Paloma Faith has been one of the most consistently successful acts of the past decade – her first three albums have gone double-platinum, and the fourth, The Architect is heading the same way.
So it’s a little surprising to discover that the most recent album was her first number one.
‘My debut album went to number nine and then the last two before this got to number two,’ she tells The Guide, as she chats en route to a gig in Staffordshire. ‘It just felt really good to finally get a number one after four albums – I’m one of those rare artists who’s done better each time.’
It’s been a busy summer of festival shows, from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to Bude in Cornwall, and most points in between. The quirky star is capping off her season by bringing her flamboyant pop to a headlining slot on the Castle Stage at Victorious Festival here in Southsea on Saturday, August 25.
The Architect has clearly been doing well for her, but Paloma’s not someone to take this for granted.
‘It has gone well, but I’m someone who’s naturally questioning everything, and I feel like it’s not enough, and I don’t necessarily have a realistic gauge of how things are going. My manager will call me up and tell me it’s going well, and I’ll be like: “Is it?”’
When The Architect was released late last year, it had been nearly four years since her previous effort, A Perfect Contradiction, which had yielded her biggest single to date, Only Love Can Hurt Like This. In the interim she had a child in December 2016.
How did she feel about returning to the fray? ‘I wasn’t confident at all, and that’s why every song sounds like a single!’ she laughs. ‘But I feel like it’s a terrifying thing to go back to work from maternity leave for any mother who’s had a baby.’
While the album is packed with her trademark full-blown pop sound, motherhood has changed her outlook on the writing front.
It covers powerful and topical themes, such as (unsurprisingly) motherhood, social anxiety, wealth inequality, technology’s impact on feelings of alienation, and also the future of the Western world, Donald Trump, Brexit and the refugee crisis
‘The Architect is a social observation record,’ she explains. ‘I was adamant that I wouldn’t write about love. I wanted to look outside of myself. I’m coming at politics from the perspective of the common man or woman, observing why people are suffering. Each song on the record is about a different pocket of the socio-political world that I’ve been delving into.
‘I wanted to write something more modern. On previous albums I’ve been more concerned with the past, but now I’m looking forward because of motherhood and wanting to change things for a better future. It’s a marriage of old and new.’
So it’s safe to say motherhood has changed her whole outlook on life? ‘It has. I feel much more efficient because I have to divide my life up in a much more definitive way. I do think with my job it’s very easy to spend all hours of the day sending out emails, sending out ideas, working on stuff, and I can’t do that any more. So when I am working, I am more efficient about it. Like now, I’m doing some phoners in the car, and then after that maybe I’ll do some mood boards and answer some emails. That’s very much how I section out my day.
‘And then when I’m with my child, everyone knows that I don’t really respond because I don’t want my child to grow up thinking that mum’s always on the phone.’
Writing for the album saw her reunite with singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt on its title track, where Paloma takes on the persona of Mother Nature, singing to humanity.
‘I’ve worked with Ed on every one of my albums so far, except for my third one and that’s because I was dating one of his friends and then we broke up, which made it a bit uncomfortable, but water under the bridge and all that, so we started working together again.’
There was also a change in Paloma’s approach to the new music, both physically and mentally before and after the birth.
‘I started writing it when I was pregnant and I was working a lot in America. And then I had the baby and went back to it and re-sang quite a lot of it, because I thought it improved my life – I was strengthening on every level, and I started to write a bit more because I my perspective had shifted. I felt more emotionally open after having a child.’
For someone who has always projected such a strong public persona, it’s strange to hear how things have changed for her.
‘It’s funny because in this job you have to be quite thick-skinned to release an album and go on the promo trail and put yourself out there. But to write great music and be a great mum, and you have to be the total opposite, you have to be open and gentle, and almost absorbent of energies, and so for the creative side of things it was beneficial.
‘But it’s not been beneficial for me in terms of coming back into the public eye as I feel constantly paranoid and over-sensitive and quite often hurt. Before I’d be like: “I just don’t care what people think”, and now it’s,’ she mock cries, ‘”Oh, I’m so hurt!”’
Victorious Festival is on Southsea Common from Friday August 24 to Sunday, August 26. Friday tickets are £40, Saturday and Sunday are £45 each. Go to victoriousfestival.co.uk.