+ Keir Gibson
Don’t get Nerina Pallot started. The self-confessed “grumpy bugger”, voracious reader and voracious writer – and very occasionally voracious drinker – will tell you like it is. Albeit with some wit, a ready smile and not a little panache.
The singer-songwriter on writing for the likes of Kylie Minogue and a fistful of X Factor hopefuls: “I can’t say Kylie wasn’t good money – it was. But I only saw it as a means to an end: funding my own records. But after a while it became so soul-destroying. Not necessarily for me, but because of all these young artists – they’re being filled with all this hope. And you know that unless the second single goes, it’s over for them. I saw that time and time again. I don’t want to be a part of that. It’s grim.”
On co-writing: “I’ll never do it again for love or money. I’m actually really down on people who co-write. A lot of those people have fucked music up the arse.”
On how she was marketed on her first two albums: “Very pop, very mainstream, and it was all about being nice. A journalist said: ‘Her hair is too glossy to take her seriously.’ I hated it at the time but she was right! Although, to be honest, it is nice to see yourself looking pretty.”
On the stuff we’re meant to like: “Breaking Bad? I just couldn’t get Walt becoming a complete arsehole. If you were that sick you’re not going to have the wherewithal to turn yourself into a criminal mastermind. I’m a literalist… The Stone Roses? I only got into that record cause I liked a boy. I spent years pretending I was into it.”
On modern music’s all-conquering godhead: “Taylor Swift could make the greatest fucking record of all time. But it’s too late – she’s TAYLOR.”
And, finally, on her new album: “This is my death and shagging record. That’s all I’ll say.”
Meet Nerina Pallot, a smart artist who talks straight and writes beautifully. Her new album is ‘Stay Lucky’. It’s her sixth, and she’s releasing it at the age of 43. The Jersey-born, London-based musician played her first gig in 1995, which means she’s been doing this for 23 years. Is she bothered about any of those numbers? What do you think?
“I’ve only now just got a handle on my shit. I don’t know why we have this massive issue with age.”
Pallot has now “got a handle on my shit” for a number of reasons. For one thing, she wrote ‘Stay Lucky’, played guitar and piano and synths and percussion on it, produced it, and, after relationships with three different major labels, she’s releasing it on her own label, Idaho Records.
‘Stay Lucky’ was recorded over two productive weekends in London’s legendary RAK studios. The speed belies the lovely, unhurried expansiveness of an album that is, truly and deeply, her most personal, most warmly emotional album yet.
Even as she led from the front, it’s also her most collaborative record. Pallot was aided, abetted and enriched by a thrillingly diverse selection of musicians. The players include three members of Michael Kiwanuka’s touring band, Steve Pringle (keyboards), Alex Bonfanti (bass) and Lewis Wright (drums, vibes), with the latter taking time out from his other day-job, as a member of acclaimed young British jazz quartet Empirical. The backing vocalists are Markus Feehily (ex-Westlife) and Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light Bright Light). The bulk of the string arrangements are by Sally Herbert (Florence & The Machine, Bat For Lashes), who’s worked on all of Pallot’s albums. The brass arranger is Noel Langley, probably the most respected British jazz trumpeter and brass arranger, as Radiohead would attest. Finally, Bernard Butler (who co-produced her fourth album ‘Year of the Wolf’) plays guitar on three tracks.
As Pallot notes typically pithily: “I’ve basically made a totally muso record, which is a great or terrible thing depending on how you feel about six-minute songs and sax solos.”
“I feel like I’ve got the best career ’cause I’ve never had enough success for it to be demanded that I do the same thing over and over again. I would go completely mental having to do the same successful record again! I’d never be able to move on. I like so much music, and I love new music. Last year it was the BadBadNotGood record – I was just relieved that fusion is allowed now – I was a massive fusion fan as a teenager. And also Thundercat – I’m like, great, we can have sax solos again! Which is why a sax solo is the last thing I have to add to Stay Lucky before it’s totally done…”
No, do get Nerina Pallot started. If you do, you’re in for something wonderful.