Lily Allen is a bit snotty, both literally and figuratively. Meeting with the 29-year-old British pop star at a South Yarra hotel a few hours before the first show of her Australian tour, she tells Fairfax Media she has come down with the flu.
“I played at Latitude Festival on Friday, Benicassim on Saturday, and a French festival on Sunday and then got on a plane to Australia,” says Allen, who will perform on Thursday night in Melbourne, in Sydney on Friday and at the Splendour in the Grass festival on Sunday.
“I don’t know if it’s advisable to do that kind of travel.”
Lilly Allen says she needs to go into ‘shutdown’ mode when the negative social media gets too much. Photo: Fairfax Media
Perhaps flu, fatigue and jetlag have rendered her a bit prickly, though Allen has always been one to speak her mind. Ex-lovers were the main targets of her first two albums and on her most recent effort, Sheezus (a tongue-in-cheek nod to Kanye West’s Yeezus), she directs her ire at internet trolls and sexism in the music industry.
A question regarding her appearance at Latitude Festival gets a frosty reception.
“Did you just Google every headline about me from the past two weeks?” she asks.
It was Allen who tweeted last week that she was “exhausted by the nastiness” she encountered when she was announced as a last-minute replacement for Irish band Two Door Cinema Club at the Suffolk festival.
She says, somewhat noncommittally, that when the online criticism becomes too much, she goes into “shutdown mode”.
“I mean, that’s the only way to deal with it I think … it’s kind of boring talking about negative stuff all the time.”
Onto something else then.
After a four-year hiatus to focus on raising her young family, and having declared in 2009 that she would not release another album, what prompted her to make a comeback with Sheezus in May?
“I guess I underestimated the almost gravitational pull that creating music has on me, and at the time I’d decided that I wanted to concentrate on family, I didn’t realise how much I needed to write,” she says.
The buzz that comes with performing live was another incentive.
“When a gig goes well and when the crowd are enjoying it and you can feel that energy, there’s no better feeling in the world,” she says. “You’d be mad not to miss it.”
Now that she’s back and enjoying it, I wonder if she plans to stay around for the long haul, to have a career like, say, Kylie Minogue.
“It’s just a sort of creative passage for me; whether or not I’m still putting out records in 30years I don’t know, but I’d like to still be writing songs, whether it’s for myself or other people, or for musical theatre,” she says.
Doing a Kylie and appearing as a coach on a reality TV show isn’t on her radar in the near future, she says, but she hasn’t ruled it out completely. “It’s not of interest to me right now but you know, never say never … if times get hard.”
Readjusting to life on the road has been relatively easy for Allen – it’s winding down once at home that’s the hard part, she says – but she admits it’s tough being away from her girls – Ethel, 2, and Marnie, 17 months – even for short periods of time.
“They change a lot in six days, seven days. I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s true. They learn new words, they start holding themselves differently, it’s sad to miss those moments.”
Her daughters and husband Sam Cooper have given Allen a newfound contentment that she references in song on Sheezus.
“Before Sam came along, I was longing for something and looking for something the whole time, and I definitely feel like that box is ticked now and I’m pretty sure it’s going to stay that way forever,” she says.
It’s led to a more relaxed approach towards her career, too.
“I probably used to get my affirmation from the commercial side of what I do, and I don’t anymore,” she says.
“I just like using music as a form of expression.”