Mabel Leads the ’90s Music Revival & We’re So Here for It
Spanish-born, Stockholm-raised singer Mabel comes from a solid lineage of mega musical talents. Her grandfather? Ahmadu Jah, an extraordinary Swedish musician and composer. Her parents? The highly influential Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer, Cameron McVey. Pushing family facts to the side, Mabel is carving out her very own space in the music industry at the moment. She's been writing her own songs since she was a teen, and as her career grows stronger she is trusting her instinct to lead the way.
The 21-year-old singer's newest EP, Bedroom, features lustrous R&B tracks like "Bedroom" and "Finders Keepers" -- two songs that are currently dubbed on social media as summer anthems. It's the kind of music you'll pour your heart out to, lip syncing and swaying in the comfort of your own dimly lit bedroom (not-so-oddly enough).
It's not only Mabel's music that's influenced by the '90s. Her super fresh, head-to-toe style is also leveraged with a twist from the coveted era. While mostly everyone her age is taking inspiration from a decade nearly 20 years ago, this singer is one of few who embodies it with complete authenticity.
The remainder of 2017 has Mabel crisscrossing through Europe on a mini tour, starting off in Berlin and making a final stop in London where she currently lives. Before she hit the road, Mabel shared with us a bit of advice from her parents, what her favorite wardrobe pieces are, and what she's learned from the industry up to this point.
In a past interview, you said, "You have to know about where you're from to really know yourself." So true! You've moved around quite a bit since birth, how has each country and city helped to create who you are?
I speak two languages and have family all around the world, traveling and moving has definitely shaped who I am immensely. I think cities have personalities and they not only affect us as people but also what we’re creating. My multicultural background has given me a strong foundation for my sound. I have so many different places to draw inspiration from and that has essentially determined the type of music that I make.
You've also talked about how you're almost addicted to heartbreak because it helps to create such great lyrics. But, tell us about a song that makes you crazy happy every time you hear it.
"Pana" by Tekno is one of my favorite songs and it does genuinely make me happy every time I hear it. I love Afrobeat music and the last couple of years it’s probably been my favorite type of music to listen to before I go out… It gets me so gassed!
"My music career is my life and I’m telling my stories, so I should always be in the driver's seat even if I do hit the occasional bump."
You've been releasing music for a minute -- Know Me Better in 2015, My Boy My Town came out last year, and Bedroom just dropped this month. What have the past few years been like for you recording and building your career in this industry? What have you learned in the process?
The last few years have been amazing. Everything happened very quickly for me and I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve been given so far. I’ve learned that listening to my gut is always the way forward… People often judge and don’t think that I know what I’m doing because of my age, but I’ve learned that I actually know best when it comes to my projects. Of course, I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make more, but at least they were my decisions. My music career is my life and I’m telling my stories, so I should always be in the driver's seat even if I do hit the occasional bump.
Can you share some info with us about your upcoming music? What can we look forward to?
I’ve definitely been experimenting with my sound a lot, but I feel like I’m really finding it now. You can expect more R&B/Soul that’s on the poppy side. All of my songs are about real things going on in my life or around me.
You must be so on-the-go right now! What's your favorite way to unwind when you have downtime?
I like to listen to music and cook with my friends.
You come from an extremely creative and musical family – what's some priceless advice they've given to you regarding your career and life in general?
My mum and dad always say, “Never let them change you,” and it’s my favorite reminder to always stay true to myself.
If we asked you to create a playlist of 5 songs from the '90s that have inspired you the most, what would they be?
"Get on The Bus" by Destiny's Child, "No Scrubs" by TLC, "Are You That Somebody" by Aaliyah, "Tell Him" by Lauryn Hill, and "Ready Or Not" by Fugees.
Let's talk fashion. What are some of your favorite stores to hit up, and what 3 pieces in your wardrobe are you completely obsessed with?
In London, I really like Rellik, Machine-A, and House of Liza. I have a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier denim leopard print two-piece that I love, a vintage Dolce & Gabbana dress from the '90s, and two pairs of trousers from this British designer, Serena Bute.
What can your generation teach the world today?
I think my generation is more accepting and loving than generations before us and everyone can learn from that.
Pick a city that feels most like home to you... What are 3 of your favorite places to go in that city?
Right now, London feels most like home. I love to eat at Mildred's, go to The Tate for culture, and EVERYMAN Cinemas are my favorite places to see movies.
Who is your main MISSBISH?
Rihanna for sure. She doesn’t take things too seriously and seems so confident and comfortable in herself that she doesn’t care about other people's opinions.
Photographer: Nas Abraham