Sep 072013

Interview by Carlene Thomas-Bailey

The Observer, Sunday 25 October 2009


I’ve always been a bloody romantic, keeping my heart open after any knocks. I dust myself off and just go for it. It can be a while before I’m taken with someone, but once I’ve made the decision that I like them, then that’s it – I go for it. I’m not naive – I don’t let people walk all over me in the name of love – but when I’m in a relationship then I’m in it; I don’t play games.

My own sexuality was a journey for me. I grew up in a Jamaican household where it was assumed everyone was straight and if you weren’t, it wasn’t talked about.

My first crush was on a boy at school. I didn’t know about sex and all that stuff, but at the time if I could have pressed a button and had the boy in my bed, then I would have pressed it and never taken my finger off. He was delicious, a little black boy with gorgeous curly hair, and he dressed so well. He wasn’t one ofthe cool kids but I really liked him. He never knew though – I never told him.

I didn’t realise I liked girls until much later, when I was about 20 and I had this crush on a girl. Being bisexual didn’t occur to me. I didn’t know any gay people and I was one of those straight people with a terrible gaydar. I had grown up in a straight Christian household, so it never occurred to me that I could be gay. I thought I was just going through a phase. Then towards the end of the year it dawned on me that I would really like to kiss this girl and I might be gay. Then once I realised it, it was a bit of a relief, really. I was at university by this point too, so I was becoming wise to different types of people.

To me the most attractive quality in a partner is independence. I think intelligence and common sense are important too, but independence is key. Being a musician and travelling has affected my relationships, and it’s taught me that the biggest mistake I made was going out with people who were not emotionally independent, who didn’t have their own lives sorted out. People like that miss you all the time, and you realise they haven’t got their own thing going on, their own friends. When I’m away I miss loved ones, but I’m busy and I can cope with calling a love in the morning and then before going to bed, I don’t need to call them 10 times a day. I don’t need to be needed; I want to be wanted. I don’t like desperation, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned through trial and error that I can’t be in relationships like that.

Heartbreak is really painful. When it happens it feels like someone is ripping me open. I’m lucky though: I can use that emotion, put it into my craft, my lyrics and my performance – it’s an outlet for me. I’ve also got brilliant friends who are very supportive: they let me crack open a bottle of wine and discuss the break-up over and over again. That said, emotionally I am very brave – I seem to have this underlying knowledge that no matter how bad the heartbreak, I’ll survive, I can get over it.

Relationships are a huge part of my songs, but I try to steer clear of the lovey stuff. In my view, most relationships live in this grey area of life: there are moments when you are floating on air, and you’re probably a light colour, like yellow or white. The other side is when you’re sad or depressed in the relationship – that’s black. Then the rest of the time it’s mostly grey, complicated and hard – and I find that the most interesting part of love to talk about.

I dedicate “Jamaica Farewell” to Carlene and all lesbians in Jamaica.  Be proud, be strong!  Paula.

images-10Down the way where the nights are gay
And the sun shines daily on the mountain top
I took a trip on a sailing ship
And when I reached Jamaica I made a stop

But I’m sad to say I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town


Jamaica must be a haven
for straights and homosexuals

Sounds of laughter everywhere
And the dancing girls swaying to and fro
I must declare my heart is there
Though I’ve been from Maine to Mexico
But I’m sad to say I’m on my way
Won’t be back for many a day
My heart is down, my head is turning around
I had to leave a little girl in Kingston town



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