Wonderland talk exclusively to Chlöe Howl. British pop just got freckled, cute and outspoken.

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 16.44.13Embellished jersey dress and knitted bra top both by PRADA and ring from PEBBLE.

It’s early in Chlöe Howl’s career, and she’s already getting stopped in the street. Blame it on her impalpably cute, tomboyish looks, glistening green eyes or fiery pixie cut  – but it happens, and usually when she least expects it.  “Typically, I’ll be doing something really embarrassing,” she laughs. “One time I was really hungover and in the previous day’s makeup, shoving crisps into my mouth. Someone came over and was like “Oh my God Chlöe, I can’t believe it’s you!” Needless to say, I was mortified.”

But many – from Topshop, who scouted her for a live performance, to the BBC, who shortlisted her for their Sound of 2014 gong – are buzzing about Howl and her straight-talking, sassy pop sound. When she heard of her nomination, she was in disbelief. “I kept getting them to check. Especially because Sam (Smith) and Ella (Eyre) were in the mix too – they have both had number 1s already.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 16.43.42Jacket by DSQUARED2, ring by MAWI, sunglasses by CUTLER AND GROSS and tulle gloves by SIMONE ROCHA

Growing up in Maidenhead, Howl spent her time singing along to her sisters’ Destiny’s Child and Alicia Keys records. “I tried to copy their voices and do what they did,” she recalls. “It was hard, but I thought if I gave myself the most difficult parts to sing, I might end up being half as good.”

In the summer after her GCSEs, the 18-year-old landed a record deal with Columbia – ending her academic career. She didn’t enrol in college – something she kept a secret from her father. “He knew I was talking to labels – but I convinced him it wouldn’t mess with my education,” she says. “After about three weeks into term he was like ‘How’s school going?’ I was like ‘Oh yeah, about that!'”

Since then, she’s been working on her sound in the studio, which she describes as “steak and kidney pop” – like bubblegum but “meatier”, apparently. Writing with the likes of Eg White (Florence and Adele) and Richard X (Sugababes and M.I.A), the singer describes early 2014 as a strange, transitional period. “It’s weird, because I went from the sheltered life of school to turning up to 30 year old men’s houses and being like ‘Hey, let’s write a song together.'”

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 16.42.39Monochrome top and trousers both by CHANEL and ring and bangle both from PEBBLE

The finished product – Howl’s upcoming self-titled album, out June 9 – is filled with punchy pop tunes about everyday teenage drama. Take it from tracks like No Strings – the story of a sleazy, hormone-infused party – or Rumours, which charts a rumour gone out of control. “Everyone was being quite bitchy, and I got to thinking: we are all just trying to figure out who we are. While doing that, you’re naturally going to act like an idiot. The song was me saying, ‘Come on guys, let’s give each other a break.'”

In person, Howl is just as upfront as her lyrics suggest. Take her account of her first red carpet event, the Brit award nominations. “It was fucking terrifying!” she says. “It’s funny, because it looks like this amazing party when you watch it on TV, and it’s not like that at all. I kept getting pushed around because I was getting in the way of everyone.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 16.43.58White and red coat by MIU MIU

The next few months will hold a lot of firsts for the songstress. She’ll be relocating to London, living away from her hometown for the first time in her life. Howl will perform in arenas for the first time, accompanying Ellie Goulding on her UK tour. “‘I’ve done small venues before, but this time I’m going to shit myself because it’s in front of thousands of people. The O2 is the scariest but it’s the last stop – so I’m thinking by then I’m going to be amazing,” she says with a wink. Hype might be on Howl’s side, but she’s not getting her knickers in a twist about it. “I don’t want to set the bar too high and say I want my album to go double platinum or something. I mean, what if I only sell two copies?”

Words Eleanor Dunne
Fashion Editor Shirley Amartey
Photographer Lonny Spence
Hair Kota Suizu at Caren using KIEHL’S SINCE 1851
Makeup Lynsey Alexander using ALPHA H SKINCARE and M.A.C COSMETICS
Photographic Assistance Mark Kendrick
Fashion Assistance Rebecca Conlon
Hair Assistance Tomonari Yamaguchi