‘Fall To Grace’.
“Hopefully, provided it all goes well,” she says.
With a UK number two album on her hands, it seems that everything’s certainly on the right track for the ‘Fall To Grace’ project. Now Paloma would like the album to fire here in Australia so that she can justify the expense of coming for live shows. But she hints that a visit may already be on the cards.
“I’m hearing whisperings of it being soon,” she teases. “I haven’t actually been told exactly when, but I’m looking forward to coming. I think it will be first for promotional duties and then for live dates later. It just means that Australia has to buy it for them to warrant spending the money to send me over.”
Perhaps a certain celebratory royal may hold the key to Paloma’s future travel aspirations…?
“I hope that the Queen has secretly bought 75 copies of my album on iTunes,” she laughs.
And with that simple wish, Paloma’s saying goodbye, readying herself for a right royal day of her own, popping on her crown and grazing on a breakfast of dainty cucumber sandwiches.
Paloma’s album ‘Fall To Grace’ is available digitally and physically now.
The single ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ is also available digitally.
A little birdy tells us that Paloma is slated to be in Australia for promotional duties in October.