Perrie on going solo: ‘I knew I could sing, obviously. But I didn’t know if I could write music from scratch’

Perrie on going solo: ‘I knew I could sing, obviously. But I didn’t know if I could write music from scratch’

When you walk into Perrie Edwards’ home studio, you see a foam-padded vocal booth and a fancy mixing desk. Then you notice all the Number One trophies and Brit Awards behind it. “I think it’s quite intimidating to work in here, ” Perrie says with a laugh. “Like, ‘Oh my god, will I ever get an award again?’” As a member of Little Mix – alongside Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Jesy Nelson, who left in 2020 –  Perrie enjoyed more than a decade of sparkling pop hits, sold-out arena shows and milestone moments. In 2021, Little Mix made history by becoming the first ever girlband to win British Group at the Brits.

That it took 41 years for an all-female act to win this award is “tragic”, Perrie says today, “but I’m so glad we did it.” She also points out proudly that Little Mix were, in 2011, the first group ever to win The X Factor (One Direction had to settle for third a year earlier).  Now, nearly two years after the girlband behind undeniable bangers including ‘Move’, ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Sweet Melody’ went on hiatus, Perrie is ready to strike out on her own. Co-written with Evanescence alum David Hodges and Ed Sheeran – more on this later – her debut single ‘Forget About Us’ is a sun-dappled stomper with a powerhouse vocal. Asked to describe its vibe, she replies: “Anthemic – driving in the car with the roof down in the wind.”

Perrie says her upcoming solo album – which has no title or release date yet, but is pretty much in the bag – is definitely “eclectic”. Featuring songs co-written with artist-of-the-moment RAYE and Little Mix collaborator Jin Jin, it includes everything from “Motowny” moments to “guitar-led ballads” and tracks with “Mariah Carey vibes”. “What I wanted to make sure of was that every song [from] a different genre had a sister or sibling on the album, so it’s not completely mismatched,” she says. “It makes sense when you listen to it as a body of work.”

In a lively In Conversation interview, Perrie talks about overcoming imposter syndrome to hone her songwriting skills, her two-year-old son Axel’s cameo on the album, and a playful bop written about her partner, England soccer star Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. She also reveals how Paramore‘s Hayley Williams gave her the impetus to pursue a singing career.

At the start of this process, you weren’t sure you wanted to write your own songs. Why was that?

“I was just so insecure, I think, I was just so shy. And it’s really a drastic change when you go from being in a girl-group and having your girls constantly with you holding your hand – I was literally the baby [of the group]. And it can be quite overwhelming when there’s loads of people in a room and you’re supposed to be talking about your feelings and your emotions and what you want to put in a song.

“I sat down with my label at the start and I was like, ‘Guys, I don’t want to write anything. I just want to be sent songs. I just want to sing them.’ Like, I remember watching the Whitney movie [I Wanna Dance with Somebody] and she would sit in the office [with a pile of demos] and say, ‘I like that, I don’t like that.’ That’s how I imagined my music career going. But then they were like, ‘Why don’t you just try some sessions with friends and people you’ve worked with in the past that make you feel comfortable?’ Like Jin Jin – I’ve known her forever and would never feel judged by her in the room.

“So the more I did sessions, the more I became confident [and] the more I was writing down lyric and concept ideas. And then I started taking the reins a bit more and it just kind of spiralled from there. There’s only a handful of songs on my album I haven’t either co-written or written so I’m very proud of [going] from one extreme to the other.”

How did ‘Forget About Us’ come about – you said Ed Sheeran sent you a demo?

“So, Ed sent me the song and at the time, the lyrics and concept were very direct to what it was about. And I rang him and was like, ‘Would you mind if I just tweaked little bits? I’m not going to just be on the writing credits for the craic because that gives me the ick, I hate when people do that. I don’t want to take away [the fact] you produced and wrote this song [and] sent it to me. I just want to tweak it lyrically so it’s more me and where I’m at in my life now.’

“And he was totally cool with it, he was so supportive. He was like, ‘I want you to take full ownership in it – whatever you’re not comfortable with, change it, and we’ll work on it from there.’ So I did a session on Zoom and we kind of got it to where it is now. I’m really happy.”

Was it important for you to launch with a ‘singy’ song – one with a real diva vocal?

“On every song, I want vocal moments somewhere. I didn’t want a song that was just kind of a generic vocal all the way through. Even at the last second – a week ago, maybe, I had an event and I just recorded the ad libs [on the song] that morning because it felt like something was missing. So I rang Dipesh [Parmar], the head of my label, and he was like, ‘Would you want to do more ad libs?’

“And I was like, ‘I would never say no to more ad libs – the more the merrier, because I will ad lib from start to finish if I can.’ So I asked him, ‘If I do [them] this morning, will it be ready in time for the event tonight for everyone to hear? And he was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m sure we can make it work.’ Just adding those big ad libs at the end, I think, elevates the song.”

You’ve also worked with RAYE on the album.

“She came over and it was just the best day. Every time I see her win an award or anything happens to her, I am so happy because she just deserves to win – she’s the nicest, most genuine person, but her talent is ridiculous. Like, she opens her mouth and I’m just in awe of her. At the time, her single was doing really well and we celebrated with a little crisp cake. My mum was trying to find something in the kitchen to congratulate her so we got a little crisp cake and a candle. And we wrote a song that day called ‘2-2’ that I’m really proud of.’”

What’s the song about? The title sounds like a football score.

“Indeed! It’s about my partner. To be honest, it started because I was like, ‘In a relationship, I can be quite petty. I don’t know if that’s my star sign, I don’t know if it’s because I’m cancer and stubborn, but I like to hold a grudge.’ [My partner] and I never argue – we’re pretty chilled out – but at times, I will just hold a grudge for the sake of it. I’ll think that if he just looks at me and smiles and says ‘oh come on’, I’ll be like, ‘OK, all this is forgotten.’ But he doesn’t and I will not back down either. So that’s kind of what the song is about.”

What does your partner think of the song? 

“He really likes it! To be fair, at first when I play him a song, he doesn’t listen to the lyric necessarily. I’m learning that: some people will hear a song and hear the melody. And some people will listen straight for the lyric… he definitely listens to the song as a whole. So then I’ll ask him: ‘Oh, what do you think of the lyrics?’ And he’s like, ‘Why, what did you sing? Play it again!’ And he’ll take it in the second time. But he likes it. It’s all fun and games really, isn’t it? I’ve written about him loads on the album. It’s got nice songs, too, don’t worry!”

You’ve said that Paramore’s Hayley Williams is one of the reasons you wanted to become a singer. What about her inspired you?

“Because she’s epic – she’s unbelievable. [Paramore] was the first concert I ever went to when I was younger. I was right at the back and she was literally a dot with her orange microphone and bright hair, but it was the most incredible experience of my life. I left the arena in Newcastle and rang my brother and I was like, ‘Johnny, I’m going to do this.’ And he was like, ‘You’re going to do what?’ I was like, ‘I’m going to do music… that’s going to be me one day at that arena.’ And he was like, ‘Yes kid, I believe in you. You’ve got the voice, you can do it.’ And I was like, ‘She just changed my life. That was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.’”

How old were you?

“I was about 14, 15. And then I did performing arts in college, which kind of helped my confidence, and then X Factor. And then obviously that was it.”

Your X Factor audition song was bold: ‘You Oughta Know’ by Alanis Morissette.

“I know, know. My mum was like, ‘Yeah, great choice!’ She was a big Alanis fan so she was backing me all the way. And then I sang ‘Ave Maria’ because they wanted to hear me sing something else. It’s like one extreme to the other.”

That’s range.

Yeah! To be fair, it got me here, so it must have worked somehow.”

Fans will want to know this: can we expect live shows this year? 

“I hope so, yeah. I would like to do some live performances.”

‘Forget About Us’ is going to sound great live.

“Yeah, I hope so. I can definitely see it now with the band and me just living my best life. I’m going to be terrified, don’t get me wrong, but it’s going to be epic.”

What would you say to the Perrie of two years ago, who thought she couldn’t write songs?

“‘Oh, you silly little sausage –  you didn’t know what you were gonna do!’ I think it did come from a place of not feeling like I was good enough to do it, maybe. I knew I could sing, obviously. But I didn’t know if I could write music from scratch. So I guess I just needed to give it a go instead of putting myself in a box.” 

‘Forget About Us’ by Perrie is out April 12 via Columbia 


The post Perrie on going solo: ‘I knew I could sing, obviously. But I didn’t know if I could write music from scratch’ appeared first on NME.

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