It would be easy to mistake Dido as being as mellow as her music – but don’t.
In our chat, the British singer-songwriter – promoting her first album in five years, Girl Who Got Away – didn’t just chat about her gay fans and the Eminem song that launched her career. We found out what turns the musically meek songstress into an angry beast. Let’s just say this: Tequila makes Dido dangerous.
Welcome back, Dido.
Thank you very much. It’s nice to be back.
When did you recognize you had a gay following?
Pretty instantly, I would say. I’ve always had a very loyal gay following, which I’m very thankful for.
Do you have a lot of gay people in your own life?
Oh yeah, tons. I mean, friends, work people, everybody.
(Laughs) No, not everybody, but a huge amount. I’m surrounded by very good people.
Two of your biggest singles, “Thank You” and “Don’t Leave Home,” are wedding favorites.
It’s funny: I think “Don’t Leave Home” at a wedding is just completely weird. It surprises me that anybody has that at their wedding. It’s a song about being incredibly claustrophobic. (Laughs) People are like, “I’ve played that at my wedding,” and I’m like, “Why, if I can be honest?” I guess it’s the title. “Thank You,” though, is a perfect wedding song, and I’ve actually sung it at quite a few friends’ weddings. But if someone asked me to play “Don’t Leave Home,” I’d just be like, “Really?”
Have you ever sung at a gay wedding?
I haven’t actually, no. I haven’t really sung at many weddings. It takes quite a bit of alcohol and coaxing to get me to sing at anyone’s wedding.
What kind of alcohol?
Back then I used to drink quite a lot of tequila, but then that all went a bit wrong and I found that’s just the one thing I cannot drink. So now I like to drink wine. Does that mean I’m getting old? It probably does. (Laughs) But tequila makes me get into fights.
Tequila makes you fight?
Yeah! It used to make me weirdly aggressive – and I’m like the most unaggressive person ever. (Laughs) But tequila makes me quite angry.
But, Dido, you seem so mellow.
It takes so much to piss me off. Someone’s gotta poke at me quite a lot to get me even remotely angry, but if I have tequila, I’ll just get angry at the next person who comes around.
How personal is Girl Who Got Away in relation to your other three albums?
All my albums are pretty personal. You can’t help your life filtering into your songs – or if you’re me, you can’t. I can’t help it. I’m a very open person. I’m very honest in life and I’m very honest in my music, as well. I think I’m always going to write that way.
Who is the “girl” and who/what/where is she trying to get away from?
Actually, my brother (Rollo Armstrong) is the “girl who got away,” and he wrote most of those lyrics.
There’s some gender-bending going on there.
(Laughs) Definitely! I love that song (“Girl Who Got Away”). He sent me the lyrics and I just remember reading it thinking, “I love this song.” It’s about so many things: about how I used to feel, that sort of restless feeling, that feeling of maybe there’s another life somewhere and that feeling of wanting to be exceptional but not quite reaching it. It’s my favorite song. But then, as far as the title of the album, it’s also about everyone reaching out to me (saying) that I keep disappearing, and it was quite a good comment on that. I don’t think I was disappearing, but everyone else thought so.
Maybe because it’s been five years since you released an album. What’s your life like when you’re away from music?
I’m never really away from music. I might be away from the public eye, but I’m never away from music. I’m always making it, I’m always writing it, I’m always playing it, and then obviously it builds up into an album and I put it out and I’m back in the public’s consciousness. And then I’m out of it again.
I took a bit of time between albums two and three just because I realized I’d been on the road for nine years at that point and that it was probably time to go home and clean up the mess I left, and so I took a bit of time in making the third album. But actually, this record I put together quite quickly. Then in the middle I had a baby. You know, a small event. (Laughs)
How do you feel before an album drops?
Oh my god, I’m so excited. I’ve only put out three records in my life; this is only my fourth, and so this is still so fresh and exciting to me. It feels like the first time I ever put a record out. I’m really proud of this album. I feel like it’s my best record. It was such a fun record to make. Me and my brother just had such a brilliant time. I’m so lucky to have my brother as my producer. It’s just a happy record for me.
What kind of place in your life were you at when you recorded the song “Let Us Move On”?
You know how we all go around saying life is short? I remember saying once, “Life is actually really long, and not in a bad way but in a good way.” When things are just really dark, when you look back on it, this will be such a small moment in your life. You know when something’s so huge you can’t get past it? Actually, it’s not. It’s just a very small part of a very big life.
Your debut, No Angel, obviously had such a huge impact on your career, as did your featured spot on Eminem’s “Stan.” Did you worry about the possible repercussions of performing with one of the most controversial entertainers at the time?
I didn’t, because when I met him he was so respectful to me and treated me so well. I saw integrity. I think he’s one of the greatest storytellers around; so, no. As a real fan of his music, I have a lot of respect for him musically, and he treated me well. That, for me, was enough. I just really enjoyed working with him.
You had mentioned to Playboy once that people kept asking you about your feelings on the misogyny and homophobia in his music. Working with him, did you feel sucked into that controversy?
I didn’t really feel sucked into it, to be quite honest. I’d heard that he was making a social commentary on things and I just thought he was a great storyteller and I didn’t get too sucked into it. Isn’t that, I guess, why he performed with Elton John at the Grammys?
Yeah, he was debunking the homophobia talk.
Yeah, exactly. I go on the person I see in front of me, and he was really not a misogynist to me at all. Quite the opposite. Just utterly respectful – and all the people around him were utterly respectful, as well.
Many of your songs have been featured on television and in film. For you, what’s a standout scene that included one of your songs?
Being played during 127 Hours was really cool. While I was watching it, I was wincing and listening to my song and thinking, “This is so wrong but so good.” That was a thrill being nominated for an Oscar. A dream thrill. Sliding Doors was the first song I had in a movie, and that moment was most exciting for me because I had never heard myself used in a film before.
They used the same song, “Thank You,” during the love scene with Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone in If These Walls Could Talk 2. Have you seen that?
What’d you think of your song being used during a lesbian sex scene?
That was really cool! There have been so many good uses. It’s just been brilliant, and I’ve been really lucky.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.