Hard time: Florence reveals breakdown

May 27, 2015 5:24 pm 28 comments Views: 8
Rough time ... Singer Florence Welch has bounced back after a stressful year.

Rough time … Singer Florence Welch has bounced back after a stressful year.
Source: News Limited

AFTER last year’s Met Ball Gala in New York Florence Welch wound up at a pizza party.

Oh, the party was held at Taylor Swift’s $ 20 million dollar New York apartment. And Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham and Spike Jonze were also there.

As well as a slice of pizza, Welch was nursing a freshly broken heart.

“I’d been talking to Spike Jonze about relationships,” Welch recalls. “Taylor said ‘Come over here, tell me all about it’. I ended up telling her everything about my relationship until five in the morning. And she gave me some really good relationship advice. She’s really good at relationship advice, as you can imagine she would be. She’s very clever. She understands. She made some really good points.”

Hard time: Florence reveals breakdown

Highs and lows … Florence & the Machine’s new album touches on some heavy topics.
Source: Supplied

Swift and Welch bonded in what was Florence’s belated gap year. After two Florence & the Machine albums Lungs (2009) and Ceremonials (2011) prompted heavy sales (over five million combined) and heavy touring, Welch knew it was time to decompress.

The British musician decamped to Los Angeles for a lost weekend with band mate and co-writer Isabella Summers. That weekend took up most of 2014 and involved heavy partying, heavier drinking and exploring LA with Neil Young records as the soundtrack.

Welch, 28, said the year also involved a breakdown, but knows that word instantly creates headlines.

Girly time ... Florence Welch has been getting love advice from superstar Taylor Swift.

Girly time … Florence Welch has been getting love advice from superstar Taylor Swift.
Source: Getty Images

“I don’t know what I’d classify it as, I know ‘breakdown’ gets thrown around a lot. It was a confusing time. There were real highs and with that came the low.”

2014 was the first time in years Welch wasn’t living life according to a schedule.

“I’d come off basically a five-ear tour that started when I was 21,” she says. “I was struggling to figure out what it was I liked outside of that and who I wanted to be. When you’ve performed and given so much and it’s been up up up constantly you never really have to face yourself.

“There’s always a gig at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what’s happened in your personal life. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve partied as long as you can do the gig well everything’s fine. And then you go to the next place.

“There’s this transient thing which means you never have to face yourself. You don’t really get a chance to grow up either. I had to face myself and some of the things I was dealing with. Is that a breakdown?”

Easy Flo ... Florence Welch says she took a year off to decompress from five years of tou

Easy Flo … Florence Welch says she took a year off to decompress from five years of touring.
Source: Supplied

The original plan for her year off was to wind down and write a third album without the pressures of touring to contend with.

“I thought I’m going to have this nice life, maybe have a relationship, maybe I’ll party because I don’t have any work and that’s what I like to do. And for some reason I couldn’t make it work. I realised there’s a lot of stuff I hadn’t been dealing with because I’d literally been swept up at the age of 21. S—, maybe I just need to figure out how to be a human?”

Songs were written during her break and Welch went to meet a potential producer, Markus Dravs. He produced the first two Mumford & Sons records, ironically, her usual producer James Ford replaced Dravs for Mumford’s third album.

“We’d never really hung out,” Welch says of Dravs. “I was a f—ing mess when we met to talk about him making the record. I was all over the place. The songs, some were like Ceremonials, some were totally bat s—, some were very intimate songs that were about things happening right then, very close to events going on.

“Markus said ‘You’re a mess, this is a big mess, come in and do a trial run with me’. So I went into the studio and he just shut the door and said ‘OK we’re going to make the record now’. If you want to know what a producer does, that’s what they do. He tricked me into making the record!”

Classic Flo ... Florence & the Machine’s first two albums sold over five million copies g

Classic Flo … Florence & the Machine’s first two albums sold over five million copies globally.
Source: Supplied

The resulting third Florence & the Machine album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is the first where Welch didn’t work with multiple producers.

Dravs also banned Welch from writing water references in her lyrics — a recurring theme on Ceremonials.

“He put a pint glass in the studio that said ‘Water to drink from, not write about’,” Welch laughs. “Ceremonials was about overwhelming emotions and water. So much of that. I do experience quite intense emotions, water is symbolic of that.

“On this album, having some time away from the spotlight and performing I felt I had more clarity in what I was feeling. It wasn’t as necessary to use water as a tool. It’s a way of hiding what’s going on. You can describe things in very broad, large, oceanic terms without saying ‘This is how I feel’.”

Hippy vibe ... Florence Welch makes an impression at Coachella. Picture: Instagram

Hippy vibe … Florence Welch makes an impression at Coachella. Picture: Instagram
Source: Supplied

When Welch started writing more direct lyrics, she knew she had the master of the genre, Taylor Swift, to turn to. Swift told her she had to write about what is happening in her life.

“It’s obviously not completely literal, otherwise I’d be singing: ‘And I cried on the sofa for ages’,” Welch says. “You have to describe things everyone’s gone through but you can use your own language. I perhaps felt things with more clarity. During the making of Ceremonials I was all swept up in touring and gigs. The feelings I had were all quite murky. I was confused.

“This time having tried to figure out things outside of touring I saw things more clearly — I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m super happy. The feelings had more edge to them. Because they were more direct to me they came out more directly.”

So direct, Welch even used her own London home as the set to film the video for single Ship to Wreck. The clip recreates some of the wild house parties Welch had during her downtime.

“The song is about me being at odds with myself in my own space,” she says. “I wanted to create a space which was a calm sanctuary. But then I’d have an enormous party which would go for three days with loads of people I didn’t even know. Then I’d wake up and the house would be flooded and there’d be a dog running around with half a feather boa in its mouth. Or someone’s got a black eye.

She’s back ... Florence Welch is feeling recharged.

She’s back … Florence Welch is feeling recharged.
Source: Supplied

“I wanted to make myself happy in the time off but what did I like? Who am I? Do I want to be a chaotic person or do I want to be a quiet, calm and nurturing person? There was this ongoing conflict with myself and that happened very much in a domestic setting. That’s what this song is about — Why do I do this stuff to the things I love? I obviously really want this, why do I mess it up? You hold on to something so hard and it breaks.”

Welch thought filming the video in her house would make sense.

“I didn’t understand what a skeleton crew meant. I thought that was four people. I turned up at home and there were a hundred people there. A skeleton of what? A woolly mammoth?

“I must really like to make myself feel uncomfortable. I’m always pushing myself. When I get to a video set I think ‘Why don’t I just do a nice video where I have a lovely time and I cuddle someone?’ And it’s always my idea as well. Why have I have done this to myself again! I have to remember to do a nice video where everything’s chilled not create a version of hell in my own living room.”

Not easy ... Florence Welch has a tricky relationship with fame.

Not easy … Florence Welch has a tricky relationship with fame.
Source: Supplied

Florence and fame don’t sit together too well, in the past she’s taken her image to extremes (dyed hair, dyed eyebrows, heavy make up) to build up a wall for protection. For How Big’s artwork you get a nearly natural Welch.

“I’ve just got back to London and I’m seeing the album posters and there’s big pictures of my actual face everywhere,” she says. “That’s good, I did want to portray something that was natural and me. But now I’m thinking I may have shot myself in the foot a bit because everyone’s going to know what I actually look like!

“I don’t know how that’s going to affect my level of fame. For me, when I start to feel famous, and I’m doing air quotes, it only represents a rising level of anxiety. It’s not really a good feeling. I only associate it with feeling a bit exposed. And of course on this record there’s that layer of costume or creation that’s been stripped away.”

She may not court fame, but she’s courted by the famous.

As well as bonding with Taylor Swift, Florence’s music has just been sampled by Rihanna for a new song (“it sounded great”) while Beyonce has said she rages with the Machine, regularly.

“There’s not many moments in my day when I feel cool,” Florence says of being on Bey’s iPod, “but that’s one.”

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Universal) out tomorrow.

Florence & the Machine, Splendour in the Grass, July 25, sold out. Palais Theatre, Melbourne, July 22. State Theatre Sydney, July 23. Tickets available by ballot — sign up at www.florence.lanewaypresents.com by midday today.

Seated Flo: This is how you rock out on a stool with a broken foot. (Photo by Rich Fury/I

Seated Flo: This is how you rock out on a stool with a broken foot. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)
Source: AP

FOOT SOLDIER

FLORENCE Welch left Coachella this year with a serious souvenir — a broken foot.

“People were taking their clothes off in the audience, so I thought I should take my shirt off,” she says. “As I took my shirt off I just realised ‘Oh, I’ve just taken my shirt off in front of loads of people I better jump off this stage quite quickly’ and then I felt something go pop. But I just kept on running. I landed a bit funny. You have to land one foot after the other. I landed really hard on both feet. It was a pretty substantial break and the only thing I could do to mend it was rest. I’m just not very good at resting.”

Welch has downsized to a mini moon boot and is healing well.

“The body is a magical thing. I do forget thought sometimes and try to dance.”

It meant she had to do performances to promote How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful sitting on a stool.

“We would have done them fully guns blazing, but because I had to sit down and it created this intimacy with the audience. It was a really beautiful way to promote this record, especially as it as more intimate record and more closely connected with who am I as a person rather than a performer. I would f—ing love it if I didn’t have a broken foot it was s—ty but we actually realised that’s how we should have done the gigs anyway.”

Will Australia see a more subdued Florence?

“I maybe just won’t jump as high on two feet. I doubt I’ll be any more restrained. I know myself, having a bit of time away only means you come back to it with more ferocity. I’ve been like that with every aspect of my life. Every time you have a bit of time off from something it doesn’t mean when you go back to it it’s more mellow.”

www.news.com.au/entertainment/music

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