Like any new mum, having a baby has given Paloma Faith a different perspective on life, and that new outlook has permeated her music too.
Her fourth album, ‘The Architect’, was written and recorded whilst she was pregnant with her first child. But whilst fans expecting another album of straight-up love songs won’t be disappointed in the new material, they will have to reassess their expectations of an artist who has carved out a career singing about matters of the heart. As Paloma states: “It is a love album, it’s just not about romantic love. It’s about kindness and empathy and compassion. I feel like these things are different guises of love that are maybe overlooked in modern music.”
Becoming a parent even informed what she would call her latest release.
“I felt like ‘The Architect’ was appropriate because I’d spent time making a person in my own body, which is the most surreal and also architectural thing I’ve ever done,” she laughs.
The Brit award-winning singer tells HuffPost UK that having a baby also affected her voice, which led to her re-recording many of the finished tracks after she’d given birth.
“I did the main bulk of it when I was pregnant and a few of the songs came after because I felt that I had to go back to it,” she says. “I also wanted to re-sing a lot of it afterwards because I felt [giving birth] really opened up my voice. So I re-recorded a lot of the vocals again. I felt like I had a lot more range afterwards… it was weird.”
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Motherhood is evidently suiting the 36-year-old Londoner. She’s in good spirits when we catch up ahead of the release of ‘The Architect’, despite the doom and gloom in the world - something she was determined to address on the new album.
“This album is more social observation,” she explains. “All the music that I reference like Nina Simone, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye… I was just thinking the difference between [current musicians] and those artists is that they sang about things that were happening in their world. They felt a social responsibility to comment on current affairs, and I felt like that was missing in modern music.”
She adds: “So I decided that I would be very stubborn because the moment you say ‘ok, let’s make a love song’ then it’s like a go-to thing, and quite easy in a way. I wanted a new challenge.”
Determined to use her songwriting to shine a light on subject areas she feels are underrepresented in modern day music, Paloma admits she’s concerned that in this day and age of fake news, certain sections of the media need to be held to account.
“I said recently in an interview that I didn’t believe in gender stereotypes for babies and then a day later I wake up and the insinuation is that I’m purposely raising my child to be transgender,” she says. “And I just feel like there’s a lack of responsibility amongst the more tabloid journalists. It actually sensationalising, and we don’t need to sensationalise because the world’s a mess at the moment anyway and we don’t need to add to it.”
Talk then turns to the sexual assault and abuse allegations levelled at movie boss Harvey Weinstein, which are dominating the news at the time of our chat. As well as music, Paloma has also enjoyed success as an actress - including roles in ‘The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus’ and ‘St. Trinians’. Has she ever experienced anything similar during her showbiz life? Her response is typically candid.
“I do think that I’ve got a certain character that’s not necessarily a target for that,” she says. “I am quite ballsy and I’m not necessarily discreet, as most people know. I think because I’m quite confident about speaking about things, my whole shtick is honesty and open dialogue, so I don’t think anybody in their right mind would even try that with me because I’m definitely not somebody who would be crippled by fear or paralysed by my fear of losing stuff.
I have been sexually assaulted. I do think that there’s a definite everyday sexism that’s acceptable that then transfers into worse situations like that what I experienced - and worse than that too
“That doesn’t mean to say that I blame those victims, because I do not. I think it’s absolutely atrocious, but amazing and brilliant that it’s coming to the fore and more people are coming out and saying it. I do feel blessed to be the type of person I am, but I also don’t think that if somebody wears a short skirt or is a bit more shy or isn’t as sure, that means they should say ‘well you got what’s coming to you’.
“I just feel fortunate that I am that type of person, so therefore I haven’t experienced it within the industry.”
Not that this means she’s never been a victim, as Paloma reveals she was sexually assaulted when she was younger.
“I’ve experienced it in the street, as a teenager. I have been sexually assaulted. I do think that there’s a definite everyday sexism that’s acceptable that then transfers into worse situations like that what I experienced - and worse than that too.”
Despite her new direction - lyrically at least - Paloma insists ‘The Architect’ is a “record about hope”. It also features a few curveball collaborations, including political activist and commentator, Owen Jones.
“I’m a big fan of his,” she says. “I read his Chavs [The Demonization of the Working Class] book and I suddenly became a fan. And then I started to read his articles in the Guardian and I just felt so strongly about what he says.
I didn’t want people to listen to this record and sort of think ‘oh, it’s all terrible’. I wanted them to think that we can make change and it is possible to remember qualities that are maybe dying out like kindness, empathy and compassion.
She adds: “I don’t feel like there are many people in society, politicians or otherwise, who really speak to me and who I agree with, but he is one of them.
“On my last tour, instead of opening with a band it was him talking. I wanted to somehow influence people into some kind of hopeful sentiment. I feel like his attitude his very hopeful, even though it’s realistic and that says a lot to me, so asked if he would speak a bit on the record. It’s basically a segment from his Politics of Hope speech.
“I didn’t want people to listen to this record and sort of think ‘oh, it’s all terrible’. I wanted them to think that we can make change and it is possible to remember qualities that are maybe dying out like kindness, empathy and compassion, and I really wanted to put a line under that. It’s meant be a record about hope.”
And we could all do with some of that.
‘The Architect’ is out now.