Hailing from a small-town and destined for the rush of the city, ABISHA explores uncharted territories with breakthrough R&B slow-burners.
I speak with ABISHA as she coops up into bed, vitamin C facemask applied and Netflix on in the distance. It is lockdown after all, and skincare will never not be essential. So, is this how artists celebrate releasing new music in 2020? Maybe, but not for this 25-year-old, whose former releases have all been quite the mellow event. “I’m always pretty nervous before a release”, she admits. “The only time I really celebrated was with my first single, ‘All That’, me, some friends and people that worked on the record went out and it was such a good night!” And who wouldn’t celebrate not only a debut release but one where teaming up with renowned producer Mike Chapman (Blondie, FKA twigs) is involved; together brewing up an immaculate earworm to catapult ABISHA into the stars.
Nights out may currently be on pause, albeit the afrobeat paradise of her latest single, ‘Time Alone’, allows us to envision a near-distant future of vibrancy and crowded venues – people coming together to commemorate times that’ve recently been stolen from us. “I’ve started to embrace it”, she declares her adoration for the afrobeat community, recommending the likes of Jorja Smith and Burna Boy’s lively ‘Be Honest’ whilst gassing up the radiance and energy the genre exudes.
The concept for ‘Time Alone’ originates from ABISHA’s inability to unwind from overwhelmed emotions, thus boxing herself into an overloaded state of mind at times where she’s got a bit too much on her plate. Upon explaining the process she unravels that these feelings are something of familiarity. “The more overwhelmed I get, the more I tend to avoid everything I need to do and it just piles up even more”.
An aural story urging space and serenity, freed into an environment of ongoing isolation – there couldn’t be a more perfect time for this message. Time alone, nonetheless, has meant gathering up lyric ideas, melodies and voice notes at home, waiting to be dug through once the studio gates unlock themselves. “I think the current situation is making everyone feel all of their deepest darkest emotions and have brought up a lot of things that have maybe been suppressed in the past”. ABISHA confesses this has inspired her significantly: “it’s really made me reflect a lot on myself and made me realise that it’s okay not to be okay all of the time, everyone has bad days”.
The single follows the recent Scorpio EP – a collective of miniature narratives experienced over former years. “I wanted to be able to empower people; especially young people who are queer and people of colour,” she says in regards to this latest body of work, “…as I (as well as a lot of others, I feel) didn’t have this representation growing up”. Being black and queer, starring in her own coming of age picture in the beige stomping grounds of Devon, ABISHA lacked any source of representation growing up, the idols we worship today; absent in her crucial years of ageing.
“I’ve been able to connect more with my vulnerability and translate that into my music”, she emphasises her unawareness of wanting, and more crucially, needing queer figures in her adolescence, and realising her purpose as an artist: to be this figure for all those children in small towns, looking around and seeing a lack of diversity – to be that for them.
“Devon is a county that is 98% white”, she projects, “I didn’t grow up seeing any other races or cultures much at all – to everyone in Devon I was always ’so black’ just because of the colour of my skin”. It wasn’t until she moved to London where she truly felt at home, to finally be “surrounded by people that looked like me”. Her retail job at Urban Outfitters was where she registered her lack of culture, being labelled as the ‘so white’ girl by her co-workers, “because of the way that I spoke and because I hadn’t heard of a lot of Jamaican foods and couldn’t do the accent”. This motioned her to music in an attempt to identify with other artists, their lyrics and to build a purpose of her own.
Now representing the LGBTQIA+ community with all her being, ABISHA notes musical colleagues King Princess, Frank Ocean, Kehlani and Halsey as bold, queer idols, unafraid to live vigorously through their sexuality.
ABISHA’s transition into songwriting was something of self-discovery. As a musical theatre kid, detecting new artists became a daily activity, although, without the help of a Discover Weekly playlist back then, these discoveries were found off her own initiative. “I always loved to write – I wrote poems all the time when I was younger, firstly with my mum and then I started to write them on my own”. Lunch time spent sprawling out on the school field with best friends, picking daisies from their roots amid teenage gossip? Not for this young’un. Your best bet in finding her was the computer room, writing songs and envisioning her future.
Like the entire year itself, ABISHA’s next move is unprecedented. A new body of work is in the pipeline, but when and where it’ll be heard is another story. Lusting over the idea of performing in front of an audience again remains on her mind, and though that may feel like a fever dream for now, we can at least find escapism in the music, be it in the comfort of our bedrooms, knowing one day we’ll meet ABISHA face to face, in all her glory.
Words: Jordan White