La Roux: 'I look back at my career as a catalogue of errors'

A decade after La Roux stormed the electropop scene with a series of chart-toppers, Elly Jackson explains why she’s going it alone

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:48 pm

Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:48 pm
Elly Jackson became an instantly recognisable popstar, complete with trademark orange quiff (Photo: Andrew Whitton)

“You’re never going to get sympathy from anyone when you work in the music industry,” says Elly Jackson, the sole remaining member of La Roux. “Forget it. You could get half-murdered by your record label and everyone would be like: ‘So? You still get to go on stage, you don’t have to work in an office.’ So there’s no point in passing the blame and looking like you’re some victim to some massive company, cos they’d be like: ‘Give a f**k? I don’t think so.’”

“That’s how I see it, a catalogue of errors, with some kind of all right moments in between, where I just about got away with it.”

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In 2009, a 21-year-old Jackson and her now-departed bandmate Ben Langmaid exploded on to the British electropop scene with their single “In For the Kill”.

Jackson’s new sound adds a funky side to the electro pop in 2010 (Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty)

Their self-titled debut album, which also featured the chart-topping “Bulletproof” and “I’m Not Your Toy”, was nominated for the Mercury Prize along with a string of other awards, winning a Grammy and selling a staggering two million copies worldwide.

Now 31, Jackson became an instantly recognisable popstar, complete with trademark orange quiff, and her personality – “a gobby little shite” – while hugely entertaining, occasionally landed her in a spot of bother.

“I have got in trouble. Because sometimes I like winding people up. Some of the things that it looks like I’ve said, I read it now and I’m like: ‘Oh, it’s abhorrent’. If I read it and I didn’t know me, I’d be like, ‘You’re an absolute c**t, you’ve got real issues and you need to chill out’.

“Just before I was meant to support Lily Allen on tour, somebody asked me if I liked her music and I said something like, ‘No, it’s not very cool’, or something,” she says. “I was so bothered about looking cool when I was 21. And then obviously she saw it, and I hadn’t met her yet, and I had to call her and apologise. It was really embarrassing.”

‘Leaving a 10-year relationship is like some sort of rebirth; you’re so fragile, flailing around’

It took five years for the follow-up, the aptly named Trouble in Paradise, to arrive, but, while critically praised, it failed to scale anywhere near the commercial heights of its predecessor, and Langmaid left the band. La Roux, now comprising Jackson alone, was then “half-murdered” – summarily dropped from her label via a letter that arrived on her doormat on New Year’s Day 2015.Far from laying into them – “Artists slagging off their labels – oh god, snore, how many times? I think fans are getting bored of it” – she sees it as a blessing.

“For a little while, I had quite a lot of money – I’m broke now – and, you know, visible success. But I wasn’t really that happy,” Jackson explains. “Like, I really, really hate the ‘Bulletproof’ video. I really don’t like parts of my performance in the other videos. I really don’t like some of the artwork…” She continues to list her regrets – it’s something she seems to do often.

“[When the label dropped me], my manager was like: ‘Elly, you just can’t carry on having these things where you look back, and you’re pissed off about this, and you’re pissed off about that’,” she says. “But for me, these are immense failures, I can’t get over them – and everything now is righting those wrongs, otherwise I just feel like I’m making the same errors again and again and again, and it kills me.”

Jackson describes the writing process of Supervision as a period of ‘discovering’

An initial attempt at recording a third album was shelved when, two years after she was dropped, a long-term relationship came to an end, too.

“I changed my life so much, I removed everything from it, stripped it all back and started again. Leaving a 10-year relationship is like some kind of weird rebirth where you have to learn how to be a human again, in a whole new way; you’re so fragile, flailing around, crying.”

It was the final motivation she needed to press the reboot button, and the laid-back funk-and-soul-tinged Supervision was the result, recorded over the space of four months, entirely in her kitchen in Brixton.

She still lives a short walk from where she grew up – her parents are the actors Trudie Goodwin, who played Sgt June Ackland on The Bill, and Kit Jackson, who taught her the guitar at the age of five. Appropriately, it feels more free and relaxed than her first two albums – lead single “International Woman of Leisure” channels George Michael’s funkier moments, while you can imagine Chic’s Nile Rodgers nodding along approvingly to the loungey “Otherside”.

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“I was at home suddenly on my own, no studio after all these years of having all this equipment – and I was like, hang on a minute, why have I only got a f**king old laptop and some crap old version of Logic?’ And I thought: ‘You know what, this is a great thing. Why do you need a big studio? You don’t need any of that stuff to write good tunes, it’s ridiculous. This is the amount of stuff you had when you were a teenager.’”

She remembers La Roux starting when she was 17, listening to Radio 1 with Langmaid. “We just sat there and were like: ‘Oh, come on. Let’s make some music that’s better than this, cos this is absolute bollocks.’”

Jackson describes the writing process of Supervision as a period of “discovering”. “It felt like being a teenager again. It’s like my new first [album]. For me, those years before I was visible in any way were golden years – no one’s expecting anything from you, you’re just having an experience of music, and yourself and your growth. Especially when you’re a teenager, every day is like ‘Whoa, wow, I feel this!’, it’s just constant, which is why young people are such successful writers, because they’re discovering so much all the time.”

She has no desire to re-enter the big machine, choosing instead to release the record on her own independent label, Supercolour, with a small, trusted team around her and total control over the campaign.

“I’ve tried it being successful and having assets I don’t like and I realised that I’d rather have assets I do like and be less successful – or not care how successful I am. I’ve always wanted to do something different, I’ve never been the kind of person who has liked what other people like. I’ve always kind of been driven by hatred of things. People say hate’s bad, I’m like: it can’t be that bad cos it’s served me quite well!”


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