I don’t know a life with­out mu­sic

Dido has brought us some of our most trea­sured love songs and has now re­leased her first al­bum in six years. The singer talks to ALEX GREEN about mother­hood, the trauma of los­ing her fa­ther and how she is fi­nally able to sing the songs she wrote about him

Bangor Mail - - The Music Interview -

DIDO is not an artist who rushes things. Still On My Mind is tes­ta­ment to that. The al­bum – her first in six years – comes as she pre­pares to em­bark on her first tour in a decade and a half.

Born Flo­rian Cloud de Bouneviall­e O’Mal­ley Armstrong, in Lon­don, the singer, now 47, is un­nerv­ingly un­changed by age. Her voice, her looks, and her style re­main fa­mil­iar.

Also un­changed is her com­mit­ment to tak­ing things slow. “I don’t know a life with­out mu­sic. I’ve al­ways been play­ing mu­sic or writ­ing songs,” she says.

“It’s just that, by co­in­ci­dence, five times it’s turned into a record. But that’s it.”

Her son, Stan­ley, is now seven and af­ter nearly a decade of mar­riage to writer Ro­han Gavin she says she’s in one of the most sta­ble, re­laxed and happy pe­ri­ods of her life. This is re­flected in the mu­sic. Out of the chaotic first years of mother­hood, she is re­vis­it­ing the sounds that de­fined her.

Over 12 tracks she dips into her past as a singer in the elec­tron­ica band Faith­less, which her brother Rollo founded with Sis­ter Bliss and Maxi Jazz.

She ad­mits she hasn’t had a night out in years. But there’s al­ways dance mu­sic play­ing at home. “I’ve got a kid who loves mu­sic,” she says. “He’s al­ways lis­ten­ing to stuff and dis­cov­er­ing things.”

Of­ten it feels as if

every al­bum Dido re­leases is mar­keted as a come­back. And thus it was so with Still On My Mind, which was pro­duced by her brother and is pos­si­bly her most ad­ven­tur­ous yet.

It’s an al­bum she wrote to tour, a fact that sur­prised even her. “I’m re­ally ex­cited about this record, in a re­ally new way that I can’t ex­plain,” she says, sit­ting com­fort­ably at the back of her man­age­ment’s of­fice.

“The first record, I was re­ally ex­cited to just have a record. I didn’t re­ally know what would hap­pen af­ter that. I just wanted to have my songs recorded. That was the pin­na­cle. This time, the tour­ing feels like a new start. It’s been a re­ally long time.”

Many fans will re­mem­ber that 1999 al­bum, No An­gel, which to­talled roughly 22 mil­lion sales. Then came Life For Rent, which sold a still im­pres­sive 12 mil­lion. Af­ter that was Safe Trip Home, a ma­ture and thought­ful col­lec­tion of songs writ­ten for her fa­ther, who died in 2006 from the au­toim­mune dis­ease lu­pus.

She ad­mits now that she “didn’t think it through”. She had writ­ten an al­bum of songs so per­sonal she was un­able to sing them in pub­lic. She de­cided not to tour.

“I love the third al­bum. It’s got most of my favourite songs on it. But I couldn’t sing them live. It was so raw at the time. My dad had just died. Loads of them were about that. It was like, ‘I can’t talk about this’. I didn’t think it through.”

But a decade on, she feels ready to per­form those songs – as well as hits Thank You, White Flag and Life For Rent – in front of au­di­ences large and small.

“I would play those songs now be­cause time has passed. It’s not quite so raw. I was so in it. There was a time when I didn’t want to sing White Flag for a minute. I was re­ally heart­bro­ken and it was just re­ally hard to sing.”

Five UK dates nes­tle amongst a 27-date world tour which will see her set­tle in with a new band and new mu­sic.

Does she feel the pres­sure of bar­ing her soul in front of crowds?

The short an­swer is no. “There’s no com­mer­cial pres­sure. For me, I don’t feel like any pres­sure at all. It’s a re­ally lib­er­at­ing thing, this.”

She’s care­fully picked smaller venues where she feels she can con­nect with the crowd.

Union Chapel, off Is­ling­ton’s well-to-do Up­per Street, was an in­spi­ra­tion for the al­bum. Dido wanted to be able to imag­ine per­form­ing each song in­side the or­nate con­cert hall.

The qual­ity of Dido’s lyrics have al­ways been as im­por­tant as her voice – spe­cific enough that we sense her des­o­late heart­break but am­bigu­ous enough that we find some­thing fa­mil­iar to cling on to.

Hurricanes, which opens the new record, is a whis­pered, in­tense glimpse into do­mes­tic­ity that strikes this bal­ance.

Dido ad­mits she’s al­ways been in­trigued by the minu­tiae – even at the ex­pense of the big­ger pic­ture.

“It al­ways seems to be those small mo­ments that are the most mem­o­rable,” she says. “Those mo­ments, where you feel pure hap­pi­ness, they tend to be when you’re just play­ing with your kids, you’re just play­ing some game, you’re laugh­ing.

“Those are the mo­ments I find to be the most in­spir­ing. I don’t think I’ve ever writ­ten a song about the world.”

■ Still On My Mind is avail­able now. For de­tails of Dido’s tour, which be­gins in May, visit dido­mu­sic.com

Dido is back with a new al­bum

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