The latest single from this stylish pop sensation aptly describes her body of music to date. ‘Vulnerable’ by BEKA is a heartfelt track layered with soulful vocals against an energetic beat – give it a listen here. We sat down with BEKA to talk through her career so far, touring with HONNE, and longing to create visual works in the future.
Hi BEKA, it’s great to have you on C&TH. Firstly, how’s life going at the moment?
Life is pretty wonderful, actually. I’m at a natural moment of real reflection as I’ve just got back from a world tour supporting HONNE, so I’m feeling deeply grateful.
Can you give our readers a little introduction to your career so far?
I’d had a few years working in the music industry as a writer in various capacities, and then had this amazing moment of encouragement while working with my dear friends HONNE about doing music for myself. I think it had been something that I’d always wanted and never quite given myself permission to do, and so I had this beautiful glass ceiling moment where I realised I could actually do it the way I wanted, with the people I love, for the reasons that feel important.
That’s been the beautiful thing about the last few years: being able to write with people I love and really curate art in the way that excites me – which is to have music that is both liberating, but also narration-based and about my life and what I see around me. It’s been a really beautiful few years, I’d say.
‘Vulnerable’ has just been released – how would you describe the song in three words?
Raw, euphoric and gentle…
As well as HONNE, you’ve previously supported Laura Mvula, Griff and Rag’n’Bone Man on tour. What was that like?
I think supports have this reputation for being quite hard as you’re going into a room where people have paid to see somebody else, but I do think there’s something quite magical about supporting phenomenal artists, because they draw in these warm, gorgeous crowds who are open to music and art. That’s really how I’ve felt about all those shows – each one had their own very unique fanbase who were so open, kind and generous in listening. I did a world tour supporting HONNE and then I did a UK tour supporting Griff, while Laura Mvula was a one off show and Rag’n’Bone Man was two shows, but with each one you have a very different experience. They’re all nights you never forget, to be honest.
Any standout moments or funny stories from touring with those artists?
There was a standout when supporting HONNE in LA, a place that’s so renowned for live music, and just having people scream ‘go queen!’ and seeing grown men in their mid 50s knowing the words to my songs. It was a very surreal, humbling moment of seeing people on the other side of the world knowing my music, which was kind of wild.
I’ll also never forget walking in for the Laura Mvula show when she was sound checking. I’m such a fan of hers and have such admiration for what she does. In the middle of her soundcheck, she stopped and shouted, ‘Hey, BEKA!’, and was really effusive, making sure that she stopped her soundcheck to give us enough time, and I’ll never forget that. She didn’t need to do that, and had every right to give us no time at all, but she didn’t and I thought that was amazing.
View this post on Instagram
What are you like just before you go on stage?
I’m in the zone, for definite. I often have my best friend Azande with me, because she is this fireball of amazing energy but also really emotionally intelligent and knows what the room needs. I think I’m quite sensitive in that time to wanting people who are that perfect blend of fun and liberating and empowering, but also sensitive to know that it feels like an important moment. But I’m definitely still jumping around, lunging, or I often get the band to tell me one word that we can remember for the show. Often the word will be a speech from one of them about how its wild that we get to do this for a job, just to kind of get that perspective going.
Do you have a standout show/performance to date?
I’ll never forget coming out in Bristol last year for my headline tour, in this gorgeous room in The Louisiana where I had to run through the crowd to get to the stage. The energy was absolutely electric, and I think it had only hit me at about 5pm that day that this tour was for me and that people were coming and had bought tickets. It was the first night of the tour and I’ll never forget it – people felt like my friends in that there was this kindred spirit-ness about it.
Did you always want to be a musician?
I definitely always wanted to work in the arts. Growing up, I was quite academic, but was always moved by music, dance and theatre in a very deep way. I wanted to be a choreographer and then, even now, I love the thought of getting into directing, because so much of your music (for me, anyway) feels like a story in my mind. I want to cast interesting people and bring out narratives and create visual worlds for the things that are in my mind.
When did a career in music seem feasible, or when did you start pursuing it professionally?
My parents were both absolute legends and always encouraged us that ‘this is the one life we have, so do what you want, do what you love’. So pursuing music never felt that silly. I’d thought about going into International Development, and I’ll never forget being at sixth form one day and imagining people doing music and thinking I would feel eternally jealous, so I probably wanted to pursue music from the beginning. I remember being a little girl and being really inspired by all these phenomenal artists, and then knowing it was something I was allowed to do gave me permission to really dream about it.
Which musicians inspired you the most growing up?
I remember the first time I was really moved by music was from Stevie Wonder, and hearing his melodies that were almost orchestral and so cinematic. Equally, I could also understand everything he was saying and relate to it, and I think his music was the first I ever cried to. Definitely the Spice Girls, too! There was something so powerful for me as a young mixed race girl seeing Scary Spice, a woman who had the hair that I was hating at the time but then suddenly loved because she had it like mine. I’m also hugely inspired by Quincy Jones and the work he did in film and with other artists.
View this post on Instagram
If your music were described as a mash up of three other artists, who would they be?
Imagine Harry Styles, Alicia Keys and Maro had a baby…
Whose career trajectory would you like to emulate?
Someone I admire is Maggie Rogers. I love the autonomy that she’s had over her art since the beginning. She has her own imprint which licenses her music to a major label, and when you go and watch her live it’s a euphoric experience. Even in the way she uses every part of her voice and her body… She gives the full 360-degree experience that we get so scared to have but definitely feel with music, and she allows for it. I’ve always been very inspired by her.
What’s a song you wish you’d written?
Probably ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today’ by Stevie Wonder, the love of my life.
What are your favourite things to do to wind down from a day of making music?
I’ll often come home and put on something really comfy, take off my bra and make a cup of decaf tea (because at that point it’s after 2pm, and you don’t want too much caffeine after then so you get a good night’s sleep – I’m a nana!). I will then watch a bit of TV, because I recently discovered how much I love watching TV, and it’s kind of linked to having ADHD and allowing for a moment where there’s not multiple tabs open at the same time in your brain. So I love to do that, or go for a little walk around Victoria Park.
What’s your ultimate goal?
To be able to create art across all the different mediums, especially visual art and the musical experience. I’d like to cast people that are eclectic and diverse, and tell stories that are moving and real in order to speak to the core of who we are as humans. I’d like to create musical experiences and shows which cross through all of the different art forms, that can give you the most heightened amazing experience of the music and the narrative to help us all feel more liberated. That’s something I’m very passionate about and really strive to try and get to. And I’m only at the very beginning of that journey.
What’s a genre you’ve never tried that you’d like to do more of?
Probably orchestral music. I’ve always been a real fan of music for film and that’s actually where my real desire for music started, so I think definitely trying something in that world.
Do you get to spend much time at home?
Yes, my home is deeply my sanctuary. I live in London, so as a classic Londoner, I’ve moved around a lot and have been touring, but it’s important to me to have these little touch points that make you feel at home. Things like a blanket or a certain mug that come to each of my homes or spaces help to give me a feeling of warmth and to feel settled.
View this post on Instagram
Do you prefer the town or the country?
I live in London and I love it because, from the moment I leave my house everyday, there’s something to be curious about. I find that incredibly energising. But I will say that the countryside is part of where I grew up and it speaks to my soul in a way that nothing else does, so it’s somewhere I think I’ll end up moving to. The places in London I gravitate towards are places like Hampstead Heath, which have a nice country feel.
What’s your interior design style?
I think it’s probably quite like my personal style: dramatic silhouettes, glorious textures, chic and subtle prints, and a little playful. I love clean lines, but I’m also someone who would love a ginormous tree or an interestingly shaped chair with a mid-century coffee table. I also love soft furnishings, as being cosy is a core part of me feeling at home.
What’s your relationship with social media like?
The thing I love about social media is the connection part, so you see people’s lives that you love and cheerlead them along the way. Plus, you can connect with people you’ve never met. For example, after a show, I often get beautiful messages, and I try and always reply to all of them because I’m just so in awe that people have taken the time to be so kind. But I definitely think that social media is a place that you need to get into your own internal flow with and not compare yourselves to others. It can be the easiest place to have that classic phrase ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ happen to you. So my relationship with it is really mixed, and I’m still trying to find my way with it, to have it as a bit more of a place that’s like a Pinterest of my life as opposed to just the highlights reel.
How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?
Both of my parents are life coaches and they both always speak about life being more integrated than just work and personal, and for it to feel like one beautiful thing that works together. So I try to remember to have these healthy top and tail bits of the day where you wake up and give yourself some real time for your heart, head and soul, and then you can execute your day, but then come back to those anchors at the end of it. Also, for me, after being away on tour, having time to rest where there are no expectations really helps.
If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?
I would tell her to be more curious and ask more questions of people you meet who you find interesting, because people are sensational currency for your heart and imagination. And feed that imagination, baby queen!
How can we all live a little bit better?
My Grandad passed away this year, and he went from being a young boy growing up on an island called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to being an old man who was knighted by The Queen for his contribution to medicine. There was something so powerful about observing his life and the reality that he lived out all of his dreams because, instead of being told he couldn’t, he was fuelled by his imagination, and so he did. So I think remembering that only you can count yourself out of things, it’s your one life, and that today is a day that counts. Think about your mind, how you talk to yourself, and take moments to feed your heart and see the things that are in that secret part of your brain come into the light.
Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?
Yes! I’ve been working on a project that I can’t wait to tell people about ,which has been a real life dream. Also, my next body of work with music and visuals almost feels like a new beginning because I actually haven’t had the stillness to make many music videos yet. It’s exciting!
I’m currently watching… Manifest
What I’m reading… Surrender by Bono
The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Barbie!
What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Lake District this weekend
Favourite film of all time… The Lion King
Favourite song of all time… ‘Birdland’ by Quincy Jones
Favourite lyric of all time… ‘Love is in need of Love today’
Band/singer I always have on repeat… Allen Stone
My ultimate cultural recommendation… Japan in general
Cultural guilty pleasure… Going to Sketch in London
What’s next for me is… New releases and a bit of directing, and seeing more of those secret dreams come true.
BEKA’s new single ‘Vulnerable’ is out now and you can stream here.