Somebody once described Amy Winehouse’s voice as so divine they could listen to her sing anything – even the alphabet. Celeste Waite, or Celeste as she is known, was blessed with a voice so heavenly, she could reel off the ingredients from the back of a crisp packet, and it would still sound sweeter than anything you have eaten before. Like Amy’s, Celeste’s voice is striking, powerful and looks towards the era of the great, late soul singers, encapsulating the sense of wild drama the commercial charts are severely deficient in. Originally from LA, and of Jamaican heritage, Celeste caught onto music quickly; at three she was dancing to The Clash on the kitchen table; later, she was introduced to Aretha Franklin’s music by her grandfather; as a teen, she had Shirley Bassey and Ella Fitzgerald as idols alongside Kendrick Lamar and Massive Attack.
At twenty-two, she’s beginning to harness her brand; weaving tales of modern experiences with soulful theatricality, commanding the listener’s ears with her distinctive voice. “When I was a teenager, rappers like Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler the Creator had an influence on me,” she explains. “I was fascinated by their language, by how they so vividly painted the picture of themselves with words and were able to influence generations of young people to adopt their culture.”
Combining this same knack for storytelling with atmospheric productions and a rich voice smoother than velvet, the singer’s ability to portray both strength and vulnerability in her voice is a gift that’s echoed in her lyrics which are anchored in amorous sentiment. It’s also presented beautifully in the videos for ‘Daydreaming’ and ‘Chocolate’, both directed by the artist Bafic.
The Brighton-based chanteuse was one of the first signings to Lily Allen’s Bank Holiday Records, who also count S4U on their roster and put out Celeste’s first body of work, the sublime The Milk & The Honey EP earlier this year. Signed to an independent label, she relishes how much opportunity there is now to create music that doesn’t necessarily fit into one style or genre. “I like how much choice there is, and how there are so many artists making music independently, putting it out themselves,” she explains. “[It] allows more room for experimentation which means there’s so much more texture and eccentricity in music.”
Summer is almost upon us, and this one will be spent back in Celeste’s mother’s garden “trying not to flash the neighbours” and reminiscing about a particular summer which will never leave her. “The year I turned 21, I spent a nearly a month in Jamaica” she remembers fondly. “I got to see where my family came from and saw my cousins climb tall palm trees most days to get fresh coconuts. I helped teach my 10-year-old cousin TT how to swim and stayed in this white colonial-style pillared house that my dad helped to build by hand in the 70s.”
Expect a suitably charming song about this summer anytime soon.
This article originally appeared in Notion 76.
Celeste wears Sweatshirt ZDDZ, choker Nikao, pendant Regal Rose, ring Imogen Belfield, watch Swatch
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