FOXES interview – Evening Standard, 10 Jan 2014

While music’s biggest stars are putting their feet up in January, it’s rush hour for new acts. You may not hear so much about Foxes in the clamour. The 24-year-old singer’s debut album arrives in March, so is badly timed for the taste-making tips lists. But it’s not a problem. She’s already well on her way.

Which other newcomers can count a Grammy nomination and a platinum-selling single among their early accomplishments? Clarity, an emotional electronic tune by Russian DJ Zedd featuring Foxes, has been a hit all over the world and will be competing against Calvin Harris and Duke Dumont for Best Dance Recording at the Grammys at the end of this month. “I keep forgetting. People are still congratulating me and I go, ‘What? What do you mean?’ It doesn’t feel real,” she tells me over coffee near her Dalston home.

Raised Louisa Allen in Southampton (Foxes, that confusingly plural stage name, is something to do with a bizarre dream her mum had), she’s confident, well-spoken company, quick to laugh about her nascent stardom but also with a habit, perhaps from too much X Factor viewing, of referring to her “journey”.

She’s been in London since she turned 18, making connections and becoming a go-to girl for a sweet, powerful guest vocal. Last year, as well as the Zedd song, she popped up singing Right Here on the number one album by Hackney dance crew Rudimental, and more surprisingly, on Just One Yesterday by huge US rockers Fall Out Boy. “They already had Elton John, Courtney Love and Big Sean on that album so I thought I might as well join in with the weirdness.”

All these feature spots are the ideal preparation for solo stardom, she says. “You get to go along for the ride and there’s no pressure on you. I’ve seen how to deal with it.  Now I feel really ready.”

And about time. A teenage year at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in Kilburn (alumni include Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Drew McConnell of Babyshambles) did not prove fruitful. “I was a bit of a piss-taker when I was 18. I wasn’t the kind of person who could sit in a classroom and be taught anything, never mind music. I didn’t really go in very much, I turned up late, hungover a lot.”

Then there was an unsuccessful period as a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, roving around the open-mic nights, though it did spawn her early composition, Youth. In a new shiny electronic guise, that song landed just outside the UK top 10 last November. “I grew up and finally found my sound,” she says.

Her album, Glorious, places her somewhere between the overblown gothic pop of Florence + the Machine (Florence co-writer Kid Harpoon is a collaborator, and tries to phone her many times during our conversation), Katy Perry’s cartoon tunes (Perry has tweeted her approval) and, on the more subtle tracks Count the Saints and Night Glo, the haunting melodrama of Bat for Lashes.

“There is a darkness to it. I’m inspired by film so there’s something cinematic about it,” says Foxes. She writes the songs with production from Jonny Harris, who uses the name Ghostwriter and also co-wrote Waiting All Night with Rudimental. “What I write is really personal too. I’m not going to start writing about partying in a bikini top.”

As a young woman who by no means resembles the back end of a bus, she’ll have to try extra hard to avoid the less savoury expectations of the pop business — let’s be honest, she’s hot, and that means the lad mags will be on the phone before long. With giant brown eyes and lips you could land a helicopter on, she struggles to convince when she says people have told her it’s a pleasant change to see a girl “who seems normal” in the Clarity video.

“People say it’s nice to see a girl who hasn’t got her clothes off,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be about looks, you can choose. It can solely be about the music, it really can. It’s about what kind of person you want to be. Luckily I’m completely in charge of my videos, so the last one I did involved a food fight. It’s definitely not going to involve me in a swimming pool with nipple tassels on.”

However, having previously said that she would be happy writing songs for other people, she’s now warming to the idea of being centre stage. “Before, I wasn’t really into the idea of being a pop star, but what I’ve seen recently is that you can help people. I’ve had people crying at shows saying that a song has really helped them. I want to be the kind of artist that someone like Patti Smith was for me when I was younger.”

The soundtrack of her childhood also included Björk, Portishead and Kate Bush, endorsed by her single mum, a “dreamer” like her daughter who also moved to east London recently to run a vintage store on Brick Lane. She doesn’t talk to her father, a musician. “My mum brought me up to think you can do exactly what you want to do as long as you work hard enough at it.”

She wasn’t forced into seeking a 9-5 career when music didn’t work out straight away, though that pressure that school-leavers often feel is the subject of her song Youth. “Don’t tell me our youth is running out, it’s only just begun,” she sings with the confidence of someone who knows she has found her true calling.

“It’s been a great year,” she says of 2013’s collaborative 12 months. “But now I feel like the curtains are opening. I feel prepared for anything.” This year will be even better.

Foxes plays the Scala, N1 (020 7833 2022, on March 4. Her album Glorious is released by Sign of the Times on March 3; the next single, Let Go for Tonight, is out on February 23.