Over the past decade, Florence Welch has gone from rag­ing against the ma­chine to SEIZ­ING THE DRIVER’S SEAT. The singer tells au­thor and poet Yrsa Da­ley-ward how she CON­QUERED HER DEMONS AND FOUND HOPE

ELLE (Australia) - - Perspective -


THE MA­CHINE. Now – a decade later – the band has three num­ber-one multi-plat­inum al­bums and count­less Grammy, BRIT and MTV awards, while the 32-year-old has landed sev­eral Gucci cam­paigns and pub­lished a po­etry book.

With one of the most dis­tinc­tive voices of her gen­er­a­tion, Welch’s sound merges mu­sic you want to jump up and down and dance to with lyrics that are per­haps best de­scribed by Greta Ger­wig, the di­rec­tor of Lady Bird, as evok­ing “the deep­est, dark­est well of pain”. The sin­gle “Hunger”, from her lat­est al­bum

High As Hope, is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of this ten­sion. It’s a de­cep­tively breezy, up­beat an­them — that ex­poses her long­time strug­gle with drugs and an eat­ing dis­or­der.

While cre­at­ing the al­bum (her fourth), Welch dis­cov­ered a new sense of clar­ity and open­ness, re­veal­ing her demons as she frankly de­scribed her strug­gles through song. The al­bum’s re­lease also co­in­cided with her first book Use­less Magic: Lyrics

And Po­etry (you’ll find her notes and draw­ings scat­tered through­out th­ese pages). It is in the book that Welch pledges to read­ers, “You can have ev­ery­thing.”

Among the women who in­spire Welch’s work is friend and fel­low poet Yrsa Da­ley-ward, whose hon­est ap­proach to po­etry in both her an­thol­ogy Bone and mem­oir The Ter­ri­ble has made her a global and so­cial-me­dia sen­sa­tion. In her book, Welch cred­its Da­ley-ward for “her in­flu­ence, sup­port and set­ting the bar so high”. ELLE lis­tens in as the two friends dis­cuss tam­ing ad­dic­tions, the heal­ing power of writ­ing and the joy a great pair of silk py­ja­mas can bring.

FLORENCE WELCH: We met through [my book club] Between Two Books, didn’t we? The amaz­ing poet Nayyi­rah [Wa­heed] wrote the most in­cred­i­ble piece about your work. And I re­mem­ber read­ing Bone and be­ing like, “Oh, shit. This is so good.” The po­etry re­ally speaks to peo­ple, but it’s also ac­ces­si­ble. I feel like there’s a real resur­gence in po­etry at the mo­ment, and it’s so ex­cit­ing to see how cur­rent po­ets are us­ing so­cial me­dia as a new plat­form. YRSA DA­LEY-WARD: It’s like a re­nais­sance of sorts. But I think peo­ple have al­ways wanted to read or hear or see some­thing that makes them feel less alone. How did you start writ­ing po­etry? >

FW: I’d gone through a life­style change — as in, I’d had to stop drink­ing. I was a party mon­ster and it was get­ting to the stage where I was just mash­ing my­self to bits all the time. The scari­est thing is, I used to think what made me cre­ative was the fact I was a big he­do­nist. But to­wards the end, it was ac­tu­ally quite hard to make songs be­cause I was in so much pain and all I was writ­ing about was: “How do I get out of this trap?” The theme of my writ­ing was like: “I’m stuck, I’m fucked, I don’t know how to make this stop. Help, help, help!” I sort of stopped [the abuse] just be­fore I made the track “How Big, How Blue, How Beau­ti­ful”. To show peo­ple this side of your­self, which is so fright­en­ing to you, and for peo­ple to ac­cept it with love, and to sing it with peo­ple, was a re­ally big cathar­sis. So I just found that my brain was more open. I just kind of wrote it down and let it all go.

YDW: Do you feel a dif­fer­ent sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity when writ­ing po­etry? FW:

What I have found is that – like with songs – po­etry has been a safe place for me to put truths. You’ve said it as well: “If you’re afraid to write it, it’s a good sign.” I def­i­nitely felt that with some of the songs on this record, I was re­ally afraid.

YDW: What was the fear about? FW:

I was hor­ri­fied at what I was do­ing. I was so scared be­fore “Hunger” came out. I don’t know if you felt that way be­fore The Ter­ri­ble was re­leased?

YDW: Ab­so­lutely. There were things in it that I’d never told any­body. I was like, “Oh great. I’ve ac­tu­ally done this on pur­pose to mess my­self up.” FW:

Yes, ex­actly! There were things in “Hunger” that I still haven’t re­ally spo­ken about to some of my old­est friends; I don’t re­ally talk to my mum about it. My lit­tle sis­ter was like, “What are you do­ing? You can’t speak about this stuff and you put it in a fuck­ing pop song!” [Laugh­ing]

YDW: It’s like a break­through, isn’t it? FW:

I’m not re­li­gious, but for me the act of singing has al­ways been such a rev­er­en­tial thing. I’ve al­ways felt this peace when I’m singing.

YDW: But that’s won­der­ful, be­cause it’s like you chan­nel a god­dess. It’s just so nat­u­ral. It’s in­stinc­tive. FW:

There’s a ques­tion I get asked quite a lot: about how it feels to be a woman head­liner. It’s some­thing I find in­ter­est­ing, be­cause when I’m per­form­ing, I don’t re­ally know if I’m in the male or the fe­male. I feel like it’s this strange strad­dling of both. I feel like both the mas­cu­line and the fem­i­nine ex­ist in­side every­body. I don’t know what that en­ergy is when I’m up there, it seems al­most gen­der­less.

YDW: It’s power, we all con­tain it... FW:

If I go into a stu­dio sit­u­a­tion, I know what I’m do­ing and what I want to do. But when I was younger, es­pe­cially if it was with an older man, I would end up do­ing what I thought they wanted to do – and it meant that noth­ing sounded right. And so when I fi­nally went in to work with Isa [band­mate Is­abella Sum­mers], she just let me sit down and do what­ever the fuck I wanted at the pi­ano and hit the walls with sticks and it was from that, from the safe space of a fe­male col­lab­o­ra­tor, that the sound of Florence + The Ma­chine was born. I feel so as­sured in what kind of mu­sic I want to make now and how I want to make it. But it def­i­nitely took a while, and I don’t know if you’re just taught to doubt your­self a bit and you have to fight against that.

YDW: We’re con­di­tioned not to feel that con­fi­dence of just walk­ing into a room and be­ing like, “I know what I’m do­ing.” FW:

That’s to­tally it! I’ve been do­ing this for 10 years now. And this time, I was fi­nally like, “Yeah, I’m co-pro­duc­ing this one.” I also re­alised I’ve al­ways been co-pro­duc­ing, but you don’t know you’re al­lowed to ask for the ti­tle [laugh­ing]. I don’t think of my­self as an an­gry per­son, but of­ten this fe­ro­cious­ness comes out in the mu­sic or the lyrics or the songs and I sur­prise my­self. Do you feel there are emo­tions you ac­cess in your work that in your daily life you’re not as aware of?

YDW: 100 per cent. I was brought up re­li­gious and had Ja­maican grand­par­ents. I learnt to sup­press ev­ery­thing and be the most po­lite per­son in the world. To this day, if I’m pissed off about some­thing, the per­son would not know. I’ve learnt how to have that feel­ing and keep it mov­ing. It doesn’t feel right [at the time], but you don’t re­ally know un­til you write it down and go, “Hang on, I’m ac­tu­ally re­ally mad about that!” FW:

Yes! I’m like, “Oh fuck, I didn’t know that un­til I wrote it down!” It’s the sort of rev­e­la­tion that you don’t know un­til you’re ac­tu­ally in the process of writ­ing. I started to look at my child­hood, which was chaotic: there was death and di­vorce and a lot of up­root­ing and a lot of dis­ap­pear­ance of fam­ily struc­ture, which did lead to a sense of empti­ness. I love the way you use so­cial me­dia; you seem su­per up for talk­ing to peo­ple and giv­ing ad­vice. I ac­tu­ally re­ally love In­sta­gram as a way to put out po­ems and art­work. I just find it so ad­dic­tive. I have to re­ally try to find bound­aries around it.

YDW: You have to, be­cause you re­ally need a break from it. It can be a real time thief. But I think you have to get in and get out, and be in­ten­tional about what you’re look­ing at...

FW: I get quite a lot of anx­i­ety every time I post some­thing – I feel this vul­ner­a­bil­ity of putting some­thing out into the world. [Laughs] Oh my God, so I have this app on my phone, which is the Moon app, and it tells me when it’s a full moon.

YDW: Me too! FW:

Did you just get the weird text from the moon that said, ‘Drank ex­pired or­ange juice to­day, ugh’? [In fits of gig­gles] I was like, who is or­gan­is­ing th­ese moon texts, be­cause I’ll do that job on the side, I’ll be the per­son who texts as the moon. The best thing about In­sta­gram is that Patti Smith has one now. I wrote this song, “Pa­tri­cia”, [which] is about her. She mes­saged me on In­sta­gram to be like, “Thank you so much,” and I was just like, “Oh, this is amaz­ing.”

YDW: On a com­pletely dif­fer­ent note, I was go­ing to send you a photo this morn­ing... FW:

Oh my gosh! Did you get the py­ja­mas [from Welch’s sleep­wear col­lec­tion with British de­part­ment store Lib­erty]? I’m so glad that you like them. I’ve al­ways been re­ally ob­sessed with Lib­erty print, so they let me go into their ar­chive of pais­leys from the 1800s and the ‘60s.

YDW: They are so beau­ti­ful, I feel re­ally posh in them. They’re the nicest thing I’ve ever lounged in at home. I also love what you wear to per­form. You’re al­ways draped in gor­geous fab­rics and silks.

FW: I prom­ise you – when I first started per­form­ing, I was so messy. But now I find that if I can move in some­thing well, it works. Alessan­dro [Michele] at Gucci re­ally un­der­stands the en­ergy of the way I per­form. It’s weird, be­cause I’ve never met any­one who has such a sim­i­lar aes­thetic to me. A lot of my per­for­mance in­flu­ences came from watch­ing Otis Red­ding, Mick Jag­ger and Nick Cave, so my in­flu­ences were mas­cu­line. But then to sub­vert that with the fem­i­nin­ity of the dresses, I al­ways found that quite in­ter­est­ing. To try and be scary and strong, but in a nightie.

YDW: And I love it! That’s power... You are chan­nelling every sin­gle part of your en­ergy. FW:

So I was watch­ing this doc­u­men­tary on The Bea­tles, and in it there was a con­cert that Allen Gins­berg and all the beat po­ets per­formed at in the ’60s at the Royal Al­bert Hall and I just thought that we should fuck­ing do that again! I would re­ally love to get po­ets, like your­self, down to hear po­etry. I might need your help. We’d have to get a load of po­ets to­gether...

YDW: Yes! Oh my God. That would be amaz­ing. FW:

It’s on! We’ll do it! Ah well, I’m go­ing to let you go, but I miss you!

YDW: This has been a plea­sure. So much love! by Florence Welch by Florence

($49.99, Fig Tree) and her al­bum

+ The Ma­chine are both out now

Use­less Magic: Lyrics And Po­etry High As Hope

“To show peo­ple this SIDE OF

YOUR­SELF… was a re­ally big CATHAR­SIS”



Dress, $19,800, boots, $3,070, beaded neck­lace (worn through­out),$1,255, pen­dant on beaded neck­lace (worn through­out), $POA, long neck­lace, $POA, onyx ring on mid­dle fin­ger (worn through­out), $1,850, gold, sil­ver, sap­phire and ruby ring (worn through­out), $12,210, large gold cuff, $10,540, gold cuff, $POA, pink opal ring (on right hand),$1,850, all GUCCI,

Dress, $40,000, shell neck­lace, $POA, all GUCCI, Words: Mi­randa Bryant. Hair: Leigh Keates at Premier Hair and Make-up. Makeup: Sarah Rey­gate at David Artists. Nails: Jenny Long­worth at CLM. Set de­sign: Gil­lian O’brien at Lala­land Artists. Botan­i­cal styling: The Flower Lab­o­ra­tory

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