In conversation with… Mabel

Conor Giblin chatted to Mabel before her sold-out show at Manchester's Band on the Wall, following her UK & European arena tour supporting Harry Styles.

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Image courtesy of Chuff Media

You’re about halfway through your UK headline tour – how has it been so far?

I’ve been on the road for 7 weeks now, because I was just on the road with Harry Styles. Every show is different, it’s a learning curve, the Harry shows were super different to my headline shows. We were playing arenas with Harry but we chose to keep this tour super intimate, and it’s only my second UK headline tour ever.

My first introduction to your music was your single ‘My Boy My Town’ (2015) and I was instantly hooked! For those who might not have heard it because you’ve done 3 more EPs since then, what is the song about and what were you feeling when you wrote it?

It’s a really special song, it sounds like a love song and you can interpret it however you want, but I wrote it about my relationship to London as a city. I grew up all over the place but London has always been very important to me, my dad grew up there and I’ve spent a lot of time there. We lived in Sweden for 10 years but I used to think about London all the time. I moved back when I graduated from school in Sweden and I thought ‘this is it, it’s gonna be amazing’ but it was really difficult because cities are like people, they change just like we do. So when I moved back, I was super out of sync with London and it gave me a bit of an identity crisis because I was like ‘I don’t even know this place anymore’ but at the same time it’s a massive part of who I am. I really believe that where you are affects whatever it is that you’re creating and when I reflect on that time in my life, I was having a crisis and it was like me and London had fallen out of love. But it’s fine because we’ve found our way back to each other, the love has been rekindled! [laughs]

It’s amazing to see that from day one you seem to have had a really strong style and sense of who you want Mabel to be as an artist.

I’ve known from a super young age that there’s a great power in how you present yourself, whether you consciously choose to not care or whether you do care. I had a lot of anxiety when I was growing up and it was the only thing, other than music, that I tapped into from a young age. I realised that I could use that power to decide how someone is going to perceive me. I could change whether I wanted everyone to look at me or whether I didn’t want everyone to look at me.

I was amazed to find out that you grew up in Sweden! Are there any Swedish artists that you really love? Or any that you listened to when you were growing up?

Swedes are very talented people in general, and as I said earlier, because I think that music is affected by where you create it. So I think you can hear a lot of music and be like ‘Ok, this is definitely made by a Swede’ because it’s so methodical and thought-out, which is not the way I create music per se, but I’ve definitely learnt a lot from it. Sometimes when I get stuck, because I went to music school in Sweden, I know certain methods that I can use to tap into things. Artists like Robyn were really important to me growing up and she still is now. In terms of writing really good quality pop, I always go back to all of her albums and I just think that she’s an absolute legend, a really talented songwriter and she’s also a lovely person.

You’re one of the few female artists on this year’s Wireless Festival line-up and I wondered if you sometimes feel super isolated on festival lineups, not just as a woman, but also because you of the kind of music that you make? It can be hard to fit in when most major festivals these days are dominated by either pure rock, indie or hip-hop.

Yeah, I guess in a way it is a challenge. But I’m not one of those people who sits around being like ‘Ugh, that really sucks’, you have to think ‘How can we fix this?’. So I’m just playing every festival that I can and I’m putting myself out there and playing to as many people as often as I can and pretty much saying it as it is. Wireless was a difficult one for me because of the kind of music that I make, it’s a super important one for me to play and I go there every year. It’s sick for me but when I saw the poster I found it sad… I think the root of the problem is that young female artists aren’t being encouraged to do their own thing and experiment. Females get moulded into something and then you lose your will and don’t know who you are anymore as an artist. Whereas guys are encouraged to be who they are and that’s the sad thing. I want to do something in the future where young females can experiment, I want to create a safe space or a studio or a workshop, because I know that I really struggled with that when I first signed my record deal.

I must talk to you about your Ivy To Roses mixtape because it’s an utter masterpiece! I wanted to talk about two of my favourite tracks on there, starting with ‘Begging’ – what were you feeling when you were writing that song?

There’s a lot of relationship songs on that mixtape. I think everybody loves love and I’m so in love with the idea of love. I fall in love all the time! [laughs] I love writing about it because we can’t understand it and that’s what ‘Begging’ is about in a sense – it’s about my idea of love. I’ve been in some relationships where I’ve felt let down because my expectations are super high and I think a lot of men have blamed their lack of effort on my high expectations. I have mad high expectations, I want crazy things from whoever I’m seeing. But I’ve kind of accepted that I’d rather be that way and one day I’ll meet someone who can fulfil that, hopefully! [laughs]

‘Ivy’ is probably the most raw Mabel track to date. Did you know right from the beginning of writing it that it would stay pretty stripped back and that it didn’t need lots of layers of production?

That song is about family and obviously everyone goes through difficult things with their family, but you can never forget that you are tied together with them forever, so you might as well try and fix things and love each other whilst we’re still here. I was in LA and I was writing with Brian Kennedy, who’s worked with Rihanna and Chris Brown, and Kid Harpoon who’s a really good friend of mine and basically, I ended up bringing my aunty with me. She’s my rock. She’s my makeup artist, my nutritionist, my assistant, my mum sometimes, even my sister. And she was in the room when I was writing it, her energy by being in the room made me write a song about family, I couldn’t write about anything else in that moment.

 

Mabel’s latest single ‘Fine Line’ (ft. Not3s) is out now!

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