(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
In her native England where her new album “Fall to Grace” debuted at number two, Paloma Faith performs to an average of 5,000 people. She recently played for a crowd of 40,000 as part of a BBC radio event, also featuring Emeli Sande and Jessie J.
During her first U.S. tour, the remarkable 27-year-old singer (who’s approaching 300,000 twitter followers) says she’s playing to about 200 per night.
“Which is kind of strange but also exciting,” says Faith, whose record comes out Dec. 4 in the states. “I kind of get [why] somebody like Prince does his big arena [show] and then does his after-show, which is more intimate because there’s something so beautiful about playing in that capacity.”
In fact, Prince has shown his support for Faith, and it’s easy to see why the artist’s old-fashioned pop songs—which she says aim to inject hope into tragic situations—would catch on in America, especially when they hear her Adele-sized voice. By the way, Faith’s resume spans from recently running with the Olympic torch in stilettos to playing the devil’s girlfriend in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”
In Chicago for the first time before her show last month at Martyrs’, the charming, open Faith talked about fearing that no Americans would come to her shows, her friendship with Adele and how her feet were feeling after that Olympic run.
How do you feel your shows in the states have gone so far?
Amazing! I’m really astonished because when I was on my way to the states I was really worried that nobody was going to come and see me play. Because I’m British; we usually err on the side of self-deprecation. [Laughs] I just spent nights going, “Oh, god, they don’t even know I exist. This is too early for tour!” But actually there’s a lot of people who have come to the shows who also have my debut album and [are] genuine American fans and I feel so happy about it.
And your new one is on Spotify, so people can hear it before it’s out here.
Yeah, that’s exciting for me. And also I just really enjoy the American audiences I’ve met so far because they give you instant feedback. Whereas in Britain you have to go online to figure out what people thought because they’re a very reserved culture.
What feedback have you gotten so far?
It’s like whooping and cheering. People in the middle of the song going, “Yeah! Sing it!” And all that. And I love that.
People in the UK don’t whoop?
No, everyone’s just like (claps politely).
How surreal is it to go from playing for 5,000 or 40,000 people to 200? Is it a weird transition?
No, I’m not somebody who ever gets used to a particular position. Every time somebody says, “We’d like to take you for dinner” I get excited for a free meal, no matter how many times it happens. So I would say to people, I come from a background of always working. I started my first job when I was 14; if I had to go back to working in the lingerie shop that I worked at for three years selling pants and bras to people then I would. So I don’t feel remotely it’s a step back. I feel it’s a luxury because I’m enjoying the intimacy and the connection with the people. Obviously I would like to progress, for it to be an escalation as opposed to … because it’s expensive to come to America and even to do a small gig. It doesn’t fund the flight. It’s the label putting goodwill in. It won’t happen that often if it doesn’t get bigger, I’m aware of that.
In England is that something people talk about in the music community, breaking out in the U.S.? Is there any type of logic to it? I’m a big Arctic Monkeys fan and have always wanted them to catch on here in the same way.
I think it’s because they use a lot of local language and stuff and their accents are really strong. So I think maybe people don’t relate to that so much. There is talk about it, but it is kind of one of those things that’s a rarity. It’s very rare for a British act to break America. Many have tried, me included. Well, this is my first [attempt]. But the general consensus is that Amy [Winehouse] and Adele were anomalies, and I don’t necessarily think that’s true. I just think that they’re exceptionally talented and exceptionally brilliant and I think that America is very good at recognizing real talent. Whereas in the UK audiences might find someone more appealing because they said something funny on television. [There] they buy more into a person. Whereas I think in America people are genuinely big music lovers, and when it’s good music you can’t deny that.
You give us a lot of credit; I like that. Speaking of Amy, I read you were offered a spot in her band at one point?