there are no days off when you're dua lipa
Dua Lipa’s rapid rise to chart-topper hasn’t left her with much time to relax, but that hardly matters. The 22-year-old is looking forward to bigger stadiums, better shows, and the rare afternoons she’s able to spend in bed.
These days, a typical week in Dua Lipa’s life spans at least two time zones. The idea of spending almost an entire month in Australia is fairly novel, she tells us, thumbing the racks at the boutique where we’ve met. She’s in the country to open Bruno Mars’s sprawling 24K Magic stadium tour, and her label has squeezed in a laundry list of press appearances between show dates. Hardly a holiday, but a slower pace than she’s used to. “I actually got to go to the beach!” she laughs on a late night panel show filmed in Sydney.
Born in England to Albanian parents who’d earlier fled the Kosovo War, she returned to a more peaceful Kosovo at 11 with her family. Not long after Dua decided London would better furnish her musical ambitions, and at 15 she returned to live with an older family friend. From there she directed anyone she’d meet in the industry to her Youtube channel where she’d post covers of Christina Aguilera and Jessie J—women with similarly punchy, smokey voices. The peddling paid off, and Dua inked a deal at 18 while working in a SoHo restaurant. She quickly delivered a top-20 single, Hotter Than Hell, borrowing the hook from a post she saw on Tumblr. Last year, Dua’s self-titled debut album earned her a UK #1 with New Rules, and the most BRIT Award nominations of a female solo artist in history. (It’s sometimes mentioned that Dua didn’t write New Rules, though she did have a hand in 10 of the 12 songs on her record. In fact, she umd-and-ahd over recording the super-hit, anticipating the scrutiny she might face over authorship.)
Today we’re the last of two interviews, and until her performance with Mars that night, the afternoon in hers. After we say goodbye, she winds up at the National Gallery of Victoria, mobbed by a gleeful group of schoolgirls in a Yayoi Kusama installation.
Hi Dua, we’ve gotta get this burning fan question out of the way. We think Charli’s Pop 2 is so brilliant, and we know you guys have a friendship. Could we see a future mixtape, say a Pop 3, featuring Dua Lipa?
You know, we’ve been trying to get into the studio together for so long! Our schedules just don’t meet, and when we do see each other at parties we just want to, well, get drunk.
The scheduling masterpiece that was you on BBC 1 with Charli, Zara Larsson, MØ, and Alma—
— [Laughs] I can’t believe that worked out! I was in LA about do to that Live Lounge and thought, “I’m just going to reach out to my mates and see if they can make it,” and they were all like, “I have studio, but I’ll come down.” Zara happened to be in LA writing, someone told me she was in town, so I quickly messaged her too. MØ had a show in Salt Lake City with Cashmere Cat later in the day but she stayed in LA that the morning for us then flew out later. Tove Lo was even meant to do it but she had to fly to Sweden. Billie Eilish was even going to jump in but she was in New Zealand. It was so cool that everyone was so keen to collaborate, so cool!
A real blockbuster special.
We’re yet to figure out what our supergroup name is.
Ha. So have you essentially been on the road for three years now?
I’ve been on the road pretty much non-stop for two and half years now — and that’s before the album even came out. I have such a sick fanbase, ‘cause they’d come out and listen to songs that they’d never heard before. Then they’d record them and put them on Youtube, and through those videos people would learn the words, so I’d be playing shows with people singing along to songs I hadn’t even released yet. The internet is fucking amazing, basically. That was tour one, then the album came out so we did another tour, and after that we did it again, one more time. I’ll never get to do this again, have this experience of the first album, which is so interesting. You grow so much as an artist, you get so many ideas about what to do next.
And what sort of ideas have you been getting lately?
The crowds slowly grow bigger every time I tour, so I’m thinking about how to maintain an intimacy with my audience as the stages gets bigger. I get my energy from them, so when there’s a disconnect, it’s harder to perform. I started out on stages that were, you know, a few inches of the ground, with people right in your face — which is cool, it’s really rock and roll. As I tour with massive artists, I’m seeing how they keep that feeling of intensity and and closeness with the audience even while they’re on such massive stage. When I toured with Coldplay, I saw how they did it with pyro and effects — they made everything feel so euphoric. You sort of take notes, because that’s what I want to do — I want to be there with everyone. I feel grateful to be on such big stages, so I want to do it properly.
Hot tip, Robbie Williams was has lately been sitting on a giant boxing glove while he sings his ballads.
Yeah. He rides it into the sky.
That’s... kind of weird.
It is. A boxing glove is not a thing that particularly evokes flight either. Maybe he just had a big night and insisted on it the following morning…
And now while he’s sitting on he’s just thinking, “Why did I commission this?”
Exactly. How do you manage travelling as much as you do, having such short stays in different cities? Do you find you get the chance you do what you’d really like to while you’re in transit?
I don’t often get the opportunity to be in a place for a whole week — that’s what make this trip such a luxury, I don’t often stay in any country for more than a few days. My first two trips to Australia were for less than three days each, I think, and that can be a massive headfuck — to deal with the jetlag, to try and be present, and still try to see something new, because you’re in a beautiful place you’ve never been to before. I’m grateful for this stay in Melbourne, because there’s so much to do culturally, and I actually have time for it! Yesterday we went to the Justin Art House Museum, do you know it? It’s run by this couple who’ve been married for years and have been collecting art since they started dating. It’s all contemporary art, and they just live upstairs. It’s all very interactive, we were able to just sit down and talk and hang out with them. My manager actually tipped me off about that one.
And on those rare days off, where do you go in London to relax?
Primrose Hill. That’s my favourite place in London, it makes me feel really at home. When you walk to the top of the hill you can see the entire skyline. When I think of London I think of Primrose Hill. And my bed.