Tab Interview: Eliza Doolittle

Following a summer of festival performances, Eliza Doolittle spoke to TABATHA LEGGETT about X Factor and her own music career.

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It’s difficult to be mean about Eliza Doolittle because she’s just so nice. You only need to look at her Myspace page to fully fathom just how sweet this girl is. She lists her interests as: ‘bubbles in my tummy,’ ‘birthday parties with chocolate cake and dancing for desert,’ ‘fringes touching eyes’ and ‘hair clips.’ Sickly sweet, but sweet nonetheless. Although she’s often compared to Lily Allen, she couldn’t be more different. Yes, she’s got a strong Cockney accent and writes songs about twenty-something life in London, but this girl couldn’t be further from the outspoken and often outlandish Lily. Eliza’s landed her dream job, and she couldn’t be more grateful.

‘I don’t think I’ve had any real low points in my career,’ she told me, ‘there’ve been frustrating points, and times when I’ve felt annoyed, but if I hadn’t experienced minor set backs, the good stuff wouldn’t be as fulfilling. I guess it’s all just part of the path that’s led me to where I am today. Gosh, don’t I sound philosophical!’ she laughed.

Philosophical? Not really. Admittedly, Eliza’s a bit silly, but since when did silliness harm anyone? This girl is just happy. And why shouldn’t she be? At just 22, Eliza’s already had a top 3 album and a top 10 single, and she’s filled her summer with festival performances.

‘The Secret Garden Party was my favourite,’ she told me, ‘and I’m not just saying that because it’s in Cambridge. It was so beautiful and the attention to detail was amazing. It was held in a massive field, and there was a gorgeous lake. And there were notes in tree that lead you to picnics. It was lovely.’

When asked what she’d do if she couldn’t perform, Eliza answered, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly say. I used to wonder what I’d do if I couldn’t sing, but then I stopped. I realised that I’m crap at everything else. I realised that I have to do this, and started figuring out how to make it happen. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I have to sing.’

Eliza is, of course, no stranger to show business. Her father, John Caird was an RSC director, and her mother, Frances Ruffelle is an award winning West End actress and singer. And, her grandmother is Sylvia Young; as in the founder of Sylvia Young Theatre School that was attended by the likes of Emma Bunton and Amy Winehouse. ‘I guess being surrounded by performers made me feel like it’s a normality,’ Eliza speculated, ‘my family made me feel like achieving my dreams was a possibility. But I wanted to take different route to fame than the stage school route. I wanted to make it myself.’


Eliza performing Pack Up on Carnaby Street in June

I asked Eliza what she thought about X Factor and the musicians that come out of it, and she replied, ‘X Factor‘s fun. I love the TV show. But, when it gets to the top ten stages, it starts to annoy me. They perform the same songs over and over again. Pop music is fun, now and again. But not all the time.’

‘So, if X Factor music is pop music, what type of music do you make?’ I asked.

‘I guess I make pop music too. The difference is that my music is classic pop music, not bubblegum pop.

‘My music is influenced by so many people. I love Stevie Wonder. He’s amazing. In my mind, he can do no wrong. But I also love Radiohead, Jeff Buckley… the list just goes on. I like to think that everything I listen to goes into my brain and then I puke it all out and make my own stuff.

‘When I make music, I usually start with the melody, and then I add lyrics. The music making process differs from song to song for me. Skinny Genes is one of my favourite tracks, but I really struggled to make it. Sometimes though, my songs only take ten minutes to write. The ideas are all on the tip of my tongue; it’s like the song just has to be, and so it simply is.’

Eliza is refreshing in that she truly doesn’t take her success for granted. ‘I never expected my album to do so well,’ she told me, ‘I’m in total awe of how well it’s been received. And there’s nothing like the feeling of performing a song and seeing the audience singing along. That feeling blows my mind.

‘At the moment, Pack Up is my favourite song to perform. I know it probably shouldn’t be: I should be bored of it because I’ve performed it so many times before, but seeing the audience enjoy it and sing along is the best feeling in the world.’

When asked whether she reads her press, Eliza answered, ‘I try not to read too much. Of course I read my reviews. But, you have to take them with a pinch of salt. If you want to believe everything good that’s said about you, you have to believe everything bad too. And that would just be depressing because once the music’s been made, there’s nothing you can change.’

Eliza described her music as ‘summery, honest and melodic,’ and she doesn’t see herself changing career path anytime soon. ‘I’ll just keep writing,’ she told me, ‘my music will inevitably keep evolving. I love what I do, so why would I change it?’

It’s rare to speak to someone who is just so happy. Pack Up is undoubtedly the soundtrack of the summer, and Eliza couldn’t be more pleased. Despite what she says about ‘making it’ on her own, I’m sure her family have helped her to get to where she is today. But it doesn’t really matter. To speak to someone who is so hard-working, passionate and determined is refreshing. All that remains to be seen is how exactly Eliza’s music will evolve. There certainly seems to be a niche in the market for ‘classic pop,’ and I for one genuinely hope this girl succeeds.