South Londoner Speech Debelle won the Mercury Prize for her debut album ‘Speech Therapy’ in 2009, with her fifth album out this Summer, she gets deep with VIPER…

What five words define your sound?

Well, my new album, ‘Sunday Dinner On A Monday’ is ancestral, communal, spiritual, feel-good and Rap.

Tell me something unique about your creative process.

For this album, I freestyled all of the songs. I hit record on my phone, pressed play on the music and let whatever happen. By the end of the track, I would at least have a concept, the flow and sometimes the chorus. Then I would sit with it and make it make sense.

Which song of yours would you like people to hear first?

I’ve got four albums, so that’s tough. Can I say one for each album:

‘Speech Therapy’ – ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’

‘Freedom Of Speech’ – ‘Live For The Message’

‘Tantil Before I Breathe’ – ‘The Work’

‘Sunday Dinner On A Monday’ – ‘A Reading’

What inspired you to make that song?

Each track – I think – describes where I was at as well the influences of the world at the time. It also tells the story of a person who learns as they grow. I had to save myself and heal.

What’s the most vulnerable you’ve allowed yourself to be when writing/making music?

When I spoke to my A&R before my first album came out, he questioned how my siblings would react to ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ and I wanted the ground to swallow me. It was the first time anyone would hear my diary. Strangely, I never truly considered that.

What’s the best/worst experience you’ve had on stage?

Best, a European festival performing ‘Sun Will Rise’ at sunset. As soon as the band started playing the music, the sun spilt through the tent. Godly.

The worst: performing at the O2 supporting Basement Jaxx after the label pulled my tour support. We had no lighting or sound engineer. It was tough.

What is your favourite song to perform?

Probably ‘Sun Will Rise’; it’s so uplifting. People get it straight away. The meaning is obvious regardless of language. We all need to remember the sun will rise without fail, even if we only get a little bit, we work with it.

Which artist/song/album made you want to make music?

DMX ‘Slippin’, Michael Jackson ‘Human Nature’, Meshelle Ndegeocello ‘Beautiful’, Christopher Cross ‘Sailing’.

What’s the meaning behind your name?

My Gran’s surname is Deeble. She changed it to Deeble for her fashion label (Madame Deeble), which is where the surname is from. It was actually my Mum’s idea to use it. I was already Speech, but two rappers can’t have the same name, so she suggested Speech Debelle.

If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing instead?

A chef. But a professional chef. By now likely my own restaurant. With my last album [‘tantil’] I also released a PDF cookbook. I’ve had a food truck and was a semi-finalist on Celebrity Masterchef. I cook how I make music; depth and rhythm.

What’s success to you?

I don’t know. I’m past the success given to me by others. What it means to me, I’m still working on.

What moment in your life/career forced you to change direction?

My last album [‘tantil’] was tough. I fell out with people and spent a ton of my own money. Had anxiety attacks and started to have to deal with my SA as a child. I moved away from music and public life to do the other work. Now I have space to share again.

Where can people keep in touch with you?

At the fountain.

Speech Debelle’s album ‘Sunday Dinner on a Monday’ is out on 9 June via Monday Session Records. 

Pre-save here

Speech is on Instagram here

Photo by Ty Faruki

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