Anna Calvi has said it is impossible to write music in 2019 “without having the political state we’re in in mind”.
The art-rock singer-songwriter released her third album, Hunter, last year, addressing issues such as gender and female sexuality.
She now finds herself on the Mercury Prize shortlist for the third time, one of just a handful of artists to achieve multiple nominations. And only Coldplay before her have managed three out of three for their first three albums.
“The only way is down now,” she joked to Sky News as the shortlist was announced on Thursday.
“It means so much to me because when I’m working I’m not thinking about anything like that, I’m just trying to make something that feels honest and true and just push myself out of my comfort zone, so to be recognised in this way means the world to me.
“[The Mercury Prize] is not about how many records you’ve sold, it’s more about the quality of the work. It can champion the underdog some times, which is great.”
Hunter was praised by the judges as a “wildly adventurous musical exploration of sexual identities and desires” and Calvi said she wanted to express herself free from shame.
She said she felt it was important to keep highlighting the issues.
“I think it’s so important, especially when we see a rise in homophobic attacks and the right-wing becoming more and more strident,” she told Sky News. “I think it’s so important to keep fighting back and pushing back.
“And there’s so much still to do, especially in terms of transphobia, which is just rife. I’m happy even just to get that message across, it’s really important.
“You can’t really write music now without having the political state that we’re in in mind, even if it’s a personal response to that. You can’t bury your head any more, things are just too bad.”
Speaking about Boris Johnson coming into power as prime minister this week, Calvi said: “It’s terrible. Could it really get any worse, you know.
“So it’s dark times but I think that’s why we need music, political music and people fighting out against it.”
Other acts nominated for the Mercury Prize include rappers Dave, slowthai and Little Simz, and guitar bands IDLES, Fontaines DC and Foals.
- The winner of the Hyundai Mercury Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith on September 19