Talking Shop: Eliza Doolittle
- 13 July 2010
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Pop singer Eliza Doolittle scored her first ever top 20 single on Sunday with Pack Up, a lilting summer groove based around the music-hall tune Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag.
With a sunny disposition and a cor blimey accent, the 21-year-old sounds like her Pygmalion namesake covering the hits of Lily Allen.
In reality, she comes from a prestigious theatrical background. Her father is RSC director John Caird, her mother is Les Mis star Frances Ruffelle, and her grandmother is Sylvia Young.
But she took an early decision to quit the family business and pursue a career in pop, as she told the BBC.
Hello, Eliza, how are you today?
I'm in Ireland for the Oxegen festival and I seem to have lost all my crew, but I'm doing good!
You're named after a character in a play, your parents live and breathe the theatre, so why are you slumming it in a muddy field singing pop songs?
I did a little bit of theatre when I was younger. Small roles here and there. But I got bored of doing the same things eight times a week. I wanted every day to be a different day.
What age were you when you started singing?
I was always singing, whether it was in the car or at school plays. Then, when I was 12, I realised I was going to have to get a job of some kind, so I said, "well, I'll have to become a singer, then". And I just went for it straight away.
I started writing and as soon as I had a few songs under my belt, I started gigging.
How do you go about writing a song?
I tend to write at the piano but usually the melody and the lyrics come first.
Like, I'll be in the shower and I'll start singing and the melody and the lyric will just come out. Then I'll quickly try to finish the shower, try to remember it, record it on my phone and save it for the studio.
Do you ever listen back to something you've recorded on your phone and think "what on earth is that?!"
Oh, all the time! But it's good to get those ideas down - because one of them might be a smash hit, and you don't want to lose it.
How did Pack Up come about?
That was more studio-based because, at the time, I was in the studio nearly every day. There were ideas flying about all the time, so we just got cracking with that one.
Where did you get the idea of sampling Pack Up Your Troubles?
It's not actually a sample - it's my friend Lloyd singing! We just took the lyric from the old wartime song, and we changed the melody a little bit. We also changed the lyric from "smile, smile, smile" to "bury them beneath the sea".
But I like that everyone thinks it's a sample. It gives it that old, retro kind of vibe.
I'm not surprised people think it's a sample - he has a really authentic Louis Armstrong-type voice. Does he have his own band?
He's a session singer. He went on tour with Take That and he does a lot of gospel stuff. He's got the best voice I've heard for a while.
The video is sun-kissed and bleached out. Where did you film it?
It was in Jamaica and, oh my God, the food was amazing! I'm vegetarian so I didn't have any jerk chicken or anything, but I did have some bean soup, and jerk vegetarian wraps and stuff. It was so yummy!
Was it easy to get work done out there? The island has a reputation for being very relaxed.
That's what I had heard, too, but it wasn't like that at all. Everyone was really on it. They were working hard, really fast.
Now, what's this I hear about you being a big poker player?
I love poker! I got into it through a couple of my friends who used to play tournament games for fivers. I'm not the best at it, to be honest.
What's the biggest wipe-out you've had?
Two hundred pounds?
Yes... But that was the only time I'd ever been to a casino and it was really difficult. The buy-ins were like £1 every time, so it went really quickly. I just got wiped out straight away.
How did you feel when you walked away?
Terrible! I just thought, "I could buy an amazing outfit with that money but… oh well".
Finally, if you could pack up one trouble into your kit bag and get rid of it forever - what would it be?
I'm always worried about my friends and family being unhealthy. So I'd take all the illnesses in the world, put them in the bag and chuck them away.
Eliza Doolittle's single, Pack Up, and her self-titled album are both out now on Parlophone Records.