An Interview with Speech Debelle

Speech Debelle first came onto the scene in 2009 with her first album, Speech Therapy which won the prestigious Mercury music prize. Speech Therapy was followed up by Freedom of Speech in 2012, fast forward five years and Speech is back with her third album, Tantil Before I Breathe. We caught up with her to talk about, music, food and Duckie Queer Carnival.

Could you tell us about the creative process and where you drew inspiration from for this project?

Speech Debelle: I had to learn to stand still, and breathe. Metaphorically and literally. The album took about 4 years to make. Slow at first, then as it started to form, it became more of a need to complete and share.

How did you come up with the name for the album?

My grandmother uses the word “Tantil”. The whole title sounded so poetic. It’s the full and complete version of the EP I released last year called “Breathe”

You won the British Mercury Prize in 2009 for your first album, Speech Therapy. How have you progressed as an artist since then?

At the pace, I needed to learn. I think it’s important to give myself, and others space to live their divinity. Time is seen as so linear. That’s what makes it so scary. Sometimes, I think I haven’t progressed fast enough. Other times, I’m reminded of all I’ve achieved.

Why did you release a cookbook along with the “Tantil Before I Breathe”?

Food and music both heal and inspire. They have a symbiotic relationship that soulful people feel intensely. I wanted to tell stories in my favourite way. As close to being around a table full of food, with loved ones, and good music playing.

What has your experience been with being an independent musician?

Tough. Expensive. Liberating. A way of recognising my own greatness.

You will be djing at Duckie Family’s Queer Carnival on 3rd June, what do you enjoy the most about djing?

Dj is like playing with sound. I love afro house and the church-like experience of uplifting music. I enjoy bringing that to people.

What are the main differences between performing live and djing?

People are more concerned with their drinks and movement when djing than when someone is performing. It’s a welcome relief as a performer sometimes.

What does Queer Carnival mean to you?

A celebration of queerness, uniqueness and togetherness.

If you could have any person dead or alive as a guest on your podcast “The Work Brunch”, who would it be and why?

Nina Simone jumped out first. We live in a filtered world and she was an artist in a time we strived for unfiltered uniqueness. She would be a way more honest and open guest than most.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

I’m always extended my craft. More music, more foodie things and more TV.

“Tantil Before I Breathe” is out now and is available for purchase. Follow Speech on Twitter and Instagram

Duckie Family Queer Carnival with performance, films, clubbing and dancehall queen competition 

With Speech Debelle, Boy Blue, Deanz, Mzz Kimberley, Mr Black Branson,  Kartel Brown, D’relle Khan, Karnage, Azara Meghie, Jay-Jay Revlon, Victoria Sin, Sadie Sinner, FKA, Pandemic, Harold Offeh and the Samba Boys

Saturday 3 June, 8pm – 3am at Rich Mix in London, £4 B4 11pm / £8 after 11pm

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