I urge everyone to stream and investigate Daughter by Bella Barton - Buy/Stream: ; Listen on Spotify. Not only it is a confident and original song from seventeen-year-old Bella Barton but it is so different to anything out there. One would think, looking at a singer of Barton’s age, she would be producing commercial Pop or machine-suffocated Electronic jams – designed for the meat-and-sweat of the club floors. Perhaps I am being terribly stereotyping and prejudicial: Bella Barton is, refreshingly, a musician who mixes soulful Jazz of, say, Tony Bennett - with sumptuous, romantic Pop elements of (1965/'66-era) The Beatles.
Barton talks about Daughter’s story and what one can discover from her upcoming album, 10 Songs – and which of the tracks hit her the hardest. She talks about the BRIT School – where she is studying – and the three albums that mean the most to her; where she will be performing and (sage) words of advice for any artists coming through at the moment.
Hi, Bella. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. I'm about to go to France for a couple of intimate gigs which will be nice - so I’m feeling great, thanks!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
Well. I’m a seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter - and I go to the BRIT School; where I studied music for two years. I'm continuing to study there for another year.
I'm releasing my first album very soon - which I'm really looking forward to. My music is mainly acoustic with Jazz/Blues themes throughout.
Daughter is your new single. Can you tell me about what compelled the song and what the track is all about?
Ironically, Daughter is the most-recent song I wrote for the album - but one that I've wanted to write for, probably, two years. When I was fourteen, I realised how often it was: that men would cat-call and hit on me in the street. It was, basically, every day – middle-aged men would follow me and harass me etc.
So, about a year later, I went on Radio 4's The Listening Project to discuss the effects this had on me - and all of my female friends - and how vulnerable it makes young girls feel. Then, I was invited to Parliament to a select-committee to talk about this topic - and I remember realising that we are never taught how to cope with it or how to get out of the situation.
My passion (in this) compelled me to write a song from my own perspective.
Listening to the song, and it has Jazz elements and, oddly, reminds one of a smoke-hued, mystica night-time walk through Paris. It is classic-sounding and has a coolness and suave swagger. Was it quite easy putting the song together or did it go through various versions?
Thank you! I knew that I wanted a fast-paced Motown beat with a Jazz feel, and so, from there, I found it quite easy to write lyrics to the groove of it. I played around with the conversational outro for a while - because I didn't know how much scatting I wanted.
Who are the musicians you grew up listening to and inspired your career in music?
I remember seeing Ed Sheeran at a festival - when + had just been released - and it definitely inspired me to learn how to play the guitar and start writing my own songs.
Amy Winehouse, on the other hand, got me into Jazz and I've always aspired to create music as distinct and beautiful as hers.
I also saw Tony Bennett in concert recently: he's a massive icon of mine…I loved it!
10 Songs is your upcoming album. How does it feel having it completed and are you excited seeing what reaction it gets?
It feels great to have it done as I spent almost a year on it - so it's nice to be able to finally put it out there.
My friends are definitely getting me hyped-up about it because they're all very supportive and excited to hear it...so I can't wait!
Which of the ten songs, would you say, is dearest to your heart?
I Want You is very dear to me because I feel that it depicts the pain I was feeling a while ago and, when I sing it, even now, it brings back the emotions I felt then.
Serenity, on the other hand, is my favourite - I love the trumpet solo!
I believe the record tackles issues like misogyny and sexual advances. Is this approach been motivated by personal experiences and was it important, to you, distancing from predictable love songs and obvious themes?
As I was saying before: it was definitely motivated by personal experiences - but also from many of my friends who have also been verbally harassed. I did feel that it was an interesting topic for a song: especially the contrast between such a fast-paced and happy tone with quite dark lyrics.
But, most of my album has other, more emotional songs about relationships and emotions.
As a young new artist, you could have created something commercial and chart-based – Daughter is the opposite of it. Do you feel having your own sound is more important and inspiring than penning something generic and mass-produced?
Having my own sound is important to me because I would love to have a very distinct style - so that my music is noticeable.
I write from the heart and I feel like I have to write honestly.
You are, hard to believe, still in your teens. How do you balance academia and growing up with the demands of music?! Are there times when you want to disconnect and have some ‘me-time’?
Well, for the past two years or so I have been practising Mahayana Buddhism - which definitely helps me to feel at peace with myself and not get too stressed out with exams; also, creating an album at the same time.
The actual act of writing and playing comforts me, too.
The BRIT School is somewhere you have cut your teeth and won awards at. How important is what you learned there (and still do) to your own music and creative process?
BRIT has been great. I've had help with my singing techniques and just learned a lot about creating music. The main thing for me, though, is that the people there are so supportive and lovely. The laid-back atmosphere at BRIT has really helped me to come out of my shell over the last few years – and actually record these songs.
What sort of gigs do you have coming up? Where can we see you come and play?
I'm doing some gigs in the South of France and (doing a gig) next month at The Star and Garter pub in Putney Bridge on 25th August. I'm hoping to also perform at the Lost Rivers Elephant, soon.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Frankie Cosmos is an act who I've just started listening to - and I love her raw acoustic vibes. My favourite song of hers is Outside with the Cuties.
My backing singer and oldest friend, Sylvie Holder - who also goes to BRIT - is really talented, too.
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
+ by Ed Sheeran. It means a lot to me because of his influence on me at a very early age. His lyric-writing in this album, for me, is so personal and distinct that it doesn't seem cliché at all.
It's so hard for me to pick only one album by The Beatle but I would have to say Revolver. It is one of my favourites because it was at a period in their career where they still had a live gigging vibe - before it became very studio-based and experimental (which I love, too).
The last one would have to be Frank by Amy Winehouse, because it is what made me fall in love with her - as well as Jazz.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
I'd say to have confidence in themselves and just go for it because, for years, I was embarrassed to share my music with people. But, once I grew in confidence and began doing gigs, I realised how important this was...
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name any song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
I Left My Heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett, because it's my favourite Jazz standard.