Song Bird: Cher Lloyd

The sultry British songstress Cher Lloyd is working on a new sound that’s more in keeping with her gritty black-and-gray tattoos.

Forget everything you think you know about Cher Lloyd. Yes, this British bombshell got her big break on the U.K. series The X Factor and released the Top 10-charting pop debut Sticks & Stones back in 2011, but she insists that her upcoming, still untitled album is a more accurate representation of who she is—an inked icon who estimates she has “around 20” tattoos. She’s grown, both as a person and an artist, and now has the confidence to jump out of the pop-princess box and show her true colors—which are black-and-gray and a little darker than the fizz on the FM dial.

“I feel like I’m taking a risk this time around because the previous album was kind of bubble-gum pop and we’re stepping away from that,” she explains in her endearing British accent. “It’s strange because when you listen to my first album, it sounds like I’m a typical pop star wearing princess dresses, but if you look at me I’m kind of on the street side. I’m free to curse whenever I want and express some grown-up situations [with this album], so I think it will be a bit of a shocker for people.”

In other words, after memorably appearing with Demi Lovato on the song “Really Don’t Care” earlier this year and, more recently, collaborating with Ne-Yo on the track “It’s All Good,” the 19-year-old sensation is ready to embrace her own identity.

“I grew up in a really small town, so to get the opportunity to come to America and work with all of these amazing artists is shocking. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it—and I don’t want to either,” she admits while talking about her recent collaborations. “I think it’s so exciting to be the underdog.”

What’s even more exciting are Lloyd’s live shows, which prove she doesn’t owe her success to Auto-Tune and have been known to feature covers as diverse as Usher to Avril Lavigne. “I think the most important part of being an artist is being able to per- form onstage, and it’s been difficult for me because I used to be the type of person who would panic about people’s reactions,” she says. “I feel more comfortable with myself now because I realized that if you’re enjoying yourself, the audience will too.”

Then again, Lloyd’s upbringing stressed the importance of being an individual, which is evidenced by the fact that her mother took her to get her first tattoo (of a music note) at 16. Oh, and she started her tattoo collection on her hand. “I was actually at school and had a lunch break so my mom took me to get a tattoo at a local artist’s house, and then I went straight back,” she says. “I was probably the first person my year to get one, and the other kids wanted to look at it and get one themselves but maybe their parents weren’t so lenient.”

Lloyd may not have even been able to drive at the time, but she had always had an obsession with hand tattoos so she wasn’t deterred by the fact that her ink could influence her future. “At the time I still hadn’t been on [The X Factor], and the tattoo artist said to me that people wouldn’t employ me because I had a tattoo on my hand, but I still did it because I had this crazy thought in my head that I wasn’t going to do anything but be a performer anyway.”

In addition to her inaugural tattoo, another memorable piece of ink is a birdcage on her left arm and a bird on her right, which she got to commemorate her uncle’s passing. “I remember growing up my uncle always had birds, and I thought that it would be interesting to do something different than just getting his name tattooed on me,” she explains. “I thought there was something special about leaving the cage door open and having the bird fly out on the other side.”

Lloyd isn’t sure what her next tattoo will be, but she hopes to fulfill a longtime dream by having Kat Von D do a pinup girl on her. In the meantime, though, she is careful to stress to her younger fans that they shouldn’t rush into emulating her—or anyone, for that matter. “It’s up to an individual to choose when they want to get a tattoo—and if you’re under the age … you should discuss it with your parents, like I did,” she says. “My fans know I’m not untouchable. They can always take inspiration from me—and that extends to my tattoos.”

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