Alison Moyet despairs of "lazy comparisons" that put her side by side with Adele - "purely for the fact that we were two fat girls singing torch songs. It always happens."
The former Yazoo singer, whose album 'the minutes' has been released to huge plaudits this week, presents her evidence with the language she hears on TV talent shows...
Alison Moyet is back, and happier with her sound than ever
"If you watch 'X Factor', every time a fat girl came on, it was 'the next Alison Moyet'," she explains. "Now it's 'the next Adele'. It doesn't hurt me, but I think it's like categorising two gay actors together, or ginger-haired men... it's just silly categorising.
"I do get that we're both stationary performers, but there'll be a talented man, with an electronic background, who has much more in common with me, musically. Or even PJ Harvey in terms of where we started out from. It's lazy comparisons, but she'll get it as well, you watch... the next Adele."
It's bizarre talking about this 'fat' label with Moyet, sitting across from me, noticeably slim and glamorous, something she's utterly uninterested in discussing - "it's only us women who have to deal with this, who have to justify what we look like, but it can't be where our self-esteem comes from."
"I don't need someone to find me shag-worthy." Apparently, this was a 'compliment' Moyet came across on Twitter, which has left her bemused... "You're supposed to be flattered, but I find myself mildly offended."
Moyet's new album, 'the minutes', has been released this week. And It's been greeted with critical acclaim. Which of these, if any, have given her the most pleasure?
"I'm not excited, I'm happy," she tells me, curled up around her coffee, not the first of the day, at lunchtime in a London pub. "I had no expectations of anything other than making something I feel good about, and I've done that. And I'm at a place where what I want comes ahead of audiences and demographics."
She has been quoted, calling 'the minutes' her happiest recording experience, all credit, she says, to her relationship with collaborator Guy Gigsworth, her partner in the studio for the last three years.
"Writing music with someone is as intimate as sex," Moyet explains. "It's hard exposing your words to someone, so when I first sit down with someone, I stutter, I'm inarticulate, but we both spoke the same language."
Something that someone with a career as long as Moyet's (30 years now and counting) doesn't take for granted... "I'd meet these people who'd want to work with me, but I never felt they truly knew their way around the music.
"And when you are known for being a singer..." she says almost shyly, considering her sales in their millions... "people think they can't f*** with you, what I love about Guy is that I can be a singer, but he can also f*** with me,e and thus make interesting sounds in a way that hasn't really happened since Yazoo days when there were no expectations."
Yazoo saw Moyet and Vince Clarke break through with the distinctive combination of Moyet's unique voice and Clarke's electronic sounds on hits including 'Only You' and 'Don't Go', but split in 1983, before a reunion tour a few years ago.
"The last time I saw Vince was 2008," says Moyet now. "We fell apart acrimoniously as young people, but both of us have matured in that time and realised we'd been whiney bastards just not handling pressure well.
"If you think about it, I was at college, and then three months later, I was a massive pop star. It's stress-making, especially when you're a bit of an oddball as I was, the black sheep left to your own devices, and then suddenly everyone's interested in you."
Moyet returns several times to the theme of her outsidedness in an industry that relies on prototypes. Even now, with nothing to prove and a fanbase hanging happily on every note, she calls her success "a double edged sword, because people are open to hearing you, but they have expectations. So your name mean record companies ready to take your call, but as soon as you say you're not doing Etta James covers, it's different.
"There are very few record companies who will entertain a middle-aged woman coming to them with original material." Sure, but she's not just any old middle-aged woman walking through the door, is she? Moyet broadens the discussion accordingly...
"It simply becomes more and more difficult as you move further away from your heyday, music being the only format where you're treasured for your youth, that and acting.
"If you're a writer or a painter or any other kind of artist, your experience is coveted. If you cover yourself with botox you're vilified, if you don't, you're an old hag."
So what's the solution as she sees it?
"We move as independent spirits and take ourselves off that pitch. I will not do the things that they are prepared to take of me, and I will make the record I want to make, and hang the consequences."
All of this is said with the bright smile of an artist whose album is off the presses, but this was never a certainty, apparently. "I've lost three deals over the past three years, trying to get this album going, all wanting to sign me, all wanting soft jazz covers, all wanting to be associated with a spread of my house in Hello! magazine, which if you could see my house, is just the funniest thing."
Moyet isn't just talking the talk - she has more in common with George Michael than being the more vocal part of an 80s duo. Like him, she took on Sony in the courtroom to battle for an artist's rights... "although he was much more focused than me, I definitely do have ADHD difficulties in that department," she reflects now.
Which gets us to the heart of the matter - what is 'the minutes' all about?
"Well, as a middle-aged woman, we can spend a lot of our time berating that we're never going to look so great as we thought we would, and we think that we're surrounded by all these glorious lives, and you get to my age, and you realise it was never about the hours, the years, it was about the minutes that were mounted in years, these brilliant things that we go back to."
She's right, it does sound pretty intimate, but she's willing even to expand, explaining how her epiphany for the album came during a wet Amsterdam afternoon when she decided to nurse her hangover in the shelter of the cinema. Hoping for a rom-com, she bumped into Terence Malick's notoriously opaque 'Tree of Life' instead...
"It all started out a bit weird, and people were leaving the cinema," is how Moyet remembers it. "And then 10 minutes before the credits something beautiful happened, and it made me realise, how often do we jump too soon, give up, hand our cards in before we have that beautiful moment. And I wouldn't have had that experience if I hadn't sat through all the hard stuff. It was all about the minutes."
Alison Moyet's 'the minutes' is available now. Click here to order. Watch her in action with next single 'When I Was Your Girl' below...
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