Today we are thrilled to introduce a very honest conversation with a 22-year-old singer-songwriter YSABEL BAIN where we talk about her journey, inspiration and future plans.
We discovered Ysabel’s music last year and since then she visited our chart three times. At the moment her single “Blade Runner” is doing really well at number six.
Tell us about the journey up until the release of “Blade Runner”
Wow. I wrote “Blade Runner” in late 2015 so we’re talking about a 4-5 year journey. It took me about a day to write the song. I got this line in my head “once I had a dream” and the lyrics seemed to flow. It’s one of the only songs that I wrote each section in the order that it’s sung. I didn’t have the money to record it till 2018 so by the time I got to the studio, I’d spent 2 years finessing the song and figuring out what I wanted it to sound like.
I’d never intended it to be a single, but when I listened to the final mixes it felt so obvious that it was supposed to be a single that I just had to go with it. I wanted to wait for the right time and after planning the releases for my previous singles it ended up that the song wouldn’t be coming out till 2020. It’s really been a waiting game.
“Blade Runner” is really the expression of the moment when you realise that it sucks, but I know that if anyone asked me to repeat it all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.YSABEL BAIN
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest single
Toby (the producer) and I were trying to lean into the emotional side of this song. We wanted to create something that was quite deep and atmospheric. We were trying to keep it lightly linked to the movie, while still being very me. I loved the bare bones element of the song so much that I was tempted to keep it just acoustic at the beginning, but Toby started sending me different sounds and mixes and I got hooked.
What does the song mean to you?
The meaning of this song has changed for me over the years. It’s been an expression of my disappointment that life isn’t neat and tidy and having dreams opens you up to being hurt. It’s that things don’t always go the way you wanted them to, and that sucks.
What changes is what I choose to do with disappointment. I can sit around and feel sorry for myself, or I could carry on and hope that one day my dreams will become reality.
It’s been an expression of my disappointment that life isn’t neat and tidy and having dreams opens you up to being hurtYSABEL BAIN
Is the song any way connected to the movie “Blade Runner”?
It is. I watched the movie and absolutely hated it (don’t tell Harrison Ford). I found it so confusing and I didn’t understand what was happening. Something must have stuck because I couldn’t get the final scene out of my head and a week later “Blade Runner” was born.
If you’d need to select a quote that best represents the song, what would it be?
“Once I had a dream”. That line reminds me of the classic fairytale opening “Once upon a time”. It lures you into a false sense of security, ‘cause then everything goes downhill from there.
How does your creative process look like?
I’m very sound driven. I like to have something I can sit in and vibe off of, so I often will play the chords round on a loop to see what kind of melodies I can pull out.
I’m really big on having memorable melodies so I don’t record my melodies. My theory is, if I can’t remember it then it probably wasn’t that good in the first place.
Lyrically, I often get fixed on a word or a phrase and will build from there (i.e. once I had a dream). My lyrics need to be conversational, so when I’m done I’ll say the lyrics out loud as if I’m speaking to someone else.
All of my stuff is acoustic when it’s written so we don’t start workshopping other sounds until we go to the studio or are prepping it for a gig, which means most of my musical ideas are stuck in my head.
What are your musical inspirations?
Variation and diversity. I grew up in a Christian family so I have heard almost every variation of Christian music that has ever existed. I love Gospel and Soul, but I never wanted for my music to just be one thing, so I try to make sure that I write with musicians of various genres as well as writing by myself.
It helps me to keep things fresh, but it also brings an edge to the Soul sound that I usually bring to my stuff.YSABEL BAIN
What was the best advice you received?
“Eyes closed, no hands, head first can’t lose”. It’s my stupid way of paraphrasing my mum’s advice. Sometimes you just have to risk it. If your guts saying something then do it, stop analysing the pros and cons.
Do you face any challenges as an independent artist?
Financing yourself as an artist is rough. You need to view it as an investment, but knowing when to put money in and when to wait is a hard balance. I’ve really struggled with that.
What is one album you cannot live without?
Off the top of my head I would have to say Everlasting Life by Kim Burrell. It’s super Gospel and a massive part of my childhood (it came out the year after I was born), it’s been out for 21 years and I’m still not tired of it.
Do you have a song, that when you hear it, you’d say, “I wish I’d written that”?
So I can think of a bunch that haven’t been released yet (so that’s not helpful). I think my top one would be 101 by Alicia Keys. It’s just such a sad story told in such a beautiful way.
I think the beauty of doing something that you love is that even when it sucks you wouldn’t trade it for the world.YSABEL BAIN
What artists would you recommend to others that we might not have heard yet?
There’s this guy called Tobe Nwigwe. He so doesn’t need me to plug him, but his music is sick and I love his work ethic and the way he and his team do stuff.
I’m a massive fan of a duo called Refs, great music and great storytelling.
Also and artist called Tequisha. She’s a friend of a friend and I’m a massive fan. She’s got some stuff coming out soon and I’m excited for it.
And lastly, my guy Gabe the Kid. We recently wrote a song together and I’m super excited for it to come out (it’s pretty epic).
What is your biggest achievement to date?
I headlined at Komedia Brighton last year. My first gig under just my name and we were sold out! It took months of organisation, but the band were amazing and it really kickstarted the whole year.
I also recently got to work with a producer friend of mine called Javien. I’ve wanted to work with him for a while now so it’s pretty exciting.
When did you realise that you want to be a singer-songwriter?
My family has always been crazy creative and my dad and sister are amazing singers (they sing BVs for me), so I’ve been into music since I was a kid. I wrote my first song when I was about 9, but it wasn’t until I went to college that I realised “oh, I’m pretty good at this”.
What needs to happen for you to say “I finally made it in music”.
Man, that’s a tough question. I think a lot. I’ve got so much that I want to do and achieve and it’s so linked with my musical journey.
When I reach the point that my music was funding itself (and the other projects I’d like to start), then I’d be able to say that I’d finally made it.YSABEL BAIN
We’ve heard that Brighton is overcrowded with talent. How do you manage to find your own space?
Haha, I moved! Seriously though, it’s been an experience as my band are still based in Brighton so we’ll still be gigging there. Brighton is amazing at getting you on your feet and giving you the best start possible, but it’s hard to find a slot as a Soul singer. I found that I really had to take things into my own hands (i.e. put on my own gig). It’s difficult, but liberating. You really get to do your own thing and make a name for yourself. I’m hoping that I can make things easier for similar artists who follow me.
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Everyone! Justin Timberlake, OneRepublic (I think Ryan Tedder’s a genius), Alicia Keys, Tobe Nwigwe, Guvna B, Tori Kelly, the list is endless.
What you got planned for 2020?
This year’s gonna be busy. We’re finally going visual! I’ve got a bunch of videos coming out through the whole of this year (the first one will be out this month). I’ve got a bunch of songs to write for my next project, and I’ve got a couple of collabs coming out this year which is really exciting. There’ll be a few gigs here and there but my priority this year is getting a better visual presence and working on this next project.