If you were to mention her name to an American young person they would probably think you were talking about something that would increase your heart rate, put you in the mood for dancing, lead to feelings of euphoria and make you want to cuddle strangers.
But in a way (Christ this intro really isn't working as well as we thought it would) isn't that also what you feel when you think of the all-singing, all-dancing, actual genuine pop loving Global Woman Of The Year 1987–2016 Mollie King?
Mollie's first solo single, 'Back To You', is out tomorrow. We had a chat with her on Tuesday about that, her desire to stay relevant in a shifting pop landscape, and Kesha trying to give her a tattoo.
NB: She's also done an interview with the Mirror in which some of her quotes about the single are so close to the ones below that you'll think we copied and pasted them but we really definitely didn't do that.
You have a song out on Friday!
I do indeed. Get yourself ready. BRACE YOURSELF.
Your single is about a relationship to which you find yourself continually drawn back, but in a way is 'Back To You' also about the otherworldly power of pop itself, this fantastic and unbeatable metagenre those strength and seductiveness is a cross between the Sirens’ call of ancient mythology and the tractor beam of a futuristic intergalactic space technology devised many millennia from now?
Well you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth, I was going to say exactly that. But yes, definitely, the relationship I have with pop music is one that draws me back in every time. There’s no bigger love for me than the love I have for pop music. That always draws me in. It’s what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, fingers crossed.
Well let’s see how Friday goes first, shall we?
GOD! HOW DO I HANG UP ON THIS PHONE‽
The first public news of your solo travails was last May. Considering you've been working on this a long time and you're now just a few days away from the big reveal, is it fair to say you’re shitting it slightly?
It’s a mixture of emotions. I’m so excited to finally be having it out — like you say, I’ve been working on this for so long. And I’ve been going at it until I felt like I had the perfect song. And now I’m so excited and so proud of the record that I can’t wait for people to hear it. But obviously there is a part of me that’s nervous, because when you come out of a successful girlband—
Or The Saturdays…
SHUT UP! Anyway, when you’re in that situation you know there are eyes watching. I’m not silly, I know people in general are very quick to go “THIS IS A FLOP” and that you have to get the first single right. So I wanted to come out with something I genuinely thought was a great song. So that whatever the outcome, I could still be proud of it. But the responses yesterday 1 seemed to suggest it was going down well.
So if you wanted to keep working until you found the perfect song, does that mean you think 'Back To You' is the perfect song?
Well I think in my eyes, for a Mollie song, yes it is. Everyone will have their own opinion but I wanted something that was personal to me, either through loving it or, as it turned out, through having co-written it about an experience I’d been through. And it is very personal; it’s quite an emotional song for me. I’m really proud of it.
Which bits did you write?
Well I was there right from the start; it was just on the piano when I arrived. To start off with I was trying to do a continuation of the Saturdays sound, so that after the girls and I had been on a break there wouldn’t be a hole in the market. I wanted it to be upbeat floorfillers.
The early quote, last May, was “a disco vibe with an 80s feel and a big Kylie influence”.
It wasn’t until the day I wrote this one that it all made sense… I went into the studio and I said, “guys, this is what I want to write about today, forget the brief”. I was feeling a bit low on the day. I wanted to write about the situation I was going through because that’s all that was on my mind. It’s weird how it worked out. I mean I’d nearly cancelled the session that morning, I just wasn’t it in the mood.
Pop doesn’t stop just because you’re feeling a bit sadface, Mollie.
WELL THERE YOU GO! I went in and it ended up being the single. Probably because for the first time I actually wanted to write about something personal, rather than ‘trying to write a hit’. The guys who I worked with were amazing. The lyrics are from the heart and I’m still learning about great melodies — I got more involved with the lyrics than melodies on this one — but this was a really emotional experience for me. And it was so good that it’s how we carried on working with the other sessions, too.
Who did you work with?
These guys called The Blueprint, and a guy called Rob as well.
Rob! Oh I know Rob.
Rob Fusari. He’s done stuff with Lady Gaga and all sorts. [UPDATE: It's actually Rob Persuad, who's also done stuff with Lady Gaga and all sorts.]
I read one review of your single describe it as a Taylor Swift-style diss track but it doesn’t feel like a diss track to me. It’s not a big “you’re a wanker fuck off” affair, at least. It feels like it's more about feeling sad about a situation and hoping it might work but feeling it probably won’t. What outcome were you after, lyrically?
You’re completely right, for once — it’s not a diss track at all. It’s basically saying that I am in love with this person, but it’s hard. I’d hope some people can relate to that. No relationship is easy. Well maybe some are, maybe I haven’t found the person. But relationships do have difficult aspects to them and this song is about being in a vicious cycle with someone where you keep going back even though you know it’s probably not going to work out.
Seriously though how many times do you go back before you get to the point where it’s like, “nice idea but let’s bin it off and stop wasting each other’s time”?
I KNOW! But I’m a romantic, aren’t I? I always see the positive. I’m a fighter. I fight for what I want. You know that.
When I saw you’d signed a solo deal I did wonder if it would be one of those things where a label chucks thirty grand at an artist and hopes for the best. But looking at the video it feels like Island are taking this quite seriously.
It’s hugely flattering that they wanted to sign me. I had an offer from Sony as well, so I was in a really fortunate position and I felt very lucky, but Island seemed so excited by it, and they didn’t have anything similar to me here. So it felt like I was helping them put a puzzle together. And Darcus—
WHAT A MAN.
—yes, he’s been such an incredible mentor to me. What a man. 2 To be able to call him up and say “you have to hear this song!”, and for him to say, “great, pop in tomorrow”, I mean to have that relationship with the president of a label, it’s so rare and I’m so grateful. I feel very lucky to have him, he’s been overseeing everything. So they’ve been taking it seriously and, you know, SO THEY SHOULD BE!
What did they say to you at the start? Was there a big pitch, did they say “we see you doing this”? How did they win you over?
Well the thing they did was that they DIDN’T tell me how they saw me. They let me talk. They let me tell them about myself. They let me explore different sounds and they let me take a long time, but they’ve really helped. I’ve been on writing camps!
Tell me about writing camps, I love hearing about writing camps.
I went to one in Cannes that Kesha was on.
Was it a writing camp for Mollie, or was it a general thing?
It was part of a general thing — everyone was in there writing different things. Some sessions had writers in writing songs to pitch out, Kesha was there doing her album, I was there doing mine… I was working with people like James Newman, Taylor Parks who’s written loads for Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony, I was going in and out of studios working with people I’d never had the opportunity to work with in the past.
Did you manage to get any good songs for yourself or did Kesha just come in and grab all the good ones?
Kesha was trying to give me a tattoo! We got on really well. She was like “let me give you a tattoo while you’re here!” I was tempted for a while, I mean it’s not every day Kesha offers to give you a tattoo, but I didn’t go through with it. But Kesha was an absolute hoot! She was so much fun. She’s like the girlfriend that everybody needs. 3 Anyway, when I was in the studio, anything I’d co-written I’d get first dibs on, but things that weren’t right for my record were up for grabs for anyone.
Which is the best bit of your song?
I don’t know. There’s something I quite like about the middle eight where it’s very simple and goes “back to, us two”. It’s a little bit eerie but it’s very vulnerable.
A good answer but the wrong one. The best part of the song is the “don’t wanna feel this way” semi-adlib that appears near the end.
Really? I’m glad you like that. That started off at a different place in the track, actually — when we first wrote it that was part of the first chorus, then it ended up being in a different place.
Now: The Saturdays. The band you were in. Or are in, given that you’re definitely just on hiatus. But anyway The Saturdays — they kind of feel like a pop band from another century don’t they?
What are you saying?
Well pop moves on doesn’t it. Things change. How are you a current person? How are you making sure Mollie King is a current popstar in 2016?
I think it’s down to the music. And you’re right, if you play 'If This Is Love' or 'Up' 4 you can definitely tell that they're from a long time ago. And it’s funny how quickly things move on. When I started working on this album, just a year and a half ago, there was still a four-to-the-floor dance beat in pop, and now you look at everything and it’s all much more stripped back and choruses now aren’t massive big choruses. Things are a little more discreet. Things have definitely changed but as long as you keep things current musically and visually it’s alright. I was very hands on with the video. Directors were sending in scripts but in the end Peter [Loraine, management bigwig] said: “Mollie, you’ve clearly got such a clear idea of what you want this to be, why don’t you write the brief yourself?” So I did, and then we called in Lisa Gunning who ended up directing it, and she and I put the whole thing together.
There’s a bit in the video where you’re flung from a car which does raise some questions about why you weren’t wearing a seatbelt but there’s ANOTHER bit, right at the end, where your car is teetering on the edge of a cliff. Literally a cliffhanger ending. And the viewer is invited to ponder the question: is Mollie going to make it?
Well it is a cliffhanger ending, I did want it to have a bit of darkness in it. I’m so proud of it and I’m glad you’re talking about it.
But the big question is: will you end up on pop’s rocks, being eaten by crabs?
What, as a solo artist?
Yes. IS MOLLIE GOING TO MAKE IT?
Well you already know the answer to that: YEAH BABY.
'Back To You' is out tomorrow (August 19). You can follow Mollie on Twitter IF YOU WANT.