With the release of her new EP “X Tapes,” Paloma Ford has legacy on her mind. The project aims to be a reference point – a calling card of sorts – and is the mellow-voiced singer’s attempt at answering the question of “Who is Paloma Ford?” Our phone conversation takes a dive into the mind of an artist who wants to leave behind an impactful body of work in both the music and cannabis industries.
Growing up in Los Angeles, what was your introduction to music?
Paloma Ford: My father is from Long Beach and is a huge music lover. My earliest memories are of him picking me up on the weekends, riding around and listening to music. I also spent a lot of time with my grandparents who had Michael Jackson specials on tape, which I became obsessed with. Those two influences—my dad and my grandparents—sparked my love for music.
As a kid, did you view music as something you could pursue professionally?
Paloma Ford: Thinking back to my childhood, I always thought it was normal how obsessed I was with music. I was obsessed with studying Michael [Jackson] at age three, four and five, which I always thought was normal for a kid until I had my son. Both his parents are musicians, but he could care less about music. Once I became a mom I realized my early interest in music was a bit unusual.
You assumed your peers had shared the same enthusiasm.
Paloma Ford: I was always putting on a show from an early age. That was what we did. I would dress up like Janet [Jackson] and perform my own rhythm nation for my family and friends, which led to performing at talent shows. As early as I can remember, performing music is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve never had another dream in mind.
Do you think your dad and grandparents helped create an environment where thinking about a music career was acceptable?
Paloma Ford: They definitely set the foundation for me listening to all types of music. Anything from The Temptations, to Marvin Gaye, to James Brown, to Biggie and Tupac. My mother moved to Ohio, so my dad would send me boxes of CDs. I think his friend worked at Virgin Records. [Laughs] If he wasn’t grooming me to be in the music industry, I don’t know what he thought he was doing. Which is funny, because when I graduated high school and decided to pursue music full time, he was definitely super against it. I was like, “This is your fault!” I think he just wanted me to go to school the old fashioned way and become a doctor or a lawyer.
Did your dad having reservations test your decision?
Paloma Ford: For sure. I went to high school in Ohio and when I graduated, I moved back to Los Angeles and lived with my dad for about six months. He said I had to go to college if I wanted to live under his roof—which I agreed to try—but had zero aspirations to go. It just wasn’t for me. One day, while my dad was at work, I packed all my shit and moved out. Two or three months later, I landed in the studio with Macy Gray and the rest is history.
Sort of “right place, right time.”
Paloma Ford: It was. I did one song for her by accident—or not, depending on how you look at life—and one song turned into three more [for her 2007 album “Big”]. More important than being on the album was my introduction to the industry, which—no joke—was my first time in a recording studio. Macy was there. Justin Timberlake was there. CeeLo Green. The Pussycat Dolls. I was just a baby sitting in the corner trying to take it all in.
How did being part of such high caliber studio sessions so early on in your career shape your understanding of the recording process?
Paloma Ford: It showed me these are my peers, these are regular people who love their art and love what they’re doing just like I do. It helped me have a good, healthy perspective and helped me build real relationships.
Flash forward to your upcoming EP “X Tapes.” You mention it’s based on relationships — is it based on a culmination of different experiences or a specific person?
Paloma Ford: Originally, it started with one person. Going into 2017, I was going through a breakup and started writing a lot from my house for the first time. I started writing all this material, but then became happy again. So I was like, “Fuck these songs, I’m not that girl anymore.” I started working with all new people and started writing more up-tempo tracks. Really just taking the time to have fun, experiment with music, and push myself in my writing and vocal abilities. Ultimately, I needed that experience to get back to R&B, and realized my next project needed to tell a story. I needed to create a consistent body of work that people could refer back to, and I finished telling the story by drawing from other experiences.
So it’s sort of you getting back to your roots and putting that on display unabashedly.
Paloma Ford: I think that’s important for us as artists. That’s how people connect with you the most. You can tell other people’s stories and talk about cool shit, but that only goes so far. What is it that you’ve gone through and experienced that will truly relate to other people? What better to relate to than heartbreak.
“X Tapes” is also incredibly smoker-friendly. It’s one of those “cruising down the PCH with the windows down” projects. Definite smoker vibes for sure.
You’ve been described as a cannabis connoisseur. How is weed part of your life?
Paloma Ford: I started smoking weed in high school and was always on some hippie shit. Later on, I watched documentaries outlining the benefits of cannabis when used in the right way, and started to think about it differently, not just as a means to get high. I’m a naturalist and am really afraid of medicine. After I gave birth to my son, I developed anxiety, and I started smoking weed to help with it.
When I’m in the studio, cannabis is a must. I don’t remember a recording session I’ve had without it. For me, it’s a way to relax my brain, focus on being creative, block out all the other shit and really just connect directly with the music.
I’ve been meeting with companies to become a female pioneer in cannabis youth culture and work on breaking the taboos surrounding weed. In California, I know more women who smoke than women who don’t, but I see how it’s still an uncomfortable thing when it comes to social media. That’s so funny to me. It’s like, “You do this at home, why is it such a big deal to do it on camera?” I want to help normalize cannabis consumption and educate people on proper use.
It’s messed up to know there are still people incarcerated for something that now other people are doing freely in Los Angeles and other cities throughout the country.
Paloma Ford: It’s super backwards. As we can see from many things unfolding this year, we live in a pretty backwards system.
Hopefully through your efforts – and those of others – we can continue the trend of making cannabis more socially acceptable and can help people get over their fears.
Paloma Ford: And getting the bullshit out of people’s heads. The bullshit we’ve been fed for so long [that weed is bad] because [the government] couldn’t make money off of it, and yet it’s more normal for people to smoke cigarettes and kill themselves. That should be abnormal.
I worked in a weed shop for about two months, and we had cancer patients coming in who told me weed was their alternative option to chemotherapy and other serious medicines. The fact that they had cancer and [weed] is what they chose—over what Big Pharma tells us to choose—spoke volumes to me.
Follow @palomaford and check out her new EP “X Tapes” now available everywhere