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Keeping the Faith

'I'm an introvert pretending to be an extrovert," says Paloma Faith. If her live show, which comes to Dublin's Iveagh Gardens this week, is anything to go by, she's doing a pretty good job of it. The 25-year-old singer/actress pulls out all the stops on stage, adding a dash of Billie Holiday soul, a pinch of Amy Winehouse attitude and a smattering of Lady Gaga flamboyance to her own trademark 1950s big band jazz stylings, bringing down every house she plays.

But behind the scenes, Faith has a very different persona to the one she projects for her audiences.

"We're all performing, all of the time," she tells me, after we've got over the initial niceties. She says this with a chipper Cockney smile, yet there's a dark side to the sentiment.

"I think that everyone in the world is playing the role of whatever they do. If you met a fireman and he was really shy and timid, you wouldn't trust that he might be able to save your life. Firemen are all acting the role of confidence; it's not actually what they all are. All the secretaries, all the cleaners, all the doctors, dentists, postal workers of the world are all playing their roles. I think that the majority of the world is playing a game and lying."

Faith's mistrust in people is deep-rooted, as is her reliance on performance and her determination to be the very best. Brought up by her mother after her parents split up when she was just two, she hardly spoke until the age of 10. "Not because I couldn't," she says. "But because I was more interested in daydreaming instead.

"My mother had to force me out of it. She taught me social skills, bringing me to restaurants and getting me to order the bill or getting me to ring the electrician for her when I was a really young child."

The shift from pathological daydreamer to extreme extrovert came when Faith was a teenager, not because she suddenly found she wanted to entertain the world, but as a reaction to those who might take advantage of her quietness.

"I was so shy that I couldn't say no to anybody," she says. "I felt that I was being manipulated and I started to defend myself."

So much for the happy-go-lucky London girl portrayed by much of the media when Faith released her debut album last September. Its title, Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? ought to have been a hint that all was not as it seemed on the surface, but Faith's indomitable spirit and her chirpy chatter put everyone off the scent.

In the 10 months since the release, despite big hits with Stone Cold Sober (a kind of answer to Amy Winehouse's Rehab) and New York, it's been a bit of an uphill battle.

On failing to be nominated for a Brit Award last February, Faith let her frustration be known. "I just felt that, given the other people that were nominated, I deserved to be nominated too," she said, and the British tabloid press sniffed a field day. Suddenly Faith was said to be unable to get out of bed, crying all the time and binge-eating.

Voicing her inner feelings about the industry might not have been the wisest of choices, but Faith remains undeterred. "It all just rolls off me like water off a duck's back," she says. "I think that comes from the fact that I trained as a dancer, where you are being criticised the whole time."

Faith is competing for attention in an industry currently dominated by singularly self-determined women, from Florence And The Machine and Marina And The Diamonds to Duffy, Winehouse, Adele and the voracious Lady Gaga, not to mention pop divas Alexandra Burke and Leona Lewis.

"God forbid that more women should sing," says Faith with a touch of defensiveness, but later she relents and adds, "I don't feel threatened because that's a pointless exercise. If you challenge things and don't become stagnant, that's how you remain in the public eye and have a long-term career."

In the meantime there's a raft of performances to do, still promoting the first album, which continues to hold its own in the charts. She's excited about her Dublin show, but not only because of what she's heard about Irish audiences. Her support act just happens to be one of her idols, 70s disco superstar Candi Staton.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard," she says. "I thought it was a mix-up, like they got it the wrong way around. I'd love to do something on stage with her, but we won't meet before the gig, so we won't be able to rehearse something. But I'm going to speak to her about working with her in the future."

Don't be surprised if she gets her own way. With no illusions about the false realities of the world she's thrown herself into, Paloma Faith might be the woman who hangs on to the attention when the others have faded into the background.

Paloma Faith plays The Iveagh Gardens tomorrow night supported by Candi Staton, ticketmaster.ie