Faith’s new album The Architect is out today. She talks to EDWIN GILSON about motherhood and why she’s getting political

PALOMA Faith is on a mission.

Determined to write “outside of myself” for the first time, instead turning her attention to current affairs, her new album The Architect is a state-of-the-world address. It tackles climate change to name just one hefty topic, with Faith taking on the persona of Mother Earth in the album’s title track – scolding the world’s population for its excess and carelessness.

“I will forgive you but I won’t forget/I will forgive you for the burden and neglect” goes the chorus. Crucially, there is redemption in the line; while the Mother Earth character makes her displeasure known in no uncertain terms, she also offers the lifeline of forgiveness. This is the ideological core of The Architect; the freedom to critique recent developments but also to extend an empathetic hand to those on the opposite side of social schisms. It’s the same with her song about Brexit, Guilty.

“I felt a duty to say something that might benefit the greater good rather than talk about myself all the time,” says Faith, who hit number two in the charts with both of her last two records. “In order to enforce change we need to come together. It’s important to me that I try and bridge gaps in the world.”

Faith says she is “disappointed” that more high-profile figures in her profession haven’t explored political upheaval in their work, but she understands why they might be worried about doing so. “People are afraid to do it because it sounds preachy and they might be misunderstood, but I don’t think anyone should feel scared of singing about the core values of love, empathy and compassion.”

The Architect is bolstered by an impressive cast of certified A-listers; John Legend, Samuel L Jackson, Sia and Guardian political writer Owen Jones all make cameos along the way. This roster is a sure sign of Faith’s ever-rising profile; since her breakthrough with debut album Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful? in 2009, which garnered comparisons to Amy Winehouse, Faith has been a judge on The Voice and starred in a number of movies.

According to the singer, attracting such lofty names to appear on The Architect didn’t seem like a big deal. “I’ve been doing this for quite a long time now,” she says nonchalantly. “I didn’t really notice the names until I had to do a lot of meetings when the record was finished. When I started reading out the collaborators to people, I realised there were quite a lot of famous faces.”

Faith was “adamant” that she wouldn’t write about love on this album – partly because it wouldn’t fit in with the thematic content elsewhere, but partly because she feels she has exhausted that topic for now.

“The moment you allow for that possibility, everyone wants you to write about love again, and that defeats the point of wanting to write about the world around us.” There is also the added bonus of not having to answer questions about her personal affairs quite so often. Last year, Faith and her partner Leyman Lahcine welcomed a baby daughter into the world. “Writing this way, I get a break from talking about my private life,” says Faith. “But not much happens when you have a young child anyway – you’ve got to stay with the father and it’s a bit boring.”

The idea of emerging back into the showbiz world after giving birth was a source of considerable anxiety for Faith, even if she had a lot of support from her management. “We had to work around things like breast milk pumping,” says Faith. The biggest trial Faith encountered as the promotional treadmill for The Architect started up was an appearance on Jonathan Ross’s television show. It was nothing personal, she says, but the whole occasion was overwhelming.

“That was the first time [after having a baby] that I had been viewed by the public and it was difficult. Obviously you’re still the same person but so much has changed. I felt vulnerable. In order to be a good parent you have to open your heart wider than it’s been opened before and be gentle and kind and soft. But by doing that, you’re more vulnerable and open to criticism whereas before I might have been a bit harder.”

I wonder if any part of Faith’s emphasis on empathy is informed by her new daughter and wondering what kind of universe she’ll grow up in (not that anyone needs a reason for desiring a more harmonious world).

“Maybe,” she says. “I think you naturally start to do that when you’ve become a parent – it’s inevitable. Maybe that’s fed its way into my work.” When Faith wrote her song Guilty – which is told from the perspective of a “leave voter” – she spoke to as many leavers as possible to get a sense of why they did it. Although the song’s title might sound like it’s pointing a finger at those people, the lyrics refer to the “awful lie” that, in Faith’s view, was constructed by pro-Brexit politicians and the media.

“The song doesn’t have any kind of alienation in it,” insists the singer. “I voted ‘remain’ and I felt empathy for those who voted ‘leave’ rather than anger. That’s the core lesson of what I’m trying to say – can we not understand each other rather than be so quick to conflict? It was clear we shouldn’t have voted ‘leave’ but I don’t have a feeling of superiority. I was just shocked. I didn’t think the vote would go that way.”

Brexit seems to have been the catalyst for Faith’s renewed political focus, although, as she points out, she has always taken an interest in the way the country is run. In 2009, she appeared on the BBC programme This Week with Michael Portillo and Diane Abbott. It turned out to be a rather scarring experience for Faith – but now she feels vindicated about the ideas she expressed on the show.

“I said it was important to reintroduce vocational education, because students shouldn’t be made to feel lesser because the school system doesn’t fit with how their brains work. That’s what I said and they really scoffed at me and made out I was some kind of weird, unintelligent person.”

And that wasn’t the end of the injustice, or indeed of Faith’s humiliation. A Telegraph article about the programme poured salt in the wounds. “The analogy they used was that it was like a child had been brought down to a dinner party for entertainment purposes. And now what’s happening? The Tories are talking about vocational training.”

Faith is a big fan of London mayor Sadiq Khan because he “represents modern Britain”. As for Jeremy Corbyn, she appreciates the way he has politicised the youth – who previously “shrugged their shoulders” – but thinks he is “outdated” in that “he’s talking about things he’s been talking about since the 1970s”. This perceived failure to modernise, she adds, is widespread throughout the entire political system. She talks for a little while about the shake-up that is needed.

“People at the top end need to be less public school, it needs to be less of a boy’s club. There needs to be more clarity and politicians need to explain what they feel rather than all this ‘rah rah rah’ on Prime Minister’s Questions. It’s irrelevant how intellectual these people sound – they’re alienating people.”

If Faith’s new album goes down the way she would like, The Architect will have the opposite effect. As the bitter wounds of post-Brexit Britain show no signs of healing, we could surely all benefit from embracing Faith’s empathetic touch.

Paloma Faith, Brighton Centre, March 12,