As Pixie Lott rushes to catch the Versace show in Milan, Aoife Valentine checks in for a chat about collaborating with Stevie Wonder, her new sound, and dressing provocatively.
It would seem that Pixie Lott is not one to sit back and relax. In the two and a half years since she burst onto the scene with her debut single ‘Mama Do’, she has topped the UK charts three times, released two critically acclaimed albums that have sold millions of copies across Europe, has created four collections for the London-based fashion brand, Lipsy, and even starred in Fred: The Movie. Currently promoting her latest single, ‘Kiss the Stars’, and attending as many shows as she can fit in at fashion weeks across Europe, it would seem at the moment it is all go for the twenty-one-year-old London native.
When Otwo calls, Pixie is in a taxi, rushing to the airport to catch an early-morning flight to Milan, where Fashion Week has only just begun. Jet-setting from fashion week to fashion week across the globe may just seem like a day in the life, but it is not simply a case of hopping on a plane to see a collection come down the runway whenever she pleases. “I’m going to the Versace show … I’ve been to shows before but this is the first time I actually got to go to a few. I made them book it in early so I could fit it in the diary but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoy watching all the new trends and new collections and that.”
Pixie made headlines as she sat front row at the Felder Felder Autumn/Winter 2012, Temperley London Autumn/Winter 2012, and PPQ Autumn/Winter 2012 shows in Somerset House last week at London Fashion Week. The media criticised her for changing her outfit multiple times in one day while attending shows, but as far as Pixie is concerned, that is standard practice at any fashion week, and not simply a small luxury she can afford to indulge in. “I don’t do that usually but it’s funny; when you go to the show, you have to kind of try to wear clothes from the designer of the show so I wouldn’t really wear a Moschino dress to the Versace show. When I was going to a different show, I had to change the dress. It was a bit manic but it was fun.”
She may be very much an advocate for high-street shopping and has even designed lines for the high-street herself, but she seems unsure of whether it should have a place showing during Fashion Week. “It is great for the designers, the classic designers, to show at Fashion Week because what’s on the runway isn’t always necessarily what you would wear in normal life. It’s good that you’ve got Topshop unique [showing]; stuff like that represents the high-street really well, but I think when people go to fashion weeks they like to see the top-end designers because that’s when you get all the grand outfits.”
As she has gotten more and more involved in fashion, Pixie feels her own style has changed quite a bit. “I feel like, maybe I’ve just realised that sometimes less is more – a classier theme – but I still like to mix it up.” She is adamant however, that she has never felt pressure to dress provocatively in order to sell records, nor is it a problem she feels young female artists face when trying to make it in the charts today. “I always like just dressing in what I feel comfortable in, so it depends how I’m feeling. I don’t think people feel a pressure [though]. I think it depends on what kind of artist you are and what you feel comfortable in. Like for some artists, [dressing provocatively] is their thing and some people aren’t into that, so I think it just depends on the artist.”
At this point there is quite the kerfuffle, as Pixie reaches the airport, shoots the taxi-driver some friendly goodbyes, and then realises she’s left a suitcase behind in the car. Slightly panicked shouts of, “Oh no, there’s one more bag in there! Aaah!” are quickly followed by apologies for the disruption in conversation as she manages to retrieve the case, clearly very grateful that the taxi-man hadn’t driven off immediately. It seems that even for the briefest of trips, travelling light is not an option for Pixie.
Crisis averted, we quickly return to discussing the importance of fashion in her life. It is very clear when she is speaking that fashion is something she cares massively about, and not something she is merely forced to have an interest in for fear a journalist should ask what she is wearing as she walks down a red carpet. Having designed collections for Lipsy over the last couple of seasons, she now feels prepared to go it alone, without the backing of a high-street store. “It was fun to do a range because it all comes in as part of the whole creative process and having my own line. I’d like to do it one day, you know, not as a collaboration, so it’s really my own line, but it takes up a lot of time so it has to be done when the time is right.”
She is adamant however, that fashion is a mere hobby in comparison to music, which is where her heart truly lies. “I could never abandon music for fashion. I love fashion. I have a passion for fashion but I would never be able to stop singing or writing songs.”
Involved in music in some way since she was three years old, Pixie attended a stage school specialising in musical theatre. She knew from a young age she wanted to be a pop star and musical theatre never really interested her; she merely wanted to attend the school so she could sing and dance. She was still in school, sitting her GCSEs, when she began recording her first album, Turn It Up. “It was hard to juggle it all because I was doing my exams and I had assessments in all my dance classes and everything. I had to make the album so I found it hard to do it all. My family really wanted me to focus on [my exams] but I was obviously more interested in recording, but we made it work.”
Her 2009 debut spent almost a year in the Top 40 charts, a mean feat for any album, let alone that of a newcomer, and just last November she followed it up with her sophomore effort, Young Foolish Happy. While Turn It Up was refreshingly electro-free, glittering pop gold, her second album is a more mature, soulful offering, something which she consciously tried to achieve. “I listen to lots of soul music and although the singles are very up-tempo, the album is very much based in that so it kind of went more that way and I think my next album will go even more that way.”
As well as aiming to create quite a different sound this time around, Pixie was also keen to try and collaborate with more artists, something that she felt her debut was lacking. She even enjoyed the rare opportunity of duetting with soul legend Stevie Wonder. “It was amazing actually, just because I hadn’t really done collaborations on the first album and it came about really naturally. It kind of happened before I realised, and obviously he is one of my heroes so I was quite overwhelmed. It was quite a moment for me to meet him. I was blown away.”
Pixie co-wrote both albums, and worked with a largely similar team of writers and producers for the two, something that she feels is important as it allows her be totally comfortable within the creative process. “You feel like you can just say anything and even if your idea is stupid, you can just put it out there. I co-write with different writers and producers and that’s how it works. I love a guy called Toby Gad who I’ve worked with since I was fifteen, and also two guys called Phil [Thornalley] and Mads [Hauge], who did ‘Mama Do’ and ‘Boys and Girls’. We always work well together.”
With the third single barely released from Young Foolish Happy, Pixie is already looking forward to getting back into the studio to get working on a third record. While she thinks it’s still too early to have any concrete plans in mind, she is continuing to write all the time, alongside everything else, and would particularly like to try and do a duet with another female artist. “When Brandy did ‘The Boy is Mine’, I really liked that song. I think it’s quite powerful when two girls do a duet instead of the usual boy and girl collaboration. I’m not sure who, there’s so many amazing females that I’d be up for any of them to be honest. I think when I get back into the studio I might text a few and just see if they fancy it.”
It has been quite a while since Pixie last took to the road, and she clearly can’t wait to be touring again. “It’s been important for me to always be known as a live artist because that’s my favourite thing to do, touring and doing shows … I’m doing some shows and festivals over summer and then I’m not sure when the tour is gonna be but hopefully soon because the ‘Crazy Cats’ tour was my highlight of the last two years so definitely soon.”
As Pixie reaches security, we realise the fatal flaw in telephone interviews as she rushes through the airport, checking in bags and making her way to board her flight – security are generally not amenable to people passing through what she affectionately terms, “the little beeper thing” with a chunk of metal pressed to their ear, no matter how vital the last sentence of an interview is.
“I have to go through security and I have to put my bags through so I don’t think I’m allowed take my phone through. Is that okay?” With that, in a flurry of apologies, she disappears. With Milan awaiting her, explaining her tour plans to Otwo is, understandably, not top of her list of priorities.
Young Foolish Happy is out now.