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” Whether it’s the request to channel Tupac, explaining how makeup should be applied, adjusting a steadicam angle, or calling for a split screen on the monitor, no detail goes unnoticed or untouched by twigs as she moves about the shoot, which barrels forward at the same breakneck velocity as the rest of her career—15 videos, two EPs, and her debut album, the one wearing stilettos (which, somewhat magically, don’t sink into the damp ground beneath us). And it’s not like getting here was easy, either—though for most of us on set, it just required a train to the far reaches of suburban England and a cab ride to the middle of the woods. As the night gets colder, and darker, the clock keeps ticking. She bursts through the front door of Shoreditch House and ambushes me with a flustered hug. Not to take excuses from a pop star, but hers pass muster.

From seeing twigs in action as a director (she's represented by Academy Films), it's clear that she's blazing her own path of limitless creativity. When we sit down for breakfast, she explains the fatigue in a strained rasp. Again, considering everything that’s come before today, the preparation seems justified.

Around the time she turned 17, twigs realized that she wanted to make music. She also had a job as a youth worker, and performed cabaret at London’s Soho nightclub The Box (with an act called “Spell on You”) on the side.

She dropped out after a few weeks at a dance school in London, and went to Croydon College to study philosophy and sociology. “I was banned from two classes,” she recalls, “for asking too many questions.” The upside, she explains, was that she fit in more than ever before: “I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. ” It was also around that time that her tastes and interests shifted away from the refined elements of the classics she was reared on. As a youth worker, twigs taught teenagers how to sing, dance, write poetry, and play music.

Most of the two days since I last saw her at the shoot were spent in an editing bay (overseeing the final cut on the “Glass & Patron” video) and a studio (finishing ) with what looks like not much sleep in between. Twigs looks like she’s ready for the most stylish marathon this side of London, wearing a knee-length, ruffled vest over a black Nike workout top and leggings (with seven gold earrings in each ear, red lipstick, and two backpacks). The short version—the one that’s become the most basic distillation of Tahliah Barnett’s life so far—is essentially: backup dancer for pop stars becomes pop star herself. It involves growing up poor in Southwest England’s rural Gloucestershire, with a mother and stepfather who made sacrifices to fund ballet classes and opera singing lessons for their daughter.

Where there wasn’t money in abundance, there was inspiration.

On arrival at what we’ll describe as (per her repeated requests) an undisclosed location in L.

A career as an art therapist emerged as a distinct possibility.

Fate, in the form of government budget cuts, intervened: Her job was eliminated. Twigs soon crossed paths with Tic Zogson, producer and A&R at innovative London-based label Young Turks.

And while this may be true of many people who end up on the covers of magazines—to credit her with realness—twigs isn’t great at hiding it.

That’s how we ended up back in the same room, again, on the far side of another continent: I’m here to watch new videos from and ask questions we didn’t get around to in London, partially because twigs spent a decent chunk of our time venting her various frustrations with the press.