Straight Up

Meet Etta Bond, the London songstress making badass anthems for self-empowerment
By Ammar Kalia | Music | 16 June 2017

Etta Bond. Photography Rosie Matheson

Since releasing her first EP on OddChild records in 2012, London-based singer-songwriter Etta Bond has carved out a unique space for her straight-talking personal commentary.

Set to the backing of a luxuriant yet pointed voice, she follows in the lineage of Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah and Erykah Badu, pairing a keen sense of stoned swing with a lyrical message centred around empowering her fellow women. Seen and Never Heard (2015) was an anthem giving voice to those objectified and silenced by their male counterparts. While her latest release, Kiss My Girlfriend, is the first single to be taken from a forthcoming EP and tells of the power and beauty of female relationships, informed by a hip-hop swagger.

Her latest single, Addiction – a twinkling, Rhodes-heavy meditation on infatuation – is released today (listen below). To celebrate, Etta talks MySpace linkups, collaborative relationships, and the importance of writing messages of self-empowerment.

Ammar Kalia: What have you been up to in the two years since your last release?
Eta Bond: Over the last few years there haven’t been any major releases but behind closed doors I’ve been working on the new EP with producer Chris Loco, which had Kiss My Girlfriend as its first single and now we have Addiction. This will be my first full project with someone else, apart from Raf Riley, so we’ve been getting a rapport going, experimenting and coming up with the music.

Ammar: Going back to the beginning then, how did you first get interested in music and writing your own material?
Etta: I kept a diary from the age of seven and I’ve always loved writing and expressing myself. I come from an artistic family, my sister trained as a performing artist and my brother is a DJ, so there’s always been music around, especially soul and R&B. I recorded my first song when I was fourteen and then kept writing and didn’t really show it to anyone until I was 21, when I released my first tracks.

Ammar: How did the release of those first tracks on Labrinth’s OddChild label come about?
Etta: I met Labrinth on MySpace when I was sixteen and we used to spend as much time as possible in the studio, basically living there and making music! The owner of the studio that we worked in ended up managing Labrinth and myself and they both created OddChild.

Ammar: What is it about collaborating with others that appeals to you so much?
Etta: I don’t produce, I dabble on guitar but I’m not a confident player, so I’m always going to need someone else to create with and to help bring the best out of me. It’s about finding those people that you click with and then building on that relationship, just as you would with a friend or a lover. The better I know somebody, the better it is that we work together and explore different avenues.

Ammar: Does your songwriting process change with different producers?
Etta: I have my typical way of writing which is where I sit in the corner of the room on my own and then emerge however long later and record. I’m now looking at writing with other people and different ways of working but I’m generally pretty quiet and stick to myself! That’s why I like to be so close-knit with the people I work with; with some producers, we don’t even have to talk much while we’re making things, I trust where we’re going and I’m willing to let them experiment and I’ll then find somewhere to fit myself in within that. 

“It’s about remembering every day to love myself, since we aren’t reminded of that enough.”

Ammar: I associate your music with messages of female strength, how would you describe the message behind Kiss My Girlfriend?
Etta: That track was about celebrating female relationships and how special they are, about women loving other women and the fact that we need to be encouraging that. I make music based on what I need to hear and what I need to say to myself, it’s about being inspired by strength, rather than just saying I myself am strong. The music is a message for me as much as it is for anyone else. That’s how it starts, it’s about remembering every day to love myself, since we aren’t reminded of that enough. I love that once it’s out it can empower other women and give them the same feeling that I need.

Ammar: Is that desire for self-empowerment also fuelled by attitudes you’ve experienced being a female artist?
Etta: It’s life, as well as being within the music industry. One of my last singles, Seen and Never Heard, was inspired by being in relationships where I felt like the guy I was with didn’t want me to speak up; it was as if I was embarrassing him if I had something to say. There’s this sense that you’ll be more loved or respected by a man by just sitting there and being quiet and cute, and I wanted to write about how wrong that is.

Ammar: Is the new EP continuing in a similar vein, responding to your own experiences?
Etta: Yeah, I always look at my work as pages out of my diary, capturing passing moments. The effect and message of the tracks are not necessarily intentional, but I welcome its journey. Art is always up for interpretation and I like to leave space for that, that’s what makes it so beautiful. If people don’t get it or think of it the way that I do then that’s ok too.

Etta Bond. Photography Rosie Matheson

Etta Bond’s new single, Addiction, is out today, 16th June on OddChild Music. She plays Secret Garden Party, 

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