It was the first time in eight seasons that a group had won the UK version of ratings juggernaut ‘The X Factor’. But it was obvious from their first number one debut that the British public had taken victorious girl group Little Mix to their hearts. On the back of their second number one smash at home, the little butterflies spread their wings and set their sights on Australia. It wasn’t long before we too were under their spell.
On their recent promotional trip down under, we put some face time in with the feisty felines and discovered that they were beginning to feel the effects of jetlag on top of an exhaustive local schedule.
“But luckily the fans have been incredible, otherwise I think we would have just died,” admits Perrie. “If it wasn’t for the fans keeping us going and keeping us really energetic…”
“‘Cause they’re so happy, aren’t they? And they’re so loud,” Leigh-Anne interjects. “They’ve just been incredible. But I think we’re just running on adrenalin really.”
“It was half three when we were doing hair and make-up for ‘Sunrise’,” adds Jade.
“The thing is that I don’t think it’s been that bad, because in my head it’s actually been yesterday. As in my body,” admits Jesy, before Perrie again chimes in with “Well I’m glad you know where you are, because I haven’t got a clue where I am!”
Right from the outset of our chat, it’s clear that the four lovely ladies of Little Mix (Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards) have formed a tight bond since winning the 2011 of the talent show. They’ve achieved UK No.1 success with winner’s single ‘Cannonball’ as well as ‘Wings’ and recently placed at No.3 with new track ‘DNA’ against super-tough competition.
Various media reports have suggested that the girls were less than enthused about the release of ‘Cannonball’, a cover of the Damien Rice track, as their lead single. The girls set us straight.
“No, we love ‘Cannonball’. We really like ‘Cannonball’,” says Perrie.
“We’re really proud of it,” adds Leigh-Anne.
“What we said with ‘Cannonball’ was that it wasn’t our song,” explains Jade. “We love it and we’re really proud of it and it got a No.1 which was amazing, but now we’re doing our own music, so it’s like a new start. That was the winner’s single rather than the Little Mix kind of single. So we treat ‘Wings’ as our first song.”
“…And we co-wrote it as well,” pipes in Perrie.
That “first song” has done rather well for the girls too. After debuting at No.1 on the British singles charts earlier in the year, the girls’ attention turned to Australia, where the track hit the top five, peaking at No.3. On today’s ARIA charts, it’s been officially certified platinum.
“It is the perfect introduction to Little Mix, we think,” says Jade of ‘Wings’.
“The song’s very much about believing in yourself and not letting anyone put you down,” Leigh-Anne continues. “It’s about listening to what your mama says, because your mama knows best.”
“For a while, we were tearing our hair out thinking we were never going to find our sound,” concedes Jesy. “We’d been to a lot of producers and we really couldn’t find any songs that would really sound like ‘us’. We walked into TMS not really expecting anything, but as we walked in and they played us the backing track, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘that’s it’. We had so many ideas for it. I think we had so many verses, we couldn’t decide.
“It just came really easily. We knew we wanted to write something inspiring, something for our fans. We wanted it to have a really meaningful message,” she says.
“Yes, so it ticks all the boxes, adds Jade. “As well as having a great message, we wanted the chance to show our voices individually and show harmonies as a group and I think ‘Wings’ is perfect for that. It shows that we can do complicated harmonies and melodies and it’s a really fun song.”
As well as co-writing ‘Wings’, the girls had a hand in creating a number of tracks on their just-released debut album. Leigh-Anne explains that while most assume them to merely be generic pop puppets, writing music is one of the band’s passions.
“From the beginning, we always said that we wanted to have as much input as possible,” she tells us. “We’ve all done writing in the past and we’re all capable of it. And with four heads better than one, together when we get into the studio we just love coming up with the ideas.”
“But we also wanted to make sure that when people heard our music on the radio, they knew it was Little Mix straight away,” adds Jesy. “And I think if we didn’t have input, then it wouldn’t be our Little Mix sound. So it was definitely important for us to have input.”
From an outsiders perspective, it would appear that those acts who exist within the Simon Cowell/SyCo bubble are subject to stringent controls and rules, where every aspect of their lives is oppressively controlled to the slightest detail. But the girls are quick to dispel the myth.
“Everyone seems to say that, but for us, we have input in everything, whether it’s style or merchandise,” says Perrie. “We see everything before it goes out and we feel that’s really important because at the end of the day, it’s the Little Mix brand on it, so we want to be happy with it.”
“It’s weird how people think that we’re in that bubble,” continues Leigh-Anne. “They think that it’s all so manufactured and whatever. I remember reading comments that people had said that ‘oh, well they don’t even write their own songs’… Well little do you know, we actually do.”
“Yeah, a lot of people just think we just get on stage and sing, but it’s the complete opposite,” Jade adds. “Yes, there’s that reputation, but people like Labrinth are signed to the same label and he does everything himself. I think people will start to gradually learn that it’s not really like that at all.”
Given that the girls were manufactured via a TV talent contest, we ask them if they feel the pressure of having to prove themselves, particularly in their native UK.
“I think it’s a bit half and half really,” Leigh-Anne begins.
“Our fans in the UK and here are absolutely amazing and they’ve just made us feel so welcome,” says Jesy. “For us to be the first ever group to win the ‘X Factor’ has got to show that we had a lot of backing in the UK from people who wanted us to win, so that was amazing.”
“We love the fact that we came from ‘X Factor’, because it gave us such a good platform,” Leigh-Anne continues. “And look at One Direction… they’re the biggest band in the world right now and they’ve come from ‘The X Factor’.”
Little Mix’ debut album ‘DNA’ was released in Australia on Friday. It features collaborations and co-writes with a number of pop’s biggest names including Steve Mac and Wayne Hector, Cathy Dennis (on the deluxe edition), ‘Biff’ Stannard and even members of other girl groups. Jade tells us that the girls had plenty of say when it came to who they chose to work with on the LP.
“We have involvement in everything we do,” she tells us. “And we worked with so many writers and producers. We worked out who our favourites were, who we’d like to work with again. It’s been a massive learning curve this year. I think especially with TMS, we love them. And we’ve got to work with some girl band artists as well.”
Not Nicola Roberts, we interrupt.
“We love Nicola Roberts,” Jade says defensively.
After explaining that we actually love Nicola and Girls Aloud too, Jesy adds, “She actually co-wrote one of our favourite songs on the album.”
But given Girls Aloud are now back on the scene threatening to re-take the girl band crown, do the girls of Little Mix feel that there’s any sense of rivalry?
“We’re completely different to them, that’s the thing,” says Leigh-Anne. “We appreciate all different types of music and we appreciate other girl bands. There’s room for everyone and the fact that we’re so different… there’s no rivalry.”
“You know, I think if there was any competition between us and Nicola, we would’ve written a track ourselves instead,” says Jesy.
‘DNA’ gives Little Mix the chance to showcase the different styles, sides and tastes of the band members, but at its heart the album is very pop with plenty of lyrical content focussing on female empowerment. There’s even a nod or two to the ’90s, with one track (‘How Ya Doin”) giving props to the 1991 De La Soul classic ‘Ring Ring Ring’. This despite the fact none of the girls was even born when that single was released.
“We appreciate it, though. We appreciate that kind of old school sound,” says Leigh-Anne.
“We look up to all the old groups like En Vogue and SWV,” says Jesy. “All the old school bands. We’re really inspired by their songs and their old-school harmonies. Destiny’s Child – we love them and are really inspired by them. We just really wanted to bring that back. ‘Cause we don’t really feel that there’s a lot of that around at the moment.”
“See I’m more all about rock and roll and I wasn’t around then either,” says Perrie. “I’ve just been brought up with it. I love the music of the ‘60s. Motown from my mum and rock and roll from my dad, so there’s a few songs on the album that are a bit rocky.”
“On the deluxe album there’s a bit of a rocky track,” Jade tells us. “We just wanted to tick every box really, because we all have different musical influences. We wanted to make sure that we incorporated different styles and catered for all audiences.”
We ask the girls if they each have a favourite track on the new album.
“We have a different favourite every day that we listen to it,” Jesy concedes.
“You know what, though? I’ve actually decided that I do have a favourite,” Leigh-Anne adds. “If I put the album on, I listen to that track all the time.”
“What is it?” Jade asks.
“It’s ‘Case Closed’. Sorry guys,” says Leigh-Anne. “It’s like an R&B slow jam and it’s on the deluxe edition. And because that’s my favourite sort of music, it’s quite influenced by that. So that’s my favourite.”
“I really don’t have a favourite,” adds Jade.
The feisty lead single ‘Wings’ is obviously a favourite for us, but then we also love the very pop ‘Stereo Soldier’ and can imagine hearing that marching across radio waves this summer.
For the time being, however, it’s all about single No.2 ‘DNA’ – the album’s title track – which was officially serviced to media in Australia on Thursday this week. Time will tell if it’ll be able to replicate the success of its predecessor, but with an army of Aussie Mixers out in force demanding to hear it on their local stations and four hard working young women at the helm of their respective careers, the future for Little Mix can’t be anything but bright.
Little Mix’ debut album ‘DNA’ is available in standard and deluxe editions. Both are out now.