Anabel Englund Interview: Rebel reborn

Singer Anabel Englund spoke to Becca Frankland about being comfortable in her own company, starting a new musical chapter and her decision to go sober.

Becca Frankland

Last updated: 15th Nov 2016

Anabel Englund is house music's pop star. The LA-raised singer was born into an talented family; her father is American actor and singer Morgan Englund, her grandfather the director/producer George Englund and her grandmother the Academy Award-winning actress Cloris Leachman. Anabel's talent was first properly acknowledged when she was just 16, when the Disney-owned ABC Family reached out to her to write and sing theme songs and other material for television shows.

The now 24-year-old had a whirlwind few years after she was encouraged to sing to Lee Foss at one of his LA gigs back in 2012, just a week later they ended up recording Hot Creations' stellar 'Electricity' release in his kitchen. 

The musical chemistry between them would lead to Anabel writing and performing with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss as Hot Natured, before partnering up with MK and Foss again for their Pleasure State project. Over the course of those few years, her voice was featured on standout tracks including 'Reverse Skydiving', 'Mercury Rising' and 'Ghost In The System'.

Not keen on settling for just being known as the front woman to some of dance music's most recognised projects, Anabel is now going it alone with a solo release after sonically and organically finding her own sound over the past year, a sound which is equally fit for both radio and dancefloors.

'London Headache', released on Defected Records, is the newest venture for the talented starlet, something which will no doubt be greeted by the same positive response as her previous work. As the track gets set to detaonte clubland in the latter stages of 2016, we caught up with Anabel to discuss the past year, being comfortable in her own company and her collaborations.

Hi Anabel! I wanted to ask as we've just woken up to the news of the presidential election results, how are you feeling about it all? 

Politics is such a sensitive subject. I know that if I do the right thing and I love the people around me unconditionally no matter what they look like or who they are, then I'm doing my bit. Even if they're hateful people, as long as I love them and have compassion for humans in general then there's not much more I can do. 

It all starts with you, we can complain all we want about this and that but at the end of the day, it's all about what we're doing as individuals.

That's a good attitude to have...

Yeah definitely, like right now I'm not even there in America, I'm in London, and it's not the best situation but it starts with me and it starts with you, that's all we can do.

Absolutely. With the consistent travelling as an artist at a pretty young age and the exposure you had when you were even younger, have you ever felt like you've missed out on 'normal' stuff over the years?

Well, it wasn't like I was Hannah Montana or anything [laughs] but I grew up on movie sets, and with my grandma who is an actress and with my dad making music. I thought that was the norm, I was always grateful that that was my life, it all seemed natural. As a kid you're never questioning whether or not what you're doing is ok.

When I did ABC Family, I was in college at Santa Monica and I just posted a YouTube clip of myself singing. From there I got a call from ABC and they asked if I wanted to come in and sing, and for me I would have much rather been writing music and creating beautiful songs than sitting in any classroom. 

I read in an interview that at times your friends couldn't relate to why you might be feeling down or depressed because you're in an amazing location doing what you love, is that still the case?

I remember talking about that, and I used to feel that way a lot more but now I've kind of evolved in the past year, and I feel a lot more comfortable in my own self. About a year ago or so I used to feel so lonely all the time, I was always wishing I could share my experience, even if it was with a girl friend or something.

Whereas now, I'm really happy just sharing it with myself, I'm at peace with going somewhere and breathing new air. I don't feel a sense of missing someone. If anything, I've changed my friends too. Does that make sense?

Yeah definitely, it's an achievement to be comfortable with your own company.

Yeah, then you can just enjoy yourself without always needing that something. Instead of needing friends all the time, I'm happy just being with me, I don't need anything else. It feels good.

You've just said a lot has changed over the past year, is the solo single a reflection of how things have developed? Is it representative of your new chapter?

I think it's something that I always knew I needed to do, and this is just the beginning. I'm super excited about it, it's definitely a new chapter as you say. It goes back to what I was saying in the last questions, it's just me.

I work on the music with other people, I have other producers but at the end of the day I'm going to be the one touring around it, and it all circles back to me. It's all my words, it focuses on my singing and it's definitely a chapter that I've been planning for a while. 

Why did you think that Defected was the right label for the release? Was it a case of you approaching them or did they approach you?

We approached Defected. I thought it would be a really good fit, and they thought the same so it worked out perfectly in that sense.

Listening to 'London Headache', it sounds a lot more chilled than the stuff you've done previously with Hot Natured and Pleasure State. How is the track an evolution from the stuff you've done previously?

I think again because it's just me, I don't have anyone to fall back on, it's just my words. That in itself is a big deal. I haven't relied on MK or Lee or anything for this.

Thinking back to that first moment when you met Lee and Jamie, do you find it weird looking back on it all? Does it seem like fate?

I had no idea that that was going to be the start. It feels like fate for sure. It felt like I was being pulled to that place and all the events led up to that moment, I didn't go there thinking, "I need to sing for Lee" I just needed to go and listen to the music.

When my friend and I were hanging out with Lee she just told him that I was a singer and I ended up singing. Looking back now it's definitely a pivotal day, I don't think at the time I knew what was going to come from it because my intention was to just go and listen to his music. 

Do you think you'll be working with them again on the production front in the future? 

I think I have a song coming out on Lee's album, I mean we're all friends so I don't see why we wouldn't work again in the future. When you're a creative person and you have friends who are creative it would only make sense to keep working. We all live in the same area and we'll just say, "Hey I'm gonna come over, let's sort some music" It's fun like that, it doesn't need to be so serious.

On your social media you seem really passionate about the earth and animals and the more spiritual side of things, does that help you when you're struggling?

For me, sometimes even when I'm writing a song, for example 'London Headache', I just feel like the words were already in me. We wrote it in two days but even my brother was like, "Damn you wrote all of that in two days?" and I just didn't know how to explain it, it just flowed out.

For me I've been writing and even just journaling since I was really young, and it's always been a form of therapy for me. I also feel a really deep connection with the earth and the trees and the ocean, the sun, the moon, animals and other human beings, without that bond I would never be able to write what I get to right or feel what I'm able to feel. 

You've seen a lot of the world through touring, are there any specific places or moments that stand out in regards to that connection?

Well there's a few, I love to travel and I love the cultures. I went to Uruguay and it was the day after my show and a friend was showing me around. We went to dinner, then we sat down on this beautiful green hillside which went down to the sand and ocean and all these people started gathering around on this hillside too, watching as the sun was slowly setting besides the dark blue ocean. It was beautiful.

As the sun finally set everyone started clapping, and I've never experienced something so magical because it was people actually appreciating nature. You can clap for people playing guitar but what about something greater? Even the fact that a place like that exists, and people might go there every day. It's special.

When touring I imagine the partying side of things was pretty heavy at times, but am I right in saying you're sober now?

Yeah, I don't do drugs or drink alcohol anymore. 

That's quite a bold decision to make for someone your age, I mean, both of those things are everywhere in clubland. What led to you making that decision?

Alcohol literally is poison and drugs are too, people can argue about weed but that's still going to slow you down and not allow you to be your best self. For me, I was so sick of the bullshit I was giving myself.

It kind of goes hand in hand with what I was saying about needing to have that thing, like a friend, but now I have me. It doesn't happen overnight, it's a long process and I'm still going through that process but I know that this way of living is so much better. 

Moving forward, what's happening with your album? I can remember reading quite a while back that you had one in the pipeline, did it get put on hold?

So, I wanted to clean the slate and start again. I have some stuff recorded now and I think I'm going to tease it out for a little while and then work towards a bigger set of music. It's been a little while since I've had music out so I want to start small and then gain the momentum.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could collaborating on that album with anyone from past or present, who would you pick to work with? 

Hmm, that's a really cool question. Well, I really love... I think she's dead [laughs]

It's ok, dead people are allowed for this...

Ok, well I really love Ella Fitzgerald. It would be really cool to write with her and hear her melodies. I mean, obviously Madonna is the given.

'London Headache' is out now on Defected Records, featuring remixes from Purple Disco Machine and Crookers.

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