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Little Mix star Perrie Edwards talks new music, panic attacks and knitting

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The singer had just turned 18 when she auditioned for X Factor in 2011
If anyone can lift us out of the gloom, it's Little Mix. Britain's most successful girl band are breaking through the fug of self-isolation with a turbo-charged new single that goes by the self-explanatory title Break Up Song.It was written in a flurry of creativity last year - one of seven songs the band composed in a single day with their go-to writer (and former stockbroker) Camille Purcell.Straight away, it was earmarked as the first single on Little Mix's sixth album, which is also their first since splitting from Simon Cowell's record label, Syco, in 2018.Plans for the album are up in the air after the coronavirus outbreak put recording sessions on hold - but they decided to release Break Up Song anyway, in an attempt to keep their fans happy in uncertain times.
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Singer Perrie Edwards joined us on the phone from her house in London to explain what's going on; and how the split from Syco has given Little Mix permission to go back to their first love: pure, unfiltered, hands-in-the-air pop anthems.
Hey Perrie, how are you
Break Up Song is Little Mix's 24th single. In total, the quartet have sold more than 50 million records worldwide
It's immediately recognisable as a classic Little Mix song, but how did it come about?So basically, the story goes like this…Sometimes when we do writing sessions you're literally sat there, twiddling your thumbs, doodling on a piece of paper, pretending you're coming up with ideas while you're secretly going on Uber and ordering yourself a car home.Then there's other days when everything is flowing and it feels amazing. And this was one of those days. We went in the studio with Camille, who's like the fifth member of Little Mix, and we wrote about six or seven songs in one day. All completed, polished songs?Well, it was everything from rough ideas to little tiny demos, and one of them was Break Up Song. It was very basic at the time. The beat was all over the place and it was really, really rough - but it just had something about it. And we thought, "This has got to be the first single. Let's just bin everything we thought of doing before and roll with this."So it wasn't always destined to be the lead single?No, but we played the demo to our label and said, "This is going to be a smash - we just need to finish it." And they were going, "How can you tell it's going to be a hit when it's literally just a verse and the [main] line?"And we were like, "Trust us. Let us get a really good demo together, and we'll present it to you and see what you think". And as soon as we did that, everybody loved it. We felt really proud because it was our baby.I've always wondered how you divide up the singing in the studio. Do you each have specific strengths you play to?Back in the day we used to have a routine about who sang what but, since the last album, it's become almost a free-for-all.Like, I got to the stage where I was like, "Guys, I really don't want to belt out the big notes and the ad-libs all the time. I want to sing a verse, or something lower [in pitch] because I like to sing low as well". So we throw it all over the place now. I think it keeps it more exciting for us and the fans.
The band (L-R: Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jesy Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards) are due to play a stadium tour this summer
One of the lines Jesy sings in Break Up Song is: "I'll be good by myself / I'll find a way to dance without you." Obviously it was written before the lockdown, but it seems eerily appropriate this week.Exactly! It couldn't have come at a more perfect time. I think it'll uplift everybody at home, just jamming out to it. And, as if by magic, you've just gone viral by dancing with your boyfriend [Liverpool footballer Alex Olade-Chamberlain] on Instagram...[Laughing] I can't believe that went viral! I don't understand what made it so good.I think it's because you float up the stairs like you're in a 1950s Ginger Rogers film.Aw, I love that. It actually does. But we just did it as a laugh; and then it went massive.
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Precautionary self isolation can be fun? A post shared by Perrie Edwards ?? (@perrieedwards) on Mar 14, 2020 at 1:24pm PDT
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Is that your top tip for isolation, just dancing around the house
Little Mix won their second Brit Award, for the single Woman Like Me, in 2019
So what stage is the album at right now?To be fair, it was shaping up very nicely before the whole corona-situation happened. But there's still work to be done. If it was all finished and it was sat there, we'd say, "Do you know what? Let's get it out," but it isn't… Your last album, LM5, came out a day after you split from Simon Cowell's record company, but it was still on their label. A lot of fans felt it didn't get the promotion it deserved... What was your perspective?It was a weird time in our careers. There was a lot going on, but it's one of those things. We were proud of the album, we were happy with it and the fans seemed to love it.I think, moving forward with our music, instead of trying to mature our sound and try different genres, we're just going to do what makes us happy - which is pop and feel-good music like Break Up Song.Is that what happened with Syco? You were being pushed in a direction you weren't comfortable with?Hmmm... I think we just wanted to try something new. It was our fifth album and you get to a point where you want to switch up your sound, switch up your look, try different things. You don't want to keep doing the same stuff every day. You're basically in uncharted territory now. Girl groups don't usually last for three albums, let alone six.Thank you, yeah. It is pretty unheard of to do this well for this long, so we are really grateful. I think it's just down to friendship and hard work and dedication. Do you find people underestimate the amount of work you do?Exactly. I think people think we get on stage, we look pretty, and then we insert a memory card into the back of our necks and the performance just happens. I don't think they realise it takes weeks and months of preparation and rehearsal and time and effort. It's not easy being a pop star!
Each of the band auditioned for X Factor as a solo act before being put together as a four-piece, initially called Rhythmix
What was the diary like before you went on lockdown?It was intense. It's always the same in Little Mix world. Our schedules are normally planned out two years in advance.Wow. I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow, Perrie.Well now neither do I!That must be weird.It's a bittersweet situation. It's quite refreshing but it's also quite daunting because I'm used to having my life planned out for me. But it is quite nice not to think about work for a little while.You wrote a really powerful and brave Instagram post last year about your anxiety and panic attacks. How did that affect your ability to be part of the band?It's weird. It affected it in a huge way, but it also didn't affect it at all, if that makes sense?When the panic attacks got bad, I didn't want to leave the house. My mam and Sam, my manager, had to meet at my house to take me to work because I couldn't bear the idea of being in a car on my own. And I've always been really independent. I've always loved my own space. I lived near fields with nothing around me and that was my happy place. Then all of a sudden it slipped and now that's my idea of hell. So I like to be surrounded by people now because I feel like if I was to have a panic attack, it'd be better if I had somebody with me.So it messed up work in the day-to-day sense, but it's never affected being on stage, because performing's what I love to do. That's where I feel most comfortable and the most safe, I suppose.It must be hard, though, to get up on that stage after going through all that stress just to get there.It's the worst thing in the world. It's quite frustrating, 'cos if someone broke their leg, you wouldn't say, "Oh, just get on stage and perform, you're fine." But because you can't see anxiety, it's a mental illness, people don't necessarily believe in it as much.
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I’d like to open up about something. Venting your feelings is healthy and I want to be honest with you all. Over the past few years I have suffered really badly with anxiety and panic attacks. When I first started to feel the effects of anxiety I thought I was losing my mind and it terrified me. I felt so alone and like I was the first person in the world to ever experience it. - The first panic attack was so intense and overwhelming I felt like I was having a heart attack, I was so scared and confused and had no idea what was happening to me. I’m not sure what triggered that first one but it soon spiralled & I found myself in a really dark place, feeling alone and scared. I had people around me but I couldn’t explain to them what was happening to me or why. It affected me so badly that I didn’t even want to leave the house. I would step foot out the door and feel the overwhelming need to go straight back inside. It completely took over my life. - I’m happy to say that the physical attacks have stopped but unfortunately the anxiety still lives on. The reality is it probably always will. - I’ve had a relationship with my mind for 25 years now, so to feel it working against me sometimes makes me feel like a prisoner in my own head. It feels like the most unnatural thing in the world but the thing that helped me the most was discovering I’m not alone. I’m not the only person going through this. There are people all over the world feeling the exact same way I do! As soon as I realised I wasn’t going insane I felt more eager to beat it. I had therapy and I surround myself with my loved ones. Talking to someone relieves you of SO MUCH STRESS. I worked out coping mechanism’s and learned what the triggers are so that I can fight the attacks before they take hold. I restricted my time on social media which often made me feel trapped and claustrophobic. I took control of my life and accepted what I couldn’t control. - I don’t want to hide it anymore. I suffer from anxiety and I want you to all know if you suffer from anxiety you’re not alone ? A post shared by Perrie Edwards ?? (@perrieedwards) on Apr 17, 2019 at 8:55am PDT
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Has it subsided at all, or have you worked out ways to cope
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