Anna Calvi on scoring ‘Peaky Blinders’ season five: “I really felt like I was Tommy Shelby”

"There's something intrinsically weirdly genderless about him as a character"

We meet Anna Calvi just after she steps off stage at the first Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival, following a sun-scorched set that saw her joined on stage by Savages’ Jehnny Beth and Richard Hawley. All three of them feature on the soundtrack to Peaky Blinders season five. All three of them match Cillian Murphy’s description of the ideal ‘Peaky’ artist: to be an outlaw or an outsider.

“It was a dream to have both of them on stage with me,” Calvi tells NME. “That’s what great about artists like this – they find each other somehow.”

In prison, perhaps?

“Possibly!”

Those who have been watching will now be well-acquainted with Calvi’s impact on season five of Peaky Blinders. Having penned the score, her dramatic breaths, guitar virtuosity and cinematic soundscapes are now indelibly married to the tortured psyche of Tommy Shelby.

“It wasn’t difficult, it was just a lot of fun,” she tells us. “It was incredible for it not to be about me and to really try and get into another character. When I was doing it, I really felt like I was him. I really got into the mindset of Tommy Shelby.”

What you were like around the house at that time?

“Moody! Very moody…”

Cillian Murphy as Tommy Shelby in ‘Peaky Blinders’ season five

On continuing her themes of blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity, Calvi says: “The idea of evoking something genderless is definitely something that I explored on my record [2019 album] ‘Hunter’. There’s something about Tommy that’s not just his wife or Lizzie making him have a feminine mind. There’s something intrinsically weirdly genderless about him as a character. Maybe it’s because it’s not about him saying things – you feel his thinking just by his stare.

“You’re almost a shadow to the character.”

With director Anthony Byrne confirmed to helm Peaky Blinders season six, does Calvi fancy sorting out the music again?

“I’d love to.”

Perhaps a cameo this time too?

“I feel that I’d look pretty cool in all the Peaky clothes. Maybe I could just be some kind of drunk whore in the background. I’d just want to glare in the back.”

She adds: “I just want to see how dark it can get. Push Tommy to the edge, and then even further. You’re really rooting for him, even when he’s being terrible. That’s an amazing thing for Cillian as an actor to pull off.”

Anna Calvi at The Legitimate Peaky Blinders Festival 2019

As for her own new material, Calvi assures us that it won’t be another five years for her to release another album. She’s already at work on her next record, and claims it has somewhat of a ‘Peaky’ feel to it…

“A lot of the work I did for Peaky was me just playing around with the guitar to get some interesting soundscapes,” she adds. “That’s whet my appetite to do more of that.”

Watch our full video interview with Anna Calvi talking Peaky Blinders above at the top of the page