It’s a sweltering summer day in New York City, pushing 100 degrees, when Paloma Faith and I decide to take a walk. Luckily, the 27-year-old British singer is, in her own way, dressed for it: she’s wearing a gorgeous two-piece sunsuit that’s straight out of the 1960s. She’s further armed with cat-eye sunglasses, a sky-high beehive, and her unique blend of smarts, sweetness, and grit. It’s her idea to do our interview out on the street. “I quite like walking,” she purrs. “It’s so nice out today.” When I ask her if she’s hot, she replies, “Yes. I love it.”
Make no mistake, Faith is hot. Her 2009 debut album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, went platinum in the U.K. And her sophomore effort, Fall to Grace, already a hit in her home country, is now on the verge of becoming the next big thing in America. It’s not hard to imagine her single “Picking Up the Pieces,” a power ode to caring about someone when they still care about someone else, blaring across these same N.Y.C. sidewalks a few months from now. Faith sings big, showy pop ballads with all her might, and is inspired by the jazz and Motown sounds of 50 years ago. Her voice is strong, low, sultry, and suffused with soul. She credits a family “full of women” for fostering her sense of strength and glamour, and tells me that although as a child she was too shy to speak in class, when a teacher cast her as a dinosaur in a school play, she was able to roar on stage and has “been roaring ever since!”
A native of the Hackney section of London, Faith earns constant comparisons to Amy Winehouse, another great urban British voice. Winehouse channeled the past to express herself, and Faith, too, sees our collective fascination with the ’50s and ’60s as part of a broader—even feminist—movement. “My mum was around in the proper ’60s,” she says of the woman who raised her on her own. “She can’t understand why I like what I do because she burned her bra and wore bare feet. She didn’t shave her armpits. But I consider the whole retro thing, my vintage style, to be about women taking their sexuality back and claiming it for themselves, rather than for the male gaze. Obviously I’d be stupid if I didn’t admit it’s quite nice if men find you attractive as well, but this movement is more of a personal thing [for me].”
After stints as a student, bartender, burlesque club singer, magician’s assistant, and lingerie salesgirl, Faith got her big break when she snagged a showcase for a record producer who sent so many texts during her performance that she stopped the band (and eventually told him to “fuck off”). Nine months later, he signed her anyway. And now she’s been picked up again, this time by major American label Epic Records. “Some of my friends say to me, ‘If you go to America and get really famous, don’t become weird,’” she says of her looming stardom. “But I feel lucky to have an incredible group of friends and family in which everyone is realistic. Nobody I know believes in permanence. As incredible as it would be to be a massive success, it won’t be forever. I’ll just ride the wave when it comes, and when it crashes against the shore, I’ll still have these people.”
Don't forget to check out Paloma Faith in New York at the end of this month! She'll be at New York's Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, November 27th and at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Friday, November 30th. Tickets are available here.
By Phoebe Magee
Photographed by Michael Lavine
Makeup by Glenn Marziali at artistsbytimothypriano.com
Hair by Bradley Irion at artistsbytimothypriano.com
The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.
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