Henrietta "Etta" Bond is a voice that must be heard. Whether she's telling us to point out the Boring Bitches, singing sweetly asking her to stay or even lending her voice to musical friends, she has the kind of voice that simply makes you stop and pay attention. She has a sound all her own and signing to Labrinth's aptly named Odd Child Recordings just seems like a match made in heaven. The past three years has seen Etta move from working behind locked & closed doors, perfecting her sound to presenting three musically unique & independently released EP's (two with long time collaborator Raf Riley) before surprising fans and announcing back in March that she had inked a deal with the also aptly named Syco Music. Ahead of the release of her debut single;the MNEK-produced 18 and her forthcoming appearance at Industry Takeover, we chat to the lady herself about music, growing up outside of London and what to expect on March 28...
Growing up in Cambridge, what sort of musical opportunities were available to you when you were younger?
I was really lucky because my family were super supportive of whatever I wanted to do. To be honest, that’s one of the most important things; for your family to be supportive. Obviously, not everyone can have that luxury but it really does help. I used to go to dance classes and singing classes every day after school at a theatre school. I was lucky; I grew up outside of London too so I can’t really speak for people in London in terms of growing up but I think the most important thing for me was that my Mum supported me. That was the most helpful to me, I think. It makes it a little harder If your Mum or Dad doesn’t support your decisions or believe in you so I’ll forever be grateful for the fact that my Mum’s always been supportive and guided me. I didn’t really need to go to Theatre school but because my Mum was so onto me; she was like “Okay, you want to do this? Let’s do it! I’ve got your back!” Even if I hadn’t gone to Theatre school, I think as long as you know you want to do something and you believe you can do it, that’s the basis of it all. Believing in yourself is something that everyone can learn to do.
Labrinth famously started his career at Urban Development as part of our Vocal Collective and you’re signed to his Odd Child Recordings label. How did the two of you meet?
I met Lab on MySpace when i was about 16. I’d just moved to London to go to college and I came across his MySpace page through Mark Asari; he had a tune called Make My Move. I heard the song and I said “This is SICK!” It just happened to say “Produced by Labrinth” and of course MySpace had the whole “Top Friends” thing and he was there so I dropped him a message. I was messaging people all the time and I had all this additional software so I could add loads of people & send loads of messages every day but when I spoke to Lab, there was something special about him. Before I even knew his name or who he was, I heard a sound and that’s what attracted me to him; I heard it and I said “I need to find that guy, that’s how my music needs to sound!”
We sent a few inbox messages, met up and we started making music that first day we met. I was 16; he was 17 and we’ve worked together ever since. I keep realising It’s 10 years this year since I met Lab and I think that puts everything into perspective for me; the whole MySpace thing. Essentially, in 10 years time, someone will be interviewed saying they met someone on Soundcloud like they did on MySpace.
Your debut single 18 is due to be released really soon, which in a way feels like a long time coming. You’ve released a couple EP’s in recent years so does this feel weird calling this your “first” single?
No, it doesn’t feel weird to me because technically, it is my first proper single. I understand what it means; it’s my official first single. Yeah, I’ve done music before, it was great and I enjoyed it but it’s the fact that I can really promote it now. I feel up to now, it’s continuously been development for me. I’ve been making music since I was 14 and I’ve made so much different music, I’ve made so much different music with Raf (Riley) and so much of it remains unreleased. All of these songs I’ve made not to put on MySpace or now on Soundcloud, I was making music purely to go on my own journey; to find my sound. With past releases, I just decided to start letting people see that development, I feel like now, it’s my first single. It’s all just releasing music really but there’s something a little more official or a little bit more special about it. I’m excited!
There’s always going to be growth and development over time but is there much of a departure of the music you were making then (particularly with Raf Riley) to now?
I don’t think so. I’ve done a bit of spoken stuff, I do singing, I love Poetry, R&B and Soul, I like Jazz music and I like rap too; all of these things heavily influenced me and my writing. I don’t really think so; I’m just starting to get a blend or a better blend of the two; I think that’s what I’ve been working towards. I think they used to be a bit more separate perhaps; the styles in which I did things but it’s more about embracing it. I’ve done a lot of stuff like that before and it depends on what kind of influences I’m trying to put across and what I’m trying to say. I think my voice is what ties it all together; I speak & sing and it’s the way I do normally. Speaking on the phone now, you probably feel like you’ve spoken to me before because you’ve listened to one of my songs and I speak how I think; it’s familiar. Whether it’s a crazy beat or a slow, acoustic song, my voice is going to be recognisable. It’s like when someone calls you on the phone and you haven’t got their number saved; if it’s one of your friends or family, when they pick up the phone to you, you know it’s them because you know their voice. As long as people connect with my voice or what I’m saying then I don’t think it’s really much different. I don’t want to have limitations like that in terms of what music I want to make, I’m very up & down; I have lots of different moods and lots of moods to express and sounds are moods to me. I’m just going to keep putting my chatterbox on these songs and hopefully people will get it and if they don’t I don’t mind either; I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.
For those who haven’t seen you perform before, what can people expect from your performance at Industry Takeover?
I can pretty much guarantee getting really hype at some point. That usually happens! [Laughs] A lot of the time, it depends on my mood and how I’m feeling on the day. I have some sweet singing moments but hopefully I’ll get some people on their two step and some hands in the air and all of those things. I like to have fun; most of the time when I’m on stage especially during these types of shows, I just want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. I can’t help it; I just get on stage and I feel like I just turn into some next version of myself; another level when I get on stage. We’re just gonna have some fun and get a little hype on stage.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to follow in your footsteps and become a musician?
My first piece of advice would be don’t follow in my footsteps and make your own! If you want to make a stand out here, you’ve got to follow your own path, go on your own journey of self discovery because you want to discover your own sound. It’s about who YOU are. You’ve got to focus on the right things and make genuine s**t; that’s what you need to concentrate on. I always say, if I make the music that I love and work hard, it’ll take me wherever I’m supposed to go; wherever that may be. Whether that means I win awards or never win an award in my life; whether it means I go to number one or never go to number one and I’m mad respected. I don’t care what it is. If you’re doing what’s true to you, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be. Just enjoy the music and don’t do it for retweets or likes; just do it and stay focused on the art because that’s what it’s about.
Etta Bond's debut single 18 will be released soon. Catch Etta performing at the Industry Takeover All Dayer on March 28 at Ravensbourne College of Design & Communication. £10 tickets are available now from UD Tickets.
WORDS: Courtney Buck [@BuckTheWorld_]