Do you feel you have a good understanding of who you are at the moment?
I definitely don’t. When “Sober” went viral, I was so overwhelmed and so happy. I was like “What’s going on?” And I still don’t know what’s going on. I’m just taking every day as it comes, going with it and playing shows. It’s very exciting and I feel grateful every single day.
How did you sign a deal with Atlantic Records at 13 years old?
I was 12 and I was writing all these songs and meeting all these people. Signing with Atlantic Records was really strange and it happened so fast. A lot of people were writing really nice things about me. A couple of blogs were saying “Check out this girl” and Ed Sheeran even tweeted about me. And a couple months later, I was signed to Atlantic!
When you entered the music industry you were only a teen. What have you learned since?
The main thing is having really thick skin and being really strong. All the way through you have to know yourself and be able to say no when you need to. But I also feel it’s really easy to always say no when you’re as stubborn as I am. It’s all about compromise. There are small battles you don’t need to fight. It’s just about learning when to go with it and to not fight people all the time.
Is the entertainment industry particularly judgmental?
Yes, it is. It’s very easy to say the wrong thing. We’re in a time when perception is really important, and what you say and how you look is very important. But people are now willing to accept a greater variety of artists.
How do you cope with that environment?
I don’t really need to, but I feel that’s because of my confidence. Although at the same time I definitely have moments when I feel I don’t look the right way, or my hair is not right, or my body. But those are all insecurities that come with being a girl anyway. Whether I was in the music industry or not, I would still go through that stage of my life.
Does your manager try to dictate how you should look?
Never, ever, ever. I’ve got a great manager. And she’s a woman, which is important. She’s always in my corner, and always asking me what I want.
Is sharing personal pain through your music cathartic?
Yes, I love it. I think for me it’s the one way I can really get my emotions out. And I love the fact that getting my emotions out gives them to somebody else. When I write songs, I turn my weaknesses into strengths and give them to people so they can do the same thing.
Your music channels throwback 90s R&B vibes. Do you think the 90s were a rebellious decade?
Yes. In the 80s people started to go against the norm and it was radical. But I relate more to the 90s. TLC, Destiny’s Child and people like that were very strong voices at a time when music was definitely dominated by men.
What about today?
Today everybody says what they want. But we are in a time where you can’t really do that because people are very sensitive now and it’s hard to always give your opinion. But the way I grew up means I don’t need to tell everybody my opinion. I’ve got many views about a lot of things but I don’t tell everybody. It just doesn’t need to be said.