Slowing down Paloma Faith tells why she scrapped half her album when lockdown kicked in
If there's one thing you know you're going to get from quirky British pop star Paloma Faith in an interview, it's honesty. She's not the sort of celebrity who sugar coats what's going on in her life.
Paloma announced in September that she's expecting her second child with her partner, French artist Leyman Lahcine, after six rounds of IVF.
The birth of their daughter in December 2016 was traumatic. London-born Faith was left struggling to walk for two months after enduring a gruelling 20-hour labour before having an emergency Caesarean.
Afterwards, she developed post-partum depression and wondered if she'd ever be happy again.
In an exclusive interview with Magazine+, Paloma (39) looks back at those dark days and recounts a recent conversation with her partner Lahcine.
"The other day," she says, "we were in the kitchen with our three-year-old daughter, and obviously my belly is sticking out a bit now, and he looks at me and he smiles so sweetly and says, 'It's going to be so amazing in four years when you get through the bit where you're absolutely mental because you haven't slept properly and I'm the main target of all of your anger.'"
Paloma explodes with her infectious cackle at the memory of this. Despite the turmoil, she says their seven-year relationship is a strong one.
"We laugh a lot and that's the main thing that saves it," she reflects.
Lockdown for some people has been a make or break time in their relationship. Paloma's seems to have flourished during it.
"I've realised that my relationship thrives when we're together, not when we're apart," she reveals. "I think, for us, the breaking side is when I'm always away and always working, but we actually get on really well when we're together."
Paloma is not the sort to paint a romantic picture about her relationship, or motherhood, by pretending it's a fairy-tale life and that there are no conflicts or periods of unhappiness.
"I think that would be doing young people a disservice," she says. "I was one of those young people, who was made to believe that relationships that last are perfect; that parenthood is the biggest gift of all and you would never have any negative feelings, and I think that's not fair.
"I felt that my expectations were too high. The reality is something different to that. I think that meeting the person who makes you a better person is the right one.
"Sometimes they annoy the sh*t out of you because they're saying something that is the opposite of what you're saying, when actually that is helpful to you.
"And then sometimes, parenthood is like a constant battle between loving your child so much and losing yourself, making big sacrifices and sometimes feeling like you've failed. You're not prepared for all of those things."
The reality of relationships, she acknowledges, is totally different to the romantic view, and they sometimes require compromise, understanding and forgiveness by both sides. Then, she adds with another burst of laughter: "There's always Plan B if that doesn't work… thank God for divorce."
Trying to juggle being a parent with a high-flying career, particularly in the super league of the music world, can also cause havoc for some couples.
As her family's biggest earner, Paloma says she goes out to work while Lahcine is a stay-at-home dad.
She has no intention of quitting touring when the live music scene gets back to normal.
"I love performing," she says. "Maybe it's the downside for him - but not for me. I love going on tour. I'm happy to leave home, but he struggles with that.
"It's been the thing that I've always wanted to do. I'm lucky that he's a creative artist as well, so he sort of understands what it's like being in love with something other than your partner. He doesn't take it personally. He's able to compartmentalise because he does the same. But I think when we're separated for too long, it can be quite bad for us."
How is she dealing with the new reality of living with Covid-19 and the restrictions it has wrapped around all our lives?
"I take it a day at a time," Paloma says. "I do think that I have always played to the sound of my own drum. I haven't let it really get me down because I don't think it's forever, and I also think that I thrive quite well in a crisis. I feel like I'm particularly good in a crisis, which is weird, but I've always been like that."
Paloma, an only child, was raised single-handedly by her mum who has suffered from a mass of health problems, including a brain tumour and cancer. "My mum was very ill when I was young and there were a few emergency situations that an 18-year-old wouldn't normally know how to deal with, but I'm the person to be around if you fall out of the tree," she says.
"I don't scream or flap. I'm very rational, very quickly. I'm also a bit of a glass-half-full person, so I'm just really grateful that my family is safe and well in this pandemic, and I just focus on that.
"Being pregnant, I err on the side of caution. I've developed a way to live and have a life, while very carefully avoiding too much contact with people, particularly those that aren't cautious."
We're talking as Paloma gets set to release her new album, Infinite Things, which also happens to be about relationships, and was written during lockdown.
"I'm trying to relinquish the expectation that a lot of people are raised with, that the only good life is a happy one," she reiterates. "I don't think that's realistic. It's about the peaks and troughs, because if you didn't have one, you wouldn't recognise the other."
Paloma had most of the album written before the pandemic happened, but decided to abandon those songs and begin again from a fresh perspective.
"I felt like the record I'd written was much more celebratory and dance-y, and then when Covid happened, it just felt like it was a bit in bad taste," she explains. "I went back to the drawing board in lockdown. I started writing much more introspective songs.
"We always hear love songs about first encounters or heartbreak, but we never really hear songs about the majority of the time that you spend in love, which is in long-term relationships; the kind of love that goes beyond the initial meeting, and goes beyond a break-up to the real sustenance of a relationship, of trying to make it work. I feel people don't tend to write about that in music.
"I wrote lots about that on this album because we were in lockdown, and we were sort of faced with those who were just directly in front of us. In my case, that was my daughter and my partner, so I've written about those relationships."
- Paloma Faith's new album, 'Infinite Things', is out now