The bridge of Paris Paloma’s ‘Labour’ is a moment of true catharsis. Depicting a tale of a woman that has been forced into taking on all the emotional labour in a relationship, the folk-pop tune slowly unravels over gossamer instrumentals, before erupting into a powerful chant: “All day, every day, therapist, mother, maid / Nymph, then a virgin, nurse, then a servant”. By the time we reach the peak of the chorus – “It’s not an act of love if you make her / You make me do too much labour,” Paloma repeats – the song has asserted itself as a genuine rallying cry.
‘Labour’ has evolved into a bonafide hit: it recently reached the Top 30 in the UK charts, has racked up over 35 million streams on Spotify alone, and soundtracked over 40,000 TikTok videos. “It’s become something that’s a lot bigger than me,” Paloma says of the track’s continued success. The Derbyshire-born artist is Zooming in from a family weekend away in Cheltenham, chatting to NME on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon. “That’s one of the highest honours as a songwriter that you could have happen with a song; because as a person, you’re quite small, but songs can become very big.”
She’s not wrong. ‘Labour’ has struck a chord with with TikTok users, with the song’s audio allowing them to convey their own personal stories of misogyny. “I was watching a video before this interview, from this girl who was talking so beautifully about ‘Labour’ and how she felt it really applied to the misogyny that she’d seen in Desi culture,” Paloma says. “It is so powerful to me that people have applied such personal experiences to the track. It’s been this vehicle for women, and people of all sorts of areas, to resonate with the topic.”
Evoking the vivid, quietly powerful lyricism of artists like Florence Welch and Hozier, Paloma switched from creative writing to producing songs in her early teens. Continuing to write songs throughout her time at university, she now offers poignant tracks that touch on gender theory and feminism (‘Labour’, ‘The Fruits’) and mythology (‘Narcissus’) – all with a real modern edge.
NME: In a TikTok clip, you explained ‘Labour’ is inspired by Madeline Miller’s 2018 novel ‘Circe’. Does literature heavily influence your lyrics?
“Yeah, I definitely think so. I was studying fine art before doing music. I was doing music at the same time but not publicly. When I was younger, actually, I wanted to be a writer, and at some point in my early teen years, my hobby for creative writing turned into songwriting because I found it was a more emotional way for me to convey things, and also have that sense of narrative and world building.
“There’s definitely genres that I would say really influenced my style of songwriting. I’m a big fan of gothic literature. I have a nice little line in one of my songs that directly references ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier. I think literature is such a rich informant of songwriting.”
How have you coped with the success of the track?
“I think as an artist there’s defining moments in your career, and sometimes it’s difficult to notice them when they’re happening. Most of the time it’s retrospective; but I know this is a really pivotal point in my music career and my relationship with my listenership, and that’s amazing. I feel very lucky to be aware of it as it’s happening.”
Where’s the wildest place you’ve heard – or seen – ’Labour’?
“I really need to start watching Game of Thrones because this happened with ‘Labour’ and [previous single] ‘The Fruits’ – they both get used very heavily for House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones fan edits online. I swear to god I know so much about that show just through watching edits of my own songs. I’ve never seen that show, and I’m trying to piece together the plot, so let’s see if we can do it just by watching edits people make to ‘Labour’!”
You studied Fine Art at university. Why did you make the switch to music?
“Whilst I loved art, there was this immediacy in the connection between myself and listeners to my music that I didn’t find in the fine art world. And the feeling of performing, and the feeling of building a song is just electrifying to me. Being in a room and making immediately this piece of music forming in front of you, and listening to it back and hearing what other people might hear. I just think I’m very lucky that that’s what I get to do.”
Are you currently working on new music?
“I think you can look towards having some new music out soon. As for larger projects, maybe in a little while. When ‘Labour’ came out, I wanted to make sure that what I was putting out after that felt like it followed strong enough. So I have actually gone back and made even more work than originally what I was planning on putting out, and yeah, I will hopefully have some new songs out soon.”
“I know this is a really pivotal point in my music career”
Sonically, will your new music follow on from ‘Labour’, or are there other genres you’re keen to explore?
“I have lots of songs – I’m thinking of one in particular, which might be out soon – which is very much everything that ‘Labour’ is not from what my other unreleased music sounds like. Genres are funny one. I keep talking to people recently and we’re finding that genres are – they’re not becoming redundant – but it’s becoming more and more difficult to define, with fewer words, what your genre is, and I think that’s a really exciting time to be in.
“I don’t feel very pigeonholed, and when I think about my genre, I think about so many words like ‘indie’, ‘folk’, ‘alternative’, ‘singer-songwriter’… I get ‘witch-pop’ sometimes. I’m looking forward to not being so prescribed to any single one thing.”
When people listen to your music, how do you want them to feel?
“I think I want them to feel heard, or held, and whether they’re listening to something like ‘Labour’ and it’s something so angry, I want them to feel like their anger is valid. If it’s something else, I want them to feel comforted, if it makes them cry I want them to feel held while they do that. I hope that my music can serve as a vehicle for a protective sphere in which to feel any emotions that need to be felt.”