You signed your first record deal at the age of 13, which is super young. Where did your love of music first come from?
I’ve always been around music. There’s a video of my mum doing an open mic gig when I was like 7 months due in her tummy, and I’m just like, “It’s no wonder I do this!” I’ve literally been doing it my whole life. Growing up, my mum used to play a lot of soul and R&B, and my dad a lot of funk. I remember playing the guitar at around 11 years old, and I started writing songs at around 12. And I used to go to gigs with my parents and perform in the same spots they performed at, so it’s just something I’ve always been around.
Who inspires your sound and who did you listen to growing up?
I’d say artists like Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Lauryn Hill all definitely influenced my sound—and Adele’s 19 album? Oh. My. God! When I first heard that, I knew that’s how I’d want to sound because it was so honest and raw. You could feel all the emotion, especially as young girl; I felt like she was singing about my life.
You’ve described your sound as “psycho-acoustic soul”—what do you mean by that?
I think I called it that so I didn’t feel like I was forced into making a particular type of sound, but had the freedom to make whatever kind of music I want without feeling boxed in. But I’d say that “psycho” is because I think I say things in a weird way when I write. “Acoustic” is because I obviously play the guitar, and “soul” is because of the subject matter and the core influences in my sound.
“Sober” seems to be the song that put you on a lot of people’s radar. Did you expect it to be as big as it has been?
No, to be honest. I mean, when I first wrote it, it was kind of just me having a bit of a moment. I was in a bit of pain, I guess, and was trying to get it out and heal. It was mad as well because even when it dropped, it wasn’t really doing anything and then I flew to Berlin to do it on COLORS. It wasn’t until, like, a month later after it had come out that it went viral on Twitter. It’s been mad because I’ve kinda been riding off of “Sober” for the past year, so now I’ve been putting new music out and people are loving that as well, so it’s been really exciting. I’ve been surprised, but I’m super grateful.
How did you feel when you found out it was going to be on Insecure season 3?
Weirdly, I found out a few hours before the episode aired because of the time zones in America. My manager emailed me, and then I saw people tweeting about it and was like: “Oh my god! What is going on?” But that was super exciting and I really need to start watching the show. I feel like it’s my kind of programme.
Is it a dream of yours to crack America?
I think every artist thinks about making it big in America, but for me, it was always about getting recognised over here first. But when I started getting a lot of love over in America, I realised that the end goal for any artist is to be global, so I guess it didn’t matter which way it happened as long as there was growth and I was reaching more people.
How do you feel about the state of R&B in the UK when you see other artists like Ella Mai going Stateside and succeeding?
I think it’s really sad. I think it’s sad that we have to leave home before we can be accepted here, but the truth is that labels in the UK don’t know how to market R&B. There’s so many talented artists but all they seem to want to do is make you a pop artist, rather than market your talent properly. But R&B is so popular in the States—they know what they’re doing when it comes down to it.