Nerina Pallot’s Put Your Hands Up is, hands down (pun partially-intended), one of this year’s best singles. Don’t argue, Planet Notion is unanimous in that. And to continue a promotion-heavy few months in support of the song’s parent album, Year of the Wolf, Nerina is currently touring the UK before going back to do some more song-writing.

Here, Doron Davidson-Vidavski chats to her about politics, unreleased hits-in-the-making, her latest role as a coach on a German talent show and writing songs for Kylie Minogue.

Planet Notion: You’ve just come back from a couple of weeks in Berlin working on the German version of talent-scouting show, THE VOICE. What did you have to do on the show?

Nerina Pallot: I don’t know what they call it in the American version of the show but in Germany I am what is referred to as a Dream Team member. Basically, I am an assistant coach to the other main judges so I’m doing what Sia did with Christina Aguilera. But I’m assisting Rea Garvey, who’s a German singer. He’s just put a solo album out in Germany and my husband [music producer, Andy Chatterley] produced it.

PN: You’re doing a national tour at the moment. What’s your favourite song to play live?

NP: So mean!! What a question… [laughs]

PN: Ok, ok, so is there a song that you can pull out of the bag as a surefire crowd-pleaser?

NP: There’s “Sophia” which I think is a lot of people’s favourite song. And although it wasn’t as big a hit as “Everybody’s Gone to War”, it seems to be the song that has made my live following. The song that I feel Ihave to play before I settle into a show is “Idaho”. I know that if I play that then all will be well in the world.

PN: “IDAHO” is considered by many to be one of your career highlights, yet you didn’t release it as a single. Are you prepared to acknowledge the error of your ways?

NP: Umm… you know what? I do sometimes wonder why we didn’t release it but I think it would never have done anything at radio. It would have just confused people. I do think, as a song, it probably sums me up as an artist more than any of the singles that have been released. The singles are often different beasts from the records they come from.

PN: Wolfie, your son, has recently celebrated his first birthday. How did your dogs, Maggie and Audrey, react to his arrival and are they all best buds?

NP: Do you know what? They’ve always taken to him and he loves them. And now he’s very robust with other dogs, which is great, because he’s not remotely scared of dogs. They all get on famously.

PN: To celebrate your album release earlier this year, you did 4 web-casts, playing all your records live in their entirety over 4 consecutive nights. Was it strange re-visiting some of the old songs?

NP: Yeah and in the run up to that idea I started to really dread it. I was putting off learning my very first album because I was so young when I wrote some of those songs, so it’s a bit like looking at naked baby photos. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would and found some of the songs strangely predictive, which I obviously didn’t realise they would be at the time that I wrote them. I have learnt a lot of things about song-writing from the mistakes I’ve made. Well, not mistakes but, you know… I used to be so naïve about song-writing.

PN: Before “Year of the Wolf” you self-released a limited-edition EP called “Skeleton Key”, which had one of your poppier and most-instant tracks, “Break Up At the Disco“, on it. Will it ever get a wider release?

NP: I don’t know. I think of it as a lost song that Boney M, ABBA and Will Young had never done. I’d love for someone else to do it. It’s very Eurovision-y. But the subject matter is a bit odd because it’s basically a song about finding out that your boyfriend actually likes boys and not girls. And then he is having a mini-breakdown about trying to come out of the closet. So because it’s such a specific song it might not work on a more mainstream level and that’s why I saved it for that EP.

PN: You’ve done some backing vocals on the new BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT album. What was he like to work with?

NP: I love working with Rod – he’s awesome. I’m a big, big fan of his. It’s always fun working together and we inevitably end up having conversations about completely random things. And I’m also going to be working on an EP that he’s doing later on this year.

PN: Have you ever tried to ‘break’ the American market? Is that something that interests you?

NP: I would say that “Fires” [her second album from 2005] is definitely my attempt to get an American release – I have never had an album released there. But, you know, I was living there at the time and I was working with, pretty much, only American people so that was my attempt… and it failed. I think America’s really different. They’re too busy trying to break hip-hop acts and fetuses so I think it’s safe to say that I will never have a record out in America.

PN: You’ve famously written songs for other artists like Kylie Minogue and Diana Vickers. Is it a different process when you write for or with other people?

NP: I’m not very good with going into a room to write with people. I mean, I’ve tried it with everyone I’ve worked with – sat down and attempted to write a song together and I’m just useless. They always end up taking a song that I’ve already written [as Kylie did with her single “Better Than Today”]. My husband is the only other person I can write with. I’ll go away, write and come up with an idea. And Andy will say to me “that bit’s good; that’s too much; let’s get rid of that”. I do my mad stuff and he knows how to make it concise. Other than that, I get very self-conscious about writing when I’m in the room with someone else.

PN: Your “Like It’s 1987″ version of Put Your Hands Up was done for and recorded by Kylie for her “Aphrodite” album. True or false?

NP: Well, my very first version of the song committed to record was the “Like It’s 1987” mix. And I wrote that around the time of working with Kylie but they already had a song called “Put Your Hands Up” which Starsmith did with her, so they didn’t want two songs with the same title on the record. We played it to her, obviously, because it was so poptastic – we thought it would be silly not to. I think when we did the production we were sort of looking at it as an ‘homage’ to Kylie but the brief for the Kylie album was not that. The brief was totally different.

PN: And, originally, the intention was for another song altogether to be the first single from your own current album…

NP: Yes. It was a song called Kevin Spacey. It’s about that moment in “American Beauty” when he’s dying and his life flashes before his eyes. And that sense of claiming yourself now because you really have no idea when your number is going to be up. But it’s so different that I don’t think I can release it. It’s like a skater-rock song. A bit of a cross between Beck’s Loser and Avril Lavigne’s Sk8r Boi. At this point I don’t see how it can be a Nerina Pallot song, although it obviously is. But every year I write a song that’s got nothing to do with the rest of the stuff I’m doing.

PN: On some of your songs, you can be quite politically-outspoken. “English” is an instance in point, where you wrote a perfect 3-minute anti-BNP manifesto. What’s next on your song-writing political agenda?

NP: There’s lots of things that make my jaw drop, politically, at the moment. I still think sexism is alive and well more than ever because women don’t even realise that what they’re calling girl power and feminism is, in fact, sexism dressed up to be more palatable for birds. But I fear that people just aren’t listening anymore. They don’t care.

PN: What do you normally do after finishing a live show?

NP: These days, I sit backstage for a bit and maybe have a little wine and some chocolate and then I go and say hello to my fans. I would then probably look at the clock and think to myself – well, I’d better get back home before the babysitter runs out.

PN: What’s more likely to be the next Pallot product – a new album or a new baby?

NP: A new album.

PN: Can you say anything more about that?

NP: No, because I haven’t written a song for a year! So, actually, the next Pallot product will be writing some songs.

PN: Would you do a pop album, proper?

NP: Pop for me are songs that totally go for the jugular. I would describe my music as pop but I come at it from the old-school direction because I don’t fit in as a pop artist. You know, I’m not Cheryl Cole, I’m not all-singing all-dancing. But I very much grew up on pop music. Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill is one of the best selling pop albums but it was done in a rock way. So, for me it’s where the songs are at. You can be alternative but still be pop at the same time.


Nerina Pallot - Absolute Radio Interview

Nerina Pallot - Entertainment Focus Interview (Part Two)

Nerina Pallot - Entertainment Focus Interview (Part One)

Interview - BBC Breakfast

How does pregnancy affect a musician? British singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot says it altered everything, from her lyrics to her singing voice.

It was a fact she discovered after deciding to get her fourth album committed to tape before her first son was born last September.

Year Of The Wolf was produced by Bernard Butler - the former Suede guitarist, who steered Duffy to success in 2008.

It’s more reflective moments were influenced by impending motherhood but Pallot had a few swaggering pop numbers up her sleeve, too. Hardly a surprise, given her close working partnership with Kylie Minogue.

The singer-songwriter told the BBC how the record took shape - and how it differs from a Kylie album.

Nerina PallotThe singer has been nominated for Brit and Ivor Novello awards

Why did you call the album Year Of The Wolf?

It’s both sentimental and highly unoriginal. My son is called Wolfie and I made the album while I was nine-and-a-half months pregnant. I was pretty much recording until 12 hours before I had him.

How did pregnancy affect the recording?

It never occurred to me how hard it would be to sing when I was pregnant! When I went back into the studio, five weeks after I’d had Wolfie, I could suddenly sing a lot louder.

Why is that? Because the baby’s pressed up against your diaphragm?

Yes, it’s weird. But I became used to it… Then, for the first few weeks after he was born, I found it strange to not have this little person inside me. I’m sure a lot of new mums would say the same. I missed that feeling of always knowing where my baby was.

Did motherhood affect your lyrics?

There’s a song called History Boys that I would never have written if I hadn’t become a mother, because it changed my perception of the world.

That song is talking about casualties of war. “All these ghosts / Sons of mothers.”

I was four months pregnant, and watching footage of fallen soldiers coming home at Wootton Bassett and it just… [pauses] I suddenly related to those boys as people’s kids. And I couldn’t stop weeping, because I thought, “gosh, I’m having a little boy and maybe one day he’ll want to become a soldier, and I might have to deal with something as horrid as that.”

You can feel the emotion in your vocal…

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Nerina Pallot

I’m happy to meet people. I don’t really want to know what they get up to in their bedrooms”

Nerina Pallot on her fans

I was trying to be political without being political. On a human level, regardless of whether a particular war is wrong or right, there’s a human sadness and tragedy at the heart of it. And that’s what I was trying to describe in the song - loss. The senseless loss of young lives.

There’s a thematic link between that song and your first big single Everybody’s Gone To War. Has your viewpoint changed at all?

I haven’t thought about that - but I suppose, on a personal level, I feel less angry, more sad.

It’s quite easy to be angry in music, because you just turn everything up. But real sadness - sadness that isn’t cloying or sentimental - is the hardest thing to convey. I really wanted people to be moved and thoughtful at the same time.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, musically and lyrically, is Turn Me On Again, which is incredibly sexy…

I hope so! I mean, one of the things about babies is you need to get your groove on to have one!

The song’s about the bit before that - the chase - which is the best bit, isn’t it? Many times, I’ve either chased or been chased by a bloke who, afterwards, I think “what was all that fuss about?”

You have a lyric that exemplifies that: “Fill my head with dumb desire”.

Exactly! We pursue people who, in five year’s time, we’ll cross the road to avoid… But you’ve got to do it. It’s fun!

Has anyone ever confessed to playing one of your records while they made their own baby?

Yeah, a lot of people want me to play Geek Love, a song off my second album, for that purpose. A lot of people say they got jiggy after that one.

That must be a very weird feeling.

Yes. I’m happy to meet people. I don’t really want to know what they get up to in their bedrooms.

Nerina PallotYear Of The Wolf sees Pallot return to a major label, after self-releasing her third album, The Graduate

Working with Bernard Butler seems to have added a bit of grit, compared to the out-and-out pop of your last record, The Graduate. How did the collaboration come about?

Bernard is a near neighbour of mine. In the block where I have a studio with my husband, he’s in the flat downstairs. And we’re both avid Arsenal fans. So it was born of proximity and mutual love of football…

Also, I wanted to make a concerted effort to bring back the rock element to my records. Bernard had a vision for that. We rehearsed a band and cut most of the album live. I think that’s where that grit comes from - just a bunch of people in the studio playing together.

Do you find that, with all the possibilities of modern technology, it’s too easy to waste time looking for the “perfect take”?

Yes, and the perfect take technically is not always the perfect take emotively. I have a parallel career working for other artists, and so far that’s been for “uber-pop” artists. For those jobs, I spend hours editing. That’s part of the way it works, making sure every pop on the vocal is perfect, every breath. But you do finesse the life out of things, and I didn’t want to make an album like that for myself. I wanted the odd out-of-tune moment, the odd flaw.

Does writing for other artists afford you the luxury of spreading your wings when you make solo records?

Yes, because I get the “uber-pop” tendencies out! I like writing for other people, it’s fun. I get to inhabit somebody else’s persona for a day. It’s like dressing up musically - and pulling out things I would never have the guts to wear normally.

Finally, who’s taller - you or Kylie?

I’m definitely taller… and I’m quite short as it is! But she’s luminous and lovely.

Nerina Pallot’s album, Year Of The Wolf, is out on 13 June on Geffen. The single, Put Your Hands Up, is available now.