Interview: Nerina Pallot

Other | Thursday 14th February 2013 | Laura


Brit and Ivor Novello-nominated singer/songwriter Nerina Pallot, performed last 11th February at the Islington Assembly Hall, London, as part of the Lonely Valentine Club' tour. With already four albums in the market, and currently preparing the fifth, she stopped for a while to offer her fans and all the lonely hearts a few new songs of the Lonely Valentine Club' EP, which was released last Tuesday.

Why did you decide to start this project?

I knew I was going on tour and I was working on my new album and I thought it would be really good fun to theme some songs around the tour which is happening around Valentine’s day. It just came naturally, I didn´t plan too much.

On the EP you do a version of CeCe Peniston’s ‘Finally’, why did you choose to cover this song for the EP?

I like to do a cover every few months so that I always have a cover in my set. I wanted to pick a song that I really love, but people wouldn’t necessarily think it’s anything like the music I do. This time I tried to get something completely different from the music I make. I love this song, when I was a kid growing up, it was always on the radio and stuff. It’s definitely a song that is very dear to me.

The EP includes 4 original tracks. Tell us a Little bit about them. Are they all love songs?

They´re kind of love songs, there is one called ‘Once’, which is sort of hoping for something magic to happen. That thing of feeling like you really want a miracle of some kind. The other songs are more about I guess, resignation, they are quite sad. Everything on this is quite melancholy, even though 'Finally' is quite a happy song. Definitely the way I’m doing it is really sad.

Let’s talk about the EP’s cover. What I can see is an innocent girl’s body with a bucket of flowers in her hand, but instead of a head she has a huge heart chained and with a sword stuck on it. Am I right?

I really love the work a painter who draws little people with empty heads. I just wanted to express what it feels to be heartbroken, that melancholy, when you can’t think about anything else.

What was your favorite thing to do when you are heartbreak?

Music! Write songs and listen to songs. That’s always been what got me through.

Someone said Happiness it’s not a good literary topic, that it’s the period before or after happiness what makes the big stories, poems and maybe songs. Do you agree?

I thing that’s true. If you’re busy being happy, you don’t necessarily feel like going over to an instrument and playing your heart out. But I think you can write reflectively. I think you can be, maybe not deliriously happy but content, and write about the sad times. Because everything is in our head and our emotions come from there. So it’s not hard to imagine other people going through something or you go back to a situation when you weren’t happy. That’s what I do when I’m feeling particularly happy. I feel down often enough to write this down.

You wrote songs for artists including Kylie Minogue. How is the process of writing for others?

Generally, when people have sung my songs, it`s either been a song I´ve written and they have covered, or I have met the artist and got a sense of what they want. Then I go away and I write on my own or whomever I have co-written with, for example for Kylie I wrote with my husband Andy Chatterley, who is a producer and we did it together. I tend to write on my own rather than with other people, that’s how I write better.

Is it hard to give them away?

Yes, sometimes it is. One of the songs that Kylie did I really wanted to put it on my album and I had to be persuaded quite a lot this time. I´ve always wanted to meet with Kylie and it was like a dream come true for the 12 year old me, and it was the right decision to make. In a way it means that it’s good, because I wouldn’t write something without putting my heart and soul into it.

Is it true that for The Graduate you were about to co-write the songs for the album, but in the end you just used your own songs? What happened?

Yeah, at the beginning I started co-writing the songs I was troubling to get inspiration so I thought why not work with other people. But it didn’t really work, I wasn’t being myself, so that’s why I´m back on my own again.

I know you know how to play a few instruments, which one inspires you the most to write music?

The Piano, I write a lot on bass because I don’t feel like a very accomplished guitar player.

You had a child recently, how did he change your life as a musician?

The great thing is that I’m not the center of my world anymore, which is quite liberating. If you’re a musician, you tend to be a little self-obsessed, and having my son made me realize that it’s not all about me, it’s about him. So it was a relief in a way. I don’t take everything so personally anymore. And also, it connects you with other human beings because you realize that everyone is trying to get by and do the best for their families. So that was a real leveler. And it made me feel less alone. I feel very embarrassed about how selfish I have been before, it has been the greatest teaching lesson for me. But I can’t work as much as I used to. I used to be there till 4 or 5 in the morning. Now I can’t do it, I have 8 hours a day to do childcare so everything slows down.

Do you want him to be a musician?

Oh I don’t care I just want him to be happy. The good thing of having children is that you experience things that you take for granted. Everything for them is extraordinary. Getting on a train, he loves buses, he loves going to the supermarket. I say I don’t know why we have to do this and he thinks is the coolest thing ever! And he loves playing with the piano and banging the piano and the guitar. I don’t know what he wants to do, but I love to see his little face light up when he does these things. He loves going through my phone and to my computer and picking random songs on Itunes and playing them over and over again and some of these songs I completely forgotten about. He really loves Radiohead. He keeps picking their songs and replaying them and suddenly going: “Oh this song is amazing!”.

I remember in your last gig in London, you performed in St. James’ Church and you played two albums track by track. Why did you decide to do that?

I’ve been making music for over a decade, and now I have so many records under my belt and people always say: "you didn’t play that", or "you didn’t play this". I kind of wanted to draw a line under the previous albums, just while I´m thinking about the new albums and it’s a way to say ‘thank you’ to fans for their years of support. So I wanted to play everything that they wanted to hear and not miss any track from my first album. It’s really hard you know, I played about 18 songs for an hour and a half. I have written about a hundred songs so someone is going to go home unhappy, in a way I make sure that people heard at least some of them.

I find you are really talkative in your concerts, why do you like communicate with the audience when you are performing?

Yeah it’s really important to me, not everybody wants to do that or they don’t necessarily enjoy it but I feel like with artists that I really love, I want to know what made them write a song, I want to know the stories behind them. Because I think a lot of my songs are about stories or experiences, particular things and a lot of the artists I’m into, you can tell from their music that’s what’s going on with them as well. So just that’s what I do.

And for the way you talk, I can see you have a wide imagination. Do you think it is always a positive thing? Or having too much imagination also got you in trouble?

I don’t think you ever have enough imagination. I think when you stop having imagination you stop dreaming and your mind would die. Some of my experiences are just mental, and I think if we are just thinking about the mundane experiences of every day, we´d go mad. That’s why people love music, movies and books. Books require massive leaking imagination, like sci-fi books, they throw you into a completely different world and you have to go with that. I live in my head, I was like that since I was a kid.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?

I would go to the Arsenal Stadium changing room.

What would you write a song about if there were no consequences?

Probably I would write something very personal without editing so much. I’m quite careful to edit actual specifics, but there are a few things in my life that have really hurt or upset me that If I had written about it, it would have always been removed. So I’d probably be more direct if there were no consequences.

Which is your favorite fairytale?

I love Hansel and Gretel. I love the idea of the woods. In literature and fairytales it’s always this magical but very scary place. Also the idea of home, of companionship and nature helping you out, how they leave things on their way back. And it’s an adventure and a journey. It’s such a magical tale. It’s quite an odd tale in terms of fairytales from a woman’s point of view. The woman is always objectified with marriage like Cinderella. Hansel and Gretel is removed from all of that, it’s more innocent and more true. It’s gender ledged I guess, if that make sense.

Which is the best give you got in Valentine’s Day?

I got married in Valentine’s Day. 


By Laura Vila