Interviews

English Singer-Songwriter Abisha Finds Her Voice

“Authentic.”

It’s a word that gets thrown a lot in this industry but often without anything backing it. With English artist Abisha, authentic is the first word that comes to mind when trying to describe her.

Coming from a small town in England, Abisha struggled with being “different” — as someone who was both mixed-race and queer. But now, at 25, Abisha has found her voice and knows what she’s trying to say, and more importantly, what she stands for, and she’s ready to make her trans-Atlantic debut.

First and foremost, congratulations on your latest single, “Real Life.” The music video is gorgeous, too! What was the inspiration for both the song and the music video?

Thank you so much! The inspiration for the song was a feeling that I think we’re all pretty familiar with — the feeling of being with someone but feeling disconnected from them at the same time. It’s about longing for that closeness and intimacy with the person you love and yearn for. With the video, I wanted to keep it fairly simple so that the emotion of the song was really apparent. I wanted to get across the joy and the sadness that the song expresses and also show my personality.

As someone who is both a woman of color and LGBTQIA+ myself (who grew up in a predominantly white town), I loved seeing you and reading about you when your name hit my inbox. I’d argue that the music industry is still pretty white, male and straight, and I’m curious what your mentality is for succeeding in a space that isn’t always hospitable to you?

I try to not take too much notice or get too caught up in the negative aspects of the industry and focus as much as I can on being the best and most authentic artist that I can be myself so that there are more people of color for people to look up to.

You’ve seen success pretty quickly. From what I understand, you launched this project just two years ago, and now you’re international. How has that journey been for you? Exciting? Horrifying? Exactly what you expected?

I’m not sure I’d call myself international just yet! I recently got the opportunity to go over to the States to shoot a music video in New York, which was incredible, and I’m so grateful for that. I’d love to expand more into the States — getting my music out there more and spending more time over there, so hopefully, that will happen in the near future. The U.K. music scene is killing it at the moment, though, and I’m honored to be a part of that. There are so many artists coming out of the U.K. with so much talent — it’s crazy.

I’m very proud to be a British artist right now. The journey so far has been so exciting, everything from being in the studio to shooting videos is just so special and so much fun. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and where it takes me. I’m excited for every aspect of it.

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alexa, take me back to new york

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You’re from the U.K., and are pretty successful there — receiving praise from more than a few big magazines. Why did you decide to venture out into the U.S., especially now? It’s not exactly the safest moment for marginalized people to be vulnerable in our country.

As much as the U.K. is an amazing center point for the music industry right now, if you want to make it as an artist, I think you have to break in the U.S., too. I want to build a U.S. fan base as well as a U.K. one and eventually bridge the gap between the two. As for timing, I feel that it’s important that I don’t shy away from potential negative responses and occurrences because of being marginalized and be confident in who I am, representing people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community in order to try and help other people be proud of who they are and not try to suppress it for other people’s convenience.

As a trans-Atlantic artist, what’s the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between the U.S. and the U.K.? Is there any difference?

I haven’t noticed any major differences. I think in terms of music, the U.K. is very urban-focused at the moment, which is amazing, and I see the U.S. as being quite heavily pop-focused, which is equally as great. Personally, I feel like I’m a mixture of alt-R&B and pop, so I love listening to both U.K. and U.S. music and taking influence from both.

Something interesting that I noticed about your music is that you don’t really use pronouns. Is that an intentional choice to keep your songs gender-neutral? Or just a happy coincidence?

It’s definitely coincidental, I tend to address my songs to the person I’m singing about, hence using second-person pronouns rather than third because I feel that it makes them more personal. In “Confused,” I use the word “girl” in the chorus but I think it’s quite subtle. I think that it’s important for it to be clear that I’m singing about a girl, which I showcase through my music videos, but I often feel like it can sometimes come across almost too intentional when I use pronouns my songs.

You’ve worked with brands like ASOS, Puma and SuperDry, which is nothing to sneeze at. While it’s typical for musicians to have a “look,” it seems like your aesthetic is pretty important to you. Do you take your “look” seriously? And if so, why is it so important to you? How did you find confidence in it?

My look really is extremely important to me, not for any other reason than that it’s how I express myself. Fashion has always been a huge love of mine, alongside music; I’d probably say I love them both equal amounts. Whilst music is how I express what I want to say and how I’m feeling, fashion is my outlet to show who I am.

I spent so much of my life trying to hide who I was and trying not to stand out because I already felt so different, that once I embraced who I am and found an outlet for that in fashion, it was the most freeing feeling in the world. Styling looks and wearing clothes that I love and feel like me makes me so happy. I’ve actually styled myself in all my own clothes in my videos.

Speaking of things that are important to you — obviously being LGBTQIA+ means something to you. Why do you feel the need to talk about that, even though it’d probably be easier for you to not bring it up?

I think it’s really important to talk about it in order to show other people that it’s ok to talk about it and be open about who they are. I also feel that the conversation about it will never be over until LGBTQIA+ people feel equal. I hope to help spread awareness whilst also providing a role model for young people like me who didn’t have an LQBTQIA+ person of color to look up to.

As we wrap 2019, I can already tell you’re someone with big ambitions. What are you hoping to do in 2020? Anything cool we can talk about?

In 2020 I’m hoping to release an EP, work towards releasing an album and really develop my sound and get to a place where I truly know who I am as an artist. I’d love to play some more live shows with my new music, too, so that everyone can hear what I’ve been working on. I’m definitely also hoping to spend some more time in the U.S. and continue working alongside amazing brands such as Puma and maybe some others.

And finally, my favorite question to ask all artists: why should the world care about Abisha?

Because I care about the world! I want people to be able to relate to my music and for it to help them through things that they’re going through. I want to inspire people to be themselves and own it! And I want every single person to be proud of who they are, despite how hard that can be sometimes.

Featured Image: Instagram (@abisha)

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