Nerina Pallot plays Inverness tonight
SINGER-SONGRIWTER Nerina Pallotplays Eden Court Theatre tonight (Monday) on some eclectic Scottish dates designed to remind people what the world has been missing since her last album Stay Lucky in 2017.
Looking back on her career, she has some forthright views, on reflection:
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 f****d music up the ***e.”
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.”
Nerina released sixth album Stay Lucky at the age of 43. The Jersey-born, London-based musician played her first gig in 1995, which means she has been doing this for 22 years. Is she bothered about any of those numbers? What do you think?
“I’ve only now just got a handle on my s**t. I don’t know why we have this massive issue with age.”
Pallot has now “got a handle" on things for a number of reasons. For one thing, she wrote the album Stay Lucky, played guitar and piano and synths and percussion on it, produced it, and, after relationships with three different major labels, she released it on her own label, Idaho Records.
“That’s allowed me to be free,” she notes, stating the happy obvious. “When I think about why I went pop on my third album, 2009’s The Graduate – which was a disaster for me, I lost a lot of fans – it was because my label were breathing down my neck after the second one.”
Pallot says of 2005’s Fires, it sold 100,000 copies and earned her Brit and Ivor Novello award nominations: “They were telling me it should have sold 10 million, if only it had had a radio single. So what that led to was me trying to do that – and then doing stuff with Kylie.”
Pallot wrote two songs, one of them the title track, for Minogue’s 2010 album Aphrodite. She admits that that experience, plus spells writing with Linda Perry (Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful) and Rob Davis (Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head), helped improve her chorus-writing skills: “But that didn’t translate to a radio single for me 'cause my heart wasn’t in it. ’Cause that’s not who I am.”
So, now that she’s free, she can “indulge herself.” This meant a year of EPs, released one a month in 2014 – and it means, further down the line from Stay Lucky, more new songs that are “way more out-there … But I will only do what I want to do. And as long as I can keep living, I won’t stop.”
Pallot was aided, abetted and enriched by a thrillingly diverse selection of musicians on that album. The players included 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 weare by Sally Herbert (Florence & The Machine, Bat For Lashes), who’s worked on all of Pallot’s albums. The brass arranger was 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) played guitar on three tracks.
As Pallot notes typically pithily: “I 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.”
Looking back at the album, Nerina said: “What’s interesting is I’ve never made a less political record. I’ve never made a record that is so basically about one thing. I know lots of artists say this, but this is the record that truly means the most to me. There’s not a word or rhyme that I’ve compromised on. There’s no point where I go ‘that’ll do’. And I’ve definitely done that on previous records.
“But all my records have done what they deserved to do. I didn’t make Back To Black the year Amy Winehouse made it. I made a very decent record that wasn’t embarrassing, and it was nice to be in the same category as her at the Brits that year. But I didn’t make a record as amazing as she did, and she deserved the success."
And Nerina feels her career has worked out: “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.”
.Nerina Pallot is playing Eden Court tonight (Monday, Feburary 25)