When I call Etta Bond, she’s just finished a 15 date, 15 city tour. It spanned the UK and Europe and over that time, she connected with as many fans as possible. Since releasing her double sided album, He’s Not Mine and He’s Mine, Etta’s been on the grind. But now she’s spending time at her boyfriend’s house in the English countryside. Finally, she gets to unwind, write, and go to Tantastic, a friend’s nail salon near her home in London. “Even if I’m in a rush, they never let me leave without matching my hands and toes,” she laughs. “If it were up to me, I’d be trying to leave with different coloured toes!”
Speaking to Etta is like popping bubble wrap. She speaks with energy and warmth, bouncing ideas around as the conversation evolves. Her innate empathy and ability to capture emotional tipping points has garnered her a legion of fans. Etta’s career trajectory has been impressive, albeit steady: she was the first artist to sign to Labrinth’s OddChild label, and past collaborators include Plan B and Wretch 32. Her double album alone features Kojey Radical, A2, SiR, and Shaé Universe.
He’s Not Mine and He’s Mine are odes to falling in love: out of it, then with yourself, and finally with someone who’s the right fit. It’s an introspective, honest, and genuine body of work. Etta herself sums it up best, when she tells me, “I just hope that this music helps to guide people, like it’s guided me.”
Hello! First off—how are you feeling post-tour?
It’s been pretty chilled. It’s a little bit weird, especially after tour. But it’s easier being here, anyway, at home, on my own.
What do you do for self care?
I do like a little mask! Honestly, writing is my biggest self care thing. Because if I’m stressed or something weird is going on, and I haven’t written down my thoughts about it, I feel like I can notice. I always feel better when I’ve spent some time writing things down.
Either that or like… going to the salon.
Do you get your nails done often?
You know what? Some of my friends own a salon near my house called Tantastic. So I go there quite often and they always hook me up. It’s nice to have friends who run it, because really and truly I don’t sit down as much at the moment, otherwise. I don’t do much socialising stuff at the moment. So it’s sort of a nice way to see my friends.
I feel like after tour you just wouldn’t want to socialise…
Ah! Yes! I know it sounds really bad, but one of the things I said when I finished tour was like “I can’t wait to not speak to anyone for ages!” I just thought it would be really nice to do that. When I’m on tour I like to talk to as many people as possible. Doesn’t matter how tired you are or whatever, because these people have come down and it might be their first time seeing or meeting me and I have to show as much appreciation as possible to every person.
It’s actually pretty draining. But then I’d meet new people and their energy would literally fill me up. But, like you’re saying, it’s been nice. My boyfriend lives a good few hours away from [my house in] London, so when I come here I get to be completely separated from that world. That’s the mode I’m in!
That sounds so dreamy. Also, congratulations on both sides of the album coming out! It’s been a long time in the making hasn’t it?
Thank you! In terms of me putting an album out, I haven’t done that before. In general, I guess it’s been a long time coming. In terms of making the music that’s on it, the first side that came out I’d been working on for a couple of years without actually knowing that it was going towards the album or concept. Some point last year, I was like, I feel in a better place, I feel in a good place to be able to push my music and do all this stuff. Not just to make it, but also in business and life.
For me, I have to be in a good, strong place in order to share and release. The second half I made in the last eight months leading up to the release. That was all new stuff. I just create with my life, as it’s going on. It’s whatever the universe throws at me at the time. I believe the whole project was meant to happen. The second part wasn’t even really expected until late last year. It’s been quite a journey. I’ve no doubt that it’s meant to be. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
I want to talk about He’s Mine—are you in love as hell right now?
Well—I had no idea the second half was coming. Because I didn’t know I was going to fall in love. I wrote the first half, kind of like my experience during and coming away from unhealthy relationships. Everything that was unhealthy for me. Once I put a stamp on that, I was able to present it in that way and acknowledge that this was wrong for me. That it’s not what I want. I hadn’t had a relationship in about ten years. I met someone and all the music just started happening. It was all super organic. So, I guess, I am in love right now!
I think that’s really exciting. The A side and the B side is such a beautiful transition through all of the feelings that you go through when you’re finding yourself. I think it’s like a snowballing effect.
It’s funny because there wasn’t a side B to start with. But I couldn’t have had the experiences of side B without going through side A. They’re all necessary. I don’t really think I truly understood until it came through in the music. All I do is make music about stuff that’s going on in my life. And in my feelings. I just started making all these nice songs and I thought like, ‘These can’t go on He’s Not Mine!’ The whole journey’s been really incredible for me. I can’t even really explain it… I’ve tried in the music anyway!
I think you’ve done a really incredible job.
It’s been a really crazy experience for me. I’ve been through so many rubbish situations. I’d got to the point where I’d made He’s Not Mine, and I was really content with the idea of like, you know what? I don’t need anyone. If it was just me for the rest of my life, then I’d rather that than be with someone not right for me. That allowed the universe to say “Yes! This is the right time now.” It’s not just about finding a relationship. In order to achieve the things I want to achieve, or do anything I dream of, you can’t do that without loving or caring for yourself first.
I absolutely agree. That’s always how it rolls though! As soon as you’re like, no I don’t need anyone—there they are!
That’s exactly that! You can’t try and trick yourself and be like “Oh! I’m not looking!” But you can’t lie to yourself! I used to say “Oh I don’t need anyone!” And I feel like I’d say that as more of a defence thing. But when I realised that I was genuinely enough on my own—without a man, without a partner of any sort—you have to be enough yourself first. I honestly believe [that] because how did the most perfect person for me that I’ve ever met just fall from the sky at that point? I do think it’s quite a rocky road, but I hope the music can help guide people, like it’s guided me.
To make them kind of think and ask “Is this good for me? Is this bad for me?” Once I put something in [a] song, it makes it real for me. Fingers crossed! I’ve had some really, really nice feedback, from people, especially women who feel like they’ve gone through similar feelings. It’s really comforting for me and for other people.
With touring, are you a stage fright kind of person? Or not really?
I get nervous before every show. Some not as much as others. Like my London show, because people kept saying to me “Oh! Don’t worry about it! Why are you nervous? Everybody is here to see you!” Which, you know, is part of the problem. I understood what they were trying to do but I don’t think it was helping. I guess because there were so many people there. I’d never seen that amount of people show up for me before. It was overwhelming more so than anything.
On the tour, I got more and more comfortable. I always get nervous. But once I get on stage, everything chills out. It’s not a bad thing to be nervous, I just care. I think it’s kind of normal to be nervous in some way. As long as it’s not enough to make me want to run away.
Has it ever been enough to make you run away?
It’s never that much! I wouldn’t never do that! That would be so mean—everyone would be so mad at me! But I wouldn’t do that. I love performing, but I find it kind of impossible not to get at least a little bit nervous before I go on. Once I’m on stage I’m fine.
What venue did you first play?
Ever? I mean I’ve been performing for years—I’ve been doing little ballets since I was like two! In terms of my own show, my own music, I think, it’s a pretty cool first show, but I did the Azealia Banks Mermaid Hall show in London, at some aquarium.
That’s so crazy!
It was pretty cool, loads of fish swimming around everywhere. Not a bad one hey!
Not at all! What were you like as a kid?
I grew up in the countryside. I mean the nearest place that people would know near it is Cambridge, but it’s not even really there at all. To be honest, I didn’t have loads of friends around all the time. Honestly, and this is real talk, most of my memories are me just walking around the garden singing to myself. And I literally sat in my room singing along to CDs and stuff. That’s the main thing I remember doing. It’s not about playing with people. I was more [a] myself to myself sort of person.
Until I started going to performing arts classes after school and I started meeting a few people that made me feel less strange. I wouldn’t look at myself and think I was weird, but I definitely understand why other kids would look at me and say “I don’t get it. What sort of person is this.” I went through all the weird phases possible. Always expressive. I’d write stories and I kept a diary from like, seven. I’ve always been singing. Always.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.