December 2, 2020 4:00:29 PM
Paloma Faith has been busy during lockdown. The free spirited east Londoner has built a home studio, recorded an album, grown tomatoes in her garden and filmed a second series of the DC Comics drama Pennyworth – all while pregnant.
To top it all off Faith, who turns 40 next July, is on a mission to dispel the myths that linger around motherhood. “I have decided as a little project, to use myself as an example and burst the bubble,” she explains over the phone. In September she did just that, posting a picture to Instagram of her baby bump and announcing she was pregnant after a “struggle” involving six rounds of IVF treatment.
Faith already shares a daughter, born in December 2016, with her long-term boyfriend, the French artist Leyman Lahcine. But she says her approach to her pregnancy will be very different this time around. “The first time I did it I hid away from the public eye and this time I have made a conscious effort to just say: ‘This is what is happening and this is what it looks like and feels like’. I’m not sugar coating and I am quite honest about the aches and pains and all of that.”
As if to prove a point about her workaholic tendencies, we speak as Faith jumps into a taxi after a day of filming the second season of Batman prequel Pennyworth, where she plays the villainous Bet Sykes.
Infinite Things, her fifth album, started out sounding very different indeed. Pre-pandemic, it featured a selection of upbeat tunes which described a world now unfamiliar to most – parties, joyless abandon, just being “out and about”. As the reality of lockdown hit home, Faith rewrote and rerecorded the album from her home. “It felt a bit irresponsible to just ignore what was going on in the world,” she explains soberly. “Lyrically it just felt very alien.”
Faith hired some equipment, spent a week building a makeshift home studio and taught herself production techniques – using a rail of her “posh coats” to deaden the sound. “It ended up like a lot of things,” she says. “Society makes us think that a lot of jobs that men do are really difficult.
“But the reality is that it is really easy,” she cackles loudly. “The bubble has been burst again! It turns out you just hit record. I said to my label that I don’t ever want to go to the studio again!”
Lyrically, the album is a volte-face, tackling sickness, loss and the complicated, often banal, reality of romantic relationships. “When we think about all the music we know and love, love always seems to always be either talked about at the beginning or the end. I notice that because I can’t really relate to any of these love songs, because I’m genuinely committed to my partner and I do love him a lot, but those first encounter songs don’t really ring true to me, and neither do the heartbreak ones, because we are there together working on it.
“So I decided to write a collection of songs about that very thing, about enduring love. Some of the press has twisted it a bit, saying that I think my relationship is the worst relationship in the world, which I absolutely don’t. I actually think my relationship is a very normal but very good and healthy one.”
Better Than This and Last Night On Earth, both stand-outs on the album, tackle the pressures that inevitably arise in long-standing romances – and have been amplified by lockdown.
“We have had our ups and downs,” she admits of her own relationship. “I do think having a child with someone puts an unbelievable amount of pressure on the relationship because you don’t sleep and you get irritable and also it is really hard to psychologically learn how to divide yourself between the new love of your child and your partner, because you get a bit obsessed by your kid.
“When you have gone through quite a lot of things with someone and come out the other side, what you are left with is something really quite special because you just look at each other and think, ‘We did that’.”
On Infinite Things, her personal is also the universal. Take the faintly Bond theme-like If This Is Goodbye, where she sings: “If this is goodbye / No regrets, the sadness / Try not to let it in.” The song movingly addresses a friend’s terminal illness but relates it back to a now everyday fear – that our recent meeting with a loved one might have been the last.
“It’s potentially the best song I have written in my career because it is the most honest,” she asserts. “It is about a very good friend of mine who I love very dearly who unfortunately, at the beginning of the first lockdown, was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
“It’s about that feeling people have been experiencing a lot in this lockdown, of not knowing when you are with that person or talking to them on the phone or texting them, whether that is the last time. It’s that uncertainty that you start to come to terms with in your relationship. It becomes a philosophical influence on everything you do because you start to think, ‘There is no definite guarantee that you will see anyone again’.
“So then you start looking at everything a bit differently and maybe not expecting so much from life and just appreciating the finer moments. That is what happened to me in lockdown based on that news. Just, it is what it is.”
Infinite Things by Paloma Faith is out now on Sony Music UK.