[Y]ou may not instantly know who Ella Eyre is, but if you own a radio or have ventured into any club in the country in the past year, you will recognise her voice. Last April, Ella added her sultry vocals to Rudimental’s infectious drum ’n’ bass stomper “Waiting All Night”, and what followed changed the 19-year-old’s life. The track rocketed to number one, clocked up some 60 million views on YouTube and made Ella Eyre the name on everyone’s lips. Before even officially releasing a solo single, she graced every “Ones to Watch” list going, made the shortlist for the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award, and settled herself firmly in second place in the BBC Sound of 2014 poll.
But it seems that the BRIT School graduate is trying to remain composed about her impending superstardom: “It’s weird. I don’t actually get stage fright. So far everything is just a buzz, although I do miss my cats every day,” she muses. If you haven’t already, it’s about time you acquainted yourself with the breakout star whose hair is almost as big as her voice.
HUNGER: WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU COULD SING?
Ella Eyre: I really enjoyed doing drama at school, and the first time I remember loving singing was when I was cast as Tallulah in Bugsy Malone. I was about 16 and it started to occur to me that perhaps I could make a career out of performing. Then I went to the BRIT School and studied musical theatre, but about a year into that I decided that it didn’t allow me to be as creative as I wanted to be, and I wasn’t happy singing somebody else’s
songs. I felt like I had my own thing to say.
DID YOU HAVE A BACK UP OPTION?
I think the scariest thing was that I didn’t have a back-up option. When I was studying musical theatre, I thought I was going to go to university or pursue music. I was very fortunate that I found my manager a year into my course. I spent a year developing, and within a month of leaving the BRIT School I was signed to Virgin.
HOW WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE BRIT SCHOOL? WAS EVERYONE CHASING FAME?
I think people misunderstand the school. They think that you go there for a crash course in how to be famous, but it’s not like that at all. I didn’t get any contacts from the school. I was just fortunate enough that my singing teacher knew my manager from way back, and they bumped into each other at a gig and hooked me up. They don’t school you on how to meet managers or how to get into the industry.
IS THERE A PRESSURE TO SUCCEED WHEN EVERYONE IS CHASING THE SAME DREAM?
I don’t know. I was quite private about it. Nobody really knew what I was doing at the time. I’d leave school and go to the studio, but I didn’t talk about it much because I didn’t want there to be a disappointing end if things didn’t work out for me. It became like a no pressure second job. Pressure didn’t really come into it until I got signed.
“WAITING ALL NIGHT” WAS A MASSIVE HIT. COMING FROM A GROUP EFFORT LIKE THAT, DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE HARDER TO ESTABLISH YOURSELF AS A SOLO ARTIST?
Hopefully not. I think I’ve been fortunate enough to have people single me out and put me on these “Ones to Watch” lists. I don’t really think of myself as coming from a group vibe anymore. That track has definitely put everything into perspective. Having a number one still hasn’t quite sunk in, and I don’t think it will until I get my own number one. I think working towards that makes you realise how hard it is to succeed in this business. “Waiting All Night” gave me a head start that not a lot of people get.
“I think being sexy is about being comfortable and portraying a message of power rather than using nakedness.”
HAS HAVING THAT EARLY SUCCESS MADE YOU WANT TO PUSH YOURSELF?
Absolutely. When I did my first solo gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I realised how exciting it is to go out alone, sing a solo, and have control over your project. I guess there’s more pressure, but it’s something I’ve put my heart and soul into. I spent three years writing my album, and finally it’s coming out in the summer. It’s daunting but also really exciting because people want to hear what I’ve got to say.
YOUR FIRST SINGLE “DEEPER”, IS ABOUT SOMEONE TELLING YOU THAT THEY LOVE YOU WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL THE SAME. DO YOU WORRY ABOUT PEOPLE FIGURING OUT THAT SOME OF THE SONGS ARE ABOUT THEM?
Not at all. I want them to! The whole reason I’ve written them is so that I can hit them in the face, without actually having to, you know, hit them in the face! And that works even better if the song does well. The boy who I wrote “Deeper” about probably doesn’t know the song is about him. He’s quite a self-indulgent person, so he probably didn’t notice!
IS IT HARDER DATING PEOPLE WHEN THEY KNOW YOU MIGHT WRITE A SONG ABOUT THEM? HAS ANYONE EVER ASKED YOU NOT TO?
No, I haven’t had that actually. I guess I haven’t been writing for very long, so it’s not a problem that I’ve faced yet. I don’t think they expect me to write about them, and I don’t think they realise that I write songs about them until they hear it, so I’m getting away with it so far!
HOW HAS YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE CHANGED SINCE BEING THRUST INTO THE PUBLIC EYE?
It’s manic, that’s for sure. It’s hard to fit in domestic things. Today a Sky engineer came to install my Sky box, and I had to fit [the appointment] into my album cover shoot, an interview and a photo shoot. Also I’ve just bought two new cats. I’ve had them since October, but they only spent four weeks at my house, and the rest at my mum’s. I’m not complaining because I love what I do. I worked in a café for a year, and I never ever want to go back to that. But I do miss the cats.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE TO BE MORE GUARDED AND WATCH WHAT YOU SAY BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE SCRUTINISING YOU MORE NOW?
I definitely feel like I have to be slightly more guarded because I’m quite outspoken. I often get in trouble on Twitter because I can be a little bit too honest. I’m used to using Twitter as my daily rant, but if you do that, you can offend people! I guess you have to keep a close group of friends around you, then you can say exactly what you want to them instead.
WHAT’S THE MOST TROUBLE YOU’VE BEEN IN?
[Laughs] My mum will kill me for saying this, but I got kind of arrested for running away from school. I went to boarding school and we had school on a Saturday, so on the last day I ran away with all my friends to get drunk. We got escorted back by the police.
DO YOU THINK THE PRESSURE IS HIGHER FOR WOMEN IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
I think it depends. There’s a lot of pressure for women to use their sexuality in music. For me, ultimately, when I’m listening to a song, I just like to know that it’s honest. I don’t think there’s more pressure on girls than there is on boys. Everyone is pushed to succeed. I always say that ultimately it’s down to the music. All of us up-and-coming artists are in the same boat. If anything, I think there’s more pressure for people like me and Sam Smith because we’ve had number ones, and we want to get another one on our own terms! All you can do is hope that people like your music.
DO YOU THINK BEING SEXY IS EXPECTED OF PEOPLE IN MUSIC?
If you come from a fresh outlook with a normal image, and then suddenly you go sexy, it looks a bit suspicious. I think being sexy is also about being comfortable and portraying a message of power rather than using nakedness. I think you can find a lot of things sexy in ways that don’t involve losing your clothes. I don’t discredit artists who use their sexuality, because it works and they look great
and it makes me jealous, but I wouldn’t necessarily portray myself in that light. I’ve never really been that kind of person. If I’m going to get naked, it will be on my own terms.