My dad taught me how to be optimistic and find the silver linings


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My dad, Jimmy, is one of the jolliest and most optimistic men I have ever met. He worked as a joiner and lives in Lancaster, England. I feel incredibly lucky to have him as a father. Thanks to him, I’ve always had an ability – even in my darkest moments – to see a ray of light. That side of my personality and striving for happiness comes from my father.

My parents divorced when my twin sister, Kate, and I were seven. My family live all over Scotland and England and we have a complicated dynamic. I see my sister often; she’s based in London. My mum is a housewife who raised her kids, that was her main focus. I also have two older half-brothers who inspired my passion for music.

My brother John was part of the Manchester music scene. He knew the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses and I was always intrigued by him. My other brother, Tim, gave me my first couple of guitars. He taught me how to play them through many patient lessons. 

My grandfather, Eddie, fought in World War II and would always round us up to talk about his memories of war. It felt surreal to listen to him but he was always happy to sit and talk with us about it. I loved playing cards with him – it was my favourite thing to do. He and my grandmother, Nellie, were very nurturing.

I was an introverted and shy teenager. I didn’t notice boys. I was picked on at school and found myself escaping into music. It was the one thing that fed my imagination.

I left home in Manchester at 16 and moved to London to start modelling. I spent my 17th birthday in Tokyo and lived in Milan that same year. 

I met many amazing photographers whom I call friends through modelling. Steven Meisel, whom I adore, was one of the first I met. He makes you feel beautiful. I have an equally close friendship with British fashion photographer Tim Walker. I respect the way both men approach their work and interact with you when doing shoots. Their work ethic is admirable.

If anything felt wrong in my job when I was modelling, I always spoke my mind. The only advice I would give to any young model is to speak up if someone in the business is making you feel uncomfortable. It’s better to voice your opinions than regret not doing so. I probably got better at this as I got older.

Becoming a model wasn’t planned at all, but it enabled me to become a musician – by the time I moved to New York in my 20s, I was able to form bands with interesting people. I joined a cabaret group, the Citizens Band, and sang backing vocals on a remix for Robert Plant in 2003.

I’ve always loved Nick Cave; I’m a fan of his writing and appreciate what he does as an artist. I met him a couple of times but was too nervous to have a conversation with him. I love his wife Susie Bick; she was a famous model who was walking for Christian Dior when I first started on the runway. She has her own clothing line, The Vampire’s Wife, which I wear on stage.

I met my ex-husband, Jack White [of the White Stripes], when I was in the video clip for the band’s single, Blue Orchid. He gave me my first chance at singing and writing my own songs. We married in 2005 and split in 2013.

I worked with my ex-husband on my debut album, The Ghost Who Walks. If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore music the way I have. Jack is an incredibly talented musician and I only have glowingly fabulous things to say about his art, our friendship and him as a parent to our two children, Scarlett and Henry Lee. 

My good friend Pat Carney of the Black Keys helps out on my new album, Double Roses. We met through his ex-wife. He’s the exact guy you need in the studio when you’re trying to make a single to appeal to radio stations. I take his musical opinions seriously. We worked together in LA but both live in Nashville.

My new album is named after a Sam Shepard poem from his journal, Motel Chronicles. I discovered his work years ago when I watched Paris, Texas – a movie he wrote and Wim Wenders directed. My bandmate and friend Jackson Smith [son of Patti Smith] asked his mum how I could get in touch with Sam as they are good friends. She told me to write him a letter. I did just that. He approved.

In 2016, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. asked me to sing with him on a David Bowie tribute; we stripped down Ashes to Ashes. Michael has an amazing and soothing voice. I really wish he would make another record – the world needs him to do that.

Right now, my focus is on my family. I have a comfortable life in Nashville and it gives me a chance to focus on my children – my kids are growing up so fast. If I was in New York I’d be distracted by fashion parties and events, but I have great friends in Nashville who support me, and that’s what I really enjoy. 

Double Roses is out now on Liberator Music.

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