If you’ve not been formally acquainted by now, Dua Lipa is the pop star we deserve in 2017.
Since the release of “Be The One” – one of 2016’s very best, the drop dead gorgeous singer has been pegged as the coveted “One To Watch” thanks to her consistent string of superb single releases, from “Last Dance” to “Hotter Than Hell” to “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” to “Room For 2” to last week’s “Thinking ‘Bout You.” But penning smashes is only one of the components to Dua‘s rising success: The 21-year-old English songstress has earned the spotlight within the popsphere as a result of her charming personality, her fearless drive, her model-like looks and unquestionable vocal talent, achieving the ultimate stamp of approval after scoring the opening slot for Troye Sivan‘s Suburbia Tour and teaming up with dancehall legend Sean Paul on his latest output “No Lie,” which jumps to #28 on the UK Singles Chart this week.
Before the new year, I got the opportunity to sit down with Dua for a one-on-one interview about her hotly anticipated debut, which is now set for a June 2 release. Read on to see the full interview, including banter about being on tour with Troye, finding her sound, and all the latest on Dua‘s upcoming debut.
Jon ALi: You’re touring with the “it” boy of the moment. How does it feel?
Dua Lipa: It’s been so much fun, he’s such a sweetheart and so hardworking. It’s been a pleasure to be on this tour because his fans are amazing, it’s been wonderful. They wait on line for hours every night before the show, they’re amazing.
Jon ALi: How did this even happen? Who set it up?
Dua Lipa: We’ve been friends on Twitter for a bit, but it was mainly our teams getting it together. Obviously, I was aware of his music and he knew some of my stuff. He started covering my song “Be The One” during some of his Australian shows so there was some mutual love going on. I was busy finishing up my European tour so I couldn’t do the first leg, but I was happy to jump on the second half. I’m very grateful.
Jon ALi: That’s amazing and you guys are set to do a duet, right? A cover of Mark Ronson‘s “Somebody to Love Me” with Boy George and Andrew Watt.
Dua Lipa: Yeah! Troye just randomly texted me and was like do you want to do a song together? And I was like ‘of course, yeah, what song?,’ to which he responded: ‘Did you not just get the link I sent you?’ Silly me was like ‘Oh, I thought you were just sharing a song with me’ [Laughs]. I loved the song but I didn’t know the lyrics to it so I had to learn it quick. It was really nice of him to invite me on stage to do a duet with him, I was super excited.
Jon ALi: Yeah, to me it made perfect sense for you guys to tour together. Sonically, you guys are similar in some ways so it works it out nicely. I feel like his fanbase is exactly who you should be attracting, given his quick rise. You’re also kind of going through the same thing now it seems. I mean, I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way for you personally, but from an outsiders perspective. You know?
Dua Lipa: No yeah, totally. I’ve been working on the album for two years and I’ve been trying to do this for like forever it feels.
Jon ALi: Yeah, which leaves me curious to know how we got to this point. How did we end up here?
Dua Lipa: Oh god, it’s been a journey. I was born and raised in London, moved to Kosovo with my parents at the age of 11, and at the age of 15 I decided to move back to London. I moved on my own that time around because I came to the realization that I love performing in front of people. I truly realized that I loved singing and all that. My father was a musician back in Kosovo and I just really wanted to do music like him, but I felt like the only way I could do it on a more global scale was if I moved to London. I just didn’t see it happening from Kosovo. So when I moved to London, I was going to normal school during the week and on Saturdays I would go to theater school. That’s kind of where it all started. I started to post covers online at 15, they were really embarrassing. I was all like ‘Hey, I’m Dua Lipa and this is ‘Ain’t No Other Man‘ by Christina Aguilera.
Jon ALi: Oh my god. That’s amazing. How did I not know this?
Dua Lipa: Right? But literally, that’s what I would say. I’m so embarrassed by it now. But yeah, that’s where it started and I would just share it with friends and anyone who would listen so that If I ever met someone I had something to show. It was kind of like my portfolio in a way so that’s how it all started. From then on I was looking to meet people that were doing anything in music, or that knew someone in music, or just like young kids with bedroom set-ups. And that’s where I would be like: ‘I sing, check out my covers, if you like them we should do demos and make music together’.
Jon ALi: You were really just trying to make anything happen it seems.
Dua Lipa: Exactly, that’s how it started. I would work on demos with people but I didn’t really know my sound. Like I had a folder in my laptop with demos of all these different types of genres, not really knowing where I was going with them but just wanting to make music. So I started doing more covers and moving onto Soundcloud. I did this Chance the Rapper cover that got quite a lot of attention and from then on producers started reaching out. I made loads of friends online, but at the time, I was working as a hostess at a restaurant. It was hard to find the time to do everything all at once. I kept numbers just in case I had any free time. Eventually, I landed a commercial job. It was for the X Factor, I did the singing behind it and I worked with this producer. We worked on this advert for two weeks together and it wasn’t until we had finished where he was like, ‘why don’t we get into the studio and write a song together?’. That’s where I was like ‘yes, great, this big producer wants to work with me. Amazing!’ He’s still a good friend of mine, but he offered me a publishing deal and I had no idea what that was at the time. I called one of my friends that I had met on social media and was like ‘Hey Felix, you don’t know me and we’ve never met, but I don’t know what a publishing deal is. Do you know anyone anyone I could talk to about this?’ He told me to meet with his music lawyer Lawrence in Hammersmith, so I did. I went and he was just the loveliest guy. He talks me through everything and gives me this book to read through so I could learn everything I need to know. He later told me that I shouldn’t sign the deal because I didn’t have management yet. I was still growing and I hadn’t even gone into sessions yet. He was like ‘you don’t need a publishing deal,’ and then it wasn’t too long from there where he introduced me to my manager Ben. And from that point on when I met Ben, I was in the studio five days a week. I was writing everyday, I was actually working towards a goal, and trying finding my sound.
Jon ALi: Wow.. that’s kind of incredible. So you didn’t take the deal and just focused on finding your sound?
Dua Lipa: Yeah, the plan from the beginning wasn’t to get a publishing deal, it was to find my sound. The first song I wrote where I was like ‘this is it’ was “Hotter Than Hell.” It was completely different production wise, just piano and a kick drum. It was super sparse, but the thing about it that really showed me that it was my sound was that it had this darkness to it on the verses and this big pop chorus that followed – I loved it. I would go into sessions with that song knowing that I wanted it to be my sound. People instantly got it even though the production wasn’t all there.
Dua Lipa: My life got a whole lot easier after that because I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to do from a sound and writing perspective. From there labels started hearing that song because I was going into more sessions and that song would come up. I was meeting with a few labels, but it was the team at Warner Bros. that I felt a connection with. They understood what I wanted to do and where I was coming from. They really just were aiding me in my dream and I’ve been very fortunate in that sense. I’ve been working on my debut album ever since, it’s crazy, I’m like I can’t fucking believe I’m actually doing this. It’s getting closer and closer, it’s crazy.
Jon ALi: That’s such an inspiring story. You really went out there and made it happen for yourself. Who were the people that inspired you growing up?
Dua Lipa: I’m obsessed with Nelly Furtado and P!nk. I guess Nelly‘s first album Whoa, Nelly! was an album that was given to me from my parents when I was younger. It’s the album I’d always play in the car so I learned all the words by heart before I even knew the understanding of it all. The same with P!nk‘s Missundaztood. I would sing along to those songs all the time. As I get older, I still listen to those same albums but they have a lot more relevance and meaning to my life now. As time went on with their more recent albums, their stuff just became my whole life – I love them so much. Especially Nelly‘s album with Timbaland, Loose, that one is amazing. I guess in a way that’s kind of the mixture of pop and hip-hop together that influenced me, there was just such a coolness about it. It was pop music and it was honest. I just love them.
Jon ALi: No yeah, I totally agree. Nelly Furtado has always been one of those people who no matter how musically different she was… there was always a foundation there, like that’s Nelly Furtado.
Dua Lipa: Exactly. My dad also was a musician so he loved Radiohead, David Bowie obsessively, Bob Dylan, Paul Weller, and just like so many different types of music. I guess I was raised on good music and what I really really loved was pop.
Jon ALi: Sounds about right to me, god bless. Has the album been done for a long time? Or has it been a slow work in progress?
Dua Lipa: I thought I was going to be ready in September to release it. I was on tour a couple months before the release, I was traveling a lot and there was a lot of craziness going on in my life. So I was getting a bit restless and wanted to write a bit more. I went to my team and told them I wanted to write a bit more and they were like ‘what do you mean? there’s like no time. We’re getting it ready, it needs to go.’ And I started to panic and got really scared. I got scared to release the album because I didn’t feel like it was right. And even just for peace of mind, I felt like I needed time to just stop and write and take a tiny bit more time. It didn’t feel like it was completely there, especially after performing some of the songs for such a long time. It worked for the better because I’ve had the opportunity to come and do this tour. I’ve been able to go on my European tour without my album being out and perform at all these different venues. It’s all just been so mind-blowing to have the opportunity to do all that. I had a chance to really grow. I wrote some more and new songs got added onto the album about present me, about the current things that are going on in my life. I needed that, I’m proud that I did that. I’m happy with myself that I took that time because I needed it.
Jon ALi: I hear you! This is your first body of work that’s being put out to the world. You should take your time with it.
Dua Lipa: Yeah, I don’t want to fuck it up.
Jon ALi: That’s dope. I’m glad that you stood your ground and was like I can’t put that out yet.
Dua Lipa: It’s important to me.
Jon ALi: Like you said, you’ve been working on this album for 2 years so the person that you were 2 years ago is not necessarily the same now.
Dua Lipa: Yeah, exactly. I mean loads of the songs that I’m singing about they’re like memories and things that have happened in the past so I still feel very very close to those songs. It was just that I felt like I needed to get all this stuff out of me. Even if It didn’t make the album, but I just needed to get some things off my chest. If the songs were good enough to put on the album then I would put them on the album. And, I did it.
Jon ALi: Yes, I love that. And now the album, how much music are we expecting?
Dua Lipa: The regular is 12, and the deluxe is 17.
Jon ALi: That’s a lot, that’s a lot of songs.
Dua Lipa: It’s been hard to pick.
Jon ALi: So all the songs we’ve heard up until this point will be on there.
Dua Lipa: Yes. Except for this one song that I released online called “For Julian,” that was just for me to put out to my fans. It was a very personal part of me.
Jon ALi: Got it, got it. And right now your single “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” is catching on in the U.S. I absolutely adore that song. It’s the one song I think that captures you the most, it’s brilliant.
Dua Lipa: I hope so, yes. Thank you, thank you so much.
Jon ALi: No yeah, I’ve been campaigning for you ever since I heard “Be The One.” I’m the one in my friend group getting everyone on that Dua Lipa. And that song is the song. If I were to try and explain Dua Lipa to someone in just one song, that’s the song.
Dua Lipa: Oh my god, you’re an angel. Thank you!
Jon ALi: You’re very welcome. Now for these new songs, are you working with new people or more of the same?
Dua Lipa: To begin with when I was trying to find my sound, I worked with loads of different people. I never really stopped doing that, I was always working with different people because I found that to be the most fun. When I was in Toronto… literally a week after I had written “New Love” in New York, I went to Toronto. It was the end of the week, I was gonna go home the next day and it was like third session of the day. I began to feel homesick and tired so I go into a session with this guy called KLAUS. I was all moody and told him I wanted to do a song about being homesick and he just made this crazy instrumental thing that was just so cool and that’s when we wrote “Last Dance” that night. But it was crazy to me that he had made an entirely new production right there and then – he’s amazing. So that’s where I kind of was like, ‘look my song ‘Hotter Than Hell‘ doesn’t have any production on it. Do you want to give it a go?’ He did the production on that. He ended up doing the production on all my other songs, additional production on all of them and re-produced some of them. He’s a big big part of the album. He’s essentially helped me find my sound, production wise. He’s really amazing, it’s always easy with him. When you go into a session you can’t really describe to people what you want your sound to be like, but with him I just go do something and he gets it.
Jon ALi: That’s so cool. So he’s like the Timbaland to your Nelly.
Dua Lipa: Oh my god, yeah. He is the Timbaland to my Nelly. Absolutely. It’s amazing when you find someone that you click with and gets you musically that you’re like this is amazing. It’s tough but luckily when you work with the same people they know what you like and what you want. They also just become good friends so its easy to open up about what’s going on in your life.
Jon ALi: It becomes less work and more like lets make something that’s magic.
Dua Lipa: Exactly. So yeah, I’m so excited. Finally, I am ready. I am fucking ready. It’s literally like a baby that’s been sitting here for awhile and I’m like fucking get it out now.
Jon ALi: You’ve released some teasers from the album. Are we going to be getting any more previews before the album drops?
Dua Lipa: Maybe. I don’t know yet, but maybe.
Jon ALi: Alright, so before I let you go.. one more thing. You’re describing yourself to a listener who’s never heard of you. What do you say?
Dua Lipa: Hey, I’m Dua Lipa and I’m a bad ass bitch from hell that nobody fucks with.
Jon ALi: DONE!
Dua has just announced that she’s hitting the road on her first-ever North American headlining tour – See the dates below!
US HEADLINE TOUR 2017!!! I'm so excited I cannottttt wait to be back on the road!! Will let u know ASAP when tixxxx go on sale! 👀✨💕 pic.twitter.com/3eIGS8zcEc
— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) January 17, 2017