Paloma Faith’s latest release, Bad Woman, unveiling today, November 24, provides a further glance into her upcoming sixth studio album, The Glorification of Sadness, out on February 16th (available to pre-order here). Building upon the excitement from How You Leave A Man, it’s evident that the album marks the dawn of a new and yet very distinct Paloma era. Beyond the break-up, Paloma Faith crafts these entirely empowering anthems, urging us this time to embrace rebellion as “bad women” instead of conforming as “good girls.”
This release marks the singer’s return to the music scene since her fifth studio album, Infinite Things, dropped in November 2020. The new album showcases exciting collaborations with Chase & Status, MJ Cole, and Liam Bailey. At METAL, we talk with Paloma about the release of the single How You Leave A Man, as well as the conflicting emotions of parting ways in relationships, dream collaborations, and the unique experience of touring with babies. Paloma also shares insights into her favourite UK cities for the upcoming tour, making those sold-out tickets all the more exciting for the accompanying 2024 Arena and Theatre tour next year.
This is your first single in three years since your fifth album Infinite Things. How have you been? What’s been happening?
Well, my whole life’s fallen apart and I’ve written about it in the new album.
It’s certainly inspiration! We know you have been kept very busy, with your ambassadorships with Oxfam and Greenpeace, your interiors brand Paloma Home, and your acting career. How do you juggle everything, on top of being a mother?
It is a lot. I think I get overwhelmed sometimes and I haven’t quite discovered the link between my mental ability to think I can do something and my physical ability to whether I actually can or not. So, I often say yes to stuff, and then think “Oh my god, what have I done?” afterwards. But, yeah, I do feel stretched, but I feel lucky to have the fullness of life that I’ve got, and I also think – my kids are still quite small and even with the older one I can see how it gets easier as they get older. So, I’m investing in my future by overworking at this point.
Definitely, it’s a good way of looking at it! Your new single How You Leave A Man, has already climbed the charts. The song is more anthem than ballad that you typically release but it still has all of the hallmarks of your sound. Can you talk us through the song a little bit, and this energy you are bringing to your new single?
The whole album is called The Glorification of Sadness, and it’s about the idea that you can choose to wear your wounds as a badge of honour or just sing hymn to melancholy. And, I think the record actually itself, it’s quite a sort of feminist moment because it’s all about being empowered and taking ownership of your failures and I think, a lot of the time women in sort of heartbreak throughout history have seemed like they were articulating the idea that they’re a victim, and that stuff happens to them rather than them making stuff happen and so the album’s meant to represent a post-feminist attitude in this sense. How You Leave A Man is the first taste into the themes of the record, which go through all the stages of grief that happen when going through a breakup. Personally, - when it’s a long-term relationship - I don’t think that if it ends it’s just one person to blame. I think it takes two people to start and two people to end a relationship. So, it explores those ideas that one minute you feel really empowered and you’re like “Yes! Screw everyone, I’m going to go out into the world” and then the next minute you’re like “Oh, maybe I’m making a mistake” and there’s this vulnerability. So, the whole album does that, but I think How You Leave A Man is a really good idea of the introduction into all of those themes. It could have been my album title, but I was trying to be clever (laughs).
I think the post-feminist theme in the album is really interesting, especially talking about causality or agency and this idea of a victim. How do you approach translating this experience into an empowering single?
I don’t know if I do it in a sort of conscious way, I think it’s my attitude. When I was a kid, my mum was always like, “if things go wrong, put an outfit on and put your make-up on and go out and face the world.” And I think that it’s a version of that in a way. You can choose to be defined by your failures or your grief for the rest of your life if you like. Or you can have the sense that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, that’s quite a common one, but I think to accept one’s fallibility is important. To recognise that “yeah, I’m going to beat myself up to some degree” but I think as women, we’re always under pressure to take all the blame and all of the failure, and I don’t think men do that to themselves in the same way on a social level. I mean that’s why men who cheat for example, they’re praised by their friends, but a woman wouldn’t be – she’d be vilified. So, I think it’s about saying we’re all human beings, we all fail, and we all succeed, and we have to forgive ourselves.
I feel like you touch on that a lot more in the music video with this visual representation of all those themes, and it’s very cinematic. It’s also in some ways very funny and relatable – I think that everyone has felt like that moment at the end of the music video in some capacity. How did you approach recording the video, what was the creative process behind it?
It’s interesting because everyone interprets the end in their own way and I think that’s great, because it means for you what it means for you. But for me, the concept of him still being in the boot was about the fact that I can’t leave him. Even if I wanted to, he’s still there because he’s my children’s dad, and he’s going to be a presence in my life for the rest of my life, and I think that’s important. So, it’s a kind of wink to the fact that, in the context that we broke up, I can never really leave him because we share two children together. That’s an ongoing thing throughout time and you have to work on that relationship, and it takes many forms. It can be resentful, it can be irritable, it can be confusing because you still love each other. It can be so many different things, so I quite liked the symbolism that even though I thought I was driving away, he’s still a part of our lives and he always will be. I find it kind of moving. He didn’t see it like that, he was like “How come I’m always the victim in your stuff and I’m trapped in the boot?” and I’m like “it doesn’t mean that!”
With this music video, it seems you’re setting up for a real cinematic experience for your album, working alongside Martin Wave as well as your own experience in acting and theatre directing. What can we expect from the album and beyond in terms of this cinematic element? Are there going to be accompanying music videos for most of the singles?
Yeah, it’s always like that for me, it’s never been anything else because I’m quite superficial. The visual is like just as important for me. But Martin Wave was the director of the music, my creative director was Theo Adams who I work quite closely with. I’ve known him for a long time, and we have very similar aesthetic leanings I think. So, that’s kind of an exploration, it’s really important, but as I’ve said before the industry’s changed so, people don’t really make music videos to the extent they did before. They make these visualisers, which I’ve just learned what they are – basically just a cheaper version. It’s really important to me that it’s a whole encompassing moment of time, like an era for me in a way.
I also believe that you are executively producing this record, how has this experience been for you?
It’s good. I think I’ve done this job throughout my career; I’ve always been executive producer; I’ve just never been acknowledged for it. I think that happens a lot to women in the music business. I think that female artists are often just treated like we’re manufactured but actually we have a lot more input than we’re given credit for, so the reason why I’ve been very sort of fearless about saying I want this credit of exec producer this time is because I deserved it for all of them.
Collaborations on the album, there’s Chase & Status, MJ Cole, Charlie Puth and many more. How did these collaborations come about? How have they helped the album? What can we spot on it?
Most of the writing process has been me working with people I know well and are part of my inner circle, because I felt very vulnerable when I started working on it and I needed to be around people who I know so that I feel safe. Liam Bailey helped me put quite a lot of the writers together in the mix and this made like a huge impact, and I think he’s an incredible person and also a very underrated artist himself. He and I worked quite closely on this, and it felt safe, it felt like a place where I could articulate my feelings without feeling really self-conscious with strangers.
On the note of collaborations, are there any other artists that you could draw light to that you would potentially want to work with in the future or feature alongside?
I’d love to work with Lil Yachty and Doja Cat.
That would definitely be a new era, but I would love it all the same. Your inspiration before is always notably widespread and significant, from Jorge Luis Borges in your title track Infinite Things, to Caravaggio in your album cover for A Perfect Contradiction. Are there any other intertextual references or inspiration we can spot in this new album?
There’s some applause on the end of one of the songs and I was adamant that it needed to be taken from a particular Nina Simone concert. So, there’s that in there. There’s loads, I think like that anyways. There’s a Massive Attack reference, on one of the productions, that’s kind of a hats off to them, in the same way that I think Emile Sandé’s song Heaven was. My creative director and I always reference imagery so there’s quite a lot of that. I reference Christopher Doyle a lot who’s the main D.O.P for Wong Kar-wai. When you’re working you’re so richly influenced by all of your influences that sometimes they manifest in ways that you aren’t even conscious about, because they’re so ingrained in your aesthetic or audio taste.
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An entirely self-indulgent question, who would you say are your favourite authors or artists at the moment?
I just read this book that I really liked that is very appropriate, I’m just going to google the author’s name, it’s really appropriate to the way I was feeling. It’s called This Is Me Letting You Go and it’s by Heidi Priebe, and that book was quite interesting because it’s all about break-ups and how to let the person go and forgive yourself as well. I read it towards the end of the record after I’d written the songs, but it felt quite cathartic in a way to read it on a page, I really related to a lot of the sentiments behind it. And then, music artists, I’ve mentioned two of them already – I quite like this guy SYML as well, do you know him? Let me just look at my playlist I’ve got going that I’ve made. SYML, Labrinth, Lil Yachty, Doja Cat, Gabriels – I love them.
Your voice is so recognisable and powerful even just when you’re speaking, it’s incredible with how much power and clarity that you speak and sing with as well. As your voice is your instrument, how do you preserve it? Do you have a routine or any rituals to rest or warm up or protect your voice?
I try and warm up and warm down before every rehearsal and every show, and I have to be quite disciplined about it because it’s a massive difference if I don’t. Because I’ve got two kids who are always giving me colds and sore throats, I just can’t afford not to do that otherwise I just lose my voice. So, I do a lot of that stuff, and then if I lose my voice I have to go on complete voice rest, which is annoying for everyone, but I quite enjoy the silence. Those are my main rituals, I’m just very disciplined about looking after it, and I don’t really drink which I think affects my voice badly. Obviously I don’t smoke either - or vape.
You also have a 2024 UK Theatre and Arena tour following this album and you have already sold out 14 shows. Do you have any highlights or stories from previous tours that you can share with us?
There must be loads. I can’t think of specific ones off the top of my head. It was quite funny the first time I [had] done an arena tour, I had had a baby and I used to take my phone on stage in case there was an emergency with the baby backstage who would be asleep in the tour bus, and quite often I’d see the message pop up from the nanny and I’d just have to go on stage and be like “I just need to open this in case it’s an emergency!” and it would just be pictures from the day and I’d tell the crowd. “Sorry” in front of 20,000 people, sorry it’s not an emergency we can carry on with the show, which I think people found either endearing or annoying, but it was all I could do. I think touring with babies is pretty mad, and the next one I’m going to do it with two. I did the last one with two, but yeah. It’s a bit taxing because it doesn’t matter what happens to me the night before, they still wake me up at seven o’clock.
Does it make it any easier then or is it a different experience to perform in London as your home?
There are certain places that I love performing. One of them is London because it’s my home but the crowd’s harder to get up and running in London than anywhere else. There are other places that I always look forward to playing – Glasgow’s one of them, and pretty much the whole of the North of England, like Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham. But all of those, I think they’re just my favourite crowds, everyone’s really really up for it, and they’re not shy so they shout stuff at you and stuff.
Yes! Glasgow crowds are a fun bunch I’m sure you’ve heard their famous chants. When you’re on stage, even with distractions such as your babies, you have such a theatrical stage presence, and you really get into the song. Is there any way that you prepare to perform in this way, to get into that mindset?
I do rehearse for a while before of course and that gets you into it, what the show and what am I trying to convey and say. And also, the warm-up is almost a sort of meditation, because I do the warm-up by myself, and I sit on my own for a bit. When I’m on tour, I do my own hair and make-up and just even that process is kind of meditative, it’s all mental preparation. I’m very silent before I go on, I don’t like a lot of noise or people fussing about me. I feel like I do better shows as well when I do my own hair and make-up than when I have it done because that’s someone touching you, talking to you before. It distracts you, so it’s kind of like going into a zone, when I perform.
Do you have any notes on what we can expect next? Any teasers for the album before release?
We have a song coming out before Christmas, it’s called Bad Woman which sums me up. The lyric is that “I’m not a good girl, I’m a bad woman.” It’s another song reiterating this idea that as women we’re groomed to think that we have to be good girls, and that we have to please everyone and put our feelings to one side to make the family work or whatever it is. It’s me saying, no, I’m not doing that.
To end on a little sentimental note, if you could tell yourself anything 14 years ago in advance of releasing your first album, what advice would you give?
Sorry, I’m having a styling emergency, where everyone’s like “Answer me now!!” Advice to myself before the album, on a personal level, I think what I would hope to hand down to my children - and my mum used to say it to me all the time, I just didn’t really get what she meant, and I now know - is that; it’s two things really. That good enough is good enough, you don’t always have to do better than good. And, also to expect a little bit more for yourself in life, emotionally, to not just bury your feelings when you feel like maybe your needs are not being met - not just go “Oh, it’s me, it’s me” and self-blame, when actually it might just be your needs are not being met and you need to move on.