An edited version of this interview originally appeared in the Nottingham Post.
You’ve just got back from the States. Has your body clock re-adjusted to UK time?
Yes – although having said that, I was up until four o’clock in the morning. I went for a little stroll at one o’clock in the morning, and found a local restaurant with the lights on. The restaurant owner and the chef were having a glass of red wine, so I joined them for a couple, and picked up on the local gossip.
You’re now preparing for the new tour. Will there be much in the way of new material?
There aren’t any new original songs, because they’re still sketches, but I’ve got an interesting new choice of covers.
You put a shout-out on Facebook for suggested covers. Have your followers given you any useful leads?
They got me looking behind my shoulder, thinking: are this lot in my house? A lot of their suggestions are songs that I love a lot. I could really talk all night with these people.
You use Facebook differently from a lot of people in your position, in that you’ll express what you’re genuinely feeling, rather than just using it as a PR tool. You sometimes post to it when you’re feeling completely sick to the back teeth of everything. Then your fans will rally round.
Yeah, like “I can’t find my bra – where is it?” Or “Oh my God, look at all this laundry!” I really enjoy it, because it’s absolute direct contact. They can talk to me, and I’ll respond. I would say that my Facebook meltdowns are now legendary. (Bursts out laughing) The record company are like: what’s she doing? They all follow me on Facebook as well.
That wasn’t anything to do with the fact that you were ill for a bit, was it?
I was ill. It was a big year, and everything went off really quickly, like a runaway train which took me with it. It was going at a hundred miles an hour. And it was great, but the thing about these big long schedules is this: it doesn’t take account of the fact that you’re human.
So if I wake up in the morning and I don’t feel well, and I’ve got to sing for Her Majesty The Queen, I can’t cancel. Or if my boyfriend’s dumped me and I’ve got to go onto Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, then I’ve got to do it. It doesn’t take into account your emotional state – or your tearful state, in fact – you have to fulfil your commitments, in any mood, and be as professional as possible.
What happened to me is that it just built up, and built up, and built up. I was struggling at adjusting to being in the media: being examined, being judged. As human beings, that what we’re all afraid of, aren’t we? Everyone pointing and staring.
Don’t you adopt the classic tactic of just not reading stuff about yourself?
No, I read everything. But I do stick up for myself, when people have been mean on blogs. I’ll go on and say “Oi! That’s really mean! What, all you grown men are going to start picking on little girls?” Ultimately, I’m a human being with an internet connection. I can see what they are saying, and I can go on there and say: what the fuck do you think you are doing?
I know some people will say that’s really stupid. I think I’m the opposite of what people say I should be. They’ll say: don’t get involved, don’t read anything. But if there are ten grown men tearing me to shreds, I’m going to go in there and make them feel bad about it. But that’s very rare. Most people are very nice.
Does touring change your relationship with your songs? If you’re having to perform them over and over again, you must have to enter into some sort of long-term committed relationship with them.
I’ve been in that relationship with them for a long time. As a singer, you commit to every single song, and you have to live the song when you’re performing it, like you were when you first wrote it.
As time passes and as you change, sometimes the emotional connection to the sentiment can get faint. But that’s when you bring in your meditative processes. You just have to go into that space, and almost method-act your own self. Recapture those emotions, find that part of yourself, and deliver it with all the passion that you can find.
When we spoke last year, before the album was released, you said there were angels in all of your songs. So I’ve been looking at your lyrics, and I’ve been searching for the angels.
The angels are on Come To Me High, for example. I was sitting in my room and thinking: I’m so depressed; what would happen if a chorus of angels were to burst into my room, and talk to me? When you’re depressed, it’s very hard to get out of that space. You have to shift that space by wanting to get out of it – by wanting that shift of consciousness.
And in Thankful, there’s a whole “forest of angels”.
Interestingly, I used to have no idea what it was. Then I realised that my mother was buried in a woodland burial, where you don’t have graves. You have all these different trees, with these little plaques, with people’s names on. And it is literally a forest of angels. I found it the most startling example of channelling. A lot of the most inspired lyrics and melodies were coming from beyond me, and I’m as puzzled as anyone until afterwards.
Before I go on stage, I imagine a circle of angels. I say a prayer, and I call on them. I summon them.
If the person you are now could send a message to the person who spoke to me last year, just before it all kicked off, what message would she convey?
Apart from a lot of practical things, I would say: this will pass. There was a feeling of anxiety around performing live. I got very frightened of big crowds, and I got stage fright. I’ve got much better since then. I’ve learnt a lot, and I’ve overcome that – with the help of my band, and with doctors, and with friends. I’m starting to really enjoy it now.