Thankfully she changed her mind
“The thing is, I’m a little bit all over the place.”
This pronouncement from KEYAH/BLU, which arrives after an uncharacteristically long pause in her otherwise rapid South London parlance, is initially surprising. Her rise over the past couple of years, thanks in no small part to an ongoing series of collaborations with another of the capital’s most exciting young talents, Denzel Himself, has been rapid, and she’s carried off her clutch of singles to date with poise beyond her twenty-something years; nothing about it has felt scattershot, or indeed scatterbrained. Her latest, June’s self-produced ‘Choker’, is the opposite; sharp, smart and searingly ambitious.
Plus, her publicist had warned me days in advance that this would be her first phone interview, and that she was nervous about it, but the Keyah who picks up is warm, witty and engaging, making a compelling case for her fledgling creative vision. Why, then, does she still feel as if she hasn’t got it together? “I just think there’s some things I could say now and then change my mind about tomorrow. When I first started out, I thought it would maybe take me a year to figure out what I wanted to say – what the message behind my music was going to be. Now, after four years, I’m in a space where I know that’s going to be an ongoing process, forever and ever, until I die. I’m always going to be finding something new to say.”
The important thing to remember is that before four years ago, when she first made contact with Denzel Himself, she’d never imagined that she’d make music. She hadn’t really imagined herself doing anything specific. “I didn’t really have any passions in life. I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue. All I really knew is that I’d always liked performance.” Accordingly, she applied to a drama school in Los Angeles on a whim, never expecting much to come of it. “I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I needed to get out of the UK; do something different, see some new shit. The school offered me a scholarship, and suddenly it felt like I was maybe onto something. I went out there just knowing I wanted to get away from everything I knew.”
Two of her roommates dabbled in making music from their bedrooms, and she would find herself chipping in. It was all very piecemeal, though; just little ideas here and there, nothing concrete, continuing a theme that’s followed her from childhood, when she would try her hand at writing poems, scripts and screenplays without ever making them into anything more concrete. “It was just something to do in my spare time. I was still going to classes, still doing the drama thing.”