Acclaimed British singer-songwriter Paloma Faith was last in Australia for two shows with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in April, and she’s about to return for her first full tour since 2015 – this time supporting fellow Sam Smith on his In the Lonely Hour tour.
Smith has won four Grammys, an Academy award and topped charts around the world since the release of his album In the Lonely Hour in 2014 and Faith, who knew the English singer-songwriter before he had signed a record deal, says he remains as grounded as ever.
“He’s a really beautiful soul and he’s definitely the same,” Faith tells U on Sunday over the phone from her London home. “I think the way he handles the sheer kind of massiveness of his popularity is very humbling and dignified.
“I don’t know how he manages to do that because it would be quite overwhelming but he does and I just think he seems to be doing really well at remaining true to himself and you know what? That’s integral to being a good songwriter. You can’t really write songs well if you fall into the trap of getting immersed in a very unrealistic world that (fame) has the potential to do.”
Australia has long been a favourite touring destination for Faith and is also the first country she achieved a No.1 chart placing – her single Only Love Can Hurt Like This topped the ARIA charts in 2004 and has since been certified four-times platinum here.
Her most recent album, last year’s The Architect, debuted at No.1 on the UK charts and features an impassioned spoken-word introduction ¬ entitled Evolution ¬ performed by Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson.
Faith got to know Jackson after he praised her performance at the 2013 BAFTAs. She later performed at a charity fundraiser Jackson was organising and the actor told her, “I owe you a favour”.
“I was like, ‘f—ing hell, it’s like a genie in a lamp, what am I going to ask for? So I went away and thought I’ll just keep it, like in a computer game where you’ve won this thing and you’ve got to wait for the right moment to use it.”
As she explains, she had intended Evolution to be an earnest piece of writing with an important message, but was concerned her Cockney accent might have stymied the intent behind the piece.
“I was going to read it myself but because of the tone of my speaking voice I was worried people wouldn’t take it so seriously,” she says. “Then I thought ‘who’s got the sort of voice people will listen to? I know who I’ll ask!
“I asked him and he was like ‘oh yeah, sure, I’m filming in a month’s time in London and I have one day off, I’ll come to the studio and record it with you.’ So I went and met him there and I was giving him some direction and he got annoyed, he said ‘maybe you got the wrong guy’.
“He was a bit threatening at first, and then he was laughing at me, and saw my face drop. We hung out for two or three hours and were just chatting. He’s so laid-back and nice to be around, but basically his PA told me in all of his career, nobody gives him direction, it’s his interpretation of every character he’s ever played and he thought it was really funny because I’m not even a director.”
Faith has earned comparisons to both Adele and Amy Winehouse for her blend of retro R & B, soul, gospel, pop and jazz influences, and her mezzo-soprano vocal range, and after playing with the SSO on her last tour, she’s excited to be stripping things back to basics this time around.
“Usually I bring an eight-piece band but I’m going to do it with a more intimate set-up, which I’m really happy about because I thrive on the unpredictability of performances.
“No single show will be the same because I’m a musician’s musician, I’m not a current pop star in the traditional sense – I think my sensibilities lie in old-time. I don’t even know what to expect so I find it hard to tell you what to expect … but expect the unexpected, ha!”