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Paloma Faith: Age of experience

Paloma Faith heads to Blackpool this week on the first leg of her tour. Josie Hindle chats to her about motherhood, sexism in the music industry and the Glorification of Sadness.

“It’s a bit difficult for me going around talking about my breakup because that’s what this album is about,” says Paloma Faith during a round of interviews ahead of her current tour. “I feel like emotionally drained.”

The Glorification of Sadness is Faith’s most vulnerable album yet, dealing with the break-up with her long-term partner and father of her children. Its first single, How You Leave A Man, was about finding the confidence to walk away from a relationship and being empowered with your own happiness.

“It’s difficult because it feels like I’m emotionally attached to it. It’s me talking about my life experience. Nothing feels more nerve-wracking than when people say they like or dislike music that feels so heart wrenching.”

Luckily Faith’s sixth studio album has been well received, and despite the challenges of releasing music so personal to her, she’s now finding the strength to take it on the road, arriving at the Winter Gardens Opera House this week, on 6th April.

Although known for her powerhouse vocals, Faith holds her dance training, from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, close to her heart and promises to put on a show.

“I think I’m really aware of the way my body looks on stage, the way I face and the way I perform. I’m hyper trained,” she says. “I would say, first and foremost, I’m a performer.”

She’s also starred in multiple acting roles including playing Bet Sykes in the Batman prequel series Pennyworth, and starring as Florence De Regnier in Lionsgate’s Dangerous Liaisons. As much as she loves singing, she’s not averse to the idea of returning to her roots in the theatre and allowing career in acting to take centre stage.

“It’s quite a long commitment and the right job at the right time hasn’t come along yet. But it’s a serious consideration,” she says. For now music fits more easily around family life. A mum of two, her youngest child will accompany her on tour but she says she misses her eldest who she can’t take out of school.

“I can’t accept every single opportunity that comes my way in the way that people who haven’t got kids can. I have to really consider them and their long-term mental health,” she says.

Faith released her debut album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, in 2009 and quickly gained a loyal fanbase who appreciated her refreshing authenticity. None of the success that followed over five subsequent albums, came easily, she admits, adding that it takes a certain amount of resilience to survive the industry.

“The reason why I know it’s so hard is because I’ve had a lot of people come and work for me and it’s not worked out. They’ll leave and say I can’t do this because it’s just too much. It’s too exhausting and I don’t know how you’re doing this.”

But Faith has managed to remain driven in the face of obstacles and odds that have often been stacked against her, turning her self-doubt into fierce motivation.

Women are told we could have it all. But we can’t.

“I have this kind of black hole that exists in me that means that nothing I do is ever enough,” she admits. “That makes me feel like I don’t want to be beaten by it. I still haven’t achieved what I want to achieve so I just keep going.”

Over the years, Faith has used her voice and popularity to spread awareness about her political concerns. She’s an ambassador for both Greenpeace and Oxfam and, recently, she took a trip to Poland to meet Ukranian refugees.

“The overarching theme when I do anything political is that humility, kindness and empathy are qualities that I think are so important. My main concerns now are climate change, Palestinians in Gaza, and transphobia. People should be free to be who they are.”

Her “main focus” in this album, she says however, is feminism.

“It’s this idea that women that women are told we could have it all. But we can’t,” she says unequivocally.

Operating in the music industry is particularly hard for women, she says. In January a report by the Women and Equalities Committee found misogyny in the music industry is ‘endemic’. And just this week the UK Musicians’ Census revealed that a third of women in the music industry have been sexually harassed at work, with many reporting it as a barrier to their career. Female musicians are also eight times more likely to face discrimination than men.

I think that people felt that perhaps I wasn’t as marketable and sexy as I would have been before having children.

“There are things that happen in the music industry that I suspect are because I’m a woman,” says Faith. “I think that record companies lose attention for female artists who are getting older or having children. I want to see how much money is invested in a young woman artist versus how much money they’re spending on a woman my age.”

She says attitudes towards her noticeably changed when she became a mother.

“I think that people felt that perhaps I wasn’t as marketable and sexy as I would have been before having children. I felt a distinct shift in the hands-on approach that I’d experienced earlier in my career.”

But Faith argues that ageing and motherhood have helped her come into her power as a performer.

“I’m much more resilient. My body’s strong because of being a mother and giving birth. Through that process a tour feels less taxing than it did before.

“The concept of this album is it’s an introduction to Paloma’s MILF phase,” she laughs. “Once you’ve had a baby you can’t be hot anymore? I’m not going down with this prejudice shit.”

Paloma Faith plays the Winter Gardens Opera House on 6th April. Tickets here.

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