A Brutally Honest Paloma Faith On Motherhood And Being Political
Foreword: My interview did not go to plan. Faith has a way of taking things in her own, refreshing direction.
My first ever chat with the talented Paloma Faith left me unexpectedly inspired. In fact, I may or may not have fist-pumped the air after hanging up the phone.
I’d prepared myself for a typical press interview – albeit one with a double platinum singer/songwriter – imagining we’d discuss her recently completed UK tour and upcoming performances with the Sydney Symphonic Orchestra, and instead had the kind of conversation I’d have with a best girlfriend late on a Saturday night after a few wines.
There’s no way to overstate this: Faith is an absolute powerhouse of a woman, with one of the most intense and soulful voices of this decade. Her successes are many, from being the first female artist (apart from Adele) to have her last three albums go double platinum in the UK, and her talent as an actress, to her ability to release number one single after number one single. Try belting out her hit song Only Love Can Hurt Like This next time you’re in the car alone. You’ll get an entirely new appreciation for her mezzo-soprano vocals. And the stories she can tell sound like they’re from a star-studded dream; did you know Amy Winehouse once asked her to be in her band? Or that she booked a teenage Adele at a club she used to promote before the star was discovered? Or that Prince knew all of the lyrics to her songs?
With that kind of celeb cred, Faith is the kind of woman you’d expect to strike nerves into interviewers, demanding certain topics remain untouched and engaging in diva-esque behavior.
But my nerves are quickly alleviated once the phone connects and I’m greeted with a cheerful voice on the other end, apologizing for being a few moments late to our interview. I assure her it’s okay, and begin our chat. She’s catching an early morning cab on a rainy day in London, and I’m set up on the couch in my sweats with a glass of vino in hand, in Sydney, mid-evening.
I’m already familiar with Faith’s refreshing candidness about her political and personal beliefs, and being likeminded myself, I’m itching to pick her brain on these topics. And I get my chance straight out of the gate, with politics sneaking its way into our conversation from our the very first exchange.
I ask her if there were any particular highlights from her recent UK tour, where she’d been performing tracks from her latest album, The Architect, and she mentions that one show, in particular, stands out to her.
“The last show in Dublin had such an amazing atmosphere. We’d been through the highs and lows of the tour, it was the last day, and it was a bit of a relief. But also, some people have found a lot of the songs I’ve been singing throughout the UK in a new Britain, post-Brexit, kind divisive and aren’t sure about them. But in Dublin, it just seemed like they were really happy with my views and it was an easier audience to play to.”
And I can see where she’s coming from. The new album is a lot more political than many of her previous releases. Faith has been very forthcoming about her opinions on the Brexit decision – she’s a ‘stay’ voter herself – and being political is nothing new for her. Where many other artists and celebrities keep their beliefs close to their chest, likely to avoid polarizing their listeners, she takes a different approach, believing wearing her heart on her sleeve is integral to her authenticity as an artist.
“I think we live in a generation where people have become apolitical and it’s really dangerous. It’s actually more dangerous than going right or left because it’s a sense of apathy and a lack of responsibility for one another that leads to a division between community and culture. I do believe that no man is silent and we all have a sense of responsibility for one another. It’s really important that if you’ve got a platform like I have that you use it to shed light on things.
I’m definitely not a spokesperson for anybody, but I think it’s important to start the conversation and actually engage people, making them feel passionate about things that affect them and their loved ones on a daily basis. Politics needs modernizing, so it needs people like me to make it interesting or create a point of reference or conversation. There’s a lack of responsibility on people in my position, I think.”
And that’s exactly what she set out to do with her new album. This social commentary and political themes are dotted throughout the track list of The Architect, from the Brexit-inspired Guilty, to the track Warrior, reportedly about the refugee crisis.
“It wasn’t really to be on my soapbox giving anyone a lecture, but because I was pregnant and I wanted to almost speak to my unborn child about qualities that I wanted them to have like kindness, empathy, and understanding,” Faith emphasizes.
Since giving birth to her first child a little over a year ago, she’s extended her no-holds-barred approach of talking to her fans to pregnancy and motherhood, as well.
“l didn’t like being pregnant and I found birth absolutely horrendous. I had quite a lot of problems with it,” she says when I ask her about her first pregnancy.
“I found it such a struggle to give up my body. And then you don’t get any thanks for being a parent for ages – until they’re about six months old and they start to develop a bit of a personality and acknowledge your existence. But I feel like motherhood is the best and the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
I’m in a new phase now. My child has just turned one and between one and four are considered the ‘golden years of motherhood’ so I’m in a place where it’s the most rewarding and incredible thing ever and has made it all worthwhile. But honestly, I found the first year very difficult and it was a massive shock to the system.”
Her rawness about the pitfalls of pregnancy and new parenthood is still considered taboo for women; Faith completely disagrees with this societal norm.
“When you become a mother, there’s a huge amount of sacrifice involved and, kind of by default, you just completely give up on yourself temporarily. Why should women also have to sacrifice the conversation and the ability to be able to say ‘Do you know what, this is really hard’?
I hadn’t had my child when Adele went onstage at the Grammy’s and said her speech about how hard motherhood is and I still think that was great she stood up and did that. I look back on that speech now and think “Oh, I get it now,” but when you haven’t had a child you don’t really know what she means until it’s happened to you. And she’s an amazing mother so it’s just really nice to hear somebody say ‘You can be an amazing mother and be really devoted but also this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.'”
If you have the physical copy of #thearchitect you will have seen this series of beautiful photographs by @david_standish my long time collaborator team on the day were @eamonnhughes @lanslondon @karl_willett I’m so proud of these images, and yes this shoot sent me into early labour #palomafaith #thearchitect #art #futuristic catsuit by @atsukokudolatex
Faith also believes this realness about motherhood has an important role in the workplace as well.
“This kind of honesty can help women to take responsibility for the way we’re treated in employment. I think that, in a way, it’s better for us to say how difficult it is because, to me, motherhood should be something that’s treated as a forte. If I have a business and a woman comes to me and says “I’ve got three children and I really want this job, and I’m going to do both”, then to me, that woman is going to be an amazing asset to my company because she’s capable of doing all of that and having a job and I think that’s a strength, not a weakness.
It’s time that employer’s attitudes towards mothers changed. Every time I interview someone and they’ve got children it makes me have more of a reassurance that they’ll get the job done more efficiently because as a mother, you become like a super multi-tasker.”
Our conversation moves away from motherhood in general and towards her own child, where she addresses the recent ‘controversy’ she faced after it was revealed she’s choosing to raise her child gender neutral, without the pressures of being either typically male or female. It’s something that is really important to the new mother, though she’s quick to assert she’s not doing it for a political reason.
“I think that children need to be exposed to everything and not be restricted before they’re even properly conscious. I just think it’s not for a parent to decide if a child behaves one way or another. The only thing you can do is teach them good manners, empathy, and compassion. Other than that, they need to really be exposed to all the avenues that they could choose to go down in their life.
Developmentally, I think it’s really important, and I don’t think it’s really a question of ‘gender’ for me, it’s just to do with development. It’s almost weird that when I said how I’d be raising my child, that it was taken to be about gender and I’m not really interested in that. I’m interested in dressing my child so they’re comfortable, regardless of their gender, and allowing my children access and exposure to many different activities and toys irrespective of gender and that’s really all it is.”
I find myself nodding along in agreement on the other end of the phone, sipping on my wine and forgetting that Faith is not a girlfriend I haven’t caught up with in ages. It’s so easy talking to her that it’s difficult not to lose your direction in an interview. But that’s what’s equally charming about the vivacious 36-year-old – she doesn’t have an agenda, and is happy to go off on a tangent for the sake of a good chat. Even while being candid with her answers, she maintains a casual coolness about her that makes you wish you were indeed part of her inner clan. In the middle of the interview, Faith pauses to exit the cab she’s been riding in, and I overhear her lively exchange with the driver, and wild dash to cover as it starts to rain harder.
After she’s made it to dry land, we banter about the weather where I am in Sydney, Australia, sharing anecdotes about how hard it is to pack for the climate for her upcoming performance at the Sydney Opera House.
“You pack for the season it is over there and spend the whole time freezing because everywhere has the air-conditioning turned right up!” she laughs.
Before hanging up, realizing I’ve gone completely off my original interview plan, I quickly ask her to share one piece of advice she thinks women today should arm themselves with. It’s a bit of a cliche question, I know, but with the current women’s movements happening across the globe, I think it’s important to have some words of encouragement from prominent women. And Paloma Faith is definitely a successful, unique and inspirational woman, besides being a great person to banter with over the phone.
“I’d say you are more than worthy and more than capable. It’s up to us to command a high level of respect for ourselves. We can’t just accept the lot that society has given to us. We have to push through,” she asserts.
I absolutely agree, and can’t wait to see what she has planned next.
Images via shutterstock.com and instagram.com
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