After my interview with Lady Sovereign, a lot of people asked me things like “Is she a brat?” “Is she pretty sassy?” “Is she a total bitch?”
She was none of those things. She is a young girl who has found the secret of life way earlier than most— and she didn’t have to climb to the top of the seventh mountain beyond the mystical forest to find an ancient wise man who divulges the Eastern wisdom of ages via a series of riddles and seemingly nonsensical metaphors to do it.
No, her magic comes from having thrown herself headfirst into the things she’s passionate about rather than following the over-trodden path of so-called responsible behavior.
“Sov” talks about her music the way an architect talks about an enormous skyscraper she’s just finished building— it’s part of her, she created it and has seen it grow and is prouder of it than any other thing she knows. Her life revolves around her work and she loves everything about it. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed, flips out and pulls back a bit—her 2006 debut Public Warning (Def Jam) garnered her the sort of buzz-worthy attention that makes early retirement tempting—but she always catches her breath and flings herself face-first back into the swirling pool of rattling beats, strong but lighthearted lyrics and signature grimy street-style.
Knowing what she wants gives Sov a confidence rarely seen in kids her age, and being able to make it happen seems to have carved a sincere kindness into her personality that easily sneaks through her sassy I-do-what-I-want-when-Iwant projections like sunlight through a chain-link fence. The spunk and energy she puts into writing, recording, and performing have opened up new doors for her, each one bigger than the next. She released her sophomore LP Jigsaw on her own label Midget Records, truly embodying the do what you want or toss it philosophy.
City Weekly: Your mum was a punk, then a raver. Did she ever take you to any punk shows or raves?
Sov: No, no, not at all. It wouldn’t have been a good environment for me to be in. I just remember my parents blaring out music every fucking night to the point where we couldn’t even sleep, you know?
CW: Yeah, that’s like my mom—except with church-choir music.
Sov: Wow, sounds exciting.
CW: You started young. What got you into music?
Sov: When I was 14, I used to listen to a lot of U.K. garage and stuff, then I listened to pirate radio and then just on a fun day I’d sit there in my room and emcee and write lyrics, you know? And then I developed my skills into songwriting when I probably hit about 17.
CW: What other jobs have you had?
Sov: I used to go around cleaning bakeries with my friend.Um, I tried to get a job at McDonald’s but they rejected me because I was too young. I used to sell donuts in Wembley Market. And I used to try to sell double-glazed windows— that’s the only real job I’ve had, but none of them lasted more than two weeks. But I needed a little bit of cash so, you know?
CW: You know how, in old times, royal courts had private musicians that would just hang around and play music whenever they were asked? Would you ever want to have that job, working for the Queen?
Sov: No. I don’t care if she asks me to do something, I do my own thing, you know? It would be funny, though. She’d probably be like “Bic off, Max.” But whatever.
CW: [In my head, I’m like, “What’s ‘Bic off, Max?’” But whatever.] You rap, and on your new album Jigsaw, you started singing. You mix beats. Do you play any instruments?
Sov: I try to; I just kind of teach myself. I like to detune guitars and sit in my room and play really odd notes. I feel like everything’s been done. Ya know, I sit and make beats at home and stuff, but I’m not really an amazing … I can’t really play any sort of instrument amazingly. I just try it.
CW: You have this sassy, aggressive attitude. When you’re home alone, do you ever sit there and sing slow, pretty love ballads to yourself.
Sov: You caught me. I do sometimes. It’s just for fun, just to see what I’m capable of. Yeah, guilty.
CW: Anything like that gonna come out on your next album?
Sov: Well, we’ll see. You never know. I mean, I surprise myself sometimes. I always like to try things out.
CW: Are you recording anything now?
Sov: I haven’t got time right now. Before I go on tour, it’s pretty hectic. I’m trying to squeeze in as many interviews as possible so I don’t have to do any when I’m on tour. I’ve tried to get into the studio lately, but then I end up getting sick or I can’t be bothered to go. I need to be in the mood for it, otherwise I’ll just be forcing it.
In the Venue
579 W. 200 South
Tuesday, May 19
8 p.m. All-ages