Beabadoobee on her stage name: "I never really expected this to be a thing"

England's Beabadoobee joins Jill Riley for a Virtual Session (MPR)

Beabadoobee joins The Current for a virtual session to catch up on what she's been working on for the past year, how she got her start in music, and some of her dream collaborators.

Interview Transcript

Edited for clarity and length.

JILL RILEY: Hi everyone. It's been a wild ride in this past year, as we've been doing everything we can to keep you connected to the artists that we play on The Current. So I'm pretty excited to welcome--this might be our first member virtual session that we've connected with a UK artist. We're gonna get some great music and we'll have a conversation as well with Beabadoobee.

BEABADOOBEE: Hello

Hi, how are you?

I'm good. How are you?

I am doing well. So can I call you Bea? What do you like to be called?

You can call me Bea.

Excellent. All right. Well Bea thanks for connecting with The Current today. So where are you right now?

I'm in London at the studio with my guitarist Jacob who I've been making music with. He's going to be playing some songs with me.

So how are things in London right now?

It's been--things are opening up slowly but surely. Been to the pub a couple times. But yes, still strange. But yeah, you can eat outside. You can go to the pub as long as you're in the garden.

I think we're starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Here where I live in the Twin Cities in Minnesota I think we're on our way to slowly opening things even more. But I think we've been in this situation so long that I even find myself being a little skittish around people, but, boy, I'm ready to get out and see live music and I bet you're ready to just get on the road and play live.

Yeah, definitely. I just can't wait for festivals. I can't wait to see people like being together. It's gonna be really weird though. I feel like everyone got a bit awkward since the lockdown.

I've always been a little bit awkward.

Same.

Maybe I'll just have a little more in common with people. Beabadoobee joining us for a virtual session over the lunch hour here. Before we talk more, and I do want to talk about some of the dates that I've seen lined up for you, hopefully for this summer and into fall--it'd be great if you wanted to play some music to start so it'd be great to get a song from you. I think this is the first one that I remember playing from you on The Current so it's nice that you picked this one. So, "She Plays Bass," can you help me set this one up a little bit? When did you write this one? When did you record it?

I wrote this I think like 2018 or 2019 for my EP Loveworm. I worked with this guy called Pete Robertson and my engineer Joseph Rogers. They brought this song to life. It's one of my favorite songs. Yeah, "She Plays Bass". It's about my bassist, Eliana. She's a good friend of mine, she's my best friend.

Excellent. All right. Well, let's hear it for this virtual session on The Current.

[music: "She Plays Bass" by Beabadoobee]

I'm with Beabadoobee, that was "She Plays Bass". When we first started playing your music here on The Current, I remember taking a look at your name and going, "Beabadoobee. Okay, I wonder if that's a nickname." I'm sure you've been asked this question Bea, can you tell us the story of--when did that become your stage name?

I never really expected this to be a thing. So when my friend Oscar, who at the time was releasing my music on all the streaming platforms he said, "You need an artist name to go by." At the time, I had a separate Instagram account just for me and my mates--it's called a finsta, and it was called Beabadoobee because none of the names were being accepted on the app. And I was like, "No one's gonna listen to my music Oscar, just use that name. Use my other Instagram name," and now we're here.

And now there's no changing it, you know?

I think it's sweet though.

Yeah, I think it is too. Even going back there to kind of the beginning--just to get you to know you a little bit more, just about kind of the beginning of when you started playing music--between now, today when we're talking, and when you actually picked up a guitar, I mean, things have moved pretty fast for you in a few years. So can you kind of take us back to when you started playing music?

I started playing music when I was like 17? Towards like, going to 18 and my dad had brought home a guitar because he said I looked sad. I just got kicked out of school. So he was like, "You should start playing this, and this would be a good distraction for you," type of thing.

Okay, so now I can't go forward. Now you get kicked out of school, but I mean, everything was okay--you weren't in any big trouble were you?

No, it was an all-girls Catholic school. So, yeah, weird stuff happened in that school. I'm glad they kicked me out because I wouldn't have started making music and then wouldn't have made the friends I did.

Yeah I don't know if I would have lasted either. I think I would have been kicked out of an all girls Catholic school, even though I grew up with a strict Catholic mother, Catholic grandmother, so I know the deal. But you never know! Okay, so this one thing happens and then you're able, because of it, to pick up a guitar. Had you thought about songwriting before, I mean, had you tried your hand at visual art or poetry or anything? Where did the songwriting part come from?

I used to write a lot poetry when I was a kid, I was really into story writing. Loved creating stories. They had this thing at school called Reading Records, and you'd have to read a book and write a little summary of what happened and how it made you feel. I was reading a book at the time and I remember completely not reading the book and creating a whole entire story on my reading record. And I was like, the cover looks like it's about detectives. So I'm just gonna go and make a story by myself and tell my teacher it's about this when it's completely like--I just haven't even touched the book. I did a lot of that growing up and I played violin for like seven years. I remember writing a song for show and tell in year seven, when I was like, 11. I got a girl to sing it for me because I was too shy to sing it, so I taught her how to sing it. She sang it for my show and tell. Yeah, that was quite strange.

That's pretty incredible. I think you're maybe a natural born singer, songwriter, and producer--if you're willing to get other people in the front with you. But I guess if you played violin--picking up a guitar must have felt a little familiar. How did you go about learning? I remember when I learned guitar, and this would have been in the 90s. I had to buy guitar books. But I imagine that you can do just about anything if you hop on YouTube. So what was your kind of path to learning guitar?

Just like YouTube tutorials. I loved Elliott Smith. I still love him. So we learned a few of his songs, I remember one of the first songs I'd ever learned on guitar was Sixpence None the Richer "Kiss Me".

Kiss Me!

The chords to "Coffee" are quite similar. Yeah, it's quite funny--yeah, just literally, just YouTube. When I discovered like tunings, it made it way easier for me because I'm still a beginner and learning tunings make it easier.

Right? I remember that too, playing a lot of open chords when I was learning, just so I could play the guitar and have it sound like something, much less trying to learn to write lyrics and to actually come up with songs but I think that there's--when you're first learning maybe there's a nice kind of simplicity there. If you know three or four chords, then you know what you're working with. Was that your feeling like, "Okay, I can learn some simple songs and out of that, I can do what I want."

Yeah, definitely. It was artists like Kimya Dawson, and her band when she was in The Moldy Peaches. I remember listening to that and being like, oh, you just...you don't need much. You just needed a guitar and you need just a couple of chords and you have a song type of thing. Yeah, that stuff really motivated me. That's how all my songs start off--especially everything that's out currently, it all started from just me on an acoustic guitar.

Well, let's hear some more of your music. I know you're gonna play "Care" from the record Fake It Flowers. I'm glad that you put "Coffee" on your list because I want to talk about that song because I mean, really, that's the one that started it for you. How about we just do two in a row and then we'll talk a little bit more. So Fake It Flowers, this came out last fall, right?

Yeah. October last year.

I know you had a string of EPs--how did it feel to get your debut full length record? I mean, that had to have been just out of this world.

Yeah, it was. It was really warming and it was really nice. Like having an album, my first debut, and it being about my life. It being really personal to me. That was really important.

Well, let's hear a couple songs here and then we'll talk some more. So this one is called "Care".

[music: "Care" by Beabadoobee]

[music: "Coffee" by Beabadoobee]

That song is so sweet, I just love it. It's one that could go on for about six minutes. I was just starting to drift off and think about my friends and think about the people that I love. So that song is called "Coffee". I'm joined by singer-songwriter Beabadoobee for today's Current virtual session. So that song--that's always gonna be the beginning for you. How does it feel to play that--just like playing that today? Was that the the song that you talked about, like, uploading to the Internet, and like, "Oh, just put it under Beabadoobee and it'll be all fine."

Yeah, that was the song--it was one of the first songs that I've written on guitar.

Yeah, there was a pretty big reaction to it when it was uploaded to--did you say that it was first it was like Instagram, and that it started to get attention there?

We, me and Oscar, put it on my Spotify and Apple Music and the streaming sites. It was first on Bandcamp for a while. We just kind of had it on there for a bit then it started gaining traction, and on Instagram, people were commenting, saying if I was the coffee girl, and I was like, "I've never served coffee a day in my life. I don't know what they're talking about." Then I was like, oh, crap it's the song, and we were like, that's cool. So we put it on streaming sites. Yeah, that's how it started.

So when you put it on the streaming sites, how did you find out that--other than maybe like hearing from people on social media like that--how did you start to find out that, oh, wow, this is really gaining some traction?

Oh, I think it was like, I just saw people--like the streams going up and people recognizing me on my social media as a musician. And they were expecting more coming, and then I got interest from labels. That's how I made my EP Lice. I think this label paid for a studio and then me and Oscar recorded the whole EP in like a day and released a couple, like a month after or something. It was quite quick, but I was still doing school. It was a lot to do.

I bet. I bet it was just like, is this real? I mean, is this real life? How did the--how is this happening? Well, clearly happening because you wrote a song that people were able to connect to and I think that goes back to the simplicity of "these are the chords you have" and then the other tools that you have are just the ability to put words together that are relatable. When you talked about having your first full length record out, Fake It Flowers, and talking about how it's a really personal record for you--do you feel like your fans connect with you in a deeper way because you're able to be so vulnerable with your songwriting?

Oh, yeah. If anything, they watched me grow up. They've seen me go through all of it. Especially the people who have known me since "Coffee". They've seen every hair color every relationship, weird thing. I feel like the people that listen to my music, if I didn't make music, we'd just be friends. They all dress cool and listen to similar music as me.

How does it feel to have people look up to you? Do people ask you for advice? Or even outside of music, I would think that just knowing what I know of musicians and fan culture, that there's such a strong bond that can be formed, you know what I mean?

Yeah, and it's really flattering, it's quite scary at times. I don't want to change myself, with the idea that I'm a role model to people because I want to continue being myself and hopefully that can help girls that look like me do their own thing. I never really had that when I was growing up like, until, like, I obviously discovered Lush and like, Karen O. But I remember just growing up and not having any Filipina women on stage playing guitar. So it's nice knowing that I can be that to at least one girl.

I love that. I love hearing that and I think that there's something to that with this generation of singer-songwriters. There are so many great female singer-songwriters coming up right now. When I was a teenager in the 90s there were maybe like one or two appointed alterna-girls, and then that was it. There were others out there, but they kind of got filtered out through the music business, you know what I mean? But I think that you and a lot of others have this advantage of having the streaming possibility and the internet and social media to connect with people and to get your name out there. But I suppose that there's an up and a downside to that.

Oh yeah, I think anything in excess is bad. The internet is an amazing place to share music, discover music, and it's definitely helped my career. Being able to watch me grow, but that does come with a lot of downsides like the attention and feeling like you're being watched under a microscopes or something, which can be really scary. I hate pressure, but I try not to dwell on that too much. I'm still working on it. I'm still trying not to care about stupid comments, trying to do my own thing and numbers are the last of my worries. I try not to look at any numbers at all, because I remember when you know, "Coffee" blew up with the remix. That was really overwhelming. So I was like, "Oh my god, I'd never expected this amount of people to even listen to me," about a song--a quite intimate song about making my boyfriend a cup of coffee type of thing. So it was strange. But it is really nice to know that people care about the music.

Yeah, and that remix version--was that just last year that that was released? What was the name of the artist that that did the "death bed (coffee for your head)", was it Powfu?

Powfu.

Okay, and how did he find out about your song, or did you know him? Did you meet him? How did that come together?

He made the remix and had it on Soundcloud for a while actually. So it had existed for maybe longer than a year but then they asked my label and he was like, "Oh, do you mind if I released a song on like Spotify and Apple Music?" And I said, "Yeah, for sure," without even thinking it was gonna blow up the way it did. But yeah, we only released it last year.

Yeah, and then became almost like a TikTok love song. That's been another kind of incredible thing--even as I'm talking about new artists on the radio--radio isn't necessarily like the number one avenue for artists to get heard now. It's interesting for me to wrap my head around that. That you can upload songs online and get the attention without having to go through the bullcrap of the music industry. But if you're going to enter the music industry, maybe being able to do it on your own terms, because you've almost proven yourself in a little bit of a way first.

Yeah, TikTok is a great place to discover new music. I think even if you're not releasing music on there, people are putting songs in the background of the videos. I put "The Leanover" by Life Without Buildings, and completely blew up with that TikTok so much that NME did a interview. But it's just nice knowing that people are constantly creating art. No matter where they started from, like, if it's on TikTok, or if they've played loads of gigs and they got noticed type of thing.

Yeah it doesn't necessarily have to be just one avenue or one platform anywhere, which is really nice because the more the better. I know you're gonna play another song. Before you do that, I do have a member that wanted to ask a question. Marissa, I'm glad that you asked this, because you talked about "Coffee" being remixed, but I know that you've also collaborated with artists. I did want to bring up The 1975, so I'm glad that Marissa is asking: who is your dream artists to collaborate with? So I wonder if maybe you want to start there, and then we can talk about some other people you've collaborated with?

I think we've done a few sessions. We've collaborated on a few songs recently and they're my dream collaborations I've done and I didn't know whether I should say, but I've worked with someone recently, and I've always wanted to work with that person.

[whispers] Tell me! Tell me! I understand if you can't, but...

I think my dream would be like something like completely unattainable. Frank Ocean is just amazing, and I know that's never gonna happen because he's a god, and Alex G. He's another god.

Yeah, but now that you've said it, you put it out into the universe.

Just have to say it because they're just one of my two favorite musicians.

Alright, Frank Ocean. We're calling on you. Beabadoobee wants to work with you, okay? What's your connection to The 1975? Are you guys on the same label? How did you guys meet? I know that you've done some stuff together.

So we're on the same label. We wrote, and Matty and George produced this EP that's coming out. Then we did a song called "Last Day on Earth" that's out.

Yeah. Well, that's perfect, because that's the last one you're gonna play for us. Before you do I want to thank a few people: Producer Jesse Wiza, Engineers Peter Ecklund, and Tom Campbell today. Again thank you to the members of Minnesota Public Radio, for supporting all the great music, for making space on the radio. Now there isn't space on the radio everywhere for a great singer songwriter like Beabadoobee, but you make it happen here in Minnesota, and the only reason that The Current is around is because a member support so we appreciate you for doing that. This new song "Last Day On Earth," I'm glad you're playing it. Can you give me a little background on this song? I mean, you mentioned who you worked with, but I guess what was kind of the motivator here?

We made this EP on a farm. It was during the heart of lockdown, and we were all quarantining together and almost felt really apocalyptic and wanting to make a song to have when it's finally the summer of love and togetherness, and that's why it's so uplifting and quite upbeat. Lyrically, it's almost an over exaggeration of the state we were living in and what we could have done if we would have known that everything was going to close and everything we couldn't do, what we could do. Almost felt like the world was ending.

Yeah. But when things feel apocalyptic things can really get dark really easily. I want to think that I would be full of positivity. But sometimes I get those dark thoughts in there. Like hmmm..I have some ideas.

Yeah, if you have nothing to lose then...

Right. Like I don't want to go and kill someone, I'm not saying that. But I mean, I might exhibit some behaviors that I might otherwise not. If there were going to be consequences the next day, you know? But I'm glad you're keeping it positive because that's what we need. We're going to kind of transition out of this and back to life. I know that you have festival dates on the calendar for what? For this summer and fall?

Yes. Hopefully.

Hopefully, yeah, fingers crossed, because it's kind of hard. I'm sure it's hard to know exactly at this point. I saw you on the schedule for what Reading Festival? I mean, that's wild.

Yeah. It's gonna be really fun. I can't wait to play that festival.

Yeah, well, I can't wait for you to do it. Thanks for doing this. Thanks for hanging out over the lunch hour.

Thank you for having me.

Yeah, of course. We're loving your music. Congratulations on all your success and I hope for the best for you and and wish for the best for you.

My guitarist Jacob's gonna play with me. So if you hear another guitar, he's over there.

Hi, Jacob. We didn't forget about you.

[music: "Last Day On Earth" by Beabadoobee]

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Excellent. Thank you so much. You are awesome. Yes. Have a good rest of your day, okay?

You too, take care. Bye!

Songs Played

03:56 "She Plays Bass"
16:05 "Care"
19:43 "Coffee"
37:58 "Last Day On Earth"

External Link

Beabadoobee - Official Site

Credits

Jill Riley - Host
Producer - Anna Weggel
Digital Producer - Jesse Wiza
Technical Director - Peter Ecklund

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