THE last time I spoke with Bella Barton, she had just shared Daughter with the world – her incredible single that announced a rare and stunning talent. Now, with Reflections out (23rd February is the official release date), I was keen to find out more; what the song is about and how it came together; whether her teenage years means she has a unique perspective on music – and what we can expect from her forthcoming album, Ten Songs.
I ask about her ambitions for this year and whether she has a favourite memory; if there is any chance for her to relax away from her busy career; if her time at the BRIT School – and following such alumni like Amy Winehouse – makes her feel any pressure – Barton nominates a song to end the interview.
Hi, Bella. How are you? For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Hello. I’m great, thanks! I’m Bella Barton. I’m an eighteen-year-old Folk/Jazz musician and raging feminist.
Reflections is your newest track. What is the inspiration behind that song?
Reflections is actually one of the first songs I ever wrote. It’s about the impossible beauty standards set by our society that condition young girls into feeling unattractive in their own bodies. Throughout my life; I’ve subconsciously wanted to look conventionally attractive - and mainly for men.
I wrote this song because I realised that beauty is an illusion and we need to escape this conditioning!
Daughter is the song I know you for. That dealt with sexual harassment and rather ‘tough’ subjects. It seems you like to keep your music deep and challenging. In a music world that still promotes the commercial above all – do you find it hard to remain true to your ethics and voice?
I don’t particularly find it hard to remain true to my ethics and voice; I guess because I’m constantly writing, reading poetry and listening to music. So; I’m always being influenced by different things and writing about whatever makes me feel something. I actually write about various other subjects that affect me personally, like panic attacks and unrequited love - so it’s not all political.
Being a young artist in the industry; do you think your age inspires the subjects you write about – and how you approach music in general?
My age definitely inspires the subjects I write about - as I’m experiencing a lot of these topics for the first time So; if a song is about love, it’s my first time feeling love; it’s all very raw.
Ten Songs is out in March. Can you talk about the sort of ideas and songs that will feature? What was it like recording the album?
I’m really happy with the whole album. I also enjoyed recording it. It made me realise how excited I am to write and record as many songs as possible!
Do you think they’ll be any more singles released from the record?
Other than Reflections; I won’t be releasing any other singles from this album. I’m excited to release all ten songs.
You are a BRIT School student. Is it quite daunting following alumni such as Amy Winehouse?! Has it been a formative experience for you?
I don’t find it daunting following BRIT School alumni because all of their music is different to mine. Amy Winehouse is one of my musical influences and I love her - but I’m not intimidated by the fact that she went to BRIT: if anything, it’s just quite nice knowing we both found our interest in music in the same place.
Which artists have you grown up on? Who are the musicians that inspire you the most?
I completely admire The Beatles: their music, beliefs; early and experimental albums, their individual careers - to be honest, (just) anything to do with them. Like I said; Amy Winehouse is one of my musical influences, mainly because I love her unique combination of R&B and Jazz.
I love classic Jazz artists. Obviously Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin; Tony Bennett and, also, Ella Fitzgerald. Ella Fitzgerald’s Someone to Watch Over Me heavily influenced one of the songs (Serenity) from my album.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Nadine Shah is an artist I discovered recently - and I’d definitely recommend her song, Ville Morose. It’s not usually the genre that I listen to, but it’s so beautiful.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I just did a gig at the Dublin Castle in Camden, which I loved playing; so I’ll probably be playing there again sometime soon! I do a monthly gig at the Star and Garter pub in Putney Bridge which is very chill and lovely.
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
This year; I would love to (just) play as many gigs as I can and also achieve complete spiritual peace through my Buddhist practice.
The latter might be slightly difficult
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
When I think about it…my favourite music memory was the other night at Dublin Castle!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
The advice I’d give to new musicians would be to write down anything that comes into their head - because you can turn almost any thought into a song you love.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
To unwind, I usually just turn to Buddhism, meditation; chanting, etc. It makes me feel calm again and connected to my inner-self: I forget about superficial and external worries.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I’d love it if you played The Ballad of John and Yoko by The Beatles.