Paloma Faith, the British chanteuse who wrote one of her biggest songs after falling in love with a busker singing Tracy Chapman tracks, has arrived in the States.
Faith is already a staple among American Anglophiles (perhaps she’s even replacing Alex Turner on iPhone lock-screens), but for those who have yet to acquaint themselves with Faith, a quick rapsheet: She ran with the Olympic torch in red stilletos, mentored contestants on Britain’s “The Voice,” crooned on every major television show (from Jools Holland to Graham Norton), released an album that’s still charting in the top five on U.K. charts and received the ever-elusive stamp of approval from Prince (the man who kicked Kim Kardashian off his stage).
But the trip across the pond is always difficult. One Direction notwithstanding, a host of extremely successful Britpop and rock stars have tried to make it in America and failed. Cheryl Cole, a judge on the U.K. “X-Factor” who has earned first-name status in many circles, decided to neither tour nor release her album in the States.
But Faith’s not so scared. “I’ve had quite a lot of preparation, just naturally by default in that I’ve had one record out already, which didn’t come out over there,” she told HuffPost Entertainment. “I’ve almost had the luxury of being able to experience what it would be like on a small scale and I’ve been able to make a lot of mistakes and not be under an international world microscope at the time that I made them.”
The singer has already performed in America, most recently at Joe’s Pub in New York. She’s touring in support of Fall to Grace, on which her performance has been described as “singing the bejesus out of these big, open-hearted tunes.”
Faith rightly bristles at the suggestion that Adele opened the American market for British singers. “I think she’s an incredible talent, but what paved the way for British artists was Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black,” she said. “I’m wholeheartedly sure that that was what opened America up to start listening for British voices.”
And it’s Winehouse — not Adele or any boldface name from a previous invasion — that most directly foreshadowed Faith’s career. From the wide, lush sound to the sensual, anachronistic style (Faith says she’s excited to visit vintage shops in the States), Winehouse’s landing in America reintroduced pop audiences to jazz. The hooks on both Winehouse and Faith’s songs are restrained when set against Adele’s ever-reaching soars. The imagery is also less opaque: Faith’s “30 Minute Love Affair,” the song about the busker, is journalistic when compared to “Rolling in the Deep.”
So if Adele’s heartbreak can make anyone cry, Faith is more more interested in bringing the story of her life to your ears. “I was constantly talking to everybody about the fact that I wanted to make a body of work in entirety that had a beginning, middle, and end and has a story to it,” Faith said. “Because I’m a film addict. What I essentially said to my producer was that I wanted to create a soundtrack to a film of my life sort of thing over that last year.”
But if Winehouse set the path over half a decade ago (Back to Black came out in 2006), why is it still so challenging for British artists? “Maybe it’s the first time that British record labels are actually having success without trying to emulate what’s happening in the American market,” Faith said. “I think that they just started to do their own thing. Some of them were brave enough to take a risk on it and it has worked. I think there is so much soul in the U.K. and, I don’t know, it’s showing that to the world.”
Luckily, Faith has an anthem for her show-and-tell trip. “New York” — off 2009’s Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? — can be dusted off to fit nicely into her new narrative. On the absolutely vintage sounding song, Faith laments that her lover has left for a new mistress, America’s cultural capital itself.
Fall to Grace is out in the States in November. Faith plays Washington D.C. on Sept. 13, followed by Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.