Before releasing her new record Fast Food and after sorting through some technical difficulties, A Music Blog, Yea? Skyped English singer and songwriter Nadine Shah to have a lovely chat about relationships, honest lyrics, album artwork, bad song titles, and fast food meals. Dive into our conversation below:
Nadine Shah: Helloooooo.
AMBY: Hi there, Nadine! What are you up to?
Nadine Shah: I am so, so sorry. I keep missing you and then I spilt tea on my computer the other day [laughs].
AMBY: No worries at all. I’m glad it all worked out in the end.
Nadine Shah: Well thank you so much for doing this, I really appreciate that.
AMBY: No problem, thank you for having a chat today. To kick things off, we must discuss the exciting new release of your record Fast Food. Tell me a bit about your experience creating it.
Nadine Shah: You know, people kept saying to me things like “difficult second record” and it’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re going to do some work. I was just like, “Come on! Thanks for the encouragement and enthusiasm everybody!” [laughs] It felt a bit simpler this time since it’s the second time around; you know how long it takes to master a record, mix it, and there aren’t too many surprises. I was working with the same people, the same producer, and we’re so used to working with each other now that we aren’t as pressured. We’ve almost developed our own way or method of working together. In that sense it was a lot more enjoyable.
AMBY: The songs were created during a concentrated two-month writing session with the producer you mentioned, Ben Hillier. Did you initially have that two month time frame in mind to finish the writing?
Nadine Shah: No! You know what? I actually wrote a bunch of songs while on tour since I had so many hours in the back of a van with time to kill. I scrapped all of those lyrics and then me and Ben went into the studio together. It was in those two months that I wrote a bunch of new stuff. I did want this process to be a lot quicker than the first time around. In an ideal world, I’d like it to be the case where we make one album per year. We knew we had a window of these two months and we just wanted to see if we could do it. It turned out, it was doable.
AMBY: Something I’m enjoying a lot is how you’re charming yet blunt when it comes to lyrics, and that’s displayed fully on this new record. You speak about something that scares a lot of people, which is the realization that you can’t be anyone’s first love ever again. Could you expand on that idea a bit?
Nadine Shah: It’s so weird because you forget when you write these things that people are going to hear them and the people you wrote them about are going to hear them. We have this expression in England which is “hanging up your dirty laundry for everyone to see”. That’s how it feels. Talking about the record in that sense is kind of difficult. I suppose, it’s like a coming of age album. When I’m saying something like the realization of never being someone’s first love again, it sounds really naïve and childish, but I did have that experience with somebody. It was strange because I had to be a lot more mature and it made me reflect on how I’ve been in past relationships and how I’ve dealt with jealousy and paranoia and everything. It’s stupid, and it’s stupid to assume that you’re going to meet someone who’s never been in love before – that would be a tragedy. In fact, that would raise alarm bells to me.
AMBY: Why’s that?
Nadine Shah: If I was meeting someone who was my age who’s never been in love before, I might be thinking “What the hell is wrong with you?”
AMBY and Nadine Shah: [laughs]
AMBY: The album artwork for the record is a photograph of you, but the tint of your skin is green and it looks like blood and veins are running from your neck. What is the significance behind that?
Nadine Shah: [laughs] Ahhh.
AMBY: I can’t figure it out!
Nadine Shah: Oh gosh. I’ve got to start making shit up.
AMBY and Nadine Shah: [laughs]
Nadine Shah: It’s kind of to do with the unhealthy aspect of my attitude towards dating for a long time. You know, an unhealthy state of mind can also transfer physically… It’s just meant to be a really brutal, brutal image to demonstrate that. I wanted it to look like it was – I’m a really big fan of images from 1970’s Italian horror films – sort of a fanfatal character. It’s supposed to be like one of those characters from a horror film. Pretty dramatic.
AMBY: I was trying to find a connection from that dramatic cover to the title. Why did you decide to go with the title Fast Food?
Nadine Shah: The first album, no one ever got the bloody title right! I wanted to keep it simple. In fact, the title came from my bassist who is a wonderful guy. He’s a very wise man and we were recording the album and there’s a song called Fast Food and “fast food” was a metaphor for our relationship; something that was tearing us apart from the inside and ruining our goods. It was bad for us, but at the same time we couldn’t get enough of each other. Pete, my bassist, came up to me with his wonderful accent and said [puts on voice] “Have you thought about maybe calling the album, simply, Fast Food?” I thought it was a bit simple and a bit clean, but it does reflect the nature perfectly of some short-lived yet intense love affairs. I didn’t want to call the album… although a lot of the songs are reflecting sad love stories, I didn’t want to call it something like “I’m Hurting”.
AMBY: You didn’t want something too literal.
Nadine Shah: Exactly. I didn’t wait something too literal because I don’t want the album to be so defeated and wallowing in self-pity. I didn’t want to call it “Divided” or “Hurt”.
AMBY: “Help Me”.
Nadine Shah: [laughs] “Help Me!” There’s an album which I love by a great musician called Sharon Van Etten.
AMBY: Oh okay, I’m aware of her music.
Nadine Shah: She’s great. I don’t like the titles of her songs on the album though, that’s my only criticism. There’s one like “Are We There Yet?” and “Hurt Me Again” or something. They sound a bit like that. She’s a really cool girl and she comes across as a really strong woman and I don’t like to imagine her anything less. I was very aware of the titles of tracks and album titles having a slightly weirder element to them.
AMBY: We actually covered her not too long ago in Manchester and she apparently put on a fantastic show. I remember listening to her for a bit afterwards and enjoying her song called “Your Love is Killing Me”.
Nadine Shah: [laughs] That’s the one! That’s the flipping one.
AMBY: Well, being that your record is called Fast Food, it’s obvious that I couldn’t interview you without asking: what is your favourite fast food?
Nadine Shah: Oh god, I love it all. I love it all. What is my favourite fast food? There’s a thing we have in London which isn’t that unhealthy, actually, and it’s a Turkish dish called a lahmacun. It’s like a little pizza and it has no cheese on it, just minced meat, some parsley, and tomato. They’re super cheap here and it’s my favourite quick fix.
AMBY: Shortly after the album’s release you’ll embark on a UK Tour. For our last question, I wanted to ask you how excited you are for what’s to come and when it comes to packing for a tour, what are some quintessential items you must have with you?
Nadine Shah: I’m so excited to take this album on the road and tour it. You know what? My band mates are always laughing because it’s so easy for me to pack for tour. I pretty much, exclusively, wear black all of the time day to day. It makes washing day really easy and it means that I get ready within twenty minutes, because everything matches. I grab a bunch of black clothes and throw them in my suitcase. It’s great because none of it gets really dirty, and if it does, you can only see it up close or know because I’d just stink [laughs]. Kidding aside, before we go on tour, I just download loads of new albums and listen to all of them. It’s nice to have the opportunity to listen to music while on the road.
Thank you Nadine Shah, for giving us your answers!
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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout