Photo: Kate Bellm

Interview: Chatting with Mabes – Female Empowerment, Sass, and “Sugarush”

Singer-songwriter Mabes unveils her single/music video “Sugarush,” a deliciously intoxicating alt-pop song flavored with tasty dollops of country/Americana and kaleidoscopic tangs.

Mabes explains, “The baseline came to me first, then the whistle. In the studio, a groovy ‘70s psychedelic vibe was made and my lyrics sat on top like sprinkles on a cake – and ‘Sugarush’ was born! I wanted to capture the sunny hypnotic psych mood in the video, make it dreamy and almost trippy – Kate Bellm got the vision and nailed it!”

The video, shot by visual artist extraordinaire Kate Bellm, brims with wicked erotic brio and the expression of female empowerment, unrehearsed and genuine.

While growing up in Billericay, a town in the Borough of Basildon, Essex, England, just east of Central London, Mabes began playing guitar when she was 15 years old, followed by performing in local venues. Up to last year, she was working a regular job. Then she released her debut album, Wait & See, amassing more than 35 million streams almost overnight.

Applauded by the media and listeners, she was featured in American Songwriter, CLASH, The Independent, Spindle, and Earmilk, along with airplay on BBC Radio 1, 6Music, and BBC Radio 2.

CelebMix spoke with Mabes to discover more about the person behind the music, her influences, and the inspiration for “Sugarush.”

How did you get started in music?

Mother said I was a dancer before I could walk. She said I began to sing long before I could talk.

What’s the backstory there?

So basically, I was born with musical bones. I never really ever cared about anything else. Still don’t.

Which singers/musicians influenced you the most?

When I started writing as a teenager, it was all about Laura Marling and John Mayer. Now my list of influences is a hot mess, but Fleetwood Mac, Dolly Parton, Debbie Harry, and Chrissie Hynde are staples.

Which artists, in your opinion, are killing it right now?

Doja Cat. Yep. Wow.

What is your songwriting process?

It always starts with a feeling, something that’s shocked me, affected me, hurt me, amused me, stopped me in my tracks, and made me think. Then it’s about poetry, how to say things with beauty, how to cut, how to be clever with metaphors, and playing with double/triple meanings. Then it’s about melody, something sticky that you can’t get enough of. Then alas, a song is born.

What was the inspiration for “Sugarush?”

I was hanging out with this guy I really wanted to commit to me, but he was playing it too cool and never did. It made me feel so shit, like, what’s wrong with me. Why will he give me only some of his time, why not exclusivity? He made me feel like I wasn’t enough. So, I ended that little love affair and came out the other side feeling so damn worthy of myself. He was not worthy, I realize now. “Sugarush” is like, ‘look what you’re missing, dude.’

How did you come to work alongside photographer Kate Bellm, were you a fan of her work, or did she reach out to you?

I was a total fangirl and asked to work with her – but then she said yes. SHE SAID YES!

What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them from the video?

Female empowerment is a biggun here. To sass everything up, have fun, and stick a middle finger to fuckboys.

There’s a distinctly U.S/ Americana feel to the video and your music, generally. Does that sound and the Nashville scene influence your output?

Yes, 10000%, I may be from Billericay, Essex, but I’m a country girl at heart.

Your journey started performing in small venues in Essex, how important was that process to your journey, and do you think more needs to be done to protect these kinds of venues?

The first gigs are TERRIFYING and also baptism by fire. You don’t have mic technique, you mess up the guitar chords because you’re shaking with nerves so much, maybe only 2 people in the room are listening, and one of those is your Mum. But if you’re like me, this only ignites fire in you to be better next time. I started out at open mics, and it’s a right of passage for the next generation of artists. There’s no magic quite like an intimate gig at a small venue. They need to be preserved at all costs.

You have a new album releasing soon. What can you share about it?

Sass, more indie vibes, and cutting truth. And don’t worry, I’ll never lose country music – it’s in my bones.

Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?

As for music, ‘80s pop is an instant mood lifter. And OMG entertainment, can I say it? Halfway through ‘Married At First Sight Australia’ – it’s brutal I can’t get enough.

Why do you make music?

Because it saves me and keeps my soul intact. Creative release is a must.

Looking ahead, what’s next for Mabes?
Who knows – that’s the fun of it!

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Written by Randy

Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.