Interview: Dua Lipa on her upcoming debut album.
I still remember the first time I heard Dua Lipa’s song, ‘Be The One’. Her distinctive low vocals were intensely powerful, and were noticeably different to any other current pop songs at the time.
Fast-forward to the present, where Dua is now in the lead-up to the release of her debut album, which is slated for a release in early 2017, and her catchy, clever songs have warranted enthusiasm from all around the world.
Her sound combines R&B, hip-hop, and classic pop - her latest single ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ features a chant that’ll be stuck in your head for days.
We spoke to Dua Lipa recently during a humid afternoon in New York City ahead of her sold-out show at the Mercury Lounge, chatting about her songwriting process, what’s in store for her album, and more…
"...I wanna make sure I get me as a person and my personality and everything, who I am as an artist as well as a person, I want it to all come across in this first album."
COUP DE MAIN: Important question: When are you gonna come play a show for us in New Zealand?
DUA LIPA: Oh my god, I wanna do one so badly. I wanted to do it last time, but then I had to fly straight from Australia, I went to Vienna or something. I just had to travel so much I had no time to come down, but the second I have some more time, I’ll be there.
CDM: When we first interviewed you last year, you said that ‘Hotter Than Hell’ was the favourite song that you’d written so far. Has that changed since you’ve been working more on the album since then?
DUA: It’s still the same. I guess it just has so much meaning for me and it kind of started everything off to begin with, so it’s a special one for me and I still love performing it, and it’s still so much fun. It’s still a favourite.
CDM: Some pop artists stick to writing with the same co-writers as a safety blanket, but you’ve been working with so many different writers for your debut album, which is rad. Do you approach each session differently?
DUA: It depends. In the beginning when I first started just kind of writing with different people, it was a lot of about getting to know them and also at the same time I was learning a lot about myself, and I wanted to write, and whether that was the way I-- it was just a massive learning curve to begin with, and now I guess I know who I like writing with. I feel now that I kind of know what my writing process is and how I like to work, it’s much different.
CDM: Is there like an instant chemistry with writers?
DUA: Yeah, well I guess now I just go in and I give my two cents and I be like, "This is what I wanna write about today." I try and take the lead much, much more. Just because in the beginning I was a bit shy, feeling out the waters, testing it out before you could really get started on a song, but now I’m really confident in what I want. Not that I didn’t know what I want - I know now how to approach a situation when you meet someone for the first time and you just wanna get down to the writing.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY DEBUT ALBUM…
CDM: Had you ever had any experiences with a songwriter or a co-writer where you’ve felt that the writer had their own agenda or creative flow to push ahead of what you had in mind initially?
DUA: It depends. I’ve worked with some people that sometimes there is just no chemistry, and you just don’t really find anything, but you end up just hanging out and writing, and even if you don’t get anything...
CDM: You still learn something?
DUA: You still learn something and I learn a lot more from myself as in what I want or what-- you know? Especially the people who I wanna work with. So for the second album, it’s already gonna be much easier, because I already know the people I love working with. I’ve happened to have bad sessions, but I think that’s just normal.
CDM: Having only started writing music semi-recently, are there any interesting or important lessons you’ve learnt?
DUA: Just to not be shy of my ideas. Sometimes I hold things back and then I just end up writing them on my phone and saving them for a different event, but I think the best thing is to just say what you think, and the good thing about being a songwriter is to not be afraid of being shit sometimes - do you know what I mean? Just kind of throw your ideas out there and see what happens because you could get something good out of it - just not being afraid of saying the wrong thing.
CDM: We’re super excited about your album, so have come up with a couple of quick-fire questions about what you’d compare your album to. So, if your album was an animal what would it be?
DUA: A lion.
CDM: If your album was a colour?
CDM: If your album was a food?
CDM: If your album was a movie?
DUA: ‘Pulp Fiction’.
CDM: Lastly, if your album was an emoji?
DUA: The fire sign.
CDM: Is there a song on the album that you haven’t played live yet that you’re really excited to start playing live?
DUA: Yeah there’s a song called ‘Room For Two’, and it’s a song that is on the album. I’m gonna start performing it when I next go on tour - when I do the European one - and I’m excited about that one because it’s quite different and it’s very dark, and it’s a bit like a nursery rhyme in a way. It gives a whole another taste of what my album is gonna sound like - the songs that people haven’t actually heard about yet, they’ve heard so many ‘poppy’ ones, but they haven’t seen the other side of me, so I’m excited to perform ‘Room For Two’.
CDM: Our next issue has Troye Sivan on the cover, so we’re asking everyone we’re interviewing what their favourite Troye Sivan song is. What’s yours?
DUA: I like ‘Youth’. I think it’s such a nice representation of our generation and I think it’s just a really sweet song, really fun to sing along to. I love it. That’s a really good song actually now that I think about it. <laughs>
CDM: It’s so cute that he covered your song in Australia and you guys are going on tour together!
DUA: That was so amazing! When I woke up yesterday morning I was like, "Oh my god that’s sick."
CDM: If you were to cover a Troye Sivan song, would it be ‘Youth’ do you think, or something else?
DUA: I like ‘Wild’ as well. I can’t really decide, but I really like ‘Youth’.
CDM: You’ve written a crazy amount of songs for the album, I’ve heard that you wrote over 160 songs in two years. How did you manage to cut that down to just an album’s worth of songs?
DUA: The decision process was quite long, but also there is so many songs that sometimes I write them and instantly I don’t feel like-- I don’t identify with them or like they weren’t meant for me. Sometimes I write a song and I go, "This is meant for someone else, this is just not right for the album..." I don’t know, I wanna make sure I get me as a person and my personality and everything, who I am as an artist as well as a person, I want it to all come across in this first album. So it was really important for me to really get across that side of me, and there have been some really ‘poppy’ songs that I’ve written and I just didn’t feel really fitted the album.
CDM: Will you give any of those songs to other people to record?
DUA: Maybe, once the album process is kind of done, and if it’s a song that I’m not super super super attached to then, yes, absolutely!
CDM: I read an interview where you said you were blown away by Katy Perry’s last tour, like the whole theatrics of it. When you’re touring your album next year, have you thought about how you wanna bring the songs to life? Are you gonna have specific visuals or props?
DUA: I would love-- I mean, when I get the chance one day to properly do a tour, you know, when you travel with your own set and stuff, I’d absolutely love to bring something, an experience to the fans and to the audience. But right now, all I have to offer is just me and the performance, you know, just have a really good time!
CDM: I think everyone is quite happy with that at the moment!
DUA: I’ve got my neon lights though, the colourful neon lights, but that’s about it for now, but I would absolutely love to be able to do something.
Dua Lipa’s single ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ is out now - click here to pre-order her album, and watch the music video below…