Nicola Roberts has done rather a lot in the last year: got veneers, released an album (Cinderella Eyes), and (best of all) worn the coolest jumper I’ve ever seen in my life in ‘Beat of My Drum’. Apparently the aesthetic appeal is no accident, with ‘the whole of the artwork made to compliment [her] electro music.’ The video is something to phone home about: the fact that she appears to have rented out her local town hall, for example; the dancers forced to contend with a dance floor that has clearly recently been electrocuted; and, of course, that lovely piece of knitwear.
Roberts has taken a rather edgier track than what might be expected from someone whose previous credentials include paler-than-thou make-up line Dainty Doll and a long stint as a Girl Aloud. Listing dream collaborators as ‘M.I.A, Kate Bush and Missy Elliot,’ the sound, apparently, is ‘up.’ ‘I see it as being ‘up’, and so colour is a reference to that. Around the last album, something just clicked. I had had the most amazing summer holiday with all of my friends from Liverpool; I started to go to all the fashion shows, and change my mentality about beauty and comercialism, everything. My whole aspect and everything I looked at just changed. Then, as soon as I did, I just felt looser. I think it’s important to feel loose, I really do.’
Nicola has inadvertently risen as a bit of an indie fashion icon, with a keen eye for aesthetics. ‘I was really interested in all of the prints (in ‘Beat of My Drum’); the tribal prints and all of the colour patterns. To me, it was all cheerleader and Super Mario sounds, whereas for ‘Yoyo’ now everything is a bit darker. The song is about the needy side of love, where you don’t know if you’re coming or going… it’s proper, it’s a bit of a head fuck. It draws you to wear darker things, that are a little more serious; older and darker.’
A collaboration with Atlanta Weller to create the shoes worn on the album cover suggest a future in fashion design. ‘I would love the opportunity to have a collection. As long as I’m being able to be creative, be it in the studio or working on Dainty Doll, it’s where I’m most happy and the most confident. Fashion is very much a personal thing to me. I won’t leave the house unless I feel like what I’m wearing fits my mood or creates the mood that I feel like I should be in that particular day. It’s very much more a personal thing than just wearing a nice coat.’
Roberts has taken on this album with her feet firmly planted in the stirrups. It is unsurprisingly strikingly personal with songs springing largely ‘from your emotions, or the way you think about certain situations, because everything is how you see it or what you feel.’ Nicola seems to have tumbled out of school at barely seventeen, ‘walking out of the classroom and onto the stage.’ At the slightly riper age of twenty-six, she’s glad to have moved on from ‘working together as a team,’ even while it was ‘amazing.’ ‘It’s kind of nice now to have that eighteen months of solid work on the little square CD, and to see my own journey on it. It was important to me that everyone that we worked with on the record felt like they wanted to be on the team. I didn’t want to feel like just another one on the conveyer belt. It felt like everyone wanted to be a part of the project – and that’s why I think it worked.’
with Jenny Entwistle