Ex-magician's assistant hangs with Prince, dresses for success
She's sassy: Paloma Faith has no problem speaking her mind. "This place is full of wankers," says the burgeoning British pop star, speaking at a mostly empty sushi restaurant in Manhattan. "This is why people don't come to posh restaurants," the 26-year old singer adds. "I really hate bureaucracy and the idea that I'm not a free person. As soon as someone says I can't sit somewhere, I'll sit there." Faith, dressed in a two-piece sequined bare-midriffed outfit with gigantic and elaborate orange beehive-ish hair, had literally done just that, seating herself at a table and then refusing the waiter's polite request to move to a nearby one. Her issues with authority, however, go beyond restaurants. She readily criticizes those who she felt hindered her creative process on her 2009 debut, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? "People were scared to let me have freedom," she says. "I was an investment. I'd come out of nowhere. They're spending a hell of a lot of money and bringing out an artist and it's all a gamble." Perhaps having earned some creative freedom as a result of selling 500,000 copies of Truth in the U.K. alone, Faith feels her forthcoming follow-up, Fall to Grace (Epic) is different altogether, a more personal and less compromised statement.
She sounds like: As evidenced by hit single "Picking Up the Pieces", Faith offers a slightly more modern take on the Brit Blue-eyed soul of Adele and Amy Winehouse. To achieve the sound, the singer worked with producer Nellee Cooper (Massive Attack, No Doubt) to give Fall to Grace a spirit she calls "old fashioned on the top end and really contemporary on the bottom end." She also cites the Ryan Gosling-starring Drive, which Faith described as "amazing" and essential to her second album's cinematic scope. OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is a big one, too. "Out of all the American artists, he's my favorite," she says of André 3000.
She gets star struck: Faith appeared in Terry Gilliam's 2009 film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and admitted she was "gobsmacked" to work with co-star Tom Waits. "When you're on the pop treadmill," she explains, "you don't always feel that cool because you have to do things to promote the record that aren't necessarily your environment. I don't feel I fit in with morning television because I'm like a vampire and I like to stay up late. It's all very nice but it's weird to me, that kind of environment. So doing something with Tom Waits was, like, the ultimate cool."
Faith met another musical legend when Prince invited her to play his New Power Generation Festival in Copenhagen in 2011. When she received the phone call telling her she'd been selected, Faith was understandably thrilled. "I was in bed, completely naked, at my boyfriend's flat, which is in a basement, and I got the phone call and it kept on breaking up because you haven't got signal in the basement," she recalls. "I was standing on chairs trying to get a signal, jumping up and down. My boyfriend was like, 'You look ridiculous,' but I was just yelling, 'Prince! Prince!' If anybody had been a fly on the wall, they would've been like, 'That's the weirdest situation."
She dresses for success: One of Faith's life mottos is "Comfort is for twats," a slightly edited version of a sign at an old favorite club of hers. "The original quote was 'Comfort is for cunts,' she said. "It was at a club which was like a real home for me. It was like stepping into a David Lynch film, a blues club, really sleazy and gross. But their motto was 'Comfort is for cunts. No jeans, no cunts.' One of the guys who ran that, I met him when I was really young, like 20, and he always wears like proper '50s-influenced, slightly Vegas style shiny suits. He's completely overweight; always has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He said to me once, 'Always dress like you're going to go out because you might.' I was like, 'You know what? You're right.' So I always started to dress pristine and well-thought out. Always with vintage style."
She's got a few tricks up her sleeve: Before becoming a singer, Faith held a number of odd jobs. "I've been a live drawing model," she says. "I worked at [lingerie store] Agent Provocateur for three years and I've been an assistant stylist." She also worked as a magician's assistant. "I helped them with the odd job here and there. A lot of sitting in boxes for hours with rabbits and stuff. Dove handling. Loads of stuff. Being chopped up." Including herself. "It was okay," she says of being a prop. "I don't think it's as glamorous as everyone thinks it is."