‘When you’re hon­est, peo­ple get that’

Dua Lipa left home and coun­try aged 15 to pur­sue a ca­reer in mu­sic– and that de­ter­mined ap­proach soon brought her YouTube star­dom and nowa de­but al­bum. She talks to Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

There’s a story in Dua Lipa’s back pages that tells you a lot about de­ter­mi­na­tion. When the Lon­don-born Koso­var-Al­ba­nian singer was 11, her fam­ily moved to Pristina. Four years later, Lipa headed back to her birth­place on her own. She wanted a ca­reer in mu­sic so off she went. She didn’t have fam­ily in Lon­don so the 15-year-old stayed with a friend, went to school dur­ing the week and at­tended the Sylvia Young The­atre School at the week­end.

“It was re­ally a trust thing,” Lipa says when you ask about her par­ents’ re­ac­tion to this move. “I moved back to Lon­don be­cause I wanted to do mu­sic and that was where I felt I had to be. I was lucky that my par­ents re­ally trusted me and be­lieved in me.

“But at the same time, I was still un­der a lot of con­trol. I’d call my mum when I’d wake up in the morn­ing and when I’d get to school and when I left and all through the day so they knew I was OK. When you have trust be­tween a par­ent and a child, ev­ery­thing be­comes much eas­ier. That’s not to say that my par­ents weren’t wor­ried – I know they were – but I made sure to tell them ev­ery­thing to en­sure they were at their ease.”

Noth­ing, it seems, was go­ing to stop Lipa. She started off post­ing YouTube videos of her sing­ing Ali­cia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You and Christina Aguil­era’s Beau­ti­ful, signed to Warner Broth­ers in 2015, ap­peared on the BBC Sound of 2016 short­list and is now re­leas­ing her self-ti­tled de­but al­bum.

There was n oplan

It all looks easy when you list it like that, but Lipa says there was no plan. “I’d no idea what I was do­ing. I al­ways knew I wanted to do mu­sic but I lit­er­ally had no idea how to do it.

“I started off put­ting up the cov­ers on YouTube so I could show my friends at school what I was do­ing. I thought that if I ever met any­one who was in the mu­sic in­dus­try that I’d have a portfolio to show them, though I wasn’t so sure how you meet some­one in the mu­sic in­dus­try as a school­girl in Lon­don. I could say to them ‘hey, I know I don’t have any songs of my own, but here’s my voice and I can work with you on songs’. That’s how it be­gan.”

Her de­but al­bum is awash with great giddy tunes full of in­fec­tious hooks and darker cor­ners where Lipa gets to push some can­dour and hon­esty into the mix. That’s im­por­tant to her and, she be­lieves, her au­di­ence.

“I want peo­ple to feel some­thing when they lis­ten to my mu­sic. I want them to have a good time but I also want them to hear the lyrics and be able to re­late to what I’m talk­ing about. We’re not so dif­fer­ent and we all go through the same things and that’s im­por­tant for me.

“When I first started re­leas- ing mu­sic, peo­ple would come up to me and talk about the songs in a way that I didn’t re­alise would hap­pen. Peo­ple saw some­thing in the songs and it’s re­ally heart­warm­ing to get that, es­pe­cially af­ter I’ve opened up about my own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and things that are go­ing on in my life that I feel very close to. When you’re hon­est when you write, peo­ple do get that.”

When she was get­ting into pop her­self, it was such qual­i­ties which at­tracted her to artists like Nelly Fur­tado and Pink. “I lis­tened to them over and over again when I was grow­ing up. At first, I lis­tened to them be­cause the songs were re­ally fun and they were great to sing along to. But the more I lis­tened, the more mean­ing I heard in the songs and the more im­por­tant they be­came to me.”

The na­ture of the modern pop game means Lipa spent a lot of time walk­ing into stu­dios for song­writ­ing ses­sions with strangers. How hard is it to be hon­est about your emo­tions in those sit­u­a­tions?

“It’s re­ally daunt­ing at the start. You go into a room with a bunch of peo­ple you haven’t met be­fore and start talk­ing about your per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences. But then you re­alise that we’re not go­ing to come up with an hon­est song un­less I open up be­cause no one else is go­ing to be hon­est for you.

“You have to be your­self, you have to jump into it and take a chance, you have to open it. When you do that, it makes the process a lot eas­ier. I worked with Miguel and he has been do­ing it for so long that it’s sec­ond na­ture for him and he made me feel re­ally com­fort­able and con­fi­dent so there was no ten­sion or ner­vous­ness or any of that. It was re­ally easy go­ing and I think that’s how you get the best of a project like that.” Dua Lipa is out now on Warner Broth­ers

You re­alise that we’re not go­ing to come up with an hon­est song un­less I open up be­cause no one else is go­ing to be hon­est for you

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