Anna Calvi has criticised the pressures on women in the music industry and beyond, saying, "You're so brought up in the patriarchal way we live, you don't notice it, yet it's everywhere."
The singer, whose two albums - her self-titled debut and One Breath - have both been nominated for a Mercury, spoke to The Independent ahead of her appearance at the David Byrne-curated Meltdown Festival this week.
During the interview, she explained how often she felt her gender was brought up in a reductive way by journalists: "I felt I was being reminded constantly about my gender in a way you never usually are. 'What's it like as a woman playing guitar?' 'As a woman, how do you…?' 'What is it like to play such a phallic instrument?'
"At first it surprised me, then it made me angry, and now it's like my eyes are opened to seeing the world in a slightly different way. You're so brought up in the patriarchal way we live, you don't notice it, yet it's everywhere. It's everywhere."
Speaking of the aesthetic pressures put on women in today's society, she continued, "It's beyond perfection, the way a woman is supposed to look. And shapeless – like an 11-year-old boy. You look in the mirror and see that you have hips and you imagine they shouldn't be there. I do shave my legs and my armpits but really, what are you being told, that you have to shave off parts of yourself? You're not allowed to just be in the world. You're always being told that your natural state is a bit disgusting."
Watch the video for Anna Calvi 'Suddenly' below
The singer went on to explain that she struggled with gender identity issues when she was a child, which eventually "seemed to settle." Still, she insisted, "For me, transcending gender is the ultimate goal. For men and women, the gender roles we're assigned are incredibly limiting. Being a woman, expressing masculinity is an interesting thing to do. When on stage, I feel powerful. I feel like a woman and a man."
Speaking of progress on her new album meanwhile, Calvi explained that she has been "living like a monk" in order to avoid the pressures of sharing her work mid-process. "No one has heard any of the stuff I've written," she explained, "which I find freeing. If you write stuff and share it with your friends or your band, it's like they're deciding for you whether it's good."
Anna Calvi will play at the Southbank Centre this Saturday, 22 August as part of Meltdown festival. For tickets and more information, click here.