Q: You're playing some tour dates now in support of the upcoming U.S. release of your album Love & War, which has already gone platinum in the U.K. Is American crossover success important to you?
A: I've been really lucky with a lot of success in Europe, but there's nothing that compares to coming to America and trying to do it here. America is the mecca of music. And music fans here are really honest and optimistic. In England, they can be very cynical.
Q: Ever get nervous performing?
A: Every time. But nothing so bad that whiskey can't fix. Well, whiskey and cough syrup. There's this Chinese cough syrup called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, which I've managed to find in every city around the world. Amazing stuff. I mix it with the whiskey. I'm kind of a cross between a Chinese herbalist and Lil Wayne.
Q: Do you think that's dangerous?
A: There's this guy called Chi at the Chinese herbalist in London who says it's fine.
Q: At what age did you get into music?
A: I started playing the violin at 4, and I started singing around 10 or 11. Hearing Boyz II Men's Cooleyhighharmony really inspired me. Honestly, I think I just loved cheesy R&B love songs, which is weird. "I'll Make Love to You"? You know, as a 10-year-old, you're not really making love to anyone.
Q: Americans probably know you best for your work with Mark Ronson, specifically your vocals on his song "Stop Me." He produced your upcoming album. How did you two meet?
A: I was 19 and had just gotten my first record deal, and I guess someone played one of my demos for him. He gave me a call and said, "Why don't you come to New York for 10 days?" I didn't really know who he was—he hadn't made all those amazing records yet. So I was like, "I don't know who you are, I don't care what you've done, I don't know what's going on here . . . and I'd love to."
Q: Any collaborations that haven't gone as smoothly
A: I opened for Kanye in Sydney once. Someone in the crowd threw a glow stick at me. No one wanted to see me. Glow sticks: very dangerous when in the wrong hands.