An effortless storyteller with a pure and unfiltered singing talent and songwriting ability, Mabel McVey has an instinctive gift of melody far beyond her twenty years. Indeed Mabel has made quite the impression since bursting on to the scene in September 2015 with her release Know Me Better. Quietly released onto Mabel’s personal SoundCloud, the single didn’t remain a secret for long, with veteran Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac naming it her Tune Of The Week, a rarity for a newcomer and in turn putting the wheels in motion for Mabel to become a fresh and exciting name amongst a brand new generation of r’n’b chanteuses. Born into a musical dynasty, it is safe to say that music quite literally runs in the blood of singer-songwriter Mabel. The daughter of producer Cameron McVey, best known for his seminal work with Massive Attack, Portishead, Sugababes and All Saints, Cameron remains one of British music’s most cherish guardians. Mabel’s mother is Neneh Cherry, the cross-generational music and style superstar who went onto defy then-musical genres. It is this seamless ability to converge musical cultures that been passed down to Mabel, with her already marrying classic melodies with a modern blend of soulful rhythm and blues that remains previously unheard.
Born in the mountains of Malaga, Spain, Mabel’s childhood was spent zig-zagging the globe with her sisters, with time spent in Notting Hill and Stockholm, Sweden where she studied at the prestigious Rytmus Musikergymnasiet music school which counts singer Robyn and Tove Lo as some of its alumni. A self-confessed loner, Mabel found solace in her music. “I didn’t have many friends growing up. I wasn’t into other kids that much. I used to hate when adults would leave me alone. I would already know that we didn’t have the same chemistry, I almost feel like I didn’t have the innocence of being a child in that sense,” she explains. It is there Mabel found the confidence to indulge and explore her songwriting abilities, drawing on these unique life experiences to lovingly craft mid-tempo songs and ballads that lay bare the woman behind the music. Post Know Me Better, Mabel released My Boy, My Town, (which has over 1.2 million views on its audio and video links) that acts an interplay of London as a lover and her home. As well as standout track, Thinking of You (which has 3 million+ hits on YouTube), where she longingly pines for her family, friends and a lover in London, written when she was away working on music in the States. With the intial success of three singles, Mabel secured features with The Fader, The Sunday Times Style, Dazed and Vogue.com as well as an eight-page feature in i-D Magazine. Mabel has also been tapped as one of the faces for global sportswear giant Adidas alongside Dev Hynes, Petra Collins and Stormzy for their new Original Is Never Finished campaign and collaborated with the Tate Modern on a special bespoke video to celebrate the gallery’s new wing. Mabel also spent 2016 electrifying audiences with her live performances; securing main stage slots at Iceland Airwaves, Field Day, The Great Escape Festival as well as her own headline show at London’s Moth Club.
Now Mabel is ready to position herself at the vanguard of contemporary soul singers with the April 2017 release of her debut EP Bedroom. Made over the course of a year in Los Angeles and London, principally with producers Josh Crocker (who is also behind Mabel’s Know Me Better and Joel Pott (who co-wrote Mabel’s Thinking of You), the four-track EP is a glimpse into the world of Mabel before her full LP release later this year as well as a personal exploration of “femininity, sexiness and independence and a lyrical exploration of what that means to me.” She explains,“writing the EP has been such an interesting journey for me. I’ve learnt so much about myself and how to embrace the different sides of my identity. I’m English, Swedish and Sierra Leonean and being mixed race is something I used to see it as an obstacle but now I see it as a beautiful thing,” says Mabel. Title track Bedroom, is gutsy, honest and open. Penned from lived experience, Bedroom was written in Los Angeles with Florence and The Machine and Jessie Ware collaborator Kid Harpoon and Sarah Aarons. Mabel says of the writing process, “it was a very different experience writing that song compared to the others on the EP. I had never met Sarah before and it’s the only track on the EP that wasn’t written in London. It was super easy and fun to write… I hardly remember the process so it must’ve just poured out of me.”
Finders Keepers is the EP’s undoubted banger. Written with Mabel’s brother Marlon Roudette and London-based producer JD Reid (notably of Plastician’s Terrorhythm imprint), the song is tropical, infectious with a peppering of soca influence. With its exultant chorus, Finders Keepers has all the makings of a song of the summer and Mabel wrote the song with her mixed heritage in mind. She explains, “Finders Keepers is really letting go and not overthinking. The production really embraces a sound that is very important to my roots and it’s definitely a part of my identity that I hadn’t explored musically before.”
Seductive, slow, subtle and delicate are the best ways to describe Ride or Die, Bedroom’s third track. A departure from the rest of the EP, Ride or Die is a response to a turbulent 2016, complete with the gear shifting and life changes that in-turn affirmed Mabel’s confidence in her musical direction.
Talk About Forever is a mid-tempo cut, that is sexy and mellow – reminiscent of the golden age of r’n’b. Written in the same vein as Finders Keepers, Mabel says of the EP’s closing track, “it’s about love without ownership. I’m very independent and ambitious and I never want a relationship to get in the way of that.”
Mabel, a child of the golden-age of 00s r’n’b, harnesses the energy of her idols Beyonce circa Destiny’s Child, as well the vocal stylings of musical legends like Stevie Wonder and Minnie Ripperton and imbues it into her offering. She also looked to the gospel undertones of both Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo and September 5th DVSN and the output of fellow young songstress Kehlani to create innovative ways to layer her harmonies and craft her melodies. The beauty of her compositions and her natural affinity for imaginative narratives buoyed by her velvety vocals makes it set for 2017 to be Mabel’s year. She concludes, “I wanted to do everything on my terms with Bedroom and create something that is 100% authentic to who I am. It was both a freeing and terrifying process. I hate the expression ‘finding yourself’ but I do feel like that’s what I’ve been doing. I can’t please everyone but I can create something that makes me happy and that’s the most important thing. This is just the beginning. I will continue to push myself but this is definitely an important part of my journey that I want to share with my fans.”