Blithe Saxon’s single Mission came out this week, and jolly good it is too. The song first made its way to Popjustice alongside the rest of the tracks that will probably form her debut EP, and there’s some big stuff on its way.
What most stood out from listening to the new tracks was just how much personality seemed to be tumbling out of the songs. Blithe seemed like a new popstar worth getting to know.
So a few weeks ago we met in London for a fact finding mission disguised as lunch. An interview, is how some people would describe the whole scenario.
Here’s what was unearthed.
- Blithe says she sounds contemporary and relatable and “very pop but with a dark undertone and a soulful influence” which, well, is the same as everyone else, but Blithe does do it very well. “The subject matters can be hard hitting but the music sounds quite fun,” she continues, explaining that artists she would be happy to see on the ‘Fans Also Like’ section of her Spotify profile include Billie Eilish, Troye Sivan, Khalid, Rihanna, Camila Cabello and Bebe Rexha.
- Blithe’s first concert involved seeing Beyoncé, with her mum, in 2007. “The concert that changed me was Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream tour when I was 14: I elbowed my way to the front and cried my eyes out. I knew I wanted my pop career to look something like that — a spectacle, and beautiful, and amazing. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. It really changed me.”
- Blithe grew up in Rugby. Her dad (“an arsehole … I don’t care if we’re related or not”) is out of the picture but Blithe’s mum brought her up on Mariah, garage, and mixtape CDs she got off her mates. “She’s super independent,” Blithe says. “She was piss-poor and moved from Coventry to Rugby with nothing, but she worked her arse off and eventually started managing cafés and restaurants. She’s the most inspiring person ever.”
- Blithe’s releasing her music independently, which is what a lot of artists say when actually they’re secretly signed to a big record label, or are about to be. “It’s really independent!” is her comment on that. “I don’t think I do anything the right way, or how other people perceive I should do it,” she adds, saying that she’s using her independence to “release what I want when I want, and choose my team, and who’s involved.” So there you go. We’re saying Polydor by Feb.
- Her Instagram feed 1 reveals that, yes, she’s been to LA, and, yes, she’s had a photo taken at the pink Paul Smith wall. The pink wall is strange, isn’t it? If Paul Smith had tried to create something Instagrammable it probably would have sunk without a trace, but simply painting a wall pink became something unstoppable. WHAT, ONE WONDERS, will be Blithe’s ‘pink wall’ — the thing about her persona that future fans obsess over? “I tried to manufacture things early on and I realised it’s so secondary,” she says. “Early on I really wanted that manufactured thing: I wanted to be perfect, I wanted it to be ‘oh my God she doesn’t do anything wrong’. I’ve scaled all that back and I’m trying to focus on what’s primary to what I’m doing: making music I like that hopefully other people will like. Everything else will come naturally. I’m still on an artistic journey and there’ll come a point where there’s a ‘thing’ I do, I’m sure, but I’m not there yet and I don’t have the energy to focus on that now.”
- Sainsbury’s is Blithe’s supermarket of choice. She likes contactless payments. She is not collecting Lego cards, she does not have a Nectar card and no she does not want a receipt. “They do ask you a lot of questions,” she says, and she is right.
- We all like an honest popstar, don’t we? But there are shades of grey here. Take Lily Allen and Jesy from Little Mix: both are straightforward people, but at the end of the day only Lily would be likely to tweet that they’d shat themselves. “There’s stuff I’m not ready to talk about,” Blithe says, mysteriously. “I’m not sure yet what it’s appropriate for people to know.” Is some of this stuff already in her songs, if we look hard enough? “Probably,” she laughs. “I’m more on the Lily Allen and Cardi B end of the spectrum than, say, Jesy from Little Mix, but I’m not totally unfiltered.”
- In her first flat in London, when she was 16, she and her friends threw stuff off the balcony and accidentally hit a police officer. She didn’t get arrested, but she did have a ‘run in’ with ‘the law’ on another occasion, for WHAT SHE SAYS was being on the receiving end of a fight. “The police were nice actually,” she remembers. “They gave me a Vogue magazine and extra blankets in my cell and the police officer complimented my mugshot, but I didn’t get to keep a copy.”
- Blithe’s worked in a lot of London nightclubs. She has, for example, worked on the door at atrocious venues like Mahiki. This leads to the inevitable question: how many ex-members of Blue has she encountered? The answer is: two.
- If some of this is starting to sound slightly familiar, read on!!!
- Blithe went to Sylvia Young’s school and was in the same year as Dua Lipa. Blithe was only a part time student at Sylvia’s — it’s not as expensive as the full-time option, and she used to catch the train down each week. “I made friends with the teachers and used to sneak into the adult classes,” she adds. “We couldn’t afford to pay for them. Sometimes you’ve just got to find other ways in haven’t you?”
- A spell at Sylvia Young’s usually results in hilarious TV ads and appearances in Holby City. Blithe insists none of these exist but she did get some panto work, including Cinderella in Coventry. “It was my first paid performing job and I got fired on the spot for spending too long on my phone and bad time keeping,” she remembers. “I was young. It hurt at the time but then I was like, ‘oh fuck you’. They still paid me and I got Christmas off.”
- She admits that things on the panto and theatre school scene probably weren’t helped by the fact that she would turn up “with a nose ring, highlights, tiny shorts with my bum hanging out, and biker boots”. Why did she wear that stuff for a panto? “I didn’t really care,” Blithe decides. “I felt comfortable like that. My singing teacher would make a remark every time but I was like, ‘send me home, except you can’t send me home because I’ve paid to be here’.” So why was it so important for Blithe to challenge authority? Was she wearing all that stuff because she wanted to, or because she knew teachers didn’t want her to? “I think I challenge everything I can,” she sats. “But it was an insecurity thing. I knew subconsciously that those things would bring me attention. Maybe not the most positive attention. But now it’s part of my being. If I tried to contain it I couldn’t.”
- But things are better now, right‽ “I get fired a lot,” she admits, when she talks about occasional stints working in clubs. “I don’t really like authority or being told what to do or being treated ‘less than’, and I’ll tell people when that happens, which people aren’t a fan of.” An example, if you please? “Someone will say, ‘Blithe, can you do this thing?’, and I’ll say no, then I’ll go out for a cigarette for half an hour, and then I’ll get fired.” Right. “The last place I got fired from, I called my boss an arsehole. Actually it might have been cunt.” Who among us, etc etc etc.
- Blithe believes we should all embrace each other for who we really are rather than some nebulous idea of of perfection. But what about the social media arseholes who ‘really are’ a load of bellends making lives miserable? And what if we think we might be psychopaths or something? “Well, don’t hurt anyone,” Blithe clarifies. “I’m a bit rough round the edges at times — I can be outspoken and trying to hold that in gave me anxiety. I hate being ‘nice’ and forgettable. I’d rather be remarkable, when it comes naturally to me. I don’t want people to walk away and go, ‘what’s her name again?’”
- You can tell a lot about someone by how they respond to the question “have you ever fallen in a hole?” In this instance Blithe’s immediate response is to ask whether this relates to “k-hole or pothole?”; she has fallen in neither, she says. When asked what holes she has been in her response is: “Vaginal?”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, feels like an appropriate spot to bring this trot around the paddock of Blithe to an end. There is more to Blithe than meets the eye and there’s presumably more to Blithe than she’s letting on, but in summary:
- Blithe is a good popstar.
- Blithe makes good pop music.
- And that’s just the ideal combo really isn’t it?