By Geoffrey Rowlands
For someone whose parents are Swedish singer/songwriter Neneh Cherry and British singer/songwriter and producer Cameron McVey, it is surprising to learn singer/songwriter Mabel was reluctant to perform her own songs other than for a few close friends.
“I began learning the piano when I was five,” said 21-year-old Mabel. “I also knew I wanted to make my own music from about the same age. But it’s only been in the last two or three years that I’ve felt comfortable about playing my songs for other people. I didn’t even let my parents hear anything until I was 16.”
Part of this discomfort actually stemmed from her parentage.
“I felt quite embarrassed about being my mum and dad’s daughter. I thought people would never take me seriously. It was really my desire to have a career in music which gave me the determination to overcome my confidence issues.”
Born in Malaga, Spain, but spending most of her young life in England and Sweden, Mabel studied production and music theory at the prestigious Rytmus Musikergymnasiet in Stockholm. After graduating, she moved to London.
“My family lived in London for some years when I was a child. We moved to Sweden after my grandmother died. We lived in my mum’s family home, a converted schoolhouse in the countryside outside the town of Hassleholm.
“As much as I love Sweden, I always felt London was the place to be to further my music career. Mum felt exactly the same when she was young.”
Mabel did not rely upon family connections to break into the music business. Like so many others of her generation, she used SoundCloud to post her work online. Her 2015 song, Know Me Better, was heard by BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac who played it as her Tune of the Week.
“That song is about exposing yourself emotionally. When you first get to know someone, you don’t want that person to see your weaknesses. But you’ve not really shown them your whole self until they’ve seen the rough edges. Know Me Better is about losing layers of pretention and control, and letting your guard down.”
Although neither Know Me Better nor her 2016 singles, My Boy My Town and Thinking of You, proved commercially successful, they did garner millions of hits on SoundCloud and YouTube.
The tracks also gained industry recognition. Annie Mac was by no means the only person who appreciated Mabel’s potential. She was signed by Polydor Records, became one of the faces promoting a new line from the global sportswear giant Adidas and even collaborated with London’s Tate Modern on a bespoke video to celebrate the art gallery’s new wing. She also built a fan base through acclaimed performances at numerous music festivals.
“I know there are still some overnight successes but I think new artists need time to nurture an audience. I was out there performing and doing various other things. I toured with Skepta’s grime collective, Boy Better Know, and was the support act for Years & Years. Skepta also put me in his video for Shutdown. I was gradually becoming better known and building my fan following.”
This slow burning increase in Mabel’s fan support has matched the chart progression of her UK hit single, Finders Keepers. The track was initially released last March. It then featured among the four songs on her debut EP, Bedroom.
Finders Keepers was the lead single from my EP, which came out in May, and it was also on my Ivy to Roses mixtape which was released last month. It’s been like in America where a record can sometimes take many months or even years to break.” If Finders Keepers took quite a while to hit the UK top ten, it was the complete opposite in terms of writing the song.
“I’d booked an exercise class at the gym for eight o’clock and it was only six. I was sitting around with my (half) brother (singer, songwriter and producer Marlon McVey-Roudette) and he suggested I should get on the piano and see what happens. About 45 minutes later, I’d written Finders Keepers.
“I just intended to make something fun for me and my friends. The song was very different from my usual output. It’s my first uptempo track. I’m good at the 1990s slow jams, I’ve got that style down. But I’d always struggled with uptempo stuff. I love to dance so I wanted to make songs I could dance to. It just hadn’t worked out before.”
Having found success with an uptempo number, Mabel hopes to write more songs of a similar nature.
“It’s like having Finders Keepers fever. I finally achieved something I wanted to do so I want to repeat the formula. But it doesn’t just work like that. I sometimes think if I wear the same outfit and play on the same piano then it’ll happen again. Maybe one day it will.”
Australian singer/songwriter Vance Joy will release his sophomore album, Nation of Two, this coming February.
His debut album, Dream Your Life Away, was issued in September, 2014. Successful throughout the world, it proved particularly popular in Canada, where the album peaked at number two, and in Vance’s homeland where it took pole position on the Australian chart.
His new album explores the intimate relationship between a couple who are devoted to each other.
“The album title describes a perfectly self-contained couple,” Vance explained. “Their world begins and ends at the bed they share, the car they ride in, or any other place where they’re together. The idea is that their love for each other gives them their bearings, a point of reference that makes sense of life.”
Lead single, Lay It On Me, was released in July. The song has earned Vance a platinum disc in Australia. The accompanying video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXXD1Qxpisw
An official audio posting of a second track, Like Gold, has just been placed online. It can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0yo2XqufgU
Fans of American rock band Evanescence may well be shocked by Synthesis, their newly released fourth studio album. Apart from two new songs, the album consists of stripped down, reworked and orchestrated versions of tracks previously released on their first three albums.
Evanescence songwriter and founder member Amy Lee explained the concept behind Synthesis.
“This is a total passion project for me. The album is the synthesis, the combination, the contrast, the synergy between the organic and the synthetic, also the past and the present.
“There are so many layers in our music underneath the huge drums and guitars. I’ve always wanted to shine a light on some of the gorgeous David Campbell arrangements and programming elements in our songs. That idea snowballed into completely re-doing them with a full orchestra, not just strings, elaborate programming and experimentation. I’m so happy with the result. The album flows like a big, dynamic soundtrack.”
Lead single from Synthesis was the reworked version of their 2003 world-wide smash hit debut single, Bring Me To Life. No promotional video accompanied the new version but an audio posting can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5QFLV_lzeQ
An official video did accompany second single, Imperfection, one of the newly written songs on Synthesis. This is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_XoKJP1XK4
The latest single is a new version of Lacrymosa, a critically acclaimed track from the band’s 2006 sophomore album, The Open Door. There is no video but an audio posting is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcLP8v3823I
TOP-HIT: Mabel, singer and songwriter, has said that she wrote the single in 45 minutes.
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