R&B, particularly UK R&B, is in rude health right now. Up and down the country, rhythm and blues producers, singers and songwriters are finding their voices and pushing the sound into new and exciting vistas. One such artist is transatlantic singer Bassette. Born in Bermuda, the up-and-coming singer moved with her family to Scotland and then Sheffield, though both Scottish and Yorkshire twangs are noticeably absent. When asked why she thought the genre was in an age of prosperity, the artist attributes it to “needing an update,” and that update has never sounded more potent than in her own delicate blend of sultry and sweet, backed with minimalist beats that make ingenious use of negative space.
“I would describe it as alternative R&B, like future R&B. It’s very downtempo vibe, very chill. My vocals are very jazz-influenced. I listen to a lot of Amy Winehouse, Motown and a lot of jazz people. It’s very minimalist production as well.”
Throughout our conversation, the concept of minimalism keeps returning to the fore. The use of empty spaces is clearly audible in her music, both in her vocals and in the production that backs it, but it’s also a word that Bassette readily uses to describe her style and appearance. “My style is pretty basic and simple, to be honest,” she explains. “Very minimalist but this shoot made me want to step up my wardrobe and out of my comfort zone a bit more!”
Given the power and arresting quality to Bassette’s voice, her shyness and softly-spoken demeanour are disarming, to say the least; “I’ve been working with Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis from Odd Future,” she casually adds to the conversation. When we discuss her upbringing, and if her parents were musical, she states that “They listened to a lot of Motown around the house. I wasn’t very out there with my singing. I’m very shy, I guess.” It wasn’t until she went to university that she decided to commit to music fully. “I told them I wanted to fully go for it. I was studying at uni, but I took a gap year to focus on my music. That was last year. I was supposed to go back in September, but I’ve decided to throw myself into it fully.” She later adds that “it was a struggle to put myself out there like that. [But luckily] I got support from my friends and previous management.”
Another recurring topic in our conversation is that of collaboration and support. Bassette lauds her family for being her rock; “There’s a lot of family support. They’re investing in the product. I’ve moved back home to save money as well. It’s all coming together.” Still, despite a robust network of backers, Bassette remains keen on her independence. “I want to release at least three singles this year,” she says. “I’m completely independent and self-funding everything, so I want to do everything properly with proper companies. Three singles is the minimum. Hopefully, I can release more, but it’s expensive.” She’s also pragmatic about what that means. “It’s good to figure out who you are as an artist and develop yourself,” she points out. “Try to build a firm base before a major label steps in and tries to mould you into something. That’s important. It’s not easy. You need to know who you are as an artist, what kind of music you want to make, and you need to know the business side of it as well.”
With a busy release schedule and a promise that she’s “definitely going to be performing a lot more this year,” 2017 could very well be Bassette’s year.
‘Boys With Guitars’ is out now. See the full Future Sounds Feature in issue 75, out Monday 27th and available to preorder now.
Basette wears jacket New Look, jumper Hoxton Haus.
Follow Bassette on Twitter and Instagram
Words James Keith
Photographer Charlie Cummings
Fashion Kiera Liberati and Sian Saunders
Hair & makeup Lucy Thomas using Bumble & Bumble, Illamasqua, MAC Cosmetics
Hair & makeup Assistant Emma Temple, fashion assistants Shereena A-Grey