"I love Grace Jones. Have you seen the one where she comes down these massive stairs dressed as a teddy bear? If I ever have loads of money to do a stage show, the boys would be coming down in pyrotechnics, I'd be on a trampoline..."

Nearing 32, Brighton soul singer Alice Russell is enjoying a new found confidence, and her exhibitionist streak is making its way through.

"I have almost come to it a bit late because of maybe feeling not that good looking but as I'm getting older I don't care.

"I just want to enjoy that side of me, photo shoots and making videos. You should see my wardrobe. I love burlesque, Fifties' glamour, heels. I recently bought this sequinned boob tube and pantaloons - it looks nuts but that's what I want. You have just got to own it and get on with it."

The irony is, she continues, "You look at girls when they are 18 and they have got these amazing bodies but their eyes don't have it. Older woman have got that sassiness, they're at home with themselves."

Alice Russell's evolution as both a woman and a solo artist also sees her starting to take a more central role on her album covers.

Previously, the artwork for Under The Munka Moon, My Favourite Letters and Under The Munka Moon II has been subtle, intricate, swirly illustrations, with perhaps a doodled portrait of the artist, or her monkey mascot Munka, a soft toy she has coveted since childhood.

The emphasis has always been solely on the music, more often than not an eclectic mishmash of styles - the result of Alice working with an array of different producers. Alice herself remained an almost anonymous figure - pure voice.

But for her fourth album, which is as yet unnamed and not set for release until later in the year, you can expect to see Alice pictured in full glory.

"Sitting on a unicorn or something", she says, referring to her love of mythical creatures and magical realism.

Tomorrow, Alice will be performing with her full band which features the producer she is currently working with - Al Cowan aka TM Juke - on guitar, at Concorde 2 before jetting off Down Under on tour.

It will be her first gig in Brighton for more than a year.

Collaborations aside, says Alice, there is nothing like singing your own songs with your own band.

Like her first solo album My Favourite Letters, also written with TM Duke, her forthcoming record with local independent record label Tru Thoughts promises to be more cohesive - "a proper artist's album".

TM Juke complements her love of old soul with modern, up-to-the-minute beats.

"Al's good at twisting things on their head production wise," says Alice. "We pull each other in different directions."

The progression comes as Alice Russell is rapidly gaining the recognition she deserves in the UK.

The French and Australians started championing her some time ago. Tune into French radio station FIP (which can be picked up in some parts of Brighton on 98.5FM), and she is rarely off the airwaves.

There have been plenty of strident supporters here including DJ Gilles Peterson who called My Favourite Letters "one of the albums of the year" following its release in 2005 but, generally, it seems the UK has taken longer to catch on.

Very soon however, if things go to plan, Alice will be one of the featured artists on a new compilation album from Massive Attack which could raise her profile dramatically.

Founder member Daddy G recently got in contact with Tru Thoughts, sent Alice a track and asked her to write some lyrics for it.

While increasingly keen to go her own way, such collaborations have been the gatefold of Alice's career.

Tracks with Quantic of Quantic Soul Orchestra, Nostalgia 77 and Bah Samba have found her fusing sounds from uplifting jazz and funk to laidback hip-hop, blues and soul.

While Alice writes most of her own songs she is not afraid of taking on covers. Talking about her potent version of the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army which she did with Nostalgia 77, Alice says, "Songs like that come along which are so rare and timeless.

It's nice to have up-to-date lyrics - some of the young groups like Arctic Monkeys I love, they are genius. But you can't beat a timeless lyric.

"I think Jack White is one of those people, like Tom Waits, who comes out with lyrics that are delicious."

Gnarls Barkley's Crazy is another favourite. "Step aside from all the poptastic production, that for me is a timeless song.

The lyrics are so poignant."

Alice came to Brighton 12 years ago to study art and music. Originally from Framlingham in Suffolk, she grew up in a household full of music. Her father was an organist and this, combined with singing in various choirs, gave her a classical background.

Then Alice discovered Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Donny Hathaway and found her true voice.

"Gospel and soul and blues hit a chord with me and I just couldn't shake it," she says. "It's emotional music, about letting go.

Anything that's to the level of the most expressive you can get and the less controlled, the more I like it. Gospel to me is almost other worldly, whether you believe in God or not."

With her predominantly bluesy, soulful lament which encompasses everything from funk to gospel and jazz, Alice has become one of the UK's young soul rebels, rejecting the mainstream in favour of the independence and creative control afforded them by smaller record labels, and flourishing not on the sidelines but on stages of their choice.

Is there no chance of Alice selling out, even if as Tom Findlay of Groove Armada put it, "She should be more famous than Joss Stone"?

Although she loves the lyrical idea of "going to you spiritual desert, meeting the devil at the crossroads and selling your soul for a song", there is little chance of it actually happening.

"The scary thing about being on a major label is people putting you with producers and saying this is how we want it to be'.

"My Favourite Letters was recorded in TM Duke's bedroom in Brighton.

"Some of it is just what came out the first time I tried. It scares me when people try and take it out of your hands.

"I prefer to lay it all out and let the songs have their own life and see how they get on."

  • Alice Rusell featuring TM Juke and full band Concorde 2, Madeira Drive, Brighton, tomorrow, starts 7pm, £12. Call 01273 673311.