“I’m a perfectionist,” says British singer-songwriter Delilah. “I’ve grown to accept my perfectionism, but it’s something that makes everyone around me wacko.” The Paris-born Delilah has been perfecting her style since an early age, writing her first song at twelve and signing with Atlantic Records at seventeen. In the three years she spent writing and recording her debut studio album, From the Roots Up, she collaborated with an impressive list of writers including Sia, Emeli Sandé, Salaam Remi, Guy Chambers, Dan Carey, Sam Dixon, Rick Nowels and Fraser T Smith. “It all sort of happened organically. I haven’t been really great at planning things in my career so far,” says Delilah. “Things have just rolled out, and I’ve played catch-up from the beginning.”
With a musical style that can be described as dark, soulful, melodic pop, Delilah’s success on the charts with singles “Time” and “Go” has been matched by an extensive touring schedule, including opening for Prince on his 2012 Australian tour. “Prince has been really supportive. I guess you can call him a mentor… When I first heard about the tour, I thought everyone was joking. “Prince is going to call you;” I thought it was a rumor. But then I got a phone call and I was like, “Really?” It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
Prince isn’t the only ’80s icon who’s influencing Delilah’s work. “Madonna has had a really nice career. I really respect her artistry. I’m not talking about Madonna in the last five years, I mean the twenty years before that. But she’s had a really amazing career, and has inspired a lot of other artists.”
Despite having only released her debut album in July 2012, she is already working on her follow-up—with hopes to release her second album in late 2013. She mixes up her time in the studio with live performances as much as possible; “I’m a big fan of seeing fans’ reactions — the studio can be quite a lonely place. I love the excitement of creating something new and bouncing off the energy of a new song, but there is something about seeing fans singing along…”
In 2014, Delilah became indepenent of her label, with her second album being supported by the #NoFilter Tour. Several new songs off of the album have already been released, and a mixtape is coming soon. She continued her friendship and collaboration with Prince on his new album, Art Official Age.
Read on for the full-length, exclusive interview with Delilah for The Music Issue of The Untitled Magazine, with Editor-In-Chief Indira Cesarine.
indira Cesarine: How did you get started with music?
D: I was always in a musical family. No one could play any instruments, but everyone was really appreciative of music. There was always music being played around the house. My stepfather was a DJ, and my mom worked in the live music scene in the 90s. I was always around music, musicians and people who loved music. I went to college when I was seventeen, and I’ve been writing music since I was twelve. Someone heard a song [of mine] by chance and told someone they knew at a record label. Within about two weeks I had most of the English music industry calling me to meet them. I was signed in 2008.
IC: How long have you been performing?
D: I’ve been performing for about four years. I went on my first tour about three years ago.
IC: Do you love touring?
D: Yeah, I love touring. It’s something I’ve become really comfortable with; it takes practice. I think that’s why I love the music industry – being able to go on the road. But I was on my first tour with eighteen men, and I was the only girl; it was a learning experience and really educational.
IC: Do you prefer performing live or studio work?
D: I like to mix. It’s quite hard to do it at the same time. I’ve kind of been doing that the past three or four months while I write my second album. I’m a big fan of seeing fans’ reactions, so the studio can be quite a lonely place. I love the excitement of creating something new and bouncing off the energy of a new song, but there is something about seeing fans singing along. I think the first tour is always the persuasion tour.
IC: Do you ever get nervous performing live?
D: Not anymore. I think I’ve done it so much. I was really lucky to have all those nerves gone by the first tour. The first time I toured, it was with another band so the pressure wasn’t really on me, I was more a part of a bigger show. So I think I got the nerves all out of my system.
IC: Did you ever have a breakthrough moment when everything started coming together?
D: It all sort of happened organically. I haven’t been really great at planning things in my career so far; things just rolled out, and I’ve played catch-up from the beginning. But this summer was really amazing for me; I got a lot of love and played some amazing shows. I went on tour with Prince in May. That was incredible. So there’s been some amazing opportunities that have come around.
IC: Do you have a favorite style or musician that has inspired your work?
D: I’m inspired by a ton of people; I like music from all different eras and all different artists.
IC: Has there been anybody who has been a mentor to you?
D: Prince has been really supportive. I guess you can call him a mentor. He’s helped me online and by asking me to come on tour with him.
IC: How was it to have Prince contact you online and then ask you to tour with him?
D: It was definitely nuts. When I first heard about it, I thought everyone was joking. “Prince is going to call you;” I thought it was a rumor. But then I got a phone call and I was like, “Really?” It’s been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I took my mom and my best friend to Australia and we toured with Prince for a week.
IC: How did you find performing in Australia?
D: I found it really nice. I went to Australia the only time it was cold. It was nice to perform in an arena stage that big and to have my friends show up to support me was amazing.
IC: How big was the arena; how many people in the crowd?
D: I think it was something like 30,000.
IC: If you could be any other musician, who would it be?
D: There isn’t one currently, but Madonna has had a really nice career, I really respect her artistry. I’m not talking about Madonna in the last five years. I mean the twenty years before that. But she’s had a really amazing career, and has inspired a lot of other artists.
IC: Have you had any difficult performances that challenged you as an artist?
D: I’ve had performances where there’s no sound, so the audience couldn’t hear anything, even my own vocals. That performance was streamed live on the radio and TV. That was really scary. People could watch me on the television, and hear me on the radio, but I couldn’t hear my own vocals, just the sound of my drummer’s cymbals. The performance came out OK, better than I expected, but it wasn’t what I wanted it to be either.
IC: They say people are their own worst critic.
D: I am. I can have a great show, get off stage and still have something to criticize. I’m a perfectionist, I guess. I’ve grown to accept my perfectionism, but it’s something that makes everyone around me wacko.
IC: Do you have a specific look you like to cultivate as far as an image of yourself as a performer?
D: Yeah, I think my look is definitely more glamorous than my day-to-day. I’m quite embarrassed to even be going out the way I am now. But I guess my job allows myself to be the other side of myself more often, which is someone who can be quite glamorous.
IC: Do you have any favorite designers you like to collaborate with?
D: I don’t really have any designers I’ve collaborated with. I can make speed-shopping a sport. I have an amazing wardrobe thanks to my terrible addiction of buying things. People are usually very kind to lend me stuff, and I have a great stylist that I work with back home. I guess I would call my style punk meets Hollywood glamour. It’s somewhere in between. My hair is quite long, and is always curled or waved, and I’m usually wearing boots and covered in tattoos.
IC: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve written or produced?
D: I wrote a song called “Love You So.” I’m a big fan of it. Some songs come around fairly quickly, and others take more thought. This one took a bit more thought. I really like the lyrics. It’s one of the few songs I can listen to, and it feels like I’m listening to someone else. It’s a nice feeling ’cause then you’re not critiquing it the same way.
IC: What are your current projects, and what can we look out for?
D: I’m currently working on my new album. Depending on when I finish it, hopefully by September – It’s crazy, since I just released an album a few months ago. I’ll be doing festivals; hopefully coming to the US and Europe a bit more, because I haven’t really explored the rest of the world yet. I’ll probably be on someone else’s tour, which will be fun. I’m excited for the future.
Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine “Music” Issue 6
Photography by Andreas Stravindes
Fashion Editor Rebekah Roy
Stylist: Rebekah Roy
Hair by Elliot Bssila @ DWM
Make-up by Julia Wilson
Photographed at The Arch London
Location Scout: Vanessa Horca
This article originally appeared in The Music Issue of The Untitled Magazine (2013).