x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Blinded by the brightness of Paloma Faith

We have a colourful conversation with the effervescent singer and actress, covering everything from captive doves to eating cake with Prince.

The singer Paloma Faith is known for her unique sense of style which, she says, helped her land a part in the film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ian Gavan / Getty Images
The singer Paloma Faith is known for her unique sense of style which, she says, helped her land a part in the film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Ian Gavan / Getty Images

The Anglo-Spanish singer and actress Paloma Faith first came to the fore with her 2009 pop and sassy soul album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? That same year she played Sally, the devil's girlfriend, in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Faith's current album Fall to Grace reached number two in the UK. Her celebrity fans include Prince and Annie Lennox.

You carried the Olympic torch through Newham, East London. Was that fun?

Yes, as a local girl it was an honour to be asked. People moaned that I did it in red stilettos and a crop top, but if I'd worn trainers and a tracksuit as requested, they would have said: "Paloma looks a bit plain today." You can't win.

You also turned 27 recently. How did you celebrate?

I went for dinner and one of my friends bought me a live dove because Paloma means dove in Spanish. She said I was the freest person she's ever met, and she wanted to set the dove free with me. There was this moral dilemma, though, because some people could see the poetry of the idea and others thought the dove might die because it was born in captivity. Thankfully, a friend who plays my love interest in my videos took it home and he's looking after it.

The new single 30 Minute Love Affair is about a busker you had a crush on as a teenager …

He just looked so beautiful. It was in Leicester Square in London and he was this oasis of calm amid all the bright lights. He was singing Fast Car by Tracy Chapman and I knew all the words because my mum played it in the car when I was a kid. I thought the guy was refreshingly down to earth.

The cliché about stage school kids is that there's always a pushy parent in the background. Is that true?

I think it's a bit of a misconception that I had a stage school upbringing. I did go to The Northern School of Contemporary Dance [in Leeds, England] when I was 18, but I've never had any formal training as a singer or actor.

Were you encouraged to go to dance school?

Yes, but I wasn't pushed. My mum has no rhythm and feels deeply insecure about it and doesn't dance. I think she just wanted me to have some coordination!

She brought you up on her own. What values did she instil in you?

She was influenced by the 1960s feminist movement and everything they fought for in terms of equality of race and gender. She taught me that it was important to have a moral standpoint, and I think that's quite rare in my generation. I'm not the most well-informed person politically, but I do have an opinion and quite a strong sense of morals, I think. I'm at ease with myself, too. Some people don't have that until their 40s or 50s, but I've got it early.

You played the devil's girlfriend alongside Tom Waits in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. What do you remember about the audition?

Usually my agent tells me to dress down in jeans and no make-up, but for the The Imaginarium she said: "Just go as yourself." I put tropical flowers in my hair and wore as many colours of the rainbow as possible. When Terry opened the door, he said: "Great! Finally someone with a personality!"

How was acting alongside Mr Waits?

I've been a massive fan of his music for years and you can't get cooler than Tom, so it took me a while to get over that. In the end, he came to my trailer one night to rehearse some lines in private. That broke down the barriers and we had a proper heart to heart.

Prince invited you to play at his New Power Generation festival in Copenhagen last summer. How did he come across your music?

His manager is this beautiful Asian woman from Acton [in West London] of all places, and she's been playing him lots of British music. He suggested that I film my live shows so that I can analyse them from every angle, and he made me feel that I have potential, which was great coming from him.

Was he enigmatic?

I found him quite natural, but he is enigmatic, yes. Even if you're just having a bit of cake, you're still doing it with Prince - do you know what I mean? No matter how relaxed he is, you can't get away from that starry perception. I feel a bit sorry for him in that sense. It must be quite an isolating thing in his life.

If by some quirk of fate you had some time off next week, how would you spend it?

Choosing wallpaper and getting up a ladder. I've finally managed to put a deposit down on a house. I'm doing it up on my own and nobody's coming over until it's done.

Paloma Faith's new single 30 Minute Love Affair (RCA) is out now.

Follow Arts & Life on Twitter to keep up with all the latest news and events @LifeNationalUAE