With summer in full bloom, R&B sensation Paloma Ford is gearing up to give her female fans a soundtrack to make memories to. The biracial beauty announced her highly-anticipated EP X Tapes that is set to release on August 7th and it’s giving nostalgic vibes. With fresh sounds and mid tempo beats, X Tapes reintroduces Ford to the music world while paying homage to the R&B influences who made her the very artist that she is today.
We caught up with Paloma Ford to discuss her fashion and musical influences, identifying as biracial and how 90s supermodels and photographers have been a staple in her style.
From her debut EP Nearly Civilized to forthcoming X Tapes, Ford is clearly evolving beyond music as a mother, a businesswoman and a rare gem in the industry who is writing her name on the wall with permanent ink. The Long Beach-bred singer-songwriter baddie first gained traction from her days as a background singer for Macy Gray on her 2007 hit album Big, but that’s not where Paloma first channeled her inspiration. “My fondest memories of my father was when he would pick me up on the weekends from my mom and would just be driving around with him. He would be blasting music literally to the max and singing loud,” Ford reminisced talking about her early memories with her father who she described as “over-the-top.” He taught her to love music early on.
The sultry and soulful singer cites Michael and Janet Jackson as her primary influences in the R&B space and admits to being obsessed with the king of pop’s Moonwalker when she was around the age of 4 years old. One she discovered that her idol had a sister, it was cemented in her mind that music is where she needed to be. “I was first in love with Michael, then when my dad introduced me to Janet Jackson in Rhythm Nation, I was sold,” the W.E.T. singer laughed. “I was dressing like her [and] I was trying to emulate her in every way.”
The famous Jackson tribe are not the only places from which she drew inspiration. When it comes to fashion and style, the “I Don’t Know” featured singer channels her inner California girl. Though she was born and raised in California, she moved out to Ohio with her mother until the end of her high school career when she moved back to her hometown. She coins her Swedish stepmother as one of her fashion influences, who was always hip to designers, fashion trends and home design.
“Even though we really couldn’t afford it, I was introduced to fashion in magazines from an early age and it was always in me. I always wanted to pick out my own outfits and match. It was a very important part of my everyday childhood,” she excitedly revealed. Ford continued on to tell her mom’s favorite story of young Paloma when her mother was going into labor and Paloma was nowhere to be found when it was time to go to the hospital. Lo and behold, the starlet-to-be was found standing in front of her closet contemplating between wearing a pink outfit or a purple outfit for the arrival of her younger sister. “It’s always been me,” she added.
Indeed it has and as her music has evolved over the years, so has her style. The Jada songstress admits to keeping her style inspiration consistent across the board from 90s supermodels to early 2000s street style. Photographers Mario Testino and Helmut Newton are just some of the names she dropped during our conversation whose work she admired and pulled passion and inspiration from. “I’ve definitely changed with the times,” said Ford before we rambled into a side conversation about the old school hats with metal plates on the front and electronic name belts. “Because I didn’t get one, I still want one to this day. Those belts were actually part of culture,” she said as we joined in laughter.
“I’ve always kept it pretty street, so for the most part I stayed safe,” Paloma told me about any pre-existing fashion faux pas or style regrets. “That era of BOY [London], I feel like that time period was the tackiest. I don’t see those ever coming back.”
Her career in fashion has come full-circle from being a “Tommy girl” growing up to modeling in the Tommy Jeans capsule collection campaign. She remembered not being able to afford Karl Kani back in the day, but has since developed a working relationship with the designer himself. Paloma Ford was crafting her future in her own hands and she didn’t even know it yet.
Fashion, style and music are integral parts of the Paloma Ford we know today, but her racial identification and cultural upbringing are key to her story growing up. “I would be naive to say that it doesn’t,” she said about the influence of her biracial background on her music and fashion style. Her mother listened to soul-filled music around the house including Sade, Carole King, and The Temptations while her grandfather had a love and appreciation for jazz musicians and singers including Billie Holiday. “I was blessed into a situation where not only was race not a big issue on the white side of my family, but they also embraced the culture naturally and in the music and all art forms,” Paloma said as she spoke on both sides of her family.
“Because of my experience in Ohio, I went through a lot of racism and I was always looked at as a Black girl. I was never really categorized as a mixed girl probably until I moved back out to L.A.,” Ford told me about her experience with race as she was growing up. “When I was raised here early on, we didn’t even talk about race and then when I moved to Ohio, race was everything. Because I had a tan, they didn’t look at me like, ‘oh, she’s a little mixed girl,’ [but] I was looked at as a Black girl. That’s what I’ve always known myself to be.”
With her father, African-American man from Long Beach, CA, being her heaviest influence on her love for art and music, she became laser focused on pouring that same love and energy she had for the culture and her racial background into her music. With her platform as a musician and influencer, she encourages others with the same reach to use their platform for the greater good of spreading a positive message.
“What’s even more important than using your platform is using your platform informatively and doing your research. For me, it’s not enough to just be a mixed kid and just start speaking out. You can always speak from your own experience and no one can ever take that away from you, but I think that it’s more important for people to speak out that have true knowledge and can really speak effectively than people getting on, saying their opinions and it doesn’t really have depth to it,” Paloma told me passionately about her love for being out in the field and being careful and aware of her messaging. “At the end of the day, when it comes down to this, we are all one people. Celebrity worship is dead right now. It’s more about who can lead us in a true leadership form to get to this next place that we’re trying so hard to push through.”
Later in the conversation, we discussed the push of X Tapes, which Paloma Ford creatively directed the cover art herself. This new body-of-work will include R&B singles “Rain,” a live acoustic performance experience of “Chrome In My Feelings” and the recently released heartfelt ballad “Nights I Cry”. “X Tapes is a heartbreak tape. I called it X Tapes because it’s recordings of what I went through in past relationships. I’m really excited for this to drop,” Ford told me.
Ford admits to me that she had been working on X Tapes on and off for approximately three years and now that the time has come, she cannot wait any longer for August 7th to come. When she first started the project, she came to a realization that she didn’t want to be in her emotional bag and turned on her “independent, bad b*tch” mode as she called it during our conversation. After this period in time, she found middle ground for her music in order to finish the story she had once started.
“I feel like this is the best true introduction to Paloma’s heart because I’m a big lover. I love love and because of that, obviously, you sometimes invite the wrong situations in and go through your lessons and I think that everyone can relate to that. I think I did a pretty damn good job of taking you on a little breakup journey,” said the artist as I could tell she was smiling with pride and satisfaction through the phone. She confessed that one of her personal favorites from the EP is the smooth, laid back California vibe of Nights I Cry along with “Space,” which is one of the older songs on the project, and lead single All For Nothing that is unique, dear and special to her heart.
“Literally,” she laughed when I asked about X Tapes being a reflection of her evolution as an artist through the years. With her first project, Paloma Ford did the entire project with her production group at the time, which happened to be her boyfriend. After their breakup proceeding a five-year relationship and her beginning years as a solo artist with him by her side, she admitted to me becoming “handicapped” and dependent upon him.
“This has truly been an evolution of getting back out there on my own and teaching myself how to be confident enough to write my own songs and working with new people, trusting new people, then pushing my vocal ability. You’re gonna hear it [and] it’s not even gonna be something that I need to point out. I feel like especially if you’ve been a fan and been tapped into the music, you’re going to be happy with the results and happy that you waited because it’s definitely worth it.”