In 2009, the success of La Roux’s single Bulletproof sky rocketed 20-year-old Elly Jackson to the top of the charts, and made her one of the most successful artists of the year. Her androgynous appearance, including a quiff that appeared to be a mile high, made her a stand-out from her female contemporaries.
With her musical partner Ben Langmaid, their début album, La Roux, made the UK top five, and gained the duo countless award nominations.
It seemed that La Roux were set for a long career of hit albums ahead of them. But Jackson disappeared from the music scene for several years and kept a very low profile. It was only earlier this year that we saw the emergence of her follow-up album, minus Langmaid, with whom she parted company midway through recording the new record.
Her new album, Trouble in Paradise, is a neo-diso look back into the sound of 1980’s electropop, which was originally explored on Jackson’s first record. Only it sounds much fresher than her début. “I think a lot more of the stuff that I like in the 80s comes through, whereas a lot more kind of novelty factor came through on the first record, which I wasn’t really a fan of,” says Jackson, a few weeks ahead of the start of her UK tour.
The reason for this record sounding much fresher is probably because, this time, Jackson had complete creative control. She says that she considers this record to be a whole new chapter in her life. “I came off tour, I was a bit battered and bruised from the first record. If I’m really honest, I think I was a bit confused about what I was and where I was going; and what my career had actually turned into from where I thought I wanted my career to go, and the kind of artist that I wanted to be. I suddenly realised that I was in a bit of a corner, and that I wanted to be in a much bigger space, without walls around me that I could expand in freely.”
“I’d always said to myself I never wanted to be a pop star in a certain kind of way when I was younger, and I suddenly felt like I was. I suddenly had this massive stage set and I was changing costumes two or three times a show. It just felt so wrong to me. I thought ‘I am not this person, and Bulletproof has turned me into this person’. I even considered not being called La Roux, any more. That’s how much of a new step this is for me. But I feel to connected to that name. It means too much to me to not stand under it.”
Trouble in Paradise was a critical and commercial success. Yet, Elly expresses annoyance at the lack of support from her label.
“My label have wholeheartedly failed to promote the album,” she begins. “I mean, they haven’t promoted it at all – there was no poster campaign, there was no TV adverts or anything.
“I feel like the record’s been received unbelievably well, but I feel like I’ve been let down by my record label.
“What I’m so amazed by is the amount of love that we’ve received about this record by people that do know about it.”
It has been well documented that Jackson had a fear of performing live. This time around, however, she says it is much easier. “I’m absolutely loving it. The festivals that we have done have been incredible, I mean, the response at Bestival was amazing. We’re just enjoying ourselves. We’re also happy before we go on. I used to, with my voice issues, there was at least six months to a year where I was terrified of going on stage, absolutely terrified. Not of going on stage, I’ve never had a fear of the stage, but a fear of singing and not doing it right. I hate not doing things as well as I can do them, as I guess everyone does. That used to eat away at me, a lot. I used to dread gigs, I used to dread tours, literally. I genuinely had to take a step back and go ‘is it your fear that’s making you think that you don’t want to be in a touring band, or do you actually not want this?’ And it turns out that I really, really want it, and I love it, and it’s the reason why I get up in the morning. But it took me a long time to get there.”
It’s been a long haul to get this album out, but will the third album come sooner than Trouble in Paradise did? “I think anything will come sooner than Trouble in Paradise did!” laughs Jackson. “The troubles that plagued this record, there’s no way they can repeat themselves. It’s been a harder thing than I ever thought I’d have to go through, to be honest. We’ve learnt a lot from making this record, and I think we’re looking forward to putting ourselves in a new space for the next record and setting ourselves new challenges.”
November 7, Leeds Beckett University, 6.30pm, http://www.seetickets.com/event/la-roux/leeds-beckett-students-union/790780
Elly Jackson is the daughter of Emmerdale and The Bill actress, Trudie Goodwin. She has often stated that she was bullied a lot during school because of her androgynous appearance and weight.
Elly’s first music love was folk music, having discovered the likes of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake in her parents’ record collection.
In 2011, La Roux’s first album won the Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album.