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La Roux: Nobody takes you seriously when you have a pop hit

La Roux's In For The Kill exploded into the charts just four days after Elly Jackson's 21st birthday. Much has changed in the decade since. Alex Green speaks to her about authenticity, the death of pop and returning to the limelight


New vision: La Roux star Elly Jackson

New vision: La Roux star Elly Jackson

New vision: La Roux star Elly Jackson

New vision: La Roux star Elly Jackson

New vision: La Roux star Elly Jackson

The last thing Elly Jackson wants to do is write another Bulletproof. "I've been trying to get away from that for years," she admits down the phone from her tour bus, as it departs London for Europe.

Jackson's third album comes after a period of intense soul searching for the London singer.

It's been over five years since her last album, tellingly titled Trouble In Paradise, and some four years since she last embarked on a full-scale tour.

The decade since the release of La Roux's self-titled, platinum-selling debut has been rocky, to say the least.

Jackson clashed with her former label Polydor, split from her keyboardist and producer Ben Langmaid and spent a difficult year away from the industry trying to rekindle her love for music.

The result is Supervision - a varied, colourful and optimistic journey through Jackson's recent traumas, challenges and joys.

It may not have matched the commercial success of La Roux's heyday, reaching only number 20 in the UK albums chart, but it was a hit with critics and fans alike.

For 31-year-old Jackson, Supervision is proof she is more than just a purveyor of electro-pop hits - a middle-finger to the naysayers.

"I would like a body of work to be listened to and understood," she says.

"And when you have that type of pop hit, nobody takes you seriously, however good you are as a musician. You are just a joke.

"However good your pop record was, it's not like being Prince or George Michael back in the day, where you could have a big hit and be respected.

"That doesn't happen any more. Or actually be taken seriously as an artist? It's like: 'If you make pop music, you must be having a laugh, right?'

"I have seen the comments online, for me and other people. They think that when you try and take yourself seriously - as if I haven't ever before anyway - that it's some kind of joke.

"I'm not joking - I really believe in what I do."

Jackson has been, somewhat unfairly, labelled spiky, due to her refusal to recreate La Roux's early pop hits and her candid, sometimes brutal, honesty.

Now unbeholden to any label (Supervision is self-released on her own Supercolour Records), Jackson says she is free to tour and record as she likes.

Plus, she can speak her mind.

There is a hint of righteous anger in her voice as she defends the much-maligned idea of "groove" and attacks today's chart fodder.

"I know a lot of people find it cheesy to talk about groove and think it is a Seventies word - but it's not.

"It shouldn't have been condemned to a stupid word that sounds silly, or is just connected to funk.

"There is no reason why pop music can't be laden with groove. All my favourite music is," she says before unleashing a roll call of her influences.

"Otherwise Stevie Wonder is just a joke, and Prince is just a joke. It's not a joke. Grace Jones is not a joke and neither are Talking Heads.

"They are all completely and utterly laden with that person's personality and groove. That's always what I have wanted for my music."

Jackson is happy to discuss the "tainted" relationship with her old label and bandmate - but only in generalities.

"I am very much the person who always wants to make something work, even when it clearly doesn't," she reflects.

"And that is what I stopped doing in my life generally. Just the level of acceptance, of whether or not this is going to upset somebody else, or whether or not it is right for them...

"You can't just keep delivering things to people and being the person that other people need you to be," she adds.

This summer she will play a string of UK festivals before heading to North America for dates in the US and Canada.

But finally getting back on the road meant addressing the legacy of songs, such as Bulletproof and In For The Kill.

Jackson says she has reworked them, so that they don't overshadow the slower, more laid-back music of Trouble In Paradise and Supervision.

Stripped down to its core synth melody, Bulletproof is re-imagined as a louche, George Michael-inspired jam.

"They get the song in the way they want," she explains.

"But they get it in a way that doesn't make me feel like I have to become a teenager again to perform it."

Jackson was 17, complete with red quiff and Bowie cheekbones, when she formed La Roux with Langmaid.

Her hair may have faded to a strawberry blonde, but Jackson's opinions remain just as strong.

It is the decline of quality pop that irks her most.

"It's no slight on them," she says of today's chart-toppers.

"I'm not sitting here trying to cuss anyone or say I'm better - which a lot of people think about me a lot of the time, just because I express my opinion more than other artists dare to, because they've got their PRs breathing down their necks.

"But if you talk to musicians outside of an interview environment, they all totally agree with you. But they won't say it in public."

Jackson's newfound creative freedom begs the question, what's next for La Roux? Supervision was finished by summer 2018 - there must be more music on the horizon.

"I'm not looking at being La Roux until I'm 65... I don't think that is going to work," she reflects.

"I want to do the last half of my career the way I wanted to do the first half.

"I feel like I have very long, intense road ahead of me - but I'm really up for it now."

La Roux performs at Latitude Festival at Henham Park, Suffolk, which runs from Thursday, July 16 to Sunday, July 19

Belfast Telegraph