- Words Jadene Rogerson
- Photography Amy Peskett
KAMILLE dives into her transition from hit songwriter to artist, working with Timbaland, and her new track, "Learning".
A conversation that was truly refreshing, KAMILLE showed her vulnerability as an artist when opening up about mental health, music, and her perseverance when entering the music industry.
KAMILLE’s talents go beyond being a multi-faceted artist, producer, and label owner. The Streatham-born musician is an individual with many desires and inspirations like collaborating with Pharrell to working alongside charities to help merge the gap between music and mental health. A self-taught producer, artist, and renowned songwriter, KAMILLE has racked up 6 million streams with her music and has writing credits for the likes of Little Mix, Mabel, AJ Tracey, and an endless list of global artists. Her work in music has also awarded her 18 UK Top singles, BRIT awards, GRAMMY Awards, and Mercury Prizes. It seems the talented woman is unstoppable.
KAMILLE’s latest track “Learning” showcases her unique vocal range, is an ode to herself, and sends a beautiful message on self-love for anyone who needs to currently hear it.
We caught up with the all-rounder to hear about her musical journey, how she deals with imposter syndrome,
Did you always want to become a musician?
Yes, I always knew I wanted to become a musician, I always wanted to be a singer and I always wanted to have a career within the music industry, it was just about finding my way in. My journey into the music industry has been a tough one, but honestly, I think it’s all about patience, although this hasn’t been an easy ride, it’s been worthwhile. If I could give any advice to anyone trying to get in, I would just say keep on going and don’t give up. I’ve always wanted to make music and I’m so happy I’m finally here.
While growing up did you study any music-related subjects?
At school, I did learn how to play the piano, which I’m so thankful for, however, besides going to the performing arts school Sylvia Young, I didn’t study anything specific. I was only at Sylvia Young for a short period of time, as my parents were big on me getting a good education. I would have loved to go to a performing arts school like the Brit School, which would have strengthened my talents, but I would honestly say I’m thankful for this journey and I’m here because of my genuine love for music.
Being taught how to play the piano is a talent I am now so thankful for having, however throughout my career there have been moments where I had no choice but to teach myself a few things about music. At times I would get creative idea’s where I’d want to produce music late at night, however, the producers weren’t always awake when I was, so that was the pivotal moment where I decided to teach myself how to make beats. I did this by watching YouTube tutorials. After making beats I realised I could pick up any skill from YouTube, so I also taught myself how to play the guitar.
How does it feel to be titled one of the UK’s most successful women?
Absolutely incredible, I’m so touched that anyone would put me in that calibre of people, I still see myself as this girl from Streatham trying to make it and I’ll always see myself like that, I’m genuinely so honoured that people would consider me for that title, especially as a Black woman I’m so proud to be any kind of reference point for opportunity and chance and I’m so glad I get to inspire many. I love helping other people and, in the future, I’d like to do that in other ways but right now I’m happy to do that with my journey and music. In terms of inspiring people, something that is important to me is leaving a legacy. Later in life, I’d love to be remembered for all my hard work. It makes me so happy that I’m now in a position where I can open the door of opportunity for others.
You’ve made an abundance of hits throughout your career as a songwriter, how did you transition from working with some of the biggest names in the UK to becoming a successful musician?
I always wanted to be a musician and in my earlier days as a songwriter. I was always in the studio, I was so desperate to sing but I guess at the time I just wasn’t ready, during this period people didn’t really see me as an artist so I just continued with my songwriting. Being a musician has been a burning passion of mine until I took a plunge a few years ago and decided to explore all my options. Exploring the music industry, in the beginning, was a challenge for me, as I knew I had a good singing voice, but labels would shut me down and would request another artist after they had heard my voice on a demo. It was a bittersweet experience because I was being shut down for my music, but the music I was making was so personal to me that it made it hard for others to imagine anyone else’s voice. The constant knockbacks only made me stronger and meant I was more determined than ever to push myself into the career I wanted. When I first started out it also felt like the right time as black women within the industry were getting so much support, this made me feel a lot safer and welcomed.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
I honestly just surround myself with people I love like my family and friends. It’s so scary sometimes when you don’t really understand how you got here or understand how you get the privilege to be in a certain space, my close friends and family help to reassure me.
How do you balance having your own label, along with being a musician, producer, and songwriter?
I honestly don’t know, but I do it all with joy and obviously because I love music so much. To be able to help others, nurture and develop new talent is so incredible to me. I’m so blessed to partner with the label BMG, from being my publisher to a team that helps deliver my music is so nice, but the trust is there. Having my own label is so nice because it’s something that will also set me up for the future. I can see my 60-year-old self still working equally as hard.
Who were the artists that you listened to growing up that really inspired you?
I know a lot of people would be surprised about who I’m about to say, but I just want to tell a little story first just to show how deep my passion for music goes. When I was younger, I was such a music geek, I’d read all the album credits, open the booklet and just look at all the little details, for me this was so mesmerising. I would look at Mariah Carey’s one for example and read all the people she would thank. A name that would often come up was Pharrell’s and I was so curious about him as he was frequently mentioned, after seeing his name pop up all the time, I felt like I was becoming obsessed as I would always read about his work and music, in the future I would love to collaborate with Pharrell.
Timbaland is another producer that really inspired me, his name and productions were everywhere I turned, between the two of them they were my idols. Growing up it was so refreshing to see two successful black creatives making music. For me there is no one better than them, Timbaland and Pharrell are the epitome of creativity and consistency. When I got to work with Timbaland it was so surreal to tell me, the fact that I got to play on the piano alongside him and tell me ‘You are an inspiration to me’ was so crazy. Choosing Pharrell and Timbaland as the two people that inspired me the most was so easy, as I admire the unique way they make music. Additionally, I’ve watched videos of the way Stevie Wonder makes music and it just blows my mind because back then they didn’t get to retake and have long studio sessions, most artists recorded music in one take, and I find that mind-blowing.
What can you tell me about your latest track “Learning’”?
“Learning” came from a bad place. If I’m honest, I had extreme anxiety and depression, I couldn’t sleep, which now makes sense as insomnia is a common symptom of depression. I was in the studio one day working alongside my producers, I was playing around with this synth sound, and it resembled a lullaby that would be played to a baby, once I heard I was like I need to make a song, I need to make a song that going to settle my insomnia. While making Learning and struggling with my mental health, I realised that I needed to make myself a song about self-love, as during that time I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, I truly hated every part of myself. One of the lyrics in the song goes ‘I really owe myself an apology’ as I was just constantly so negative about myself. The process of loving yourself is a journey, it’s not a destination where you wake up and just love yourself. The response to this track has been so overwhelming, so many people have reached out to me and told me how much this track has eased their suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression and I’m so grateful for that, it makes me want to cry knowing how much time this dark period is helping others. Even making the music video was so triggering for me, but it’s been a relief for me to release some of my emotions, a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m glad I’ve done this and I’m just so happy I can help others with their mental health through my music.
Music sounds like a real escape for you, what else do you do to make yourself feel good?
I honestly like the simple things in life, like watching my favourite show on Netflix, eating good food, even something like just lighting a candle in a nice tidy room, and having social media breaks is crucial to me too especially when I’m feeling anxious. I do feel nervous about discussing these kinds of topics, but at the same time, it’s empowering.
Do you want to do more to help people with their mental health?
Oh, 100%, speaking on mental health is something that comes naturally to me, in the future I would love to work alongside a charity, where I could combine music and mental health in some way as the two go hand in hand. This industry can be so toxic at times, and I feel like you physically can’t get through it without a therapist. I and my team are thinking of ways to do something with music and mental health, in the meantime, all I can do is continue to do what I’m doing, which is replying to fans via Instagram, I feel so connected with them I even respond with voice notes.
What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
For the next 6 months, I am so excited to share all the wonderful new music I have been working on. My next single is coming very soon, my fans are not ready for what is to come, it’s very up-tempo and kind of different to what my fans are used to, but it’s a release of emotions and shows growth from my current track Learning, my upcoming will also reflect the kind of music I plan to put out in the future.
Earlier in the year I said to myself I’d be more consistent and that’s exactly what I’m going to do and I’m not going to let anything stop me. I’ve also got my headline show that I’m planning, so yeah there’s a lot to expect and I’m super excited. On top of working on my own music, I’m still songwriting for others don’t ask me how I’m doing it because I don’t even know myself.