HAVE I pushed Pixie Geldof too far? We are discussing her budding music career — specifically a song she wrote about her late sister Peaches, claimed by a heroin overdose in April 2014 at age 25. I fear the socialite-turned-pop star is on the brink of tears.
“I haven’t sung it in front of an audience,” says Pixie, 26, between heavy, lidded blinks. “It’s a very difficult song, a very personal song.”
‘Twin Thing’ is a haunting stand-out from Pixie’s introspective debut album, I’m Yours. Yet, as she says, she has never performed it publicly. Some wounds cut too deep. Why even record it in the first place? Clearly, she is not ready to share her grief with strangers.
“My hope is that people who have gone through the same thing will hear it and connect with it,” says Pixie, relaxing a little. “Sometimes when you talk about something that is very difficult, it strikes a chord with others. I hope it serves a purpose. It’s a beautiful song.”
Does she regret writing it? The Geldof family were put through the tabloid wringer after the death of Peaches, who left behind a husband and two infant sons. As Pixie seeks to cast aside her society girl image and re-invent herself as dreamy indie chanteuse, further red top prurience is surely the last thing she needs?
“There was a conversation about leaving it off the record,” she nods. “But music has been so important in helping me get through things. There is stuff you occasionally need to talk about — one way to do it is through music.”
Pixie hasn’t asked her father for advice as she navigates the treacherous waters of the music industry. Not the retiring type, Bob offered it anyway.
“His tips were obviously straightforward,” she says.
“Just go and do it. There is no room for procrastination.”
She’s proud of her dad — for his achievements as musician, campaigner and media entrepreneur (in 1999 Geldof made millions selling his television production company Planet 24).
However, whatever lessons he learned launching a career in late 1970s’ suburban Dublin are, she suspects, irrelevant to her situation. The business has changed beyond recognition. “The music industry is so different. The only advice that is any use is that you have to go and do things for yourselves. If you don’t get up there nothing will happen.”
In the flesh, Pixie doesn’t really live up to her ‘It Girl’ reputation. On an overcast morning in Dublin, she is softly spoken and rather shy. An air of wistfulness hangs around her which an amateur psychologist might interpret as melancholy.
She has certainly been through a lot — losing both her elder sister and her mother, Paula Yates who died of a heroin overdose on Pixie’s tenth birthday. She was just 41.
“Yes, our mother’s death was a terrible thing to happen to four young girls,” Pixie told Elle magazine in 2013, in reference to sisters Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches and Tiger Lily. “We’re not ashamed of it, but everyone’s fine. It happened more than half my lifetime ago.”
She is in Dublin to sing at the Ruby Sessions, a showcase for up-and-coming performers. The evening has a stellar reputation in songwriting circles, with James Blunt and Ed Sheeran among its past headliners.
“I’d never played to such quiet crowd,” says Pixie. “It was lovely: you could hear a pin drop. Fortunately I never get stage fright. I’m the exactly opposite of that. I tend to not find these things nerve-wracking.”
Though she and Peaches were close, in many ways they were very different. Where Peaches cultivated a party girl persona, Pixie threw herself into work.
As a model she graced the cover of Elle UK, Vogue Italy and Tatler, in addition to fronting campaigns for Pringle, Levis and Diesel.
At the same time, hers was hardly been a hardscrabble upbringing. She might, in fact, be perceived as the ultimate insider — one of those middle class dilettantes whom, we are told, are ruining British music.
Pixie, to her credit, doesn’t hide that she is well connected. She knows lots of musicians — for starters the boyfriend with whom she lives in east London and whose day job is drumming with cult indie group These New Puritans.
And yes, Bob Geldof, has considerable clout too. But none of that was much help as she tried to get her career off the ground.
Indeed, she made a point of quitting of London when time came to record her album. In Los Angeles she met producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air).
He’d never heard of her, her tragic family or her famous dad — an immense weight lifted from her shoulders.
“He had no idea who I was. America is such a different ball game. I loved LA.
“Driving around at night on the highways. Of course, there’s an unglamorous side too, when you’re in the studio working.”
“I don’t know whether my background is an advantage or disadvantage,” she continues.
“A certain degree of preconceptions will always be here. That’s okay. I try not to let it it affect me. I do what I do and I think I do it relatively well. That’s the driving force.”
The promotional campaign for I’m Yours is cranking up in earnest. She is surely slightly concerned as to what this may involve.
All journalists will want to talk about are her sister and mother and their eerily similar deaths.
Does she understand what she has signed up for? I mention the album Peaches’ husband, Thomas Cohen, released after she passed. It was an extraordinary record — yet when he went out to promote it, the questions were always variations on that theme of the family tragedy.
Pixie is aware of this, but is very much focused on making a go of her music career anyway.
“I hope the next six months are demanding in terms of my time,” she says. “I like to be busy. I really enjoy it.”
- I'm Yours is out on November 4