Fabiana Palladino makes loneliness worth listening to

Influenced by the likes of Kate Bush and Janet Jackson, the London musician's irresistible sound is fuelled by both innovation and flashes of nostalgia.

For Fabiana Palladino, being the centre of attention hasn’t always come naturally. But with the release of her self-titled, synth-pop-meets‑R&B debut in April, the London-born musician had to get used to it.

After I finished my degree in music at Goldsmiths, I ended up playing for artists and falling into session work,” Fabiana says from her home in South London. But I was always quietly writing my own music.”

Having drip-fed listeners with self-released tracks, she became the first musician to sign onto Jai Paul and his brother A.K.’s Paul Institute record label in 2015.

That led me to realise I could be an artist, because I had that encouragement, that community – a way of releasing music that was a bit less traditional,” she says. It spurred me on.”

Almost a decade on, after a bout of creative restlessness associated with working behind the scenes for other musicians, Fabiana has finally dropped a fully-fledged solo album. The early singles I put out with Jai, they were me and they were authentic, but there was a bit of experimentation going on,” she says. “[On the new album] I really wanted to put myself at the heart, which is always something I’ve struggled to do out of fear and a lack of confidence. But I knew I needed to do it now.”

I Care, featuring vocals from Jai Paul, is understated in its instrumentation, while the glossy sheen of Stay With Me Through The Night sees Fabiana plead with a lover to give her one more chance via stylistic flourishes that recall Prince. Her breathy vocals on Closer, which ironically opens the album, set the scene for an record best listened to on a moody nighttime drive.

The theme that binds all these tracks together? Loneliness. I was reflecting on life, the aftermath of a relationship, that sort of stuff – looking back but also wanting to be really present in this moment,” Fabiana explains. “[Artists such as] Kate Bush and Janet Jackson had a very direct way of expressing themselves. This was my attempt at that, which coincided with Covid, and meant that [alongside the end of a relationship] I felt a double dose of isolation.”

Now, she’s taking her album on the road: yesterday, Fabiana played Village Underground in London, and is looking forward to gigs in Bristol and Manchester over the next few weeks.

I feel so connected to this album and I’m so lucky that it came together in such a natural way,” she says. I’m just so excited to be here and to share this with everyone.”


How does it feel that your debut album has been so well received?

Really good. I said to people, I’m not going to read the reviews” – not for any specific reason, but I’d never dealt with that kind of thing before so I was sort of burying my head in the sand. But I did look at the key ones, and they really understood what I was going for. That’s what you hope will happen; that people will connect and understand it.


What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?

I’m definitely drawn to the more melancholy side of life! And that’s not uncommon, but I really do try not to let things become too depressing. There’s beauty in that, in all sides of life and our human experience. I try to honour all of it. When I was writing the album, I was interested in loneliness as a theme – as something I was experiencing but also in terms of the world and how society is. Loneliness is a bit of an epidemic. We’re all connected in so many ways but you can be sat scrolling on Instagram for days.


What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?

I’ve always had this idea in my mind of what a performer is supposed to be based on artists I grew up loving – that performers are supposed to be super confident, exciting and out-there like Prince or Beyoncé, who have massive star quality. I felt frustrated because I didn’t know if that would ever be me. Then I read a Carole King autobiography where she said something like, You just need to be your authentic self on stage, and whatever that is, that’s all you can be in the moment.” If you’re awkward then you’re awkward, but if that’s who you are, people will connect to it. I try to remember that.


If you were cooking to impress someone, what would you make?

Knowing me, I would go way too hard and try to do something that’s overly difficult and would go really wrong. This happened before – I tried to make some fresh ravioli for someone and it was absolutely dreadful. I’m not that great of a cook!


What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?

The Australian version of Married at First Sight. It’s taken over my life. Me and my sister have watched the whole thing. We added up the hours we’ve spent watching it and it’s been nearly two full days of this year I’ve watched this fucking terrible programme. I also have a group chat with some friends where we all talk about it. I’ve just become way, way too involved.


If you ruled the world for a day, what would go down?

I would be a bit of a benevolent dictator. No one’s going to work anymore and we all just have to do nice things! I’d make everyone frolic in fields, have a lovely time and eat delicious food. Practically, it wouldn’t really work because there’d be no economy or whatever but that’s fine for a day.


When’s the last time you fell over?

I’m quite clumsy. Once I was sitting in a McDonald’s at a table with circular seating, and people were coming in one side so I was shuffling around and around until I fell off the other end because I ran out of seat. It was incredibly embarrassing.


Love, like, hate?

I love TV and I go through quite intense phases of just watching one show. Recently I’ve been watching Sex and the City – so good. I’m sort of the age they are in the show and it’s still so relevant. I like driving my car, even in London. I kind of enjoy the madness of it. And on that subject, I hate potholes. They just ruin everything.


What’s your favourite song of all time?

I always say What a Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers. It’s just a fantastic song and if it comes on I’ll never not want to listen to it.


What do you think artists can do to help save the world?

Just keep going, keep being truthful in your music and your art and keep being honest and authentically yourself. People will connect to that, and connection is integral. That’s where we’re best placed to help the world.

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