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Florence + the Machine are on the rise

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Florence + the Machine's got the love
  • The group was the talk of the recent MTV Video Music Awards
  • Lead singer Florence Welch gets nervous before live TV appearances
  • Their song was featured in the "Eat Pray Love" trailer
  • Welsh says the group has been very lucky

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West Hollywood, California -- Florence Welch walks into the room toying with a giant cameo ring on her finger.

"Did you get it fixed?" someone asks.

"Yes," she says. "That Krazy Glue stuff you have here in America is wonderful."

With her creamy complexion and her flame-colored hair pinned into a loose bun, the 24-year-old British singing sensation looks like a modern-day cameo herself. But there's nothing demure or still-life about about her once she steps onto a stage.

In September, Florence + the Machine were the talk of the MTV Video Music Awards, after a showstopping performance of "Dog Days Are Over."

Swirling and darting about the floor in a pale vintage gown, Welch belted out the song, which gained a wide audience when it was featured in the trailer for the Julia Roberts movie "Eat Pray Love." Recently, she offered up an acoustic version of the single on "Dancing With the Stars."

Clearly, Florence Welch is a star on the rise.

CNN caught up with her before a photo shoot at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, California. Below is an excerpt of the conversation.

CNN: I hear the VMA performance made you nervous, and that you were crying beforehand.

Florence Welch: Oh God, everything everybody reads about me is when I'm crying! (She laughs.) I honestly don't cry that much.

Three days leading up to it, I was a nervous wreck, just because there's so much that can go wrong, and it was such a big opportunity -- but I had like one cry. It was in the middle of a museum. But I do get very nervous before TV performances, especially live ones.

CNN: Given your commanding presence on stage, it's hard to believe you're not attacking it with a bunch of self-confidence.

Welch: I think most artists are pretty unself-confident. I think it's kind of part of the package. It's the dissatisfaction with yourself that sort of sends you up on that stage.

CNN: "Lungs," your debut album, came out in the UK last year and took it by storm. In America, people are just discovering you, maybe because "Dog Days Are Over" was used in the trailer for "Eat Pray Love."

Welch: I get offered to do a lot of trailers, and you say no to so much stuff, and I just thought the trailer was really beautiful. You know, it's Julia Roberts, so I was like, "Wow!"

CNN: Have you met her?

Welch: No, I haven't met her. I wouldn't do a trailer just to get the music out there. I'd have to feel comfortable with the visuals going with the music.

CNN: You talk about the visuals -- you went to art school.

Welch: Yeah, I went to Camberwell art school, and I did a lot of installation work, and I think I've always been quite interested in sort of transforming the environment around me.

My room is like a strange museum-slash-junk shop-slash-vintage store. I'm very obsessive with placement. I'll spend like four hours in my room trying to figure out, "Where does this empty jam jar go?" And my boyfriend's always like, "It's a jam jar! Just put it anywhere!" I always decorated the stage. We'd go out and buy all these fake flowers, and we'd decorate it with bunting. I sort of recreate my room on stage.

CNN: All your performances are like events. Even the way you dress.

Welch: I think I'm prim and kind of -- it's always that conflict of like half librarian, half Lady of Shalott. On stage, I'm a huge fan of vintage clothes. It's nice to wear things that sort of flow around your body, and that you can move well in. Performing in heels makes you perform very differently than performing in bare feet, and I kind of prefer bare feet.

CNN: How would you describe your music? What adjectives would you use?

Welch: There have been loads of them. "Catastrophe choir crash." That was a weird one. "It sounds like a choir of Benedictine monks falling down an elevator shaft." That was another funny one.

CNN: I hear you write really well when you're hung over.

Welch: I did write "Cosmic Love" when I had the worst hangover ever, but that's an anomaly.

Getting up and going to the studio when you're hung over is like the best thing you can do, because you're doing something constructive, and whatever demons you might have created the night before -- you can exorcise them in a song.

The best hangover cure is going to the studio, or, you know -- a Bloody Mary. You can have both in the studio. But I wouldn't advise it. Since we've become a headliner, I think we've calmed down a lot. We are still having a lot of fun, but especially when you're touring all the time, you can't really continue at that pace.

CNN: What do you need to have with you when you're on tour?

Welch: Lots of books. That's kind of what keeps me sane. I bring a lot of art books. I've got this great book on 15th century paintings I'm carrying around at the moment. It's giving me some album title ideas, but joke ones. I don't think I'm about to call the [next] album "Perspective From the View of Eternity." (She laughs.)

CNN: You come from a really academic background. Your mom's a professor. She went to Harvard.

Welch: Yeah, I'm definitely the black sheep of the family when it comes to the entertainment industry. Actually, no -- that's not true, because my uncle lives out here, and he's a director. He's in England right now shooting, but I might call him. He lives in Malibu. We stayed in an Airstream trailer out in the back of his house. After I finished the first album, I spent like a week there watching dolphins and swimming in the sea. It was really nice.

CNN: I can see you having a place here and getting into acting. I'm sure people have approached you.

Welch: Yeah. I'm like -- softly, softly. I've always enjoyed acting, but I've just done school plays. I wouldn't say never, but I'm not ready for the big time yet.

CNN: What about musically?

Welch: Musically, I think I've been very lucky. I think I am driven, but kind of in that English way -- sort of slightly less focused about it. I think what I've been is extremely lucky.