So your new single Your Love. It sounds as if there are three Nicoles singing, do you have different personas when you’re doing a song?
I think I do, depending on the music, depending on what I’m singing about, the context. Sometimes when I’m doing backgrounds I’ll say ‘I’m gonna do her’ and I have different voices in my head. But it all comes from the same place.
Who is your favourite persona to be?
Just full out, I think. The verses, I think it’s just the way that I sang them, the verses are very flirtatious and fun and sexy and then the pre-chorus reminds me of Michael [Jackson, presumably]. When I did the bridge it reminded me of Whitney Housten and Michael. Then the chorus reminds me of Etta James, ‘you’re love makes me feel like’, you know that song [she sings] Oh, oh, sometimes… I get a good feeling. I was inspired by that. And then the do’s remind me of MGMT or some indie rock band.
There’s one bit that sounds a bit like you’re in a cupboard
Yeah. Because it’s really intimate. [she whispers] It’s all about being intimate and being one of one with somebody.
When you were recording did you go to any locations or do anything like that?
No. I recorded it in Miami. Where I was overlooking the beach and everything.
Sounds pretty chilled out.
Yeah it was pretty chilled.
The other thing I like about the song is the MC Hammer reference. I’m 31, so it’s a childhood song for me, I guess a lot of your fans are a bit younger, are they going to get it?
They better! I hope so, I mean it’s not that old... people reference Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and everything, MC Hammer was just a decade or two ago. They should get to know him, he’s got MC Hammer dance moves, MC Hammer pants, Hammer Time…
In my head it was just one song though
Can’t Touch This? Oh yeah I love that song. What’s the lyric for the second verse?
[runs over lyrics] yo baby you got me yo my body’s like Bugati everybody wants one… wait. you got everything they don’t… when I’m singing I know it.
It’s ‘girls can’t touch this’
Yeah how does it go? [does it again] I don’t even know the lyrics to my own song.
Are you going to be performing it any time soon?
Yeah tomorrow, 10 in the morning! Acoustic set. I was rehearsing last night, I know it, it’s when I’m speaking it I don’t remember it. [mutters lyrics again, PR starts googling] How does it start?
PR: You get all my loving, all my kisses when we’re hugging. MC Hammer, girls’ can’t touch this, I got everything they don’t.
Exactly, MC Hammer, can’t touch this. MC Hammer, girls can’t touch this I got everything they don’t. Girls can’t touch this, [sounds like Bruce from Family Guy] heyyyy! It’s an anthem.
Do you see your own songs as anthems when you’re writing them?
Either when I’m writing them or picking them, yeah. Ultimately I have a big heart and a big passion and I want to choose the songs with that meaning, I want to choose energetic songs that are empowering.
There’s a new album, I know there’s not a title yet, what have you been calling it?
There’s not a title. Everything happened organically when I did the album with Tricky and Dream, so the album title after we’ve done the sequencing will happen organically too. I say I’m finished recording, but you’re never done until it’s out. So. It’ll come.
Is it fair to say it’s a change of direction? Because they thing with Your Love is it’s not acoustic, but it’s not as synthy, not as electro as your other stuff.
Cool. What do you think it’s like? I’m curious…
Just previously a lot of your singles have been more club orientated, in your face pop songs, whereas this one is a bit more… taking a step back.
Yes. And instrumentally it’s not so Euro-pop.
That’s why it was exciting as well to work Tricky Steward and The Dream, it’s pop, Leo’s songs lean a little more Urban Pop but it’s my own sound. I finally have my sound coming out, so when you hear it doesn’t sound like anybody elses songs out there. Or anyone else’s music out there.
Is that a fair reflection of what you’re doing on the album?
Exactly, that’s exactly what I was talking about. The poppiest song on the album is Your Love.
There are so many directions that could go in… Is there going to be a Led Zeppelin element?
No, I would love that. Sometimes when I sing I’ll bring those elements into it when I’m singing or doing some adlibs, I like to rock out. I don’t know, because I still want to keep it relevant. This album is a little more vibey, not as balls to the wall. At moments it is like that - balls to the wall - more vibey, soul, urban pop.
So there are no club moments?
What do you mean by club moments, like in the club, dancing?
It’s the kind of thing you’d hear in G-A-Y Late, really euphoric, loud pop song.
Yeah I think this song [Your Love] would go over excellent in a club. I’ve got a few other surprises in there that are a lot different from what people expect. A little left of centre, that’s what I want to do.
In what way?
Have a little bit more not as synthy, not so European electric dance, a little bit more soul, a little bit more bass, rythmn and blues to it.
That’s exactly what I meant by Your Love sounding more acoustic-y. Because it’s not acoustic at all, but it’s a different composition
You can thank Tricky Stewart for that production.
What was your favourite song to write?
On this album it was more a collaborative partnership between me and all the boys. Myself dream and tricky. I love a song called Girl With The Diamond Heart, it’s personal. [pause] Yeah, I don't wanna say right now, then there’s songs like Electric Blue and Heartbreaker that I feel are in leagues of their own, nobody else has songs like these. No one has sounds like that.
One of the quotes you’ve been using in interviews is…
The woman that I am, the woman that I’m not, the woman that I want to be
Yes, that one. Well it’s funny first hearing that, I can imagine drag queens are going to identify with it
Exactly. That’s the thing about this album, is it’s very identifiable. Because it is personal, because I don’t always talk about that stuff, people see me as so bubbly in the public eye when I’m working. These are some of the things I don’t talk about, in the music. Me opening up about, talking about relationships, love, life, insecurities, triumphs and going through that - people can relate to that and identify with that and identify with this music.
I’ve read a lot of your interviews and I’m always amazed by the double standards in the expectations of women, the woman you are and the woman you’re not, like the personality you put out there and the ‘real’ you. It’s different [I've no idea what I was rambling on about here, it wasn't even a question].
Well on the outside people are like ‘you have insecurities? you have fears? no! everything’s perfect in your life, you’re so happy, everything’s all bubbly and roses and sunshine, Shamazing!’ which a big part of it is, but everybody battles with self doubts and fears, insecurities, everybody does. And that comes out through experiences in work, life, love and relationships and we can all relate to that. Basically it’s just me being honest and raw and real enough to say that’s where I am in my life. It’s who I am, who I’m not - because I’m not perfect, I’m still growing and going through my own crap and who I'm trying, aspiring to be. So yeah as a woman, it’s about being a girl, speaking from my own - obviously people will interpret it their own way - speaking from a personal place as a woman these are the things that I’ve dealt with. I think a lot of people can relate to that.
Definitely, the gay community easily identify with strong women, there’s a historical connection - and it is exactly what you’ve described. Do you see that empathy.. what’s your relationship with the gay community and can you see how we can identify with you/strong females?
Oh, absolutely. It’s a connection, it’s just this strong, proud, diva connection, I feel like. Everything who we want to be, right? Everything who we are, it’s the same thing. Everything we are, everything we’re not, everything we want to be. It’s the same connection, we’re all connected. Does that makes sense? I think that as strong and as empowering as we are, we’re very volnuerable too. We get lost as well, our insecurities in the gay community guys are just… maybe, I don't want to say more empathetic, I just feel like we have that sort of connection. Females, women and men and women in the gay community just have more understanding and empathetic heart, and at the same time an empowering and encouraging, triumphant heart to come out of that. does that make sense?
Yeah. And also, it’s a combination of THAT and the performativity and the glamour. it’s when those two things come together.
Absolutely, that’s why, what did I say originally say? Our diva, strong empowering diva mentality. I come alive when I’m at G-A-Y infront of the gay community, I feel the most powerful and have the most confidence. Because they just bring it out of me, they embrace and celebrate that.
And also that’s the thing that I loved about watching the X Factor, it was like having a gay man on the panel.
Yay! Me! It’s like having a gay man on the panel… [laughs]
It’s true! You were saying the things that we as viewers were thinking, and it was the way you were saying it too
Oh my gosh, was I turning into Rylan? Probably because most of my best friends are gay, so I just steal their sayings. and I grew up obviously in the theatre, so we just think a lot alike. we do it with a little zhush on it. We say it all, but with a little zhush.
Amazing. Even shamazing has transcended it’s original use.
It’s fine. It’s got that zhush on it, amazing with zhush on it, shamazing.
Have you coined any words on the album or lyrically?
No, that’s like - music is a lot different to me. I show a little playful side on Your Love, the rest of the album is pretty different.
I wanted to talk about my favourite ever musical Chicago briefly, would you ever revive your high school Velma Kelly?
Yeah, they’ve asked me to do it on Broadway, Chicago. And i said if i ever did it, I would want to play both roles, at two different times obviously. I love the challenge of playing Velma Kelly and then Roxie Heart. But we’ve not been able to work it out with the schedule, obviously with the show [X Factor] and now with the music. Everything in it’s own time will happen, it’s one of my dreams to do a world tour and the other one is do a Broadway show.
Why would you do both?
Well when time permits, you’ve got to get wings again and get off the ground.
But it’s amazing that you’re putting that pressure on yourself by making yourself to do two roles.
Oh for Chicago, I’m like that. I can’t just do anything normal. If Chicago’s been around for years, if I were to do it, I’ve got to do something different. I’d do both roles, why not? To challenge myself, the diversity of it as an actress to take on two completely different roles, that would be fun for me.
It sounds like a lot of work.
I love work, im not afraid of work. It’s what separates me from the most, is my work ethic. [she adds sugar to her tea.]
You’ve talked about Shoreditch and your Sam Smith experience, have you repeated it?
No, the first person to take me was Caroline [Flack] And I don’t think I’ve been… I had some family from out of town and I took them to eat there one night. But thats the first time I’d seen a performance there. That was awesome.
Do you see a lot of live music?
Not as much as I want to. I like it on a smaller scale. I don’t like to see bigger tours, because then I get jealous. I’m like, I should be up there. I like to see things in a little more intimate setting, so that I really get to see the artist do their thing in a more raw environment. I did a couple of times I saw Paolo Nutini, my friend Tom Odell, went to see his show, Kodaline.
Is it difficult with your profile to do to those smaller places?
It’s funny because whenever I go to that… there’s a theatre, I love this theatre, where I’ve seen all these shows at, Plan B there, Tom there, Keane, it's a really cool little theatre..
is it in Sheperds Bush?
Yes. It’s cool right, there’s a balcony part. Every time I see a show I'm on there, jumping around as a fan. And everytime I look down, everyone is just staring at me. But they have such good energy and I just wave and then want them to focus on the artist again. It’s cool, it’s funny. But yeah for the most part, lots of musicians go to see other musicians, that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? [pause, faff as she does tea stuff] I’m listening baby, you don't have to wait for me.
Have you ever heard your songs come on in a club. Specifically a gay club…
[first time actually annimated] Yes and all my gay friends hit me up. I don’t know why they feel that every time they hear my song in a club they have to hit me up...
Like call you?
They text me. ‘Your song’s on in a club’ all the time. And I love it.
and you’re like ‘No Shit!’
No! I love it. It makes me happy and I love… yeah. If I were there I would be living.[Squeals.]
I can’t imagine being in a club and hearing something that I’ve made, like you put so much time into it and then hear it in another context.
I love it. And I think in a gay club everything is always better because you just feel the acceptance and the love, do you know what I mean? You feel like your energy comes out and you can just LIVE. And just work it and people will just love you even more for it. You know?
Totally. That’s why you’re so popular!
Cos I eat it up? I’m like a ham.
This cat pun free interview - you might have guessed - was originally done for Gay Times magazine.