Poised to be one of the big musical breakout stars of 2013, British diva Paloma Faith comes across as a sober and sane Amy Winehouse. Her domestic debut “Fall to Grace” (Epic) is a lustrous showcase for her remarkable vocal range. Heavily influenced by American R&B vocalists from bygone days, Faith can belt like the best of them, infusing songs such as “Picking Up the Pieces,” “Just Be” and “When You’re Gone” with a maturity belying her youth. She unleashes her inner dance diva on the track “Blood, Sweat & Tears.”
I spoke with Faith shortly before the release of the disc.
Your debut disc was released in 2009 and its follow-up, “Fall To Grace,” was released stateside at the end of 2012. What was happening during that three-year period?
I was quite popular in the U.K. I think my first album went double platinum, but only in the U.K. To my frustration, there was no real mention of it in the States. Basically, I spent 18 months touring and promoting it. Then I took a year to write this new record.
You co-wrote most of the dozen songs on “Fall to Grace.” Where do you find inspiration for your songs?
I don’t write music, because I can’t play an instrument. I write lyrics. All the words you hear on the record are from me. I find inspiration from conversations that I hear passing or that I have. I always have a notebook with me, and I write lines or words or sentences down that I think would be inspiring. Then when I go into the studio I read out the possibilities to whomever I’m working with and usually let them choose what they’d like to work with. Then I respond to the music they’re playing.
So is the “agony and suffering” in the song “Agony” a personal statement or something you observed?
It was a personal one. I was going out with someone who was addicted to drugs. I really, really liked him, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay with him because I don’t want to create a world of hits for myself (laughs). I tend to get out of those relationships (laughs).
That’s very wise.
(Laughs) It was all a bit like, “Oh. I’ll enjoy it for another couple of weeks” kind of situation.
Because your sound has a retro pop feel to it, I was wondering where Lulu and Dusty Springfield fall on your influence spectrum?
To be honest, I think most of my influences are from American music. My all-time favorite singer is Etta James. I grew up listening to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald – Peggy Lee, all those kind of people. I’ve always loved Tina Turner and women who have balls when they sing, but they’re all American.
Your music videos are wonderful productions. Are the costumes in some of the videos a carry-over from your theater days?
Probably, but I’ve always kind of dressed up. I’ve always dressed in a kind of contemporary vintage way, ever since I was about 18.
You make good use of your acting in your videos and have also been acting in motion pictures. What do you like about acting?
I like the escapism of acting. What I do as a musician is very personal and autobiographical in a way. When I’m acting, I remove myself from it and I’m embodying another character or another person, really. I find that part exciting for me – it’s the escapism.
“Blood, Sweat & Tears” is a house music anthem that is sure to appeal to your gay fans dancing in the clubs. Have you made appearances in gay clubs?
Yeah, I have played in the big London gay clubs. Gay radio stations, as well.
Do you feel like you have a strong embrace from your gay fans?
Earlier this year you recorded a video backing the Out4Marriage campaign, saying that you are “proud” to be a supporter. Have you had the opportunity to sing at any same-sex weddings?
No! I wish! When I recently performed in a gay club, I was saying that I really hate heterosexual marriages. If anybody wants to invite me to their same-gender marriages, I prefer those.
Is there a specific song you’d like to sing at a gay wedding?
I’ve sung at weddings before and usually I sing “At Last” by Etta James.
Is there anything else you want people in the States to know about you?
I mean well (laughs).
To purchase "Fall From Grace" from Amazon, click here.