AFTER CO-PENNING “BOUNCE” FOR IGGY AZALEA AND LENDING HER VOCALS TO ALL THREE OF WILEY’S SINGLES FOR HIS ALBUM THE ASCENT, LONDON-BASED SINGER-SONGWRITER MS. D IS BREAKING OUT ON HER OWN. FRESH FROM SUPPORTING R&B LEGEND ANGIE STONE ON HER UK TOUR, V TALKS TO V ABOUT A MUTUAL LOVE-AFFAIR WITH IMOGEN HEAP AND BARING IT ALL ON HER EP RESONANCE, OUT TODAY (LISTEN BELOW)
April 28th, 2014. With her impressive résumé of songwriting and guest vocals, Ms. D incidentally secured five top ten tracks without ever releasing something all her own. You might guess Ms. D would be keen to continue the formula, but the 22-year-old is now adamant on singing a different tune. Her first release, “My Pen” has the notes of rejection and determination we’ve come to expect from today's biggest hits—but minus the bubblegum synth and superficiality. The result is a pure track that amply showcases the siren's knack for narrative lyrics and soaring choruses. After only a brief trans-Atlantic phone call, it's obvious that Ms. D is as charismatic as she is talented.
How did you get your start into music? Was it songwriting first?
MS. D I started off demoing tracks. I had never done any writing. I didn’t even know how to write music or where to start. I was just lucky enough to have good people around me who knew about that world—knew about writing. I had producers around me, so I circled with those people and they ended up bringing me to studio sessions where I could watch and learn and observe. Because I didn’t know how to write I would demo the songs they had written. And then the Wiley thing [featured vocals on three consecutive singles] came about because I was in a session trying to start up my own writing. Trying to learn. I was called up to do the song if I could and I thought “O.K. let me try and write something for this” and it just worked out. I started off doing demoing to do writing to being a solo artist.
What was it about writing that took you in?
D Well, I wanted to write my own songs. I wanted to be able to express my feelings through songs because no one else can write a song better for you than yourself because you know exactly what you’re going through and exactly what you want to say. So I thought to myself “y’know I want to learn how to write. I want to be a credible writer one day. I want to be that person that someone looks up to and says ‘she was a really good songwriter and her songs really touched me. And I feel something when I hear her songs.” That was one thing that I really wanted to do.
How do you start the song writing process? Do you have a diary? A melody?
D It depends. Sometimes I may have already written a song at home to absolutely nothing and I might say “can you create a beat around this?” Or the beat is already there and I start to write around that. Or we just end up doing it together where the beat is made while I’m writing the lyrics. That way its a together thing. I always like when the beat is made from scratch because then it feels like a group effort and that we’ve done it together. The connection is there on the song, too, because we made it together there and then.
I noticed there was a journalistic quality to the lyrics of “My Pen.”
D With “My Pen” I just decided that I’m just gonna write about how I feel. Any kind of thoughts I have. Just a song that everyone can relate to. Whatever somebody else interprets that song to be for them then that is what that song means. I didn’t want it to be one-dimensional where it was only about me. I wanted it to be something that can relate to anyone and be any kind of situation they’re going through. “My Pen” is about not wanting to be taken for granted. If there is something you believe in which is obviously the “pen” which I refer to as being my writing and my talent then you shouldn’t let anyone take that away from you. I think other people can relate that to relationships or something else happening in their life.
Can you tell me a bit about your upcoming E.P. Resonance?
D Yes! That’s out on the 28th and yesterday [April 23rd] I had my first headline show at Barfly and that was amazing. It felt so surreal. I loved it. My first time headlining something. It felt really different because people were there to see me —and of course everyone else too— but it was still nice to know. I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to putting out my E.P. because I’ve worked really really hard on it. I worked on it with a producer named Jay Weathers and we locked ourselves away in the studio. Wrote out songs and wanted to create something that was different and unique. I wanted to create a journey of sounds and music that I’m interested in and that I like. I wanted to put out a side of me that people don’t really know because people are used to me featuring on songs and writing a lot of pop, but with Resonance I wanted it to be a thing where people were a bit confused or shocked because they don’t know what it is that I do by myself. This EP is to showcase me as a solo artist and that I can do a lot of different things.
Would you say that the new EP is self reflective in a way?
D Definitely. It’s also a journey of where I’ve been in the past in terms of my writing towards where I’m going. Which is who knows. It’s a journey of sounds. I listen to a lot of Imogen Heap and Brandy and Rascal Flats, country and Avril Lavigne.
I was just listening to Imogen Heap yesterday! I wonder what happened to her.
D Really? I’m so glad to hear you say that. I love her. She’s still doing things with Frou Frou which is with another guy named Guy Sigsworth who I’m actually working with for my album. I had a couple of sessions working with him and Jay so we’ve come up with a couple of songs. I felt really happy that I had a chance to work with someone who’s worked in a group with Imogen Heap.
I remember Frou Frou having a very different, electronic, ethereal quality is that something you plan on tapping into?
D Definitely. She’s very different and thats what I love about her. I’d like to get same thing across to people. That there’s nothing wrong with being different or not being apart of the crowd. It’s not about trying to be different but being who you are. Watching Imogen do her things has really inspired me.
Tell me about the tour you’re finishing up with Angie Stone.
D Yes, the last date I did was at Sheperd’s Bush Empire, so that was really great. That was probably the biggest show I’ve done as a solo artist. The tour was great. It’s all very surreal. Its nice to be able to open up for somebody who is a legend like that. Even though people are waiting to see Angie Stone I think they are also just going to open up their ears. They don’t know me, so I’m happy to perform to them and introduce myself to a different crowd. It’s a different kind of audience that is coming for Angie.
Are there any artists you want to work in the future? I mean you’ve already worked with some great names like Wiley, Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora.
D I would love to work with Imogen because she inspires me. Even Emelie Sande because I think our journeys have been quite similar because the beginnings of our careers have been very alike. She started off just featuring and then breaking out into her own thing. First, she’s amazing and second I think we’d be able to come up with something really great. Ed Sheeran, too. I love him live.
Are you still writing for other people or are you just focused on your solo work at the moment?
D I haven’t recently. I’ve just been focused on writing my own stuff and channel myself into doing the solo artist thing. But its not something that I will cut out of my life completely. When the opportunity arises then I’m definitely willing. It’s always going to be apart of my life. I wouldn’t mind writing for someone like Shakira—that’d be amazing—or someone I’ve worked with before like Wiley. If the time is right and the moment is right then I’m happy to do it.
Do you and Wiley have a good friendship?
D Yeah, he’s a cool person. Genuinely a nice guy and humble. He knows what he wants. I think thats why the three songs we did together ran because he wanted me to do them. I think some people were skeptical thinking “Are you guys really going to do three songs together?” But its a thing where he could see that we had a formula going and if its not broken why try to fix it? We had a good relationship while working together. We would record separately but when we performed live the connection was there like we had recorded together. That connection wasn’t lost.
Did his support encourage you to step out on your own?
D Watching Wiley he is a real pioneer. He inspires a lot of people. I looked at it like “Wiley you’re doing your thing and now I’m gonna do mine. Watching you do your thing inspires me to do a lot more.” A lot of people look up to him and I’d like people to look up to me too. We do different music, but the respect people have for him is great. They call him the Godfather of Grime. He’s made a title for himself and is a legend in what he does.