British superstar Paloma Faith has a strong bond with the queer community. Matthew Wade recently caught up with her to chat about global injustices, music, and why she wants to move to Australia.
It’s five past nine in the morning and British songstress Paloma Faith is across the pond, telling me over the phone that she’s “kind of a drag queen”.
Earlier in her career – before becoming a multi-platinum, award-winning, singer-songwriter – she performed at a lot of cabaret and burlesque shows, and would rub shoulders with the queens on that circuit.
“At the time my agent said I was the kind of person people would either love or hate,” she says.
“But the drag queens got me. I worked alongside a lot of the queens back then, and I felt an affinity with them.
“We all loved the same icons, big show women like Aretha Franklin and Shirley Bassey.”
“In my view, the LGBTI community stands for bravery and being unapologetic about who you are and what you stand for,” she says.
“That’s why those people are my tribe, really – it takes a lot of courage to stand up in a society where the majority of people aren’t gay or trans.”
In 2014, Faith released her critically acclaimed third album A Perfect Contradiction, which spawned her first number one hit in Australia “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”. In 2017, she followed it up with The Architect, a socially conscious record that merged the political with the personal, addressing broad-ranging issues from Brexit to Donald Trump.
To date, she is one of only two British women this decade to have had her last three albums go double platinum, the other being Adele.
Faith says she wanted to explore culture and society on her latest album through a kind and empathetic lens.
“When you’re talking about the historical progress that has been made in areas like LGBTI rights, you also need to recognise the progress that still needs to be made,” she says.
“Sometimes it’s easy for us to think that the rest of the world live like [those in the West], but that’s not true.
“I’m a massive feminist and a woman once said to me, ‘I don’t know why you need to be a feminist anymore, we have equal rights’, and I thought, you’ve got to be bloody kidding me.
“We’re not equal across the globe, and that’s the same when it comes to the LGBTI community.”
When it comes to her LGBTI fans across the globe, Faith says it’s heartening when they reach out to her and express how her music has touched them.
“I’ve got some super fans, and they tell me I’m a gay icon,” she says.
“I feel proud and honoured to hear that – everybody loves acceptance and when you’re an outsider as I’ve been, it’s wonderful to feel accepted even if your tribe isn’t as big as others.
“I feel most happy when I see the regulars at the front row of my shows with rainbow flags, blowing kisses.”
In November, Faith will join gay advocate and singer Sam Smith on his national The Thrill Of It All tour in Australia.
The major tour follows Smith’s string of intimate shows in the country earlier this year, including his first appearance at the Sydney Opera House.
Faith says she’s excited to join Smith on the road, and adores the track “HIM” from his latest album, which was partly inspired by the Timothy Conigrave memoir Holding the Man.
“I think it was one of the most important songs on that record, because he’s outwardly singing a love song about a man,” she says.
“So many gay artists make their lyrics ambiguous, so I think it’s beautiful that he made it apparent.
“I enjoy his company and I think we’re a good match.”
When asked what she’s most looking forward to when visiting Australia, Faith immediately responds, “the sunshine”.
“I also feel like Australia is the perfect mix of the UK and America,” she says.
“Now that I’ve had a child, if Australia wasn’t so far away I’d move there for sure.
“You’ve got America mixed with the cynicism and humour of the UK.
“Now make sure you get your bloody gorgeous asses on those seats in time to see me before Sam.”
Paloma Faith will join Sam Smith on his The Thrill Of It All tour between November 2 – 20. For more information or to buy tickets, visit: www.frontiertouring.com/samsmith