Flashing an onstage boob, Instagramming a stream of expelled urine or posting semi-naked selfies, Lily Allen certainly excels in igniting provocation. Paradoxically, the British artist is now married and the devoted mother of two small children. Although she has yet to achieve the recognition stateside that she has earned in England, the radio-friendly Sheezus might change all of that. With her last collection It’s Not Me It’s You released in 2009, Sheezus is a striking return to form. But what are sure to be the most noted lyrics of her new album will be those with the artist characterizing herself as a bitch, singing about the arrival of her period, or describing a long-lasting lover as a “bad motherfucker.” In this exclusive interview with MC, Allen explains her songwriting process, surrenders the telephone to her two-year-old daughter and laments that negativity is engrained in the British psyche.
Music Connection: Good morning, Lily. We’re calling in from Los Angeles, more specifically Eagle Rock, a neighborhood that we believe you know from working with co-writer and producer Greg Kurstin at his studio.
Lily Allen: Oh sure, Eagle Rock, near Silver Lake, I’ve recorded there. L.A. is a funny place.
MC: Do you have a favorite recording studio either in the U.K. or here in the U.S.?
Allen: Now it’s kind of different. When I started you had to go to the studio, but now things have changed so much. When I write it’s perfectly fine to have a little MIDI set up in my living room at home. And because I have two small children, that works out really well, so I don’t have to rush home, try to get them into bed and have dinner. I quite like the freedom of writing and recording at home.
MC: Do you run the Pro Tools rig yourself?
Allen: Oh God no! I can’t operate the equipment. I can’t even figure out how to turn on the TV, never mind a computer. I just sit down and write words.
MC: The songs on Sheezus are so strong, and the lyrical content so realized. Does a groove, or a story inspire these words?
Allen: I write stuff down and keep it in my head. Sometimes when I’m out and about with friends, or having a conversation or watching a movie something jumps into my mind. Sometimes I remember it and sometimes I don’t.
MC: Do these thoughts formulate the genesis of your songs?
Allen: More often than not we have to start something from scratch in the studio. My producer has tried to prepare whole tracks and played them for me to see what comes, but it never really works. I need to be there from the conception of the track building to feel like what I’m doing is the right thing.