So obviously No Shame is amazing, congratulations! How’s the reaction been so far?
The only reaction I’ve really seen is live from fans, and that’s been really amazing. I guess the other thing is reviews which have been on the whole really good. Couple of bad ones, but it is what it is…
It’s been four years since Sheezus and you’ve previously said you made “a record for a record company”, how did you approach No Shame differently?
Well I don’t know if I’d made it for the record company, but I made it for the market. When I first started making music I didn’t think I was going to be a pop star. To be honest, I thought I’d be like Jamie T support act. Then when ‘Smile’ came out and whatever happened… It was beyond all my expectations. I don’t even know if it was really what I wanted, but it happened like that. Because it was successful it’s like you’re trying to repeat that cycle and I think that became wrong in whatever way, and that’s what culminated in Sheezus. I had to reevaluate what it was that I was doing, what it was that I liked and what it was that my fans liked about the first albums when it was going right, and not really thinking about the commercial aspect of things. Because those things aren’t really in an artists control now anyway, it’s all to do with algorithms and streaming figures.
Releasing a song at the right time and all of that?
Not even that! I think it’s all to do with marketing. If you’re not a priority then it’s not going to happen like that and I knew that it was no longer a priority so I was like “Well, what are you doing this for then?” If it’s not to be a pop star it’s got to be for the other reasons, so it was going back to the other reasons.
And how was it going back to those previous reasons?
A relief, I think. Just having the freedom to do whatever it was I wanted and reconnecting. I think it was interesting as well that the first and second albums were very truthful and honest, but from a different perspective. I was a lot younger and I didn’t have any responsibilities – it was all about drugs and sex and the good sides of that. No Shame is the other side.
What made you want to explore those other sides in No Shame?
Just because I was in it! That’s where I was. I’ve always written about my lived experiences and what it is I’m going through. In the first album it was all about going out and London and boys because that’s what I was! I was 19 and that’s what I was seeing. On this album I was really lonely and very isolated from my friends and my peer group, even from members of my family. I suppose maybe because I was writing a book alongside the album I became quite introspective and started thinking about myself and what’s happened more. I spent a lot of time on Twitter and seeing what other people think about the world, but it was the first time I sort of explored myself outside of therapy.
What made you want to write a book?
Money and running out of it! Not seeing many avenues to make it anymore. And also, aside from that slightly facetious answer, I actually don’t have a very good memory, I get really bored of repeating myself and I think that this period, the last four years at least, have been not only really important formative years for myself but for my children as well. And they’re going to ask questions about what happened with Mummy and Daddy and I’m not going to want to go over it. Also it’ll not be accurate in 10 years time when I’m retelling the story. Lots of parents have that difficulty but most parents’ children don’t have the Daily Mail online as their point of reference to find out the truth about what happened and I just don’t want them to think that that’s what it is. So it’s my way of explaining that… and getting paid, yay!
And what’s the book called?
My Thoughts Exactly.
How about No Shame? Where did that name come from?
It was called The Fourth Wall for ages because it did feel like that moment in House of Cards where Kevin Spacey turns to the camera and starts talking to the audience and saying that everything else that came before was a bit of an act really – which is true to a certain extent, but it’s slightly exaggerated. But my manager said “imagine if you’re on Graham Norton and you’re having to explain this, that makes you sound really pretentious.” Then one day I came up with No Shame and he was like “you can explain this better.” And I guess it’s just being a woman in music and being tabloid fodder for such a long period of my twenties, everything kind of came with a side dish of guilt and shame and humiliation, but it was all kind of written for me. No-one ever said “are you really embarrassed by this?” or “aren’t you really upset by this?”, it was just “she’s upset, she’s embarrassed, she’s a failure.” So I think it was me addressing all of those things that I do on the record but putting up a bit of an armour really, just saying I’m not ashamed. That’s how we move forward from these things that lots of people go through, but maybe not a lot of us talk about because we feel ashamed.
Obviously a lot of us don’t have our lived plastered on the front of the Daily Mail for everyone to read but especially being a young woman, is that motto of not being ashamed something you want people to take from this?
I think most of of my albums have had a double entendre thing to it – except Sheezus. It’s me saying that I’ve got no shame but Daily Mail readers will listen to it and go “oh she’s got no shame that one.” You can make it what you want to really. But then also, so often when I’ve been experiencing really great things, like album sales and playing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury or whatever, it’s like I almost don’t let myself have it. I’d be like “didn’t the band play a really great show?” or “didn’t Greg Kurstin produce a really great album?” It’s difficult I think as a woman, especially when people are being so rude about you the whole fucking time and trying to tell you that everything’s happened because of other people, we find it difficult not to feel guilty about our accomplishments in a weird way. It’s that imposter syndrome thing.
Like claiming the narrative for yourself and not being ashamed of it. Is that what you want people to feel when they listen to the album?
I’ve come to terms with the idea now that you put something out and people will make of it what they want. That’s almost another reason why the album’s got that title, it’s like you can either hate it and think that I’ve got “no shame” or you can listen to it and be like “oh that’s good, she’s rid herself of all of that guilt and shame.”
And you’ve just mentioned Twitter, do you think it’s important to call out people when they’re being twats on it? Because a lot of people in the public eye get people who are mean about them online but don’t address it.
I probably address 0.00001 per cent of what it is that I get. And I’ve spent a lot of time online and I think most of my peers do as well. The analogy that I tend to use now is that Twitter is the modern pub. You know? And if people would talk to me like that in real life – if someone was really drunk and lecherous and annoying, I’d probably walk away and ignore him, but if I felt what they said really crossed a line I would call them out. So that’s kind of my filter for it, I guess.
You also use your social media to bring up issues that are happening. Do you think it’s important for artists to do that?
It depends what their goal is. If it’s to make money and get lots of brand endorsements then probably not. If what you’re striving for is something different, which I do, then yeah. I feel like you’ve got to be able to back it up, you know? And I think that’s why the tabloids and everyone hates me so much is because they can’t get me. I am a leftist, I am a socialist, I pay all my fucking tax, you know? I don’t have a company registered in the Cayman Islands and they know that. That’s why they’re so angry because they can’t… if I am being hypocritical I’ll put my hands up and say “yeah that is”, but I believe in what I say. I walk the walk and I talk the talk and that’s why they hate it so much.
Completely. I think you’re using the influence and followers that you have to promote important things that people need to be talking about instead of being like “oh if I bring up this issue Missguided might not give me that 10% off sample sale.” So what would you say has been the worst piece of advice you’ve gotten in the industry?
Sign this record deal for £25,000 from my lawyer at the time… In all seriousness I think there’s a real issue with the legal firms that are giving advice to really young people. I signed that deal when I was 19 years old and I’m still in it. It was a five-album deal for £25,000. And I paid for the advice to sign that deal and it was not good advice.
Is there any way you can get out of it?
I’m working on it but I’ve only got one more album to go. But I am very concerned for other young artists for sure.
Yeah, it’s terrifying. Finally, what else have you got planned. There’s a big tour at the end of the year?
I don’t really make plans anymore. It’s all so unpredictable. I just kind of see where the wind takes me. I’m doing this book, which is coming out in September. There’s talk about maybe people buying the rights to it and whether to make it into either a film or TV, and then I’ll take the producer credit on that and do it through my production company so I don’t know, I might really enjoy that process and decide I don’t want to make music anymore and do something else. Or I might decide to do another album.
Was there ever a time in those four years between Sheezus and No Shame where you were like I’d rather just…
Never that I’d rather just do something else. I did do something else when I did my clothes shop with my sister and also having babies. Also having kids is choosing to go on a different tangent. So I do have those moments but I’m completely unqualified, I left school when I was fifteen, this is the only thing I know how to do and I do really enjoy it.
And finally, what’s your FAULT?
Brexit, apparently! I dunno, everything? It’s all my fault, blame me for it. Like what’s my inner fault? What’s wrong with me? Again, the answer is just everything. I think just write everything.
Photography - David Yeo
Fashion - Rachel Holland
Hair - Jake Gallagher
Makeup - Georgina Ahmed
Nails - Diana Drummond
Set Design - Andrew Macgregor
Fashion assistants - Ana Cirnu and Lupe Baeyens
Fault Magazine Issue 29