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Paloma Faith on music, motherhood and moving on

Paloma Faith’s heartbreak anthems have soundtracked many a turbulent relationship and break-up over the last decade.

Paloma’s new album highlights the importance of female empowerment

The free-spirited north Londoner has bared her soul on ballads like Only Love Can Hurt Like This and Picking Up The Pieces, but her latest album, The Glorification Of Sadness, delves deeper than ever as she explores separating from her partner of nearly 10 years and becoming a single mother.

She announced her split from French artist Leyman Lahcine – with whom she shares two daughters, aged seven and nearly three – in August last year. While tracks on the record like Divorce offer an honest insight into her heartache, she channels an energy of female empowerment in singles Bad Woman and How You Leave A Man.

“The empowerment bit is wonderful,” says Faith over a video call from London. “But there are songs that are a little bit more exposing and emotionally difficult.

“It’s a bit of a mixed bag, really.”

The singer admits she is nervous as she prepares for her sixth studio album, her first in four years, to “face the judgment” due to it being so personal.

“When I was writing it, it felt very cathartic,” the 42-year-old muses.

“But now it feels like the process of promoting it, it’s slowing down the possibility of me recovering emotionally because it’s like picking the scab off all the time.”

Faith has been open about how having children impacted her relationship with her partner.

“So much changes in terms of expectations of each other,” she explains.

“I think that the reason why our relationship is great at the moment is because we don’t expect anything now.

“I think that probably the key to a successful relationship is no expectations, but it’s also impossible.”

The Glorification Of Sadness is her first album in four years

The singer says she is proud of how they are handling co-parenting their two girls and that they have got “a lot of respect and love for each other”.

However, she has still been riding the emotional rollercoaster that comes with a break-up.

“It’s up and down,” she reflects. “I think it’s a much more drawn-out recovery process than I’ve been used to.

“You can’t go and do all of your old tricks to recover.

“You can’t just go out and get a new boyfriend, it’s just all a bit inappropriate now, because there are kids.”

On the album, she explores this complex cocktail of emotions and suggests in How You Leave a Man that the best course of action is to dramatically pack your bags, empty your bank account and drive off into the sunset – a fantasy she knows cannot become a reality for her this time.

The record is also interspersed with interludes which allowed her space to express her thoughts on guilt and shame and, as a gospel chorus says in a segment, that “there is nothing more human than failure”.

Among the issues she was battling was the added pressure she felt as a mother-of-two in her situation.

“Our expectations of women in society are just, maybe, too much,” Faith says.

“In a way, I think we expect women to be so devoted and giving and martyred.

“And the reality is we’re individuals, we’re humans, as well.

“And there is so much more pressure on us to be perfection than there is on men, I think.”

While there has been a degree of progress with women rights over the years, Faith feels “feminism has abandoned us halfway through its process”.

“We’re quite overloaded now. We wanted equality, equality is now packaged as what is essentially too much for us.

“I think too much expectation, and too much mental load, and too much actual practical load as well, because we’re raising children, working all hours.

“We’re condensing all of our personal time into their sleeping hours and that means working a lot of the time as well.

“It just feels like an overwhelm. And then sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, she was a bit snappy’, and it’s like, anyone would be snappy with this much expectation on them or this much workload. I really don’t get much time for peace on my own.”

As juggles her career, life and motherhood, she admits there is one phrase that has been really grinding her gears.

“People go, ‘So what else is coming up for you?’. And I just feel like saying ‘Oh, f*** you’. I really do,” she says with exasperation.

“What else? What do you mean ‘what else’? I’m raising two children – it’s exhausting.

“And I’m writing a book and I’ve written my sixth album, what do you mean ‘what else’?

“And then you get branded as this person like, ‘Oh, she was little bit sharp’. Let’s just swap lives for a day, see how sharp you are.”

Paloma at the Fashion Awards 2023

Mentally, Faith is in a better place now after “the most dramatic period” of her life.

“When I first ended it, I felt I had to sort of perpetuate this idea that I could power through and continue to kind of do everything, and I think that I burned out, I do think that I had a kind of breakdown when I broke up with my kids’ dad,” she said.

“Now I feel better in the sense that [I’m] a bit more kind to myself in knowing what I have capacity for. My priorities are clearer and less blurry to me than they have been for several years.”

And although she’s “on route” to a period of happiness, she can’t quite yet see the decision to split as choosing a happier path for herself.

“I think to feel that way, I’d need to have forgiven myself, and I’m not there yet.”

Forgiven herself for what exactly? “For him not being enough for me.”

And the How You Leave A Man hitmaker has been vocal about the impact having children can have on relationships.

“You lose your entire identity, and not only have you got to adapt and get used to this new person [the baby], you have to learn and get used to yourself again – because you’re irreversibly changed,” Faith explained.

“Your entire existence is completely dismantled [when you have a child] and then you’re told to put it back together, but there’s no manual and you don’t remember where the bits are.

“And you have two choices: you either try and cobble it together to look a bit like a version of what it was before, or you go, I reject that, I’m making a completely new thing out of it. And I think that’s what I did – and I think that’s what killed my relationship. I was like, that’s not me anymore.”

Since becoming a single mum, she said: “I feel like the lack of resentment is so tangible. I found it really stifling – and I don’t resent anything anymore.”

Ultimately, the decision to leave was hers – but, she added, “it takes two to end it, so whoever says it, it’s sort of irrelevant”.

Plus, there’s extra guilt attached to ending a relationship with someone you have children with, she agreed. “You feel like you’ve gone against your maternal duty or something.”

Making the decision was complex, she acknowledged.

“I just think certainty is an unattainable idea… I don’t know if anyone ever really knows what they want. They might know for a split second, and go, I’m just gonna do it – and then you live with the consequences.

“It would have been just as difficult to stay as it was to leave. I would have written just as emotional an album if I had stayed with him, that was all about the suffering of being in a long-term relationship.”

Faith’s children now spend two nights a week at their dad’s house. “So I get two very set days off and I get a break – quite a lot of married women don’t get a break,” she added.

“If they want to go out, they have to say, ‘Is it OK if I do this?’ sheepishly. Which I know, because I’ve been in that situation as well…. ‘Sorry, if you don’t mind, I’m going to have a night to myself’ – and usually it’s once in a blue moon.”

Their new co-parenting arrangement feels “very modern – Gwyneth Paltrow-y”, said the singer. And with “no one to resent”, the pair are on good terms.

“I think with the distance, my kids’ dad really appreciates me in ways that maybe he didn’t say before. We take time out to say ‘you’re brilliant’ to each other, which we didn’t do before. I’ll say, ‘I’m so lucky that my kids are your kids’.”

Alongside her musical career, Faith has also dipped her toe into the acting world, having appeared in films including 2007’s St Trinian’s and 2009 horror Dread as well as the DC Comics drama Pennyworth.

She offered her insight on the music industry to rising stars when she had a spell as a judge on The Voice UK and on The Voice Kids.

She feels there has been a positive change in how social issues are approached, but thinks the actions are all “very conscious”.

“When you talk about race relations, LGBTQ+ situations, women’s rights, there is an effort, in creative culture at least, to try and move forward,” she adds.

“I also just think that there is some degree of it being tokenised at the moment, but it has to go through that process in order for it to become second nature.”

Our chat comes a few days after women dominated the Grammy awards and two weeks after Raye made Brit Awards history by landing seven nominations.

This came after the 2023 ceremony was criticised for a lack of female representation in the gender-neutral British artist category, which prompted organisers to increase the number of nominees in the category.

How does Faith feel about the shows honouring women? “I don’t want to pat on the back, I don’t think anyone does,” she admits.

“But I really like that it’s happening and I think, long may it continue.”

Her hope is that this type of recognition becomes “ingrained” in society “rather than just something you do for a year to to prove a point”.

Paloma Faith’s album The Glorification Of Sadness is out on February 16 and her UK and European tour kicks off in April.

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