You started music more as a hobby, and now it’s become your profession. How did this all kick off?
I grew up in London until I was nine, and I always sang as a kid. I loved singing. Then, when I was 13, my mum and my step-dad got together, and he’s a musician. He had released music in the past, and I had grown up with a lot of discomfort. I had a single mum, and I had a lot of pent-up frustration and anger. He gave me a guitar when I was 13 and encouraged me to write my first song. From then on, I kind of got addicted to it. Every day after school, all my friends would go out and chill out in the park, but I’d run home and sit and write songs on Photo Booth on my MacBook.
Where are those videos now?
I gave my old MacBook to my god sister and there’s like, 250 videos of me with my braces singing, playing guitar, and writing songs. Sometimes people will send them to me and it’s awful [laughs]. When I was 13, I fell in love with songwriting and being able to put how I felt into words. I had a real release for things I felt as a kid. I did it through school, and then when I was 16 I decided to go to music college. Over time, it became very clear that that’s what I wanted to do with my time and with my life — write songs, sing them to people, share things I’ve been through, and hope people connect to them. It’s all progressed very naturally. It’s helped me grow as a person and get through things, so I thought people could relate. I thought very deeply about everything as a child, so it clicked with me.
You brought up being angry as a kid and the various emotions that teenagers go through — that everyone goes through. Do you find music to be therapeutic?
Yeah, a lot of people don’t have the ability to put feelings into words. When you do, it’s something that should be celebrated completely. As a songwriter, in my mind, I can potentially be the voice people don’t have for themselves. That’s what I hope for. I could write a song about something that’s happened in my life that’s really affected me, but write it in a way where my mum, my cousins, and my mum’s best friend can listen to it and be like, “Ah, shit. I feel that too. That’s exactly how I feel.” Not everyone has the ability to really understand what it is they’re feeling.
In terms of turning the songs that you’ve written and recorded into a live performance, how do you bring those songs to life?
For the last few years, I’ve been in the studio constantly. I love it, but I also love stepping out of that safe space. I work with the same people constantly, and the people I write with are my friends. In my first show in September with Dermot Kennedy, it made me realize that the stage is the most incredible place. I love being in the studio, but it allowed me to see people’s faces and reactions to one set, and see people smile. It brought it all together. When you put songs on the internet, you know people are listening but you don’t know who those people are. You can go after the show and sit with people and have a chat. Being in a room and connecting with people is why I do what I do. It’s amazing to connect with people over what you do as an artist.
It sounds like a magical experience.
Yeah, it’s crazy because I’ve written these songs on my own or with friends, in their horrible little studio, and then I’m able to play them on stage with some amazing artists and have their fans listen to them. It’s insane and surreal.
We’re almost at the end of 2017. It’s a little cheesy, but do you have any plans for 2018? Any New Year’s Resolutions?
I’ve been working on music this part of the year, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with one of my favorite producers Mike B, and we did “Ashes” together that comes out this week. I’m so excited to put more music out. For the moment, I’ve got one song out, and I’ve gotten great reactions. I just want to give people more, show more of me as a person. Show more of the stories I’m trying to tell. For 2018, I want to put new music out, tour more, because I love touring, and grow as a human being. It’s exciting not to know what’s going to happen. I’m excited to see what happens.
It’s good to be surprised—to not know exactly what’s going to happen.
Exactly. It’s exciting to know you’re on the road to somewhere, but you don’t know what it is yet.