In America, British singer Florence Welch has become well-known not just for her elegiac music, but for her chic-designer-empowered fashion sense that has landed her in magazines in both “best dressed” and “fashion police” sections. But for most of 2014, into early 2015, clothes were the last thing on her mind, as she bicycled daily to a London studio in a parka. She emerged with “How Big How Blue How Beautiful,” her third. and most confessional, album, detailing a romantic breakup and the toll taken by fame. “I didn’t get recognized at all, and I could walk anywhere,” she says. “It was really so liberating, and very cathartic.”
After the success of your 2011 album “Ceremonials,” you now believe you were heading for a breakdown. How did you know?
Well, I think crying all the time, for one. I just needed some time away from all that stuff, because I was like, “Oh, yeah! Events and partying! I like that stuff, don’t I? I’ll go!” But it just didn’t make sense to me anymore. It was exhausting me, and I needed to just take some time away and deal with whatever was going on, and I think I needed to find out what actually made me happy.
And you decided to take a full year off?
I was supposed to have this relaxing year off, and I traveled – I was in L.A. quite a bit, writing. And we wrote some stuff in Jamaica. But I was still on-and-off partying, and I was in an on-and-off relationship, so things were pretty up and down. And I think the record kind of reflects that. It was a time of great excitement, and it was a time of real lows, as well. I was going on a journey, and the record is a map of that time.
Was there one ‘Aha!’ moment of revelation?
Well, I didn’t see it at the time, but it was actually when I felt like everything had fallen apart, which was about a week before I started making the record. My reaction to pressure at that point was to self-destruct, but I was like, “This time, I am just going to do this record.” And I stopped partying, I stepped out of things. But I’m so grateful that things did fall apart, because I had to make something out of it. So I guess maybe the breakdown was the breakthrough.
Which inspired the song “Ship to Wreck,” right?
Yeah. It was about me going, “Oh, f—. I keep f—ing things up! I’ve built all this stuff, I’ve made this life. And now I have the capacity to destroy it!”
IF YOU GO
Florence and the Machine
Where: Greek Theatre, 2001 Gayley Road, Berkeley
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 21-22
Contact: (510) 548-3010, www.ticketmaster.com