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Talk about a pop fantasy come to life. When Pixie Lott first emerged from the Italia Conti stage school in 2008 nobody could have predicted her seamless charge towards radio ubiquity and global recognition. Yet that’s exactly what followed: two albums (2009’s million selling, triple Platinum Turn It Up and 2011’s Young Foolish Happy that spawned the #1 smash All About Tonight) and a clutch of hit singles including three #1’s, not to mention a distinctive fashion aesthetic, quickly established Lott as a household name. Not bad for a homespun singer from the leafy, commuter suburb of Petts Wood, Kent.
Five years on, Lott’s inexorable rise looks set to continue with the release of her third studio album – a self-titled collection of tracks that take their cues from the singer’s early musical influences. Gone are the glitzy, fast-paced pop rushes that informed her first two recordings and in their place stand a collection of tracks with a more soulful hue.
“When I was little I’d always be listening to the big voices like Whitney and Mariah Carey,” says Lott. “Anyone who had an amazing voice, I loved. I didn’t have any singing lessons when I was a kid. Instead I tuned into the artists I liked and learned by copying them. Because of my passion for great voices, that then leant itself to getting into the Motown’s artists and soul music, because anyone who made that kind of sound could always sing amazingly.
“It also helped that my mum was always playing Motown bands on the stereo – it struck a chord with me. When it came to making this record, I wanted to write something with more soul, more emotion, because that’s my favourite type of music. My voice sits really well on that style. I can really be myself.
“I guess I really wanted this record to really reflect my influences from the 60s and 70s through to modern pop music. At the start we took lots of my favourite music to the studio and the songwriters I was working with started sampling old soul records and putting them with new beats and then we started writing our own versions of classic songs. I wanted to call it ‘Pixie Lott’ because I think we made a record that reflects the music I love, with the artist I am now.”
With a songwriting team in place – producer Rami Afuni (Miley Cyrus, Conor Maynard) in New York; Jim Irvin (Lissie, Lana Del Ray) and Jerry Abbott (Olly Murs) – recording stints took place in both London and New York throughout 2012 and 2013. The trio drew heavily from the emotive vibe created by a raft of Motown artists, including The Supremes, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin and the Four Tops. Within the sessions, Lott developed a sound that twinned her smokey, powerful vocal tones with heart-bruised lyricism, driving brass riffs and intense pop hooks. Inspiration presented itself at every turn.
“One of the artists I listened to throughout the recording of the album was Otis Redding,” says Lott. “I loved him, I really enjoyed the amount of passion he had, and the way he performed onstage was amazing. I remember when we did a live sessions for this album where I went into Eastcote Studios and we had a band playing. I did a whole take just singing through with loads of backing vocalists. Before I went in I logged onto YouTube and watched Otis Redding singing live. I got so inspired. Then I went into the recording booth and it made such a difference to my vocals.”
The results of this inspirational process is Pixie Lott – a self-titled release and her most personal record to date. Gone are the LA-based sessions of her previous albums where the singer would meet with a succession of songwriters before nailing down her best work. This time, encouraged by her writing team, she was able to pour her own experiences and emotions into the lyrical sketches to deliver an album big on soul-heavy ballads and break-up anthems.
“I guess one of the biggest changes on this album is that I’ve grown up a lot since I first started writing songs,” she says. “I used to sing about relationships when I was younger, but I didn’t really have one of my own to write about. I think I have more experience in that kind of thing now.
“Before, when I was writing about relationships, I wasn’t experiencing them at first hand. I was writing about them through my friends. I thought I knew what I was talking about, but really it was always about what my friends were going through, or doing – I’d hear of something happening to them and I’d think, ‘Oh, OK, I’ll write about that.’
“Since then, I’ve had a serious relationship of about three years. We’re very much still together, but I have more experience about what it’s like to be in a relationship – what happens, arguments, anything that goes on, ups and downs… I feel like I can write about that more because I can relate to it more.”
The results of this changing worldview include the emotionally-charged Break Up Song and the spiky, I Will Survive-vibe of Miss You. Elsewhere, Lott is most proud of Cry And Smile – a tender lament to her late nan, who passed away last year. “It’s a short, emotional track, but it’s the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It means so much to me.”
That’s not to say Lott has entirely abandoned the route one anthems of her previous hit albums. First single, Nasty is a sashaying, pop rush – complete with James Brown samples – and acts as a neat bridge between Young Foolish Happy and 2014’s Pixie Lott. All of this has been bolstered by a powerful live show featuring brass sections and powerful backing vocals. “I can’t wait to perform shows again,” she says. I love it. “Touring is going to be amazing, especially with this new sound. Having the brass onstage, loads of backing vocalists – it’s going to be incredible to perform like that.
“I’ve already gone crazy not being able to do it for a while and… I just really love performing. Especially when it comes to playing shows with this new stuff, it’s going to be so strange singing new songs – I can’t wait to hear people singing them back. I did a show the other day in China and I was singing stuff from the old albums, but I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I can’t wait to sing the tracks from the new album and see how people react to it.'”
As with her previous recordings, Lott’s latest album walks hand in hand with an imaginative, style aesthetic. This time around, though, the 60s fashion icons of New York and Paris take centre stage – it’s a look that compliments the sassy, classic cut of her updated sound.
“It’s very Brigitte Bardot,” she says. “It’s not just the music of that era I love, but I love the fashion, too. I love Edie Sedgwick. It feels right to do this. This style, the look and sound of the album is also 100% me. On previous shoots I’ve gone along with what a stylist has wanted, but this look is definitely all mine. I’m excited to be doing shoots in that way – pictures and videos.”
Pixie Lott, then, is the sound of an artist taking charge: the Italia Conti hopeful turned singing sensation; the singing sensation turned empowered creative artist.
“Yeah, the older I get, the more songs I make, the more albums I do, I definitely get more control,” she says. “I’m more in charge in the studio these days. When I was first starting out, there were so many people who put their belief in me that I wanted to trust their advice and ideas – they were the professionals and they knew what they were doing.
“I will still always do that, I will still listen to everyone’s advice, but now I think it’s time to put my own ideas in there, too. Because of that, Pixie Lott is the album that represents me the most. It’s the album that I’ve always wanted to make. It’s the album that’s most me. Now I can’t wait for people to hear it.”
Coalition Agency act as DJ booking agent for Pixie Lott.
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