Behind the polished pop production of her debut album, Mabel opens up to listeners about the most intricate and personal parts of her life. ‘High Expectations’ is more than just a introduction to who she is as an artist, it’s a journey of self discovery and realisations. Intertwining playful and sassy elements to the delivery, she will have you dancing, throwing your hands in the air and feeling quite emotional. And that’s the rollercoaster of emotions that she set out to achieve within this collection.
Starting her journey in the industry as a songwriter, it doesn’t really come by much of a surprise that this collection is so intimate and personal. She treats this album like a journal of her deepest thoughts with ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem)’ and ‘I Belong To Me’ taking the lead in the honesty department. And it’s resonating with people all over the world. Her chart and radio domination with ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ is mammoth and hopefully this album will continue the upwards trajectory she is having.
I recently chatted to Mabel about the personal discoveries she made about herself that inspired the emotional layering of ‘High Expectations’, the importance of opening up about mental health through art and we dived into the creative process behind the empowering break up song ‘I Belong To Me’. Check out the chat HERE;
TB: Your debut album ‘High Expectations’ is a soulful, playful and emotionally driven record that hears you opening up about love, heartbreak and mental health. When you started writing and recording this album, did you make it a personal goal to be as open and direct as you could within the songwriting?
M: Yeah! I’m a songwriter at heart and that’s how I started out my journey in the industry as a musician and it’s what drew me in as a kid to become an artist. For me the most important thing was being open and honest about my emotions and treating songwriting like journaling. I think my best songs, and the songs that people love the most are songs that are about very real things.
It can be scary putting your feelings out there on the line but it definitely pays off because songs like ‘Ok (Anxiety Anthem)’ and ‘Don’t Call Me Up’ are proof that the songs that are about very real things in my life are the ones that people connect with the most. It’s the best feeling really.
TB: With the already huge support of ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem) from your fans and media alike, how does this reaffirm your faith in being authentically you and being able to talk about topics like this so openly through your art?
M: When I was a kid it was the songwriting that really interested me. I think I was really anxious from a very young age. I suffered from really intense insomnia, lots of weird social anxieties and had a lot of big questions from a young age that saw me carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. So for me songwriting was my way of releasing that. I’ve always been able to be really honest about my feelings through music. Sometimes I say that I can sing things better than I can say them. Sometimes I will write a song and be like “oh god, what was that about?” and then go through a experience or remember a experience and be like “wow, ok, I was kinda telling myself something I needed to know”.
Through writing ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem)’ it definitely changed the way I look at it. I knew I had to write a song like that for the album because as I said before, within being really honest with my relationships and emotions in general through songwriting it was kinda like how could I not sort of attack the elephant in the room which is mental health, anxiety and all the issues I’ve had since I was young. It’s really important to that because I have a responsibility with the platform that i have to tell everyone about the bad days as well as the good days.
It was really hard to talk about at first because I used to look at it so negative and it was important to me that the album was sending a positive message. I just felt embarrassed and ashamed, but then I wrote ‘OK (Anxiety Anthem)’ and it was my way of telling myself that it was okay to feel like that.
TB: I think the way you’ve done that through this song is so beautiful as it is a very important thing that we need to open up about more through art. And alongside artists like yourself, Julia Michaels and Sasha Sloan, there is more of a present dialogue about Mental Health and anxiety in music now more than ever before.
M: Thank you! I think so too! There used to be a misconception that pop stars were these angelic, god like beings and that’s actually not the case at all. We’re just human and we feel emotions too.
TB: The concept behind the title ‘High Expectations’ came from the high expectations you have in your personal life for love and your personal goals to succeed. So after self identifying this, how have you worked on not being so hard on yourself in this sense?
M: Writing an album is really a self exploration process. You pick yourself apart into pieces and then have to put yourself back together. That is definitely what happened with me through the creation of this album. You see a lot of good things, and you see a lot of bad things and you come out on the other side and realise that you love it all as that is what makes you human.
Making the album for me was a confidence journey and that’s the message I’ve tried to send. I hope that the feeling people experience when they listen to this album is that they feel empowered and strong. I know what it feels like to feel alone and feel like I don’t have a voice so I wanted to embrace that.
I want to make songs that make people feel sassy and strong. In writing those songs for others, I also really needed to do it for myself.
I think the high expectations I put on myself to a degree is healthy because I am where I am because I’m always thinking of new ways to push myself and better myself as an artist, person and performer. I think writing the album has also given me a sense of being comfortable within myself and where I am at with the good days and the bad days.
TB: You used interludes throughout the album to seperate some different emotions and storylines, so why did you find it really important to do that for this release?
M: I’m very much an album person, that’s how I consume music. I’m very old school in that way where I’ve always listened to music from beginning to the end. That’s how I like to appreciate music and it’s how I’ve found the albums that I’ve loved. I like to have them in the background during the day and consume them that way.
There are still people out there who make modern classics like Frank Ocean does but it is very much a singles dominated market now. However, I wanted to make an album that told a story and had ups and downs and interludes because that’s how I grew up listening to music and I think that is why the album took a while to make.
I signed my record label when I was nineteen. The year after I could’ve shoved a bunch of tracks onto an album right then and been like “here we go, her his Mabel’s debut album”, but I wanted to create something that had those ups and downs and a journey.
Interludes for me are a very important part of that. Like on ‘The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill’ its her and her friends talking and stuff and that made a huge impact on me as a kid.
TB: In the outro you sing this beautiful line; “The higher up we go and the farther we climbing, the more there is to lose”. Where was this line emotionally coming from for you when you wrote that? Because I feel like that is a beautiful line that people can interpret in so many different ways which is kinda the power of music.
M: That is one of my favourite lyrics on the album. To me, it’s a lot about a relationship that is not necessarily a romantic relationship but also the relationship within myself where you come so far and realise how scary. Like, all of a sudden I’ve levelled up by like a hundred levels and I’ve learnt how to be comfortable with myself and I’ve learnt my worth but one step away there is a drop where I could lose everything. The higher up you go, the harder it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground so you keep looking up *laugh*.
TB: Now I want to talk about ‘I Belong To Me’ because this song was instantly one of the biggest stand out’s on the record. In my review of the album I said; “Continuing the honest and free flowing nature of the soothing delivery she sets, ‘I Belong To Me’ is the heartbreak anthem you deserve to blast and cry to. It’s an empowering moment of realising that you were yourself before that person and you will be yourself after them. They never owned you, and that’s the sort of self-love we need in our lives”.
I feel like this song really sets a great self love precedent in the heartbreak world, so how did this song creatively come about because were you aware to make it as authentic as possible without it possibly coming across cheesy?
M: Thank you! You just made me so teary with what you just said about the song. I’m so emotional right now *laughs*. But yeah that was a really defining relationship in my life while making this album. It was my first love in a way and it didn’t really work out the way I thought it would. I mean, a lot of relationships don’t. But I got to the end of the album making process and I started to feel okay again and started to feel like myself, and you end up remembering all of these amazing things about yourself that when you’re in a relationship that isn’t working you can kinda suppress. You try to fit someone’s mould and It was such a freeing emotion realising that.
The song is specifically placed on the album in that part because I came out of the other side of the recording and writing process of album realising that the most important and longest relationship I will ever have is with myself. I haven’t always been so kind and forgiving to myself. The society we live in sort of tells us that we need other people to define us and make us feel beautiful, strong and loved but along the way I realised that it wasn’t true.
TB: Your EP ‘Bedroom’ and your mixtape ‘Ivy To Roses’ were released in 2017. So reflecting back on where you were as an artist then and where you are now with ‘High Expectations’, how would you say you have grown?
M: The confidence I was speaking to you earlier about has definitely been the biggest difference.
I was always into making music and stuff but being an outwards facing person and having people able to judge me so openly was something I really struggled with. I didn’t feel completely comfortable because I hadn’t figured out who I was. And when you’re still figuring that out it’s a very stressful feeling having so many people watching you and I didn’t feel like I was there yet. I have no regrets about the music before the album because it’s all apart of the journey and I’m so happy my fans have been apart of that and the growth. For me it was just about figuring out who I am. I’m young and I’m still finding that confidence within myself.
TB: And I have to ask… any plans to bring the world tour down under, cause I feel like Australian needs to dance with you?
M: I would love to! I was obsessed when I was down there, even though I was only there for two days *laughs*. I loved it! So definitely, I can’t wait to come back!
‘High Expectations’ is out now!