Interview: BB Diamond on Michael Jackson, Touring with Jess Glynne and Positive Thoughts

Words and images: Jordan Wharf-Young

I’m very proud of where I’m from, so to know that there’s great music coming out of the beautiful county of Kent is welcome news. From the punk rock stylings of Slaves, to the thumping house beats of David Zowie, music in the South-East is currently at its peak, and there are no artists from this area that I am more excited about than BB Diamond.

Born and raised in Essex, BB spent much of her time studying and living in Kent before the customary move to London to pursue her musical dreams. With her infectious beats and soulful vocals, she has quite rightly earned attention from industry insiders. Her new song ‘Instinct’ is the perfect mix of house beats set to dulcet vocals, plus it’s the right side of pop to make it a commercial hit on the charts.

I spent an autumnal afternoon with BB and her manager Lucy at the headquarters of Turn First Management in Hammersmith. She’s as friendly and as down-to-earth as she looks in these pictures – but then she’s still at that blissful stage in any performer’s career, when seeing her face on a poster or discovering her name on an Artists’ Spotlight list on iTunes engender a pure kind  of excitement that can never be replicated along the road to a fortuitous career in music. And without any shadow of a doubt, BB Diamond will make the cut…

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Jordan: Tell me a bit about yourself, where are you from and importantly, whats your favourite colour?

BB Diamond: I’m from Essex, I moved from Essex to Kent and then from Kent to London, and my favourite colour is purple.

J: What got you into music? What was it that you loved about it?

BB: I watched Moonwalker by Michael Jackson and I remember watching that movie and being absolutely mesmerised by MJ … like how can he sing like that, how can he dance like that and just when I heard his voice, I can’t even begin to explain the feeling I felt, it was like ‘I want to be that, I want to sing like that’.

J: Yeah, I imagine that when that originally came out people were just as mesmerised by his performance and in awe of him.

BB: Yeah, I was always brought up around so much music, like my family we lived in a really busy household … we’d always have random parties y’know and music was always blasting and we’d have things from reggae music to rock to soul … I just love listening to all variations of music, lots of different types, but yeah MJ was the one that made me want to sing.

J: I heard your song on Radio 1 a week or so before it was actually released, how did that feel getting your song played by the station?

BB: I cried. That’s how I felt. I literally booed my eyes out. When I wrote that song with Will Rigby, there was a track we were listening to by MJ called Remember the Time, and we were listening to it and thinking ‘what can we create?’. So we thought about that moment where you meet someone in a club and it’s that initial attraction, that initial instinct that you’re gonna have a relationship with that person. When we wrote that song it was just a track that we did for fun, we never thought it would be picked up or anything like that, and when we put it out there, literally we expected it to have a couple of plays here and there but the fact that Radio 1 played it was such an incredible moment.

J: You went through the BBC Introducing platform didn’t you?

BB: I did yeah, I uploaded some tracks to the BBC Kent Introducing…

J: How helpful do you think digital initiatives like BBC Introducing are for emerging talent?

BB: Oh my god amazing! The fact that the BBC have a platform where unsigned artists or people that just love to create music, even if they want to do it for a career or not, they have the opportunity to have their music heard, or to get a bit of feedback, it’s incredible.

J: What was the initial reaction to your song from the public?

 BB: So good! Like it was really cute. I got people tweeting me saying, ‘oh my god, I just heard your track and I love it’ and for me that is such a mad feeling because I still can’t get used to the fact that people have heard my song in the first place. I’m like ‘oh my god!’. To have people turn around and say they like your track is just such an incredible feeling, and I’m so grateful to everyone that has listened to it or danced in their kitchen to it [laughs].

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J: I know I have! I saw that you have worked with Jess Glynne in the past, you were her backing singer for a while and now you’re touring alongside her supporting her this autumn, how did you two meet?

BB: So, I used to do backing singing for Katy B, who’s an absolute babe, she’s an incredible artist, and her musical director got in touch saying that he was working with Jess and he was looking for some backing singers, so I went in for an audition and we met Jess, did the audition and she must have thought we were alright and gave us the job [chuckles].

J: Is this your first nationwide tour?

BB: This is my first UK tour, yeah.

J: Are you nervous?

BB: I’m crazy nervous, like proper nervous. I’ll be running to and from the toilet [laughs], I’ll be that nervous. I have loads of nervous wees and my mouth gets really dry before I go on stage, like I need loads of water before I go and sing, but I am so excited, like it’s excited nerves…

J: Who inspires you… other than Michael Jackson?

BB: Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, umm… I love reading books, and I watch a lot of films and I get a lot of inspirations for songs from films that I watch and things like that, because I love stories. But musically, Justin Timberlake, I love Timbaland’s production and I love Prince and I love Beyonce and Rihanna and I’m a huge fan of Rita Ora. I’m inspired by a lot of music.

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J: Quite wide ranging in styles?

BB: Yeah, definitely… like Fleetwood Mac, I’m a massive fan of Fleetwood Mac. I’ve been to see them twice in concert!

J: What’s your favourite song at the moment, what can’t you stop playing?

 BB: Ooh, tricky! I’ve been playing the new Janet Jackson songs that she’s had out a lot. I’ve been playing Disclosure’s new tracks. Who else? I love Rita Ora and Chris Brown’s track Body on Me..

J: Yes! Such a good song.

BB: …love that tune. When she came out with that, I was like ‘yes Rita!’. Sick tune.

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J: Who do you most admire in the music business right now? For me it’s Disclosure.

BB: Disclosure, yeah! They are smashing it, I would love to work with them that would be a real dream. Obviously Jess, my girl Jess, she’s absolutely smashing it at the moment. I’m a huge fan of Lion Babe and a guy called Dornik.

J: What would you say your career highlight to date is?

BB: Having Instinct available for people to buy is the biggest thing for me.

J: When did you sign with Turn First Management?

BB: In April this year.

J: How did that feel?

BB: Oh my god, I spent probably 85% of that day crying and the other 15% going ‘I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it!’, like that was my day… For me, signing with Turn First was something that I had dreamt about for a long time, I kind of always thought that Turn First would be a home for me, and I can’t explain why but I’m a big believer in the universe and putting your thoughts out into the universe of what you hope to achieve in life… The day I got offered the deal with Turn First, I was actually in New York and I was in a bar and I got the call and I burst into tears in the middle of the bar… When I got back to London, I signed the deal and everyone came in and we toasted it, and it was a moment that I’ll never forget.

J: How long had you been trying to get a record deal?

BB: D’you know what, it’s one of those things that I’ve been grinding at for a very long time. I moved to London when I was 17 and I studied at Tech Music School. I was so determined; I’d worked in Evans & WHSmith, I’d worked behind a bar and when I left Uni, I was determined to make money from music no matter how I made it. I wanted to build my craft, I wanted to learn about the business and I wanted to see how far I could push my voice, and weird things like what songs work best in certain situations. So I got this band together and we performed at corporate events, made a living off of that.

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J: What’s your ultimate goal, or dream, musically?

BB: It keeps changing. You start off going ‘I want to be signed, thats my goal’, then you get signed and you go ‘I want to have a single out’, then the single is released and you go ‘I want to have a number one’ and then an album out, and then a number one album… It keeps going. To be honest, I really think that my ultimate goal would be to do a world tour, to do a duet with Justin Timberlake [laughs]… In all honesty, to break it down, just to have people love my music, if I could perform at a show and hear my song sung back to me, that would be it for me.

J: I have read that a lot of musicians love it when the crowd sing their song back to them.

BB: I know, thats so mental, that would be a dream!

J: Finally, are there any album plans?

BB: There is an album plan.

J: Is it currently being recorded or is there a date set or…?

BB: No, no, not yet.. I’m currently just creating as much music as I can and then the aim is for an album.

J: Amazing, thank you so much.

 BB: Thank you!

BB Diamond’s new single ‘Instinct’ is available to purchase on iTunes now. You can also stream it right now on Spotify or Soundcloud.

 WORDS & PICTURES: Jordan Wharf-Young
ARTIST: BB Diamond
ARTIST MANAGER: Lucy Tallant @ Turn First Artist Management
MAKE UP: Dominic Paul
HAIR: Roberta Anais
STYLIST: Rikki Finlay