Mabel – Bedroom Ep

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Mabel is part of the new British R&B explosion and is currently jetting between cities to record her debut album. At home in London, she lives with her parents, Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey, though she’s keen to create her own legacy. “I remember listening to Blue Lines and being like, ‘that’s annoying’, because my dad’s really good,” she jokes. “I just wanted to figure it out for myself.”

Asserting her musical identity was hard. Mabel stole her older sister’s love of R&B, but thinks her appreciation stemmed from family holidays at her mum’s childhood home in Sweden. Mabel never met her grandfather, the late jazz musician Don Cherry, but she grew up listening to his record collection in the summer house. “Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton,” she recalls, ordering mint tea. “Destiny’s Child’s harmonies remind me of Earth, Wind & Fire.” Cherry’s handwritten music was also there, and Mabel learned to sight-read so she could understand it. “I felt so proud and connected to speak his language.”

Her father also worked on the Sugababes’ debut, One Touch (a four-year-old Mabel napped in the studio during its recording), and it’s easy to imagine the trio taking on the self-possessed, 90s-tinged material on Mabel’s forthcoming EP, Bedroom. She lights up at the idea. “That record’s pop, but they didn’t tailor it to the mainstream – that sound became pop,” she enthuses. “That’s what I want to do. I’m not embarrassed to say I want to sell loads of records and be really successful and maybe win a few Grammys.”

As a child Mabel suffered from anxiety, and the family moved from London to Stockholm to manage it in a calmer city. It disappeared until her teens, when bullying reignited it. At music school, she felt isolated as she tried to fit in with her indie peers. “I remember trying so hard to get into Bon Iver,” she remembers. “I’d lie in bed listening with my eyes screwed up, like, ‘this is just depressing me’. I was so focused on being OK that it wasn’t my finest work.” She finished her studies at home, and decided to stop taking medication. “Being a creative person, I want to feel the highs and the lows.”