Dua Lipa: ‘Moving from Kosovo on my own at 15 gave me so much to sing about’

The ethereal popster on stepping out of Lana Del Rey's shadow.

Dua Lipa talks about her new single Last Dance – Loaded
New Love London-born pop sensation Dua Lipa looks set for big things.

Dua Lipa sits stirring a cup of tea.

She’s gazing out of the window beside her and across Regent’s Canal in east London. It’s the morning after she finished her first tour with a sell-out show at London club Oslo, and her off-stage demeanour is a world away from the ethereal pop songstress she portrays when performing.

Calm and considered, she’s mature way beyond her 20 years. But, wearing a tiara, black leather jacket and choker, it’s clear she doesn’t save her otherworldly dress sense purely for the stage.

Kosovan-born, London-raised Lipa – it’s her real name and means “Love” in Albanian – is sat at a large glass table at her manager’s office, surrounded by Lana Del Rey merchandise.

“It makes you wonder who else they manage,” she laughs. Much has been made of the pair sharing the same management. However, as much as similarities can be drawn against some of the visual aspects of Del Rey’s work, Lipa’s music lives in a entirely its own world.

After last October’s single Be The One racked up three million views YouTube views, as well as her tour selling out weeks in advance, it’s clear Lipa’s established herself as an artist.

“When you’re a new artist everybody tries to find something to compare you to,” Lipa explains. “I hope now my songs are starting to get out there that people will see we’re entirely different in terms of sound, and that if anything does put us in a box, it‘s only the management.”

Pushing in her own direction is something Lipa has had to get used to from a young age. In 2008, her family moved back to Kosovo. But two years later Lipa, realising there wasn’t much aside from her family to keep her there, moved back to London alone aged just 15.

“I realised I had to take everything into my own hands,” she explains. “It was scary. You feel homesick; you miss your family. But I came to a point where I knew I had to go out and get it on my own.

Dua Lipa tells Loaded that pop is no longer a dirty word
Getting lippy Dua Lipa tells Loaded that pop is no longer a dirty word.

“It was really fun, as I got to live with my friends. Every time I had them round me, it was fine. But then when I was alone I was suddenly like ‘Shit’. But all these experiences mean I can write much more emotive music.”

And a lot of Lipa’s “Screw you” songwriting is exceedingly worldly-wise.

“Around the time I was writing a lot of the music, I was working at a hostess in nightclubs in London,” she explains. “I’d finish at 3am, get in a cab home, then wake up early the next morning and go to the studio. I’d literally be recounting things from the night before. And London nightlife gives you great stories.”

Lipa has been working in the studio with producers Andrew Wyatt and Emile Haynie, who have worked with artists including Del Rey, FKA Twigs, Eminem and Charli XCX. The result is an amorphous sound pulling influences from hip hop, R&B, soul, pop, house and myriad other reference points.

The first artists she fell in love with were Nelly Furtado and Pink, and she possesses some of their badass attitude.

“I feel like a lot of that is integrated into my music,” Lipa explains. “But I don’t think you can pinpoint my sound. It doesn’t sound like any one thing. I listen to a lot of hip-hop, and love people like Action Bronson, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar.

“So I guess what ties it all together is that element of rappers telling a story. That’s what I try do to: capture that truth and realness behind those voices. That’s how I see it when I describe it as dirty pop.”

It’s the perfect summary of what looks set to break her in the mainstream.

“Pop used to be such a dirty word,” she ponders. “It’s gone from almost being a swear word to something really cool, as people realise credible artists make pop now. Diplo is pop. If you think about it, even David Bowie was. And people aren’t afraid of the fact that they love Justin Bieber now. That all means I can proudly say I’m a pop artist.”

Dua Lipa says she really found her sound when writing Last Dance – Loaded
Dark pop Dua Lipa says that it was whilst writing her latest single, at her lowest ebb, that she really found her sound.

As a purveyor of dark pop, Lipa wrote new single Last Dance during at her lowest ebb, recording in Toronto.

“It was pouring with rain, I was tired after a month away from home, in a city where I didn’t really know anybody. I just felt sick of it all. So that’s what I wrote about.

“It was the third track we did that day, and it just started flowing out. I didn’t know how it would finish up but, when we heard it back, we realised that’s where we really found my sound.”

What follows for Lipa is a busy year of more shows followed by her as yet untitled debut album, due this summer.

“Hopefully I’ll get to do some festivals too,” she concludes. “I went to Glastonbury last year and Outlook the year before that. Every time, I say I’m going to be on stage next time, but it feels like this could actually be the year it happens. It’s exciting.

“And I feel like there’s no limit now, like I could just keep going and going forever.”

Dua Lipa’s single Let’s Dance is out March 25. She headlines London Heaven on March 31, with other dates expected to follow.

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Loaded reporter Robert McCallum has written for many leading culture magazines and websites about music, sport, science, politics, fashion and arts. Follow Robert at @therobmccallum

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