Within minutes of meeting Paloma Faith, it’s clear she’s no typical pop star – and that’s not just because she’s wearing a floor-length scarlet gown on a Wednesday lunchtime.
Not only is she one of the few current British female artists to have three platinum albums, she’s about to releas her fourth LP, The Architect, featuring collaborations with Sia, John Legend and Samuel L Jackson. But instead of focusing on love and relationships, as her past records have done, it’s preoccupied with society in the Trump era – there’s even a song called WW3.
‘I feel like we’re on the edge of something really bad,’ Paloma explains. ‘It’s going to go down as the beginning of a moment in history and I feel a duty to use my platform to contribute to something positive.’
While the album’s sonic palette of orchestral pop, soul, disco and electro will be familiar to fans, the lyrics hint at subjects such as the refugee crisis (Warrior) and Brexit (Guilty). ‘I didn’t want to write something preachy,’ she says. ‘I’m not going to be the poster girl for the solution to all these situations, I’m just observing what I see today.’
It’s clear that becoming a parent has influenced her new music too. ‘You start looking at the world you’re bringing somebody into,’ says the 36-year-old. ‘You start questioning what’s right and wrong and what you want for them. And that’s what I’ve been doing.’
Motherhood has also meant that the self-confessed workaholic, who was hospitalised and forced to cancel part of her 2015 tour of Australia due to a mystery illness, had to develop a new sense of focus.‘I know now that if I sacrifice my own health it’s going to jeopardise my child,’ says Paloma, who has an 11-month-old daughter with her French artist boyfriend, Leyman Lahcine. ‘I’m trying to be more relaxed, calmer – everyone comments on how chilled I seem!’
Paloma has always insisted on total creative control. She reveals that when she turned up for the video for Sigma’s Changing, on which she guest-stars, she refused to step on to the Miami set until a group of bikini-clad rollerskaters were removed. ‘I was like, “I’m leaving on the next plane if you put something condoning sexist, male-orientated visions of women in a video with me”,’ she says. ‘I will never do that.’
And she explains, in no-holds-barred fashion, that her record company baulked spectacularly at her socio- political concept for The Architect: ‘Of course they said, “Definitely not, that’s the worst idea you’ve ever had!”.’
She sees the attitude as part of a culture of everyday sexism in the music industry. ‘The bigwigs behind the desks that need to make money are encouraging female artists to sing songs about heartache,’ says Paloma, ‘because that is proving, at this moment, to be the most successful avenue. There’s nothing wrong with that. It does make us all feel when we hear Adele sing Someone Like You – it’s amazing and it’s unifying. At the same time, I feel like we need to do that with other things as well.’
Paloma also famously walked out of an audition with a label manager when he refused to turn off his phone. She may have been too wary (or canny?) to reveal her true age to execs when she was trying to get a record deal (she claimed she was four years younger than she is) but she has always stuck to her guns.
‘I feel like I’ve always been like that, from every level,’ she says. ‘The difference between me and other people is that I was always willing to get dropped as a result of it. I used to even taunt them with it – “Go on, drop me.”’ Somehow, we can’t imagine anyone wanting to do that any time soon.