In Conversation: Mychelle

Pin-pointing the songwriter's fearless creativity...

Hackney-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Mychelle owns a soft brand of indie-soul that can exist within any place and time. Whether you’re in search of sonic escapism or settling into seasonal transitions, Mychelle’s music is intimate and remedial. Her unguarded lyrics capture human complexities as they relate to love and self-unfoldment while articulating lessons learnt through a subdued perspective.

The story begins with her debut EP ‘Closure’ which slowly unravels as an ongoing internal dialogue that becomes a candid conversation between herself and the listeners, only if one allows themselves to be open enough to engage. Her vocal sentiments borrows from the likes of India Arie and Vivian Green, displaying effortless vocal agility over sparse production. In the bossa nova-inspired opener ‘The Way’, she croons the line “honestly only honesty is the way”, which is one of the many gems she flows with across the project.

Placing self-expression at the centre of it all, Mychelle and frequent collaborator Charlie J Perry fearlessly experiment with the bounds of genre, catering to a wider range of listeners.

There is no measuring the amount of growth your are subject to experience within a specific timeframe but a year later, Mychelle returns with her sophomore project Someone Who Knows, offering up sound advice on letting things go, walking away from those who continuously break their promises and wholesome letters to her younger self. Warm basslines and unhurried drums cushion Mychelle's vocals, creating an untroubled listening experience. One of the project teasers in the run up to its release was the ambient 'Forbidden Fruit' featuring label mate Enny, arriving as Mychelle’s first feature on a track.

Listeners witness the union of two familiar souls as Enny’s balmy rap tone floods our earbuds, unravelling with her own perspective on chasing fleeting romantic connections. ‘Someone Who Knows’ is the work of a self-assured artist who makes a friend of vulnerability and transparency in order to heal and show others that it’s possible for them too.

From cutting her teeth busking under Shoreditch bridge to now recording and releasing breathtaking bodies of work, this is a journey that is worth sticking around for. Ahead of the EP release and her headline show at London’s The Lexington (May 31st), Mychelle and I connected over a steady zoomline to chat about the project, her transitions from busking to recording and being heavily inspired by Eastenders.

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Tell me a bit about your background in music and what you grew up listening to. Even down to when you picked up songwriting as that’s one of my favourite things about your music.

I’ve been singing since I was young with my friends and sisters but after uni I decided to quit my job and start busking and try to perform as much as possible. I thought, if I perform, I would grow and eventually find the right people that I was comfortable working with. I didn’t really record music for a long time because I felt like I had to perform and just get better and be out there. I’ve always written songs for fun and through school. I’ve just been enjoying music these days, whenever I go back to songs like ‘Purple Rain’ I will feel it all over again. I was listening to Amy Winehouse the other day as well and again, it just reminded me of how I felt when I first listened to it constantly.

You busk a lot as well so where’s your favourite place to perform? What’s the best thing you’ve experienced during your busking sessions?

I’d say my favourite place is where I started, under the bridge at Shoreditch. That was the first place I busked and the sound there is so nice. You just never know who’s walking by, I’ve had so many good moments. A lot of things that are special about busking have happened over time, for example, I met one of my good friends as she was going to Liverpool Street but she got off early because she said she heard me singing and she was there for ages – a good hour just listening to song after song and after that we exchanged details and we became really good friends. Since then I’ve watched her have a baby and watched her life but I met her busking. That’s how I met another one of my good friends too and now I’ve seen her build her family.

Creating those genuine connections are more special than receiving money or anything. Also the situation I’m in with releasing music – my manager saw me busking and reached out to me and helped me begin my recording journey and I’m really grateful for that as well.

What's it been like for you to present your songs to people in a different way, moving away from busking to recording and performing?

It’s been really good, we put some songs together during lockdown so it’s obviously not what I’d always expected but I don’t mind that. It was something that I wasn’t used to anyway and I feel like as we slowly come back to normality it’s nice because I started in a really weird place doing so it’s nice watching the music grow and being able to go out and perform them. It feels a bit sweeter. It’s really nice performing the songs and being like ‘you can go and check it out’ because for so long I was busking and people would ask ‘where can I find that song’ so it’s nice to be like here’s this song, check it out. I love that feeling when I go to a gig and I hear a song and I can go back and listen to it and I’m happy to be able to hopefully give that experience to someone else.

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In Conversation: Mychelle

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You incorporate a few different styles in your music from neo-soul, indie, sometimes bossa nova. In your own words, how would you describe your sound?

I like that every song has a different sound, that’s also credit to the producer Charlie J Perry, he’s so good and he gives each song its own personality. I am soul, R&B and indie but I do like to listen to a lot of music so I think naturally parts might come up in certain songs.

Your songs seem to come from a vulnerable place. When did you realise that songwriting was the best medium to express yourself?

I don’t think I use it as a tool to express how I’m feeling. I think I enjoy songwriting and it happens that I express what I’m feeling. If I am going through a situation I don’t really go to songwriting to get it off my chest, I like to do that in other ways but I think I just like the process of a song coming together and it just so happens that the words all relate to what I’m going through. Sometimes it’s not even what I’m going through, maybe it’s someone close to me or even a program – I like watching Eastenders and there’s always something going on in there! I like writing sad songs.

Do you ever worry about oversharing? How did you grow to be comfortable with being open with your emotions to the world?

I am quite comfortable sharing to be honest, I don't really think about it. I usually write the songs after what they’re written about has happened so I’m not dwelling in it. Now that you’ve said it I never really thought I was that person that would express through writing but maybe that is the way for me.

I get it because you don’t really analyse the process of creating, you just go for it.

I really enjoy singing and I love being able to sing my own stuff because I can do whatever I want with it.

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You recently connected with Enny on the track ‘Forbidden Fruit’, what were you hoping she would add to the song’s narrative and overall feeling?

I think she’s great and I knew she was going to write something great and she did!

She’s the first feature you’ve had so far. Have you got your eyes set on any more collaborations?

I would love to, I don’t know who and I have nothing planned but hopefully in the future there’ll be more. I would love to collab with a male vocalist but maybe an indie one, I want it to be with someone who’s unexpected.

You released your first EP ‘Closure’ last year which was written during lockdown. What are some things you learnt about yourself during that downtime?

I actually wrote three of them before lockdown and then I wrote ‘Closure’ during lockdown. With that project, especially ‘Honest’ – that song is a true story, and it took a lot to say how I feel. It taught me to not overthink things in life, sometimes you have to just tell people how you feel because then you know where you stand. I’ve always been shy, especially when it comes to liking someone and it’s nice to go through that and then have a song that made me feel stronger in it. You would think telling someone how you feel is a vulnerable thing, and it is, but in that song I tried to flip it and say at least I have the balls to tell you how I feel and that says a lot about me. I’m not being weak, it’s like ‘okay I like you so what are you going to do about it’. When I wrote that song it made me think about it in this way because that wasn’t my perspective before, I was quite embarrassed but it was nice to flip it. Even when I sing it I don’t feel ashamed about that time.

One of my favourite songs of yours is ‘Younger Self’, what made you want to reach out to your younger self through this song? What inspired the message?

With that one at first I didn’t intend to write it to my younger self, it was a message to a friend or my sister you know. Then I thought let me flip it because I did write a letter to my older self a little while ago which I haven’t opened yet but I thought it would be nice to flip it and have something for my younger self. When I decided that it was nice to start thinking about the things that I would have wanted to know because everyone would love the chance to tell their younger self something different so I enjoyed writing that.

You put out an animated video for this song too so outside of music, what other kinds of art inspires your music?

Definitely Eastenders. Tv and films. I do like to keep a diary because I feel like writing just helps you be more intune with yourself and it's nice to also read back as well to see how you’re progressing. I like playing sports and I don’t know if it inspires my music but it is nice to have something I enjoy and I put a lot of my energy into apart from music. Obviously it's amazing when people live and breathe music but I feel like I need to exert my energy elsewhere, I just have to have that balance in order to function.

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In Conversation: Mychelle

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You've also played a part in directing some of your visuals. How do you balance having complete creative control and allowing room for organic collaboration?

I’m grateful that I do have a lot of creative control, I put a lot of ideas forward and if I have a vision for something I’m able to express that. I like working with people because I sing and write, that’s my field, so when I work with other people I enjoy being like this is their art and how do they interpret what they hear. Sometimes I take myself out of it and see the music as a product and think, how does a person interpret it and what does that inspire them to create. I enjoy watching it all come together. I sometimes weigh in because obviously I want to be comfortable at the end of the day but on my videos I just watch everyone working and I don’t want to control things too much. As long as you’re working with good people it’s easy to communicate things that I like and enjoy.

You have another project on the way ‘Someone Who Knows’. Is there a narrative that ties this together with your previous EP or is it a completely different set of ideas?

The first one is more of a story whereas this one is like pieces put together and you know how I was saying each song has its own vibe, I feel that this one is a collection of different vibes and different parts of me as opposed to a story.

How do you want people to feel when experiencing this new EP? What messages are you leaving us with in the EP?

Calm enjoyment. I really hope people like it and I hope people want to see me sing it because I enjoy it so much. I hope it’s a gateway to people wanting to see the music live. I’ve got a band as well and I don’t usually have one often but they are so good! I’ve played with them a few times, they’re also my friends as well so it’s a nice energy on stage.

What are you currently listening to?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Bachata. I went to a salsa bar the other day and they had salsa and Bachata playing. It’s a Dominican genre, it’s so beautiful and I enjoy dancing to it. I was listening to old French, West African songs, you know the really old classics, not the new afro-swing, although I listen to that as well. I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff too, Motown, old soul, a lot of Elton John and glam and psychedelic rock. I like experimenting with genres I feel like you wouldn’t expect from me, that kind of stuff inspires me.

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'Someone Who Knows' EP is out now.

Words: Blessing Borode

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