Elly Jackson of La Roux sits way in the back of her tour bus. Quiet. Secluded. Curled up. On first glance, seemingly trying to shut out the blistering cold Toronto November day outside, and maybe even the world along with it.
But can you blame her?
As one of the United Kingdom’s most popular new artists in 2009, Jackson finds it hard to trust people these days. Her tendency to be honest and opinionated have often been taken advantage of by media haters. But the singer can’t help it, she’s always been an individual with real thoughts and feelings- a leader rather than a follower. Even back in Elementary school, the 21-year-old London-born says she was a tomboy, and always had a bit of an assertive and free-spirited tendency.
But that ability to not succumb to peer-pressure is one of the main reasons for the raving success of her debut self-titled album last June, her flooding international fan-base, and why she will keep pushing strong past the negative hurdles in her career.
“You really have to be careful in this industry,” Jackson tells andPOP in her tour bus. “Obviously it’s impossible for us to like everything. So when you can get asked your thoughts about something, and say we don’t like or agree with something, it’s like a total shock to the world.”
Maybe the reason for the constant badgering is that people always try to find the worst in the clean-slated successful. Or maybe people just try to find the worst in Jackson’s unorthodox “organic” style of music- like how she chose to decline using a big-shot producer and studio for her debut album La Roux, and instead opted to use the basement of her house in South London.
“I couldn’t see it work any other way,” recalls Jackson, “I can’t understand how people go with big-shot guys and studios who always have to have their input and at the end of the day, their decision. It just fucks it all up.
“We had everything we needed in my house, and we just made it happen. And the only reason I can think of why people would go with big studios, is because they can’t do it themselves.”
Jackson’s Yin to her Yang is 29-year-old producer Ben Langmaid -the other half of La Roux, who the singer has been working with since 2006. Together, the duo have dominated the music scene back home in the U.K. since their album’s release- bringing back eighties Synth-Pop, taking the No. 2 spot on the Albums Chart, and having girls look up to Jackson as a role model, mimicking her iconic ginger hair-do.
“I love having the opportunity to affect people like that,” says Jackson. “I think sometimes musicians just forget that they have a responsibility to everyone who looks up to them. I hate it when you idolize somebody, and then find out something terrible- which then diminishes your view of them.
“As a fan, you just don’t wanna hear stuff like that. We all know that when we pursue this profession, one of the strings attached is that you will be looked up to by thousands.”
With that spotlight though comes the inevitability, according to Jackson, to always be stripped of privacy and be classified in a group or trend. It’s not a surprise then that she’s not a fan of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace- instead praises the days when there was a mysterious separation between the artist and the audience.
“Now its come to a point,” says Jackson, “where someone can find virtually almost anything about artists, actors and celebrities. But it’s not alright, when it comes to a point where fans feel like they have a right to your personal information.”
Later on tonight, Jackson is performing at Toronto’s Club Guvernment, where she would attract a packed house- while on tour to further promote her Platinum-status album in Canadian territories.
Despite it only being her second time here, Jackson enjoys the Canadian scene. Her first time here was actually this past summer for five days- one of which she spent performing at the Montreal Osheaga Music and Arts Festival. On the down-side Jackson says she became a bit homesick -considering it was the furthest she’d ever been away from home on tour- but on the up-side the experience introduced the singer to her growing North American fan-base.
“I was a bit surprised by the outcome at that festival,” says Jackson, “didn’t really expect that. It was a shock because I thought it was going to be like we come all the way to Canada to play in front of nobody- but it was the complete opposite.”
Although the festival’s 30-thousand-person outcome were mostly there too see the headliner Coldplay, Jackson still gathered an impressive crowd turn out.
After her show though, Jackson was told that there was one guy who missed her performance that really wanted to meet her in person.
That guy was none other than Coldplay front-man Chris Martin.
“We we’re so excited,” says Jackson, “but we had to leave immediately to catch a plane.”
“Fortunately we were playing the next day at the same festival as him in New York, so he asked us to meet him there. So the next day, we all went behind the stage to this huge village that he had to himself, and we waited at his cabin, and finally got to meet him. He was just coming back from Yoga, and he was saying how he really liked us and wished he could have seen us perform.
“He’s such a brilliant songwriter and performer,” she adds.
According to Jackson, the sole problem with that first trip to North America, was the act of traveling city-to-city by airplane- it didn’t mesh well with her fear of flying.
But when the singer found out that she would be touring all across the country this fall by tour-bus, she was immediately ecstatic. Not too mention that the set of wheels would also happen to be Barack Obama’s former 2008 Presidency election-campaign bus.
“I was definitely looking forward to it more,” she says with a wide smile, giving a quick look all around the inside of the bus.
Jackson turns beside her. Leaning against the window is Langmaid with big headphones over his ears, busy listening and configuring new beats for the band on his laptop. The duo is scheduled to begin writing material for the second album in their manager’s house, but they haven’t actually sat down to brainstorm anything yet- too much being out n’ about performing around the world.
They do have a small break in January to wind-down though, only to then hit the road again on their 34-show 2010 spring tour. In order to give some more face-time back home, the band decided to include a slew of 11 shows within the main circuit that will be played in the U.K, and dubbed The Gold Tour.
“For all we know it won’t live up to it’s name,” Jackson says laughing about the U.K. tour title. “It sounds like something Prince would use for his final tour. I kind of wanted to save it for when I’m like 50-years-old, but I can’t, I just want to pull it off now.”
The band will begin the spring tour on February 1 with seven North-American shows (three of them Canadian), trek all across Europe starting on February 20, kick off the exclusive U.K. Gold Tour from April 25-May 11, and then finish off the overall circuit on May 13 in Paris, FR.
But despite the epic sounding spring tour, and despite the probability that the band’s eventual follow-up album will cling onto music charts across the globe- someone, somewhere, will still try to bring Elly Jackson down for her choice to find her own way to success, rather than follow industry instructions.
But she’s begun to accept it. She admits that it can’t be avoided, “no matter how hard you try,” Jackson says with a smirk on her face.
The singer takes a peek again outside at the grey skies and blustery winds. At first glance, she’s the girl who’s trying to shut out the world, but look a bit closer and you’ll see that she’s just embracing life to its fullest.
Free-thinking, writing successful music, and rising high above the haters.