GRAZIA: Could you ever have dreamt up that your single “Don’t Call Me Up” could have clocked over 68 million YouTube views worldwide?
Mabel: No. Never! I just wrote a little song to get something off my chest. It was about a situation I was going through. I always process my emotions by writing tunes about them. I always say that I can sing things better than I can say them. And then, you put it out without too much expectation and sometimes magic happens. I genuinely feel like that’s what this year has been like so far. It’s been the craziest journey!
GRAZIA: Why do you think that track has resonated with so many people?
M: It’s still baffling to me. I guess its relatable, we’ve all been there where we’re into somebody and it doesn’t work out the way that you’ve planned in your head and you feel let down by the situation. And then after many tears – well, in my case, I’m a crier – you get to a point where you’re like, ‘Oh wow, I don’t care anymore, I feel so good’ and I wanted to capture that emotion. Especially for the people who were going through a break-up that weren’t at that point of feeling good yet. I definitely wasn’t when I wrote the song, I wrote it because I wanted to be in a place where I don’t care. It kind of helped me get there.”
GRAZIA: This songwriting process sounds really cathartic. Does the person who its about know its about them?
M: They do, yes. I guess even if it’s a bad song written about you, I’ve still spent a whole song on you so in a way I think he found it pretty…. [trails off].
GRAZIA: You have had a meteoritic rise to superstardom. What’s been the spotlight’s biggest challenge?
M: Being a perfectionist and realising that not everybody is going to love what you do. I’m in a place now where I’m comfortable with not everybody liking my music or liking me. That’s cool. In the beginning I was like, ‘You’re crazy. Who are you to judge this song that I made?’ That’s just what people do and when I put music out into the world, I’m giving people the right to judge. It’s a wild concept but I’m used to it now.
GRAZIA: Well, a group of people who were judging were some very well-respected critics. They raved about you. When you have the album coming, do you feel a certain pressure for it to live up to that hype?
M: I always say that the only person who can really pressure me is myself. Obviously it’s amazing that things have been received so well. But I try not to think too much about that. If I like the music, I hope other people will like it too! [Laughs.]
GRAZIA: What can we expect from your new album High Expectations?
M: When I was making the record, I didn’t expect it to be so high-tempo and fun. It really is and send a positive message as a whole which was important to me. I want people to feel good about themselves when they listen to it. It is the biggest confidence building exercise that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Even the more vulnerable songs have a positive takeaway.
GRAZIA: Showing vulnerability is very important in this day and age. What does success mean to you?
M: Happiness. I feel very successful already and that’s not due to selling records, shows and travelling. I genuinely get to do what makes me really happy. That’s the most important thing.
GRAZIA: You’re Spanish-born and Stockholm-raised. Tell me about your upbringing and how you got into music.
M: My parents are musicians so wherever they felt like making music is where we would live. I have travelled a lot so I feel very lucky to have done that. I was quite vocal from a very young age and had a lot of big thoughts – maybe that was because I was surrounded by so many creative people.
“I had big questions about the world and I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders for as long as I can remember.”
“I had a lot of anxiety. My parents encouraged me to express those emotions and make art or play the piano. Piano and writing songs was something I did from the age of five and it was my way of processing things.
GRAZIA: You got through the anxiety with journaling as well…
M: Yes, journaling and writing. Anxiety is a lifelong thing, I don’t think it will ever be gone. I still get anxious about things and I have days that are harder than others but my biggest realisation with it it’s not something to be embarrassed about. You need to communicate your emotions to people. A bad day is nothing to run away from. When I was younger, I always thought I’d wake up and the anxiety would be gone. But that’s not the case, it’s a wave to ride.
GRAZIA: What was it like supporting Harry Styles on his tour?
M: So much fun! It was quite early on in my career and I hadn’t really played venues that size. I learnt so much watching him perform every night.
GRAZIA: Did Harry have any advice for you?
M: Not really anything specific, but just being around him is very inspiring. He brings a very positive energy to everything he does. We love what we do but sometimes we get really tired and its long hours and you’re sleeping on a bus and that can become draining every day. But every day, he would bring an immense amount of energy to every show.
GRAZIA: Hip-hop is still a male-dominated space. We are seeing so many more women and it’s so exciting. Which female RnB artists do you look up?
M: Cardi B and Kehlani.
Mabel’s new single “mad love” is out now. her album High Expectations is out August 2.