The poetic singer-songwriter about to hit the big time.
T-shirt HOUSE OF HOLLAND, dress ALICE MCCALL, jewellery ARTIST’S OWN
Elle Watson has been writing since she was 14, signed since she was only 15 and released a stellar debut EP aged 19; what the singer-songwriter may lack in output quantity, she more than makes up for in quality. Her songs – eerily beautiful electronica/R&B hybrids – explore dark and pertinent themes set to lush instrumentals. Her lyrics, inspired both in rhythm and content by poetry, are revealing without being solipsistic.
If last year’s premiere of “Glued” – a dreamy track produced by cloud-rap super-producer Clams Casino that comes accompanied by a visually striking video – are anything to go by, Watson’s forthcoming EP is sure to be hella impressive. Ahead of her gig at the Camden Assembly back in January, we caught up with the London-based singer to talk poetry, song writing and how she uses social media.
What themes would you say your music explores?
I’d say all of the stuff that I’ve written so far, from the age of 14 to 20 (which I am now), has kind of been [about] a coming of age for me. So it’s been about growing up and growing into the person that I am – that’s included themes such as loneliness, a little bit of heartbreak, as always, and the social pressures that come with being a young person these days.
Do you imagine your listener when you’re making the music?
I don’t know to be honest. For some reason I always imagined someone to be a little bit like me. A little bit of an introvert but extrovert at the same time, and has this secret side to them. I’d hope to connect with them in some kind of way. But from what I’ve seen it seems to be a mix of people of all ages which is pretty cool.
Nice. How did the Clams Casino collab come about?
I’ve been a fan of Clams for a really long time because I’m a huge hip-hop fan. I heard he produced this Mikky Ekko track called “Pull Me Down”, and it was the first time I had heard something of his that wasn’t hip-hop. From then I fell in love and thought, “Okay, I really want to work with this guy.” We ended up by chance being put in touch and then put in the same room. It’s through emails that “Glued” came about.
Your music has a transcendent, ethereal quality. The video for “Glued”, however has a really bodily and sensual feel. What was the process for coming up with the concept?
It was a real joint process between myself and the director Haris Nukem. For some reason I’d always imagined this sticky, bodily thing. Maybe that’s just being too literal with the word “glued”, but [Haris] saw this sea of bodies as well. I explained to him the meaning of the song was basically a representation of the inner dialogue you go through when you feel like someone is getting too close to you. Even when they’re not, you feel that way and you start going crazy within yourself and you start asking yourself really weird questions. You’re confined to your own body even though nothing has really changed. The bodies are a real physical representation of that. But we also wanted to create this underlying sense that we are all innately the same. So we’re all close to each other and you feel super confined but everyone has their own struggles as well and their issues inside. It’s a whole mix match of things but it transcended that the sea of bodies was the best way to explain that.
Instead of an official website, you have a Tumblr, which is quite an intimate way to present yourself to the world. Was that deliberate?
I love visuals. I’ve always loved photography, I’ve always loved movies. And at the time, back when I started using Tumblr, I never quite understood it. You’d re-blog all of these things you quite liked the look of but then you go onto this page and suddenly it’s everything that you like and it’s in one place and gives you a sense of identity and who you are. I don’t know whether that was subconsciously reflected in my music.
(LEFT AND RIGHT) Top CLIO PEPPIATT, jacket and trousers BEAU SOUCI, jewellery ARTIST’S OWN
(CENTRE) Dress THE KOOPLES, jewellery ARTIST’S OWN
On Instagram you post pictures of your lyrics books, or your laptop when you working. Is that important for you, showing the process?
I suppose it’s for a little bit for content but it’s also… When I take pictures of my writing book there are some little phrases there that I’m maybe testing out. It’s my way of putting a little feeler out there and seeing if people actually respond to reading it or if that line in particular is attention grabbing. So it’s kind of an experimental thing for me.
In your bio for Tumblr and Instagram you declare that you like to write so what does it mean to you to write? What do you get out of songwriting?
It’s definitely a form of catharsis for me. It’s also a really vicious cycle. It feels like it’s almost a little bit of a drug addiction in a way. It’s like you need to write because you read into everything. Why does the air taste this way? Why did that exchange happen on the tube? You start reading into it and you find yourself overthinking things so much and I find then I just need to get it out by writing. I do love to write. It’s definitely a nice way of getting out all of these thoughts that you don’t really want to have. Not that they’re bad thoughts, it’s just that everyday stuff.
Your lyrics are quite poetic. Do you read a lot of poetry?
I actually buy more poetry books than I do literature or fiction. I love poetry. I really do. I write some myself. But the kind of inspiration that I take from it is more… When I read poems, you’ve got the iambic pentameter and you start to learn more about words and syllables and what sounds right when you’re reading a poem.
Oh, the rhythm.
Exactly. So taking that and thinking how many syllables can fit into this melody. The rhythm. It’s that which I take more inspiration from.
You’ve been writing since you were 14. How do you think you’ve grown, and do you look back much?
I did have a look back really recently and just sat there quaking in my chair. When I started writing I was really careful and really making sure that the page was very neat, and all perfect. And I couldn’t write something down unless it was perfect and couldn’t write a song unless it was really perfect. So I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to let go and stop being so critical of myself because before you put something out there creatively you don’t really know if it has the opportunity to grow. So if you are shutting yourself down before you’ve even put it out there you end up confined. I’ve definitely learned to be a little bit more throw away and just try things out.
(LEFT) Top TIBI, trousers and belt ARTIST’S OWN
(RIGHT) Dress THE KOOPLES, jewellery ARTIST’S OWN