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AlunaGeorge interview

AlunaGeorge have been special guests for Coldplay on the 2017 European and North American legs of the A Head Full Of Dreams Tour. We called up singer-songwriter Aluna Francis to find out how they've been getting on.

Hi Aluna – how are you?
I’m really good, thank you.

You’ve been touring with Coldplay for quite a while now, having supported on the European tour too. How’s it going?
It’s been going amazingly. It’s a huge learning process and opportunity in so many different ways. Each day, although it’s the same set-up… wait, sorry one second…

No problem.
…OK, I’m back. That was a distraction that you might quite like. Some of my band came to my room last night and left popcorn all over my floor, and I can now see a line of ants slowly taking tiny pieces of popcorn home. It’s quite intriguing. They’re staying in one exact line, so I don’t have to worry about them spreading anywhere. But, yes, what I was saying is that even though it’s the same kind of set-up every night where you go onstage in front of thousands of people, it’s different each day and you’re learning all the time.

Have you done a lot of support tours like this?
No, we’ve waited a long time, and seen opportunities come along. It’s a huge commitment. The last one we did was with Sia. I think the first one we ever did was with a band called Friends, this cool New York band.

It’s not necessarily easy playing to a crowd that don’t know too much about you. Is that something you’ve had to get used to?
Absolutely. Although because I did the Sia tour, I knew what to expect. And I’ve also got a little bit of a reference point because two years ago we supported Coldplay at the Royal Albert Hall.

Aluna at the Royal Albert Hall show in 2014 (Pic: Anchorman)

Of course – the two Ghost Stories shows in London. So you were already aware that the band had some interest in what you do?
Yeah. I don’t know if there’s a crossover musically exactly. I think maybe there isn’t.

I’m sure there are fans who like music by both of you. Do you feel like Coldplay’s crowds have been quite open to hearing you?
Yes, I think so. I think it’s helped as I’ve got confidence to talk to the audience more. That really breaks the ice and moves you from being just an anonymous singer. Like last night I talked about how it’s starting to be a little bit of a family, with Izzy Bizu and Coldplay. Because we’re not changing around on this tour.

Ah yes, whereas the European tour support acts swapped between you and Tove Lo, plus Lyves and Femme Schmidt.
Right. We all hung out at the after-party the other night and everyone’s crew is getting to know each other. So it’s starting to feel really supportive and we’re all hoping that each other has a good show. And that’s a really beautiful and enjoyable thing.

Had you met Izzy before?
Yeah, we met at the airport one time. She’s a beautiful human. Her energy is very warm.

Having now played to Coldplay fans in many countries, do you feel like you can tell the difference between the crowds?
Oh there’s a massive difference. The difference between, for example, Brussels and Munich is just a world apart.

In what sense?
I think the way that people are used to expressing themselves is different. And you have to hold that in your mind, so that you’re not thrown off guard. For example in Munich, they didn’t really want to respond to me if I asked them to shout out a word, but when I asked them to put their hands up for somebody that they’ll always remember, the whole stadium just went up. So they reacted to a more sentimental idea.

How about in Brussels?
When I was talking about women in control, for I’m In Control, the ladies there were shouting loud and clear! And Montreal was really interesting. I felt like there was a kind of French sophistication to them, in the way that they were really listening. I spoke for a really long time, because I was trying to explain something which took a little while, but when I finished they really, really cheered. I was like, “Oh, you were actually listening to what I said!”.

Aluna in Montreal (Pic: R42)

Is this your first time on a tour of this scale?
Yeah. It’s really great for the whole band to learn how to be at that professional level. Even just things like timing are so crucial – you can’t over-run as the support act.

Why did you agree to do the tour?
Well, we’ve got new music coming out and I had sent a new track that I liked to Chris and he really liked it, and it got me to thinking that although there aren’t a huge amount of crossovers musically, there’s subject matter that is a crossover. We have a song called Turn Up The Love and I wanted to share that with a crowd that’s already used to thinking about lyrics and caring about subjects. And obviously Chris is really vocal with his opinions about how the world should be and positive messaging. So I really wanted to be part of that.

And has it turned out to be a worthwhile experience?
Yeah. We’re getting a really nice response on social media after each show and I think it’s a good challenge to start a show where people don’t know who I am and end the show with them feeling like they do know me. The New York show was a highlight for me, where I really felt like I turned the show into like a small living room. That’s the challenge that I’ve been trying to meet: to become familiar with big audiences.

How did you originally cross paths with Chris?
It was just from that support slot at the Royal Albert Hall. But, yeah, when I was looking for a new manager and stuff Chris helped me out with that a little bit.

What sort of advice does he give you?
Well, I don’t try to bother him too often, but what I seem to absorb from watching how he works with everybody is that he kind of uses a huge force of positivity and then directs it really skilfully in different directions to achieve what he’s trying to achieve. Whereas I think that a lot of people would use intimidation and power and those sort of traits to get to where they’re going.

Do you think that permeates to the Coldplay crew?
Absolutely. When you speak to the whole crew they’ve all been with them for so long, and they still really are thankful for the jobs that they have and you can really feel that as you walk past everybody every day, and bump into them at the tea stand in catering. There’s always a pleasant camaraderie between all of the crew, which I don’t necessarily expect from a big artist’s crew because there’s so many people. That’s so important to me as a team leader of my band and my crew. I’ve been learning watching Chris talk to other people in his crew.

Do you watch the band’s performance often?
We tend to watch a whole show once in a while and then see the beginning of most of the shows. It’s kind of insane the way they start the show, almost at full throttle. And you’re thinking, “How do they get through the rest of the show?”. But it does actually go further up from there, which is crazy.

For Coldplay fans reading this who maybe haven’t been to a show and don’t know too much about you, how would you describe what you do?
Well, I would say that the music is left of centre of pop, which feels familiar but is unusual. But for me the really important thing is the lyrical content of most of my songs. So, Mean What I Mean is about basically sexual consent being sexy and I’m In Control is about the celebration of women being in control. Turn Up The Love is a song I wrote to help give some positivity to the political climate that we’re going through globally. And You Know You Like It is really about freedom to be the crazy, weird, wonderful person that you are, no matter whether people judge you.

And what have you got coming next?
Well, we just launched a track that I did with Avicii, called What Would I Change It To? and that is about realising that you’re perfect just the way you are and you don’t have to change anything. That’s a really important song to me, and it’d been a long time coming.

Do you have more dates coming up?
Not at the moment. I need a break, after touring for the whole year! But I’m thinking about festivals for 2018. And you want to rethink what your show is going to be like when you see something like Coldplay in action! Like, what are the steps towards a show like that?

Final question, what is your favourite Coldplay song?
I keep watching A Head Full Of Dreams, so I think that’s become my favourite. I’m a dreamer myself, so I understand the sentiment of just trying to get each of these dreams out into reality!

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