Published: 9 August, 2012
by ROISIN GADELRAB
At 12, Delilah was pushed onstage at the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town by a family friend, where she nervously played piano to an awed crowd.
At 14, she returned with a full band.
Now 21, Delilah’s debut album, From The Roots Up, has just been released, she’s a veteran of live performances and is on such good terms with Prince that he cooked her tomato pasta after inviting her on tour.
Speaking from Camp Bestival, just after performing, Camden girl Delilah tells how she has turned the rest of the trip into a huge family reunion, taking her mum, aunties, cousins, friends, little sister and her grandmothers, despite them never having camped before.
Delilah was born in Paris where her mother, a Londoner, met her father while a student.
Although her parents separated and Delilah and her mother returned to London, she lived in Paris for some time, French being her first language.
Back in England, she attended Hampstead’s New End School, growing up around Camden’s underground scene.
“My stepdad was a DJ and my mum was around the underground music scene,” she says. “He had an independent record label and used to run a club in Camden called WKDs where the video games shop is by Sainsbury’s.
“Loads of people played there – Oasis and SWV. It was where I kind of grew up, by the DMs shop, and hanging around, if not doing sport then probably getting up to no good.”
Although she swears she’ll take the details to her grave, Delilah says: “I went to various secondary schools because I was a little bit of a troublesome teenager.
I had to stay away from my friends in local schools because I was in a bad bunch and my mum thought it was better that she separate me. I moved around but I was in a lot of Camden sports squads. I did London Youth Games for Camden.”
Recalling her first ever gig, she says: “It was the Jazz Cafe, I was about 12 years old, I started writing at about 12.
“I got pushed up onstage by a family friend and promoter, and I played piano for everyone. I was so nervous so he sat next to me, but it was good.”
However, there may have been some nerves when Prince called her up recently.
Delilah says: “He heard my music, called me personally and said he’d like me to come on tour. It was kind of nuts. I answered the phone and he said, ‘Hi, this is Prince’. He’s got a likeable voice, he doesn’t sound like you’d think. He doesn’t sound like Michael Jackson at all. He has a very deep, low voice.”
Delilah admits she didn’t expect to see much of Prince.
“We were hanging out every single day and night,” she says. “I didn’t get much sleep but we spent a lot of good times chatting and partying, chatting about music and what we like and the industry. We hung out mainly in his hotel or the venues or basically just chilling. He made me tomato pasta. He was lovely.”
Although only 21, she had a very clear idea of the direction she expected the album to take.
She says: “It’s so nerve-wracking. It’s almost 10 years in the making, it’s been like my musical diary. It’s quite scary to get it all out there but I hope people give it a chance and have a listen.
“I worked quite hard on it, writing and producing. I’m sort of involved in every part but I wanted it to not be glossy, to not be, ‘we’ve spent a ton of money on making this big commercial record’.
“I wanted it to be this true vulnerable first record, to have that honesty and integrity I sometimes feel is lacking in a lot of pop artists.”