BBC Sound of 2014: Ella Eyre
- 9 January 2014
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Singer Ella Eyre is the runner-up on the BBC's Sound of 2014 list, which highlights the best emerging artists for the coming 12 months.
The 19-year-old Brit School graduate scored a number one last year with Rudimental, as the lead vocalist on Waiting All Night, and spent the year touring with them.
Her unique husky voice was back in full force on her debut solo EP Deeper, which came out in December.
Taking influences from soul, Motown and pop, Eyre tells the BBC her music also benefits from some "beefy production".
"It's a big sound to match the bellowing vocals," says the singer, who also featured on Naughty Boy's track Think About It with Wiz Khalifa in 2013.
Eyre tells the BBC she started thinking about a career in pop while studying drama three years ago.
"I loved performing, but I was singing somebody else's words. The beauty of being an artist is that I am me, this is my life and I'm telling you about it," she says.
You've called your lyrics "honest", what do you write about?
[My] lyrics are all things I've experienced being a teenager, all our dramas that we have. I'm not going to sit there and say my experiences are more important than anyone else's, but the idea is that people can relate to how I felt in the past. Writing is therapeutic, it's like a counselling session for me.
And Deeper is about when somebody says they love you, but you're not quite ready to say it back?
Deeper is an experience I had - when they drop the three word deal-breaker and it kind of ruins things. When you're single you spend so long wanting to be with somebody and then when you actually do... maybe that's just me and my commitment issues!
I think I've taken things too fast too many times in the past and so now I'm just commit-o-phobic.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ealing in West London but I went to boarding school in Somerset for five years, which was the best five years of my life until now. I loved it to pieces. I was cast as Tallulah in Bugsy Malone and that's how I found my love for singing and performing.
My drama teacher, who was a massive support and still is, he just said to me: "You need to leave. Sixth form here is not going to do you any favours, I think you should audition for the Brits."
And so I did. And I got in. Which was quite a shock, because I hadn't really been classically trained. I mean I've been dancing since I was four but it's not whether you can dance, it's about having the potential.
How has the Brit school prepared you for being an artist?
I think the best thing about the Brit School is you have to be independent. If you don't do your work, that's your problem. If you want the grades, you get them. And that's the same when it comes to being an artist. If you want things to happen, you need to make it happen. People are not going to do things for you.
Has anyone given you advice to keep you grounded?
[Laughs] I think everyone takes it upon themselves to believe it is their given right to 'ground me'!
It's a crazy world. It's a massive, egotistical world where it does become very much about you, you're very much in a bubble.
The best advice I've been given is to surround yourself with the right people. My band are really lovely, genuine guys. My managers have always been very honest with me and put me in my place, just like my mum would. My mum scares the hell out of me all the time! She's definitely my harshest critic and I think that's the best way. I'm not one to be mollycoddled.
What does she think about everything that's happening to you now?
Oh, she's so proud. She's a creative herself, so she says, "I'd be stuffed if you were a maths champion or something, I couldn't come and watch that!". She's a huge supporter and she wants to be involved in every day, which is a nightmare, but it's encouraging to have a mum like that.
What kind of music did she used to play for you?
Growing up, I remember the first album I ever bought was Basement Jaxx, Kish Kash, because I kept stealing my mum's and she hid it from me. They're my favourite band. The amount of tunes you forget that they've written. I saw them in Brixton recently, my mum bought me tickets. [Collaborating with them] would be a dream come true.
Lots of people's parents have an embarrassing video of them performing as a kid, did you sing a lot for your family?
I didn't, actually, because as a kid I grew up as a swimmer, I was a competitive swimmer. But there is a video of me when I was one or two singing Ring a Ring o' Roses and I start eating the daisies.
A lot of people will know you from your collaborations. Have they prepared you for what's ahead?
It's definitely prepared me. I've had to see the Rudimental boys go through it, I've been sitting in the back seat almost. But all of us up-and-coming artists, we're all in the same boat. Ultimately it comes down to the music and whether people like you, and all I can do is hope they do.
A few of the artists that have worked with Rudimental seem to be launching their own careers. It's been a great platform hasn't it?
I think that's the beauty of it. They've always said that they wanted a family vibe. They like to say that me and John [Newman] have flown the nest now. And it's really lovely to see someone like John doing so well and I just hope it happens for all of us, really. There are a lot of talented people that the Rudimental boys work with. They know how to choose them!
Have they given you any advice then?
Advice from Rudimental? Drink less!
No, one thing I've learned from them is be nice to everyone, because they are four lovely, lovely guys. They can be moody, we're all human beings, and they're like my brothers in the best and worst ways. But they are lovely, lovely people.
You've already had a number one with them of course. Does that mean the pressure's off?
No way! Having a number one, as exciting as it was - and it's amazing - it's not necessarily my number one. That's Rudimental's success. And I'm so grateful and fortunate to be a part of that, and I've got my little statue at home and I love it. But for me, ultimately, I came into this game as a solo artist and I intend to try and have a number one on my own.