Nerina Pallot releases The Graduate + 2009 UK tour dates

More than three years after the platinum-selling 'Fires', Nerina Pallot has shaken up her sound, shrugged off the spectre of singer/songwriter and produced an album of clever, classy pop.

Nerina Pallot

'The Graduate' has piano-driven songs high on happy pills, woozy electronics and beefed up bass. Where guitars would once have swooned, now they swagger and there is a new-found feistiness to Pallot’s emotive vocals.

Occasionally, the Brit and Ivor Novello-nominated singer strays so far from the haunting sound of her former hit singles, she is almost unrecognisable. Sometimes, she pulls off a ballad of such breathtaking beauty it could be by no-one else.

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Nerina Pallot on

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Self-produced and recorded in the North London studio she shares with her husband, Grammy-nominated producer Andrew Chatterley, 'The Graduate' took shape after two turbulent years in Pallot’s life. The first found her struggling to deal with the fame Fires had brought her and the non-stop touring that entailed. The second was a case of writer’s block caused by meeting and marrying Chatterley, who hails from Pallot’s homeland of Jersey. The problem was one not often found in pop - she was too content to want to write songs.

“The idea of me writing tortured lyrics went out the window,” laughs Pallot. “After years of living out of a suitcase, watching my personal life fall apart and drinking too much, I was suddenly happier than I’ve ever been. At one stage, I wasn’t sure I’d ever make another album. I loved just being normal, having a home to go to and finally being able to attend friends’ birthday parties. I could have written a song about my fantastic fish terrine, but I doubt anyone would have wanted to hear it.”

The impetus to return to writing came only after Pallot’s record label, tired of waiting for a follow-up to Fires, sent her to the States to work with Linda Perry, the one-woman hit factory for the likes of Christina Aguilera and Pink. The pair recorded two songs together before Pallot fled home. Then came sessions with Rob Davis (who co-wrote Kylie’s "Can’t Get You Out Of My Head") and Rick Knowles (Madonna, Dido), with whom Pallot became good friends and wrote 15 songs, none of which appear on The Graduate.

“I adore Rick and we work okay together, but he told me what I already knew,” recalls Pallot. “That I didn’t need to write with anyone. I do a better job on my own.”

Pallot’s sense of self-sufficiency grew when she returned to material she had written on the road touring Fires, but never unfinished. Realising she already had several great songs, she set about completing them, determined to produce and programme the album herself, calling on friends to contribute, rather than outsiders and session musicians.

Among the songs was The Graduate’s stunning first single "Real Late Starter", which sets sassy, self-depreciating lyrics to uptempo piano-pop that nods to ‘70s Elton John and one of Pallot’s more recent favourite bands, Scissor Sisters.

“Real Late Starter I began when I was touring with James Blunt three years ago,” explains Pallot. “I felt like a real loser, making my way to gigs on a train with my mate who was my tour manager while James was helicoptering in. I’d hear him arriving overhead and think ‘That’ll be me one day’ but it didn’t happen. I came home and, yes, still felt like a loser!

“I had so much fun when I came to finish that song because by then I was happy. There’s a real sense of ‘Yeah, sometimes life is shit, but hey, I’m actually doing okay’. Everyone feels like that from time to time and when I play it live, people love it. They seem to get it straight away.”

A major shift in Pallot’s sound was down to the music she was listening to.

“My tastes have definitely changed,” she says. “I’ve come to really love good pop music. Like everyone else, I was bored stiff of singer/songwriters and wanted to find something fresh. The band I became obsessed with was MGMT. I was inspired by their attitude to making music. It’s so creative. They just throw out lots of ideas, try out lots of mad sounds and have a laugh, but with the basis of really strong songs. I didn’t want to think about what would get on the radio or what’s the trendy sound right now. I just went for it and had fun.”

The result is a compelling collection of songs that range from the rocky "The Right Side", Pallot’s attempt at a football chant, to the quirky, heavily-programmed funk-pop of "I Don’t Want To Go Out", a co-production with Chatterley, to the strikingly-titled, Sheryl Crow-meets-Squeeze song "When Did I Become Such A Bitch". More typical Pallot perhaps are strings-drenched slowie "Human" and love song "It Starts". The biggest surprise is the dreamy, spaced-out, electronic-pop of "Cigarette".

“I Don’t Want To Go Out and Cigarette in particular are completely different to anything I’ve done in the past,” admits Pallot. “That’s why I love them. Cigarette is my homage to Air, Pink Floyd and MGMT. It’s a song that doesn’t need a verse or a chorus or try to be commercial, it’s just a great soundscape.”

One of the songs on 'The Graduate' was originally destined for Kylie, for whose forthcoming Pallot and Chatterley have been writing.

“We’ve started writing for several pop artists,” says Pallot, “and that’s changed my own music. When you’re writing for someone else, you throw out ideas to see what sticks and try out new ways of working.

“Because I’m putting this album out myself, there was a freedom to do whatever I liked. When I first released Fires, I had to remortgage my house to pay for it. With The Graduate, there was no pressure at all. It’s just me having fun and I think you can hear that in the music.”

Catch Nerina on tour this Autumn – tickets are on sale now.

Nerina Pallot October 2009 tour dates:

(Dates and information subject to change.)

Tue 6-Oct Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Wed 7-Oct Glasgow Oran Moor
Fri 9-Oct Preston 53 Degrees
Sat 10-Oct Manchester Ruby Lounge
Sun 11-Oct York The Duchess
Tue 13-Oct Birmingham Glee Club
Wed 14-Oct Bristol Trinity
Thu 15-Oct Milton Keynes The Stables
Sat 17-Oct Tavistock Wharf
Sun 18-Oct Cardiff Glee Club
Tue 20-Oct Brighton Komedia
Wed 21-Oct London ICA
Thu 22-Oct London ICA
Sat 24-Oct Penzance Acorn
Sun 25-Oct Gloucester Guildhall
Tue 27-Oct Wakefield Theatre Royal
Wed 28-Oct Norwich Waterfront

For the latest tour dates and information, go to:

Nerina Pallot Official Website
Nerina Pallot on Twitter

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