Paloma Faith: I just won't stop until I get what I want
As a breed, British rock stars are now polite and bland – apart from Noel Gallagher.
So says Paloma Faith, fresh from winning a Brit Award last month for Best British Female Artist. “I love to hate him because he slags me off in the papers,” she says.
“I saw him recently and I said, ‘If you’ve got something to say, f------ say it to my face’. He was really stumped.
“But I actually quite like him. I like that he goes to the press and says this person’s an a---hole and that person’s bland, or whatever.”
A classic soul singer with a retro style, Faith’s spectacular to look at and bounces into the private members’ club near her home in west London where we meet with a gold-coloured rucksack hanging from her back.
She attributes her eccentricity to her Englishness. Now 33, she was brought up in Hackney, east London, surrounded by different cultures that she says helped shape who she is.
Faith’s future looks bright, now that she’s been recognised at the Brits after three previous nominations.
“I think when I won it, people realised: ‘Oh, my God, yes, she has been grafting away for ages. Maybe some people have not thought much of me in the past, but it felt in the room like everyone had converted that night.”
Faith was raised as an only child by her mother after her parents divorced when she was two.
“I’ve grown up with this expectation of myself to be a high achiever, to succeed,” she says. She overcame learning difficulties and, after starting to read at 10 or 11, Faith began to excel.
She saw her father at weekends but hasn’t spoken to him now for seven years. She doesn’t reveal why but says that communicating with him would be painful.
As for her mother, she is more interested in Faith being generous and humble than being a star. “What I’m achieving is not her idea of success, it’s mine, and I just couldn’t give up. I just won’t stop until I get what I want. I kill myself doing it.”
Faith’s vivaciousness, it seems, is not untrammelled by something darker.
“I know that there’s melancholy inside me. In a situation like that, you can’t help reflecting on what’s come before it. I always say success is the best revenge.
“I was thinking more about people who mistreated me emotionally than about what I’d done to win, and I just felt so overwhelmed that I was being celebrated rather than abused.”
Though Faith doesn’t detail who is responsible for that emotional abuse, she seems to be thriving both professionally and privately. She has been going out with her boyfriend for more than two years (she says she won’t name him, for his sake).
Despite her success, Faith still battles self-doubt.
“When I first started therapy, I said I would like to try and get rid of it, like it’s an imaginary enemy that follows me everywhere and says ‘You look s---’ or ‘You sound unintelligent’.
“I’ve started to realise through therapy that I maybe have to learn to walk side by side with it.”
Insecurity influences every aspect of her life. “About my appearance, my ability as a singer, a thinker, a lyricist.”
Faith admits she has a big mouth and worries that it might be interpreted as brazenness or over-confidence.
She recently mistook ex-England footballer Jamie Redknapp for a comedian and excused herself by saying she didn’t care about football.
“I went home and had the inevitable sleepless night. I go around worrying about what I’ve said. I think I should try and ease off that, but I also have to accept it’s part of what I am.”
Faith released her debut album in 2009. She’d gigged for years and had many part-time jobs – all of which she says involved being stared at (as a bartender, magician’s helper, life model, lingerie shop assistant at Agent Provocateur) – before she made her breakthrough in 2006 in a private performance for a record label boss.
She stopped singing at one point and asked him not to text during her performance before beginning the whole thing again.
At the end of her set, she said: “I’d rather sing in pubs for the rest of my life than be with you”, and walked out. “Nine months later, he wrote to me apologising.”
Faith is determined to fly the flag for women in music. She is about to embark on a greatest hits-style arena tour, which comes to Dublin in July.
In preparation for the 30-date tour she’s looking trim and fit - but, she admits, she still likes to eat.
“I was talking to Jamie Oliver at a party the other day while eating, and he said: ‘I love watching the way you eat’, because he says that it’s rare to see women in our industry who eat like me. I just shove it in my face.”
There is one thing that would make her life even more fulfilled: a British number 1, which still eludes her.
“It’s like a bee in my bonnet. It’s probably the thing that’s going to stop me making a baby,” she says and laughs.
Paloma Faith’s latest album, ‘A Perfect Contradiction’, is out now. She plays The Iveagh Gardens in Dublin on July 2