In Conversation: Little Mix

In Conversation: Little Mix

How the pop icons are surviving and thriving in 2020...

This has perhaps been the strangest year on record for Little Mix. Ever since the group’s inception they’ve scarcely spent a week apart, a helter-skelter schedule that has taken the pop four-piece from colossal debut album ‘DNA’ to international domination.

But then came COVID. With their live commitments trimmed down to nothing, Little Mix were forced to wait, and wait, and wait… using a WhatsApp group to chat, share secrets, and commiserate with one another, the four-piece became lockdown heroines, with everything from self-help sessions to baking and enormous Lego sculptures being used as a means to maintain that bond between the group, their fans, and each other.

“We’ve all had the time to do things we wouldn’t usually have had time to do,” Jade explains. “I’ve been doing a lot more creative stuff like writing and reading and things that were my first love. I think it’s been quite good for us all to have had a little pause.”

Leigh-Anne picks up on this topic: “The self-care aspect has been so important for me. I’ve been able to put face masks on, look after my skin and look after myself. Eating well, exercising... it’s so important.”

Not that Little Mix have been caught up in self-care. They’re ambitious, too, and eager to get back on track. With new TV show Little Mix: The Search demolishing the ratings and new album ‘Confetti’ incoming, they’re ready for a fresh challenge. “I definitely feel like we’re ready to go again,” smiles Leigh-Anne. “I think we’ve all got a bit more energy!”

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Clash is chatting to Little Mix over Zoom, the restrictions of lockdown making a face-to-face unviable. As such, they’re extra-relaxed – dressed down but still glam, they have the easy-going bonhomie of old friends, people who know one another inside out.

“Because we’re usually together 24/7 it was weird to not be together,” Perrie admits. “I think people living in lockdown with their partners, flatmates, roomies or whatever are so lucky because there’s so many people who wouldn’t have had anyone.”

“We don’t ever usually stop as a group, so it’s been great to have had time to just chill and do nothing!”

The silence was broken with ‘Breakup Song’ earlier this year. As a stand-alone statement, it marked a real departure from the prevailing atmosphere of doom and gloom in lockdown UK, a chink of light in amongst the pandemic clouds. “I think it was really important for us,” observes Jade. “It was the beginning of lockdown when we released the song and we thought: should we postpone this? But we thought no. We felt like our fans needed anything right now to help the situation.”

A scorching pop moment, it harks back to the group’s roots. It’s a factor that Perrie adores: “It’s just fun, energetic Little Mix!”

Summer bumper ‘Holiday’ followed suit, as the members of Little Mix – both separately and together – started to use their social media platforms in different ways. Jade, for example, became one of the nation’s biggest Lego fanatics. “I’m the type of person that likes to have lots to do,” she admits, “like travelling and working… so it was nice to have been able to keep busy whilst at home. Unlike you girls!”

Jesy cracks up, adding: “I have literally just been enjoying eating, sunbathing, watching what’s good on Netflix. I was living my best life!”

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It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Leigh-Anne was moved to speak out on Black Lives Matter, speaking eloquently about her experiences as a woman of colour in the music industry. It was time to change, she argued, and millions hung on her words.

“We’re all passionate about using our platform to raise awareness and to help each other through struggles,” she says. “I think it’s important for us to be helping people in whatever way we can – we said that right from the minute we got together that that’s what we were gonna do.”

While her comments made headlines, Leigh-Anne found huge support from those around her. “To be fair, the fans have been really supportive,” she says. “I was actually scared that I was gonna offend them or lose some of them. A lot of the time I chose not to say anything. But with issues such as racism, it’s not something that you can be quiet about. It’s something that needs to be talked about.”

It’s a subject that every single member clearly feels passionate about – when Leigh-Anne discusses her experiences, her friends have got her back. There’s a palpable feeling of empathy, even over a Zoom call.

“One thing I would do,” asserts Jesy, “would be to ensure that there’s more diversity behind the scenes in terms of labels, management… from the top basically.”

“I think it’s going to be a long journey,” replies Leigh-Anne. “It’s not something that can be fixed overnight.”

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Jade is adamant that their message should be her unhindered. “I think allowing everyone in the creative arts the space to be as vocal as they’d like to be about it is important,” she insists. “I remember hearing about Diversity’s performance on BGT – they were obviously brilliant – but it turned out that they were one of the most complained about acts on the show from viewers. So, it shows that there’s still a long way to go to change people’s mindsets.”

Little Mix have seen every layer, every facet of the music industry. Formed as unknowns, they’ve seen how people are treated, and know which areas they’d long to change. For Perrie, colourism is still not being addressed. She comments: “We really need to look at why darker skinned women in the music industry aren’t being given the same respect or opportunities.”

“Totally,” agrees Leigh-Anne. “Even look at artists like Alexandra Burke, she was told at one point in her career something like ‘we’ve already got a Black female artist, we don’t need another one.’ It’s mind-blowing. How could you feel that there isn’t enough room for multiple Black female artists? How does that even make sense?”

This feeling of Little Mix as an inseparable unit is something that fuels ‘Confetti’. Out on November 6th, it finds the group raising the bar once more – they’re involved in everything, from the writing to the studio process, to the visuals, and each voice is being heard. When one suffers, they all do – when the conversation moves to the darker side of social media, it’s evident that Little Mix is a kind of mutual support group.

They don’t dwell on the darker aspects, say the four-piece, while also finding ways to separate themselves from those platforms. “I think that’s a good way to maintain a healthy mind and relationship with it,” explains Jesy.

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In many ways Little Mix feel like a design for living. They’re fun, polite, and intelligent – outspoken when they feel their voice will count, and never anything less than entertaining. If ‘Confetti’ is a joy, then that’s due to the positive electrical charge that runs through the four-piece. Focussing on The Search, there’s a deep sense of care, and role they’ll play in the lives of these young hopefuls.

“We’ve got this platform and we want to use it,” says Jade. “We’re nearly ten years old as a band now and we’ve experienced a lot of hardships as a group. So, it’s a great opportunity for us to be able to help and offer a platform to upcoming artists and groups especially because we know what it’s been like, you know.”  

“What I also think is amazing is that whoever wins gets a support slot on a big tour which is a massive gig. It can help artists build fanbases and we can offer support towards choosing labels and management. We wanted to make sure that they weren’t tied down or forced into anything they didn’t want to be involved in. It’s about giving them the framework and guiding them along the way.” One thing the band have missed, though, is the undeniable charge that comes with heading out onstage. The mere thought of completing a full tour in 2021 sends Little Mix into raptures. “Yes!” shrieks Jesy. “I wanna be on stage and touring again. I can’t wait for it.”

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They’re experienced enough, though, to find some kind of remove from their work. Success can be measured in different ways, and so too can happiness. It’s meaning can be slippery, they admit, but it’s a tangible factor in their lives. Hell, they’ve even named one of the songs on their new album ‘Happiness’.

“I think if you look for happiness from someone else, you’re not gonna find it,” says Jade. It’s something band mate Perrie clearly agrees with. Nodding, she adds: “I think it’s a process. You can get happiness from other people; you can get it from things. But I think happiness comes from within. It needs to start with yourself!”

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'Confetti' will be released on November 6th.

Words: Robin Murray

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