Has your long climb helped you hone your skills?
I think I’ve learned from everyone, even people who aren’t musicians. I try to, anyway. Working with people like Santigold has really helped, and of course I worked with Mark Ronson [on his albums Here Comes The Fuzz and Version] and he’s super-talented. We’ve been working together for so long that we can read each other’s minds, pretty much.
You hit the UK and Aussie charts at the age of 27; aren’t new stars supposed to be in their early 20s?
Well Lady Gaga’s 45, so… [laughs]
She doesn’t look a day over 40.
Heh! Jay-Z’s 39, Kanye’s 36 or something [actually he’s 32]… I think that, at the moment, the charts are being dictated by people who are older. I don’t think age is that important anymore.
Does the age of the artist affect the quality of their music?
I dunno, kids like Arctic Monkeys are great, and Dizzee Rascal’s first album was amazing, but I guess age doesn’t matter when it’s your time to say what you have to say. Bach didn’t write his greatest work until he was in his sixties; I think there’s definitely an honesty to writing stuff when you’re really young, but I listen to all the stuff I was writing when I was 19 and 20, and… I’m glad I didn’t put it out, put it that way.
Which of the songs on the album are closest to your heart?
A whole bunch of them are close to my heart. ‘For Your Money’ is about me trying to get by in New York – and, I suppose, New York itself trying to get by. It’s a post-9/11 ode to re-evaluating our priorities and steering away from golden calf worship. ‘Cigarettes’ is really just a song about being in love with someone and completely screwing it up by being out all night and partying.
Apparently you had a medical emergency when recording, right?
Halfway through recording, I got a blister on my vocal chords. I couldn’t sing or talk or anything for three weeks. When I got back into the studio to record the second half of the album, I felt different. It was like being able to sing again had unleashed something, like I’d found some new energy.
The experience must have been terrifying, though.
I was extremely worried. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I might have ended up sounding like Tom Waits at the end of it all. I had no idea at all what would happen, but I ended up getting through it and I feel better for it. You’ve just got to live life as best you can. You never know when your last note will be.