She’s spent all morning and early afternoon shooting with GQ and has only just had a moment to eat. So when a delectable Wagamama’s chicken katsu is placed under her nose, the second thing I’m stunned by, after her staggeringly infallible skin and enrapturing eyes of course, is Delilah’s patience and restraint against scoffing her meal whole. And it’s this calm, serene nature that’s coaxed her through a ‘challenging’ three years of crafting her debut album. Taking a stage name from her great grandmother because her real name Paloma is already used by a certain Miss Faith, Delilah’s chilled vocals and infectious beats warrants top position in our ‘Sound of 2012’ list. Here the singer/songwriter discusses touring the world, getting naked with a beautiful model and her hopes for the New Year.
Planet Notion: Having recorded and toured with Chase & Status and declaring your love for bass, it’s surprising your sound veers away from Dubstep. Why is this?
Delilah: It was strange because a few months ago before ‘Go’, I was labelled as a Drum & Bass and Dubstep artist. I kept trying to show people that I’m associated with the Drum & Bass and Dubstep artists and that I’ve taken a lot from that genre, but that’s not what I do. My stuff is more originated from acoustic, soul, jazz, R&B and Latin because that’s what I grew up listening to. I wrote a lot of my songs on the piano so it’s got that influence too.
PN: So is that how would you encompass your sound?
D: I grew up in the 90s Drum & Bass, London underground music scene. My family were involved in that so it was always playing in my household and getting older I’ve gone out raving to it and I’ve listened to it whilst on tour with Chase & Status. It’s become this huge commercial beast so it’s hard not to be influenced by it. But my album isn’t a Drum and Bass album at all. It’s got the odd break beat here and the odd snare sound but it hasn’t been a conscious or unconscious decision.
PN: On the topic of Chase & Status, you toured with them for a few years, what were the highlights?
D: Tonnes of highlights. I’ve become very close with the guys – I know them all so well and we’re like family. Living on a bus with 18 men going around the world for two years is an experience in itself. It’s not every girl’s dream but I’ve seen so many places, I’ve performed to so many crowds and I’ve been given the privilege of learning my craft on the road without all the pressure being on me. Coachella in the summer was a big highlight. I’ve never seen such a beautiful festival in my life. Everyone looks as though they’re coming off a catwalk and it’s over 36 degrees in the sun and it’s like they’re too cool to sweat.
PN: At what moment did you realise singing was your dream?
D: I knew it was my dream my entire life. Some kids want to be firemen or firewomen, nurses or spacemen but I wanted to be a singer. I was a bit of a realist, or a pessimist depending on how you look at it, and I knew it was a difficult thing to obtain. I didn’t have a huge amount of confidence or thought I had this great voice either. I wasn’t Annie belting out ‘Tomorrow’ in the hallways so I saw myself as average and it wasn’t until I was offered a record deal that I thought ‘what? My songs are songs?’ It took at least a year after I signed to think ‘I’m pretty good at this. I can do this for the rest of my life.’ And that was purely based on learning skills from doing it every day for a year. So it was always my dream, but when I realised it was a reality it was already in full motion.
PN: When you signed your record deal you were just 17. How did that whirlwind come about?
D: I was at college and studying a course that incorporated music as I wasn’t really your poster girl for attendance so I needed an incentive to get up in the morning and go into college. Part of my course was to record some original music so I went into a studio and paid a producer for him to record my tracks. Then someone from Choice FM heard and then when one label got involved, they all did. Within two weeks I met the whole of the record industry on High Street Kensington from running up and down there and singing on the spot. And a couple months later I signed a deal with Atlantic and the rest is history.
PN: Who are your icons that have brought you to where you are today?
D: Lots of old soul artists like Aretha Frankli, Ray Charles and Roy Ayers. Then more modern day artists like Radiohead, Portishead, Massive Attack and metal heads so it does vary. Then I love people like Beyoncé – she’s an amazing entertainer. So I have my more commercial favourites who do their job really, really well and make it look effortless and then when you try and impersonate them it’s like ‘fuck, this is hard’.
PN: What was the first song you wrote about?
D: It was called ‘Guitar Strings’ and I actually listened to a recording of it the other night by accident on my computer. I really like the song but it doesn’t fit with me anymore because I wrote it when I was twelve but I think someone like Willow Smith could sing it really well.
PN: You should pitch it to her.
D: I may well do that you know. I’m not allowed at the moment because I have to finish my record first so we’ll have to wait and see.
PN: How has your writing process evolved since you were 12?
D: The difference between being a 12-year-old and a 21-year-old is like *stretches arms out wide* woaaah. But then there are songs that I wrote when I was thirteen that haven’t lost their meaning and are on my record. It’s been a challenge and that’s why it’s taken so long to get that bridge between being an adolescent and being a young woman, without making me sound like a schizophrenic. I wanted to make the songs blend into a body of work without losing the sexiness and womanhood I’ve grown into and at the same time show my vulnerable side from when I was younger. But I didn’t want to sound like half sex beast and half scared kitten.
PN: In the new video for ‘Love You So’ there’s some killer styling and you were on Grazia’s best dressed list for The Q Awards. Is fashion a second love for you?
D: It’s an unconscious second love. I don’t like the idea of trends because I prefer fashion as a way of expressing yourself. I know what I like but you’ll never see me head-to-toe in one designer every day. Whether it costs ten pounds or a thousand pounds, I just go by what makes me feel good. Everyone has their staples and it could be a potato sack, but if you rock it right you can look great. But fashion for me is more of a lifestyle than a way of life.
PN: The montages of animals, cartoons and vintage movie clips in the video is seemingly reminiscent of True Blood’s iconic title sequence. Was this the idea behind the video?
D: I’ve never even seen it actually. I feel like I’ve missed out on something so I may go and watch it now. My Christmas list is going to be full of boxsets as on tour I’m never around a TV. I’ve only just started forcing myself to go to the cinema and when I went the film wasn’t any good. I saw this one with Justin Timberlake and it was about numbers? Oh yeah, ‘In Time’. It was awful and cheesy as anything and I can’t believe I’ve only been to the cinema twice in two years and that’s one of the films I saw.
PN: You also braved a naked scene with a pretty hot guy. How did that go?
D: That was sprung on me on the day. The director was like ‘so how do you feel about being naked?’ and I was like ‘ummm ok but you’ll have to clear the set as much as possible.’ So yeah I had no clothes on and it was like ‘nice to meet you Mr. handsome model, let’s stand on a spinning board and be naked.’ But it was all to symbolise the intimacy within the song and I think it works in an artistic way.
PN: You’re still only twenty one-years-old, so where would you like to be by the time you’re thirty?
D: Hopefully I’ll have at least five albums out by then as I’m purely focusing on music right now. I have a Blue Great Dane called Pelé so I’d like to have another dog too *laughs*. I’d just love to go on some amazing tours and do amazing things that get my music out to people in as many ways as possible through whatever medium – whether it’s film or art.
PN: What can we expect from your debut album which is released next March?
D: The songs that are out at the moment do reflect what’s going to come on the album but there’s a lot more extremes. There are a few deeply emotional dark ones and there’s a couple with much more tempo than anyone’s heard me on. It’s my first album so I didn’t want it to be super expensively made with all these crazy big named producers and features. I just wanted it to be a really honest, homely first album.
PN: You’ve already got a lot in the pipeline for 2012, so dare we ask if you have any other plans for next year?
D: I don’t know if there’s going to be time for any other plans next year as there’s a lot happening and I’m already seeing things in the diary for the end of next year. I’m just going to be doing what I’m told *laughs* I’m just going to be promoting the album and this time next year maybe it will be a different kind of Christmas.
- Caroline Jackson
To tide you over until Delilah’s album release, watch the video for her soul tickling new single ‘Love You So’, which is released December 19th.