Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FOTP Exclusive Q&A with Nerina Pallot

Interview by Fantini Blake (@FOTPBlog)

Platinum-selling singer-songwriter and Jersey-born yummy mummy Nerina Pallot is best known by mainstream audiences for her big radio hit "Everybody's Gone To War" and her writing and production work on recent #1 albums by Kylie Minogue and Diana Vickers. Critically acclaimed, she's built up a reputation as a highly recommended live act, touring all over the UK and Ireland. Since 2007 she's also the wife of Andy Chatterley, a Grammy-nominated multi-talent who's worked with the likes of Pussycat Dolls, Kanyé West, Blondie and so on. Their song, Wolfgang Amadeus "Wolfie" Chatterley was born on September 9th, 2010. 
Having self-released her third album The Graduate, Nerina returned to a major label for her fourth, signing to Geffen Records with the A&R man who had first signed her. The resulting album (her fourth) is titled Year of the Wolf. Recorded mostly during her pregnancy, the LP is produced by Britpop legend Bernard Butler and written almost entirely by Nerina, with a single co-write credit each for her husband, Linda Perry and Steve McEwan. 

Without further ado, you may read my Q&A with the lovely Nerina below:

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. How are you today?
Very well, thank you for asking.

Your new album – your fourth – is titled “Year of the Wolf” after your son Wolfie. Great title, different and easy to remember. Was there any particular reason you chose to name it after your own son?
Well, I wrote and recorded most of it while I was pregnant with my boy and so it seems apt given that I was pregnant with child and album at the same time. 
The whole LP is produced by Britpop legend Bernard Butler. How did that collaboration come about and why did you prefer to work with a single producer than with a different one on each track?
Bernard is a neighbour of myself and my husband in the building where we have a studio, and he was on my list of potential producers. I went for a cup of tea with him and that was it, I immediately thought he'd be great and we just started from there. It was so much more satisfying being able to do the album in one go, with one person and one vision. It felt like making an album, whereas previous albums of mine have been made in bits here and there and lacked coherency I think.

Could you give us some insight into your creative process for “Year of the Wolf” – from writing the songs, to playing them on the piano for Bernard, to recording the day before you gave birth? How long was the gestation period for the album, as a whole?
Some songs are really old, like 'Grace' which I have been playing live since 2005, and then 'If I Lost You Now' I wrote in January 2011 after I had had my son. So in some ways this album took 6 years to make!

Since your rousing performance on The Charlotte Church Show, we’ve known you to be quite the dancer. Should fans expect extensive choreography this new era? Should the booty-shaking likes of Beyoncé and J-Lo be on the look out for dancefloor diva Nerina?
Please never mention that CC Show performance ever again. Memories of it keep me up at night. No. No more booty-shaking ever again.

There’s been a lot of drama with UK X-Factor recently. Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole are out, Tulisa from N-Dubz and Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child are in. What’s your take on all that mess?
I'd feel cheated if I was a contestant that I was being judged by that lot of D listers.

On the subject of X-Factor-related messes, you (in)famously said during a slightly tipsy gig you felt you were partly to blame for Joe McElderry’s album not doing so well. Do you really think that, or did you always know deep down he would face the same fate that befalls every male artist that comes through that kind of show? You mentioned on Lorraine Kelly that you feel the after care of artists from those shows is often shoddy – what specifically makes you think that?

See I took so long to answer these questions that the times they have changed and Joe is now an Opera Star! Who knew?! I can now claim to be part of his glittering career after all.

Would you ever consider becoming a judge on a televised talent competition? In your opinion, has their overall impact on the UK music scene and the way music is produced/consumed been a positive or negative one? 
I would totally be a judge on one of those shows, because I think the judges are seldom constructive. They gloss over technical issues - probably because most of the judges over the years have been heavily reliant on auto-tune
 and lip-syncing so what would they know. I'd do it with the aim of actually giving useful, constructive help rather just pissing on people's parades or telling them they have 'it' when all 'it' is is a huge fucking ego with minimal accompanying talent. But what do I know. The chances of me being a judge on one of these shows is slim. Very. Very very very!!

At that same gig (London’s Bloomsbury Theatre) from which the Joe McElderry quote is from, you said “I could have been world class but never quite got there. I almost did.” That sounds awfully depressing. What was that in reference to?
I was referring to the football team I support, Arsenal. Please don't make me say any more about Arsenal, it's been a very depressing transfer season so far and I don't want to think about the coming season. 

You’ve come full circle with “Year of the Wolf” and are now back with the same A&R who first discovered you. You’ve equated it with getting divorced and getting back together for the sake of the kids. I hear the relationship originally became strained because of a post you made on a message board. What did you say that was so upsetting to the label, and do you still post/lurk on any message boards?
No, that was my message board lesson early in life and I learnt well from it. No posting, no no no.

Has the business/financial side of things been easier this time around? Was a bigger budget/fuller financial backing “the kids” in the divorce/A&R executive metaphor?

Oh it's ever so vulgar to talk about money.

With each extra album you add to your discography, does it become progressively easier to convince A&R and executives to buy into your own personal vision?

They just think I'm a bit weird, I don't think vision comes into it.

You broke through into the mainstream conscious when your sophomore album “Fires” was re-released and “Everybody’s Gone To War” became a big radio hit. Expectations were high for your follow-up album “The Graduate”, which ended up under-performing on the charts. How important is commercial success to you? Is it something you actively strive for, or it merely a practical means of furthering your own art?

That album under-performed because I was no longer on a major and did not have the cash to tell people it was out. When 'Fires' was released it was all over the TV, billboards, newspapers - I think the advertising budget alone for that album came to about £500,000. That was the rather huge difference. Commercial success or lack of it does not govern what kind of albums I make, but it does govern how long you can sustain a living from it. Plus, I don't make shoe/navel/goatee (delete as appropriate)gazing indie - I make adult pop records and they sort of have to be commercial really. 

You’ve also become well known as a songwriter for other artists and recently graduated with a degree in English. Would you ever consider writing anything else other than music – a novel, poetry? I reckon The Chronicles of Nerina has a nice ring to it.

Oh I'm always saying I'm going to write a book. I've written about fifty in my head already and they've all won the Man Booker Prize but I have this small problem. I struggle getting them from head to paper. I need to work on that.....

 The visuals this era have really been on-point. You’re looking great on both the album and single covers, and the video for “Put Your Hands Up” is awfully cute too. Do you play a big part in choosing covers and video treatments?

I do have a lot of say in that I won't wear anything I consider too risqué or something I don't feel comfortable in, and obviously artwork is something I appreciate and consequently I want mine to say as much about my music and myself as it can.

Can you confirm the rumor that “Turn Me On Again” is going to be single #2?  
It is indeed.

Are there any current artists that you respect or look up to? Who would you say is really making music of excellent quality right now (especially considering those who dominate Top 40 radio)?

Just Jill Scott at the moment. There are plenty of artists I think are interesting or have one or two songs that I love, but there's nobody out there currently that I have a mad passion for in the way I did for Rufus Wainwright when he first arrived on the scene, or the way I obsessively worship Steely Dan

Any last words or clarifications? Feel free to vent. 
Always wear the best underwear you can afford.

Again, Thank you so much for taking the time! We wish you all the best. 
You're very welcome. Thank you for such interesting questions!

Nerina's new single "Turn Me On Again" is out on August 22nd. Album "Year Of The Wolf" is already out and available on iTunes, Amazon and pretty much every other major outlet you can think of.

Until we get a video for "Turn Me On Again", feast your eyes on the music video for lead single "Put Your Hands Up" below:

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