Those who know me well know that I’m not a gambling man by nature. But if there’s an emerging artist for whom I’d confidently wager a bet on breaking through to the global spotlight sooner than later, it’s none other than the precociously talented Poppy Haddigan a.k.a. Sabella. While some may inevitably draw parallels between the 22-year-old UK singer-songwriter’s electro-pop sound and other more established artists like Ellie Goulding, BANKS and VÉRITÉ, it’s Sabella’s distinctive, sincere voice that solidifies her own musical identity and ensures that she’s destined to pave her own unique career path.
Released via Hot Hot Records/Polydor, her dazzling current single “Fortress” builds upon her excellent Home Truths EP released in 2015, and the song’s recent suite of remixes by the likes of Blinkie, Goldsmoke, and Savoir Adore reinforce that her music is not just radio-ready, but dancefloor-dynamic as well. As she prepares for her highly anticipated October 3rd performance at The Social in London, Sabella took some time to chat candidly with me about her ambition, inspiration, and progression as an artist with a radiant future ahead of her.
Justin Chadwick: Your recent single “Fortress” is a blast of electro-pop perfection, and seems to reflect your ongoing evolution as a songwriter. How do you think you’ve grown as an artist since you released your debut EP Home Truths two years ago?
Sabella: It’s a weird one for me, as I kind of fear growth as an artist and songwriter. I think growth is born out of experience, and experience usually makes people very aware of themselves and often jaded. I actually enjoy the naiveté of my EP. I was just in the studio, getting all up in my feelings, trying out melodies. All sorts of shit with no fear because I had no idea what worked and what didn’t. Now, no matter how much I try, my writing and artistry is probably more considered. You know, you can't deny experience but in saying that, having worked with many different producers and writers and environments, it’s definitely given me a confidence and that can’t be a bad thing? I steal the word “evolved” and in terms of understanding what I'm trying to do, artistically, that's become crystalline.
JC: “Fortress” is anthemic in its bold message of empowerment and liberation. Can you discuss what inspired you to write it and what you hope listeners take from it?
S: I hope that people take away from it exactly what you have. To be empowered. Or re-energized, if they need that. I wrote it with all those feelings in mind. The inspiration for this particular song was quite specific actually. I'm kind of obsessed with festivals. You know, they're the most expressive, artistic events and I like what they represent. It’s that escapism. I was fully in an internet vortex one day watching videos of the Burning Man Festival. And this particular video, We Are Only Human x Burning Man, had me! You see people being able to explore their feelings. Nothing's taboo. Nothing's shocking. So this song is kind of a reminder to sack off your inhibitions. Get in touch with yourself. Be in your own head and find freedom in that.
JC: You grew up in Somerset, and were immersed in musical theatre during your childhood there. What impact do you think your upbringing had on your musical identity today?
S: My parents were the ones in musical theatre and as a byproduct, when I was growing up, I was taken to all the shows. Played soundtracks in the car. Almost by osmosis, I think I fell in love with the idea of songs having a strong narrative. Beyond that though, I'm not like all that theatrical. But, I think my personal identity is my musical identity and so my upbringing and childhood is obviously a massive part of it.
JC: What other sources of inspiration do you credit for your songwriting approach? What other artists do you consider your biggest influences?
S: My friends at the minute are probably my number one inspiration. I live with three girls who provide some grade-A one liners and food for thought. Usually with the aid of wine. They should be getting cuts really [laughs]. And then, I also read a lot and listen to podcasts constantly. Stay in conversation always. Words words words. I'm sure this all infiltrates my writing in ways. And then, in terms of artists, it's the same. I hate to cite only a few, as it's an amalgamation of hundreds. Is that boring?
JC: No, not boring in the least. Just honest. As I’m sure you’re intimately aware, the pop music world is a competitive one and it can often prove difficult for emerging artists to differentiate themselves from the crop of talent out there. What would you say sets you apart?
S: I think however I answer this, in my own head I sound like an asshole. I tell myself that the only way I can differentiate myself from others is to be the truest version of myself and keep doing me. I think there is a tendency to follow what's new and working for other people and you can lose your “thing” in the process. I trust that no one has had the exact same experience in life as me, so I write about it and hope enough people will get into it. Want to understand it. And I work hard. Like you said, there are so many talented people in the world, I know I can't just wait for the stars to align. I'm not owed that.
JC: With “Fortress” gaining momentum, what’s next on the horizon for you? Are forthcoming singles coming soon? And have you begun recording a proper full-length album?
S: There is another single being released very soon. And then an album. I’m literally vitamin D deficient, I've been in the studio so long! There is an abundance of material, but now it's just a case of putting things in the right place.
JC: Will you be hitting the road on tour soon?
S: Got a couple of shows planned, but no immediate tour plans as yet. But who knows what's round the corner!
JC: In keeping with the focus of Albumism, what are your five favorite albums of all time?
S: How do people choose just five all-time favorites? But in good gest, I’d have to say Carole King’s Tapestry, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Francis and the Lights’ Farewell Starlite!, The 1975’s The 1975, and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.
Sabella performs at The Social in London this Tuesday, October 3rd | Details