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Friday 06 December 2019

One To Watch 2020: Brighton Raised Celeste Wins Inaugural BRITs Rising Star Award

There's a quiet softness to Celeste that makes you feel instantly relaxed by her presence. A softness that was recently picked-up upon by Paul Weller, following a recommendation by his daughter. 
Credit Alessandro Raimondo

"My daughter Dylan played me Celeste's Both Sides of The Moon. I love that song and I love Celeste's voice, and the rest just happened."

What happened was a a live studio version of Weller's mid-nineties ballad, You Do Something To Me. 


The track that first brought the artists together, Both Sides Of The Moon, subtly introduced her voice last year; one oozing with sophisticated, undeniable soul. 

Her voice has that natural ease that seems to just escape her throat, but contains so much detail, so many stories, such complex personal histories. 

The 24-year-old shares much with the greats, both modern and old: Amy, Etta, Ella, Otis, etc. 

Like their voices, hers doesn't belong to a specific time or place.


From her bedroom in West London, she talks about where her voice and perspective came from, and she does so at length. 

Celeste can talk for Britain. She grew up in Brighton but she was born in Los Angeles. 

"It's an odd and long story," she laughs, remembering the tiniest fractions of sensory memory as she paints scenes from her young life. 

 
Celeste is mixed race. Her mum is from Dagenham, and her dad is from Jamaica, and both of them wound up wherever the wind would blow. 

At the age of three, Celeste moved from LA to Dagenham with her mum and lived with her grandparents until she was six. 

Her granddad was the one who'd expose her to music. 

"The first singer I remember hearing was Aretha Franklin," she recalls, offering details of hearing a cassette in her granddad's old Jaguar. 


"He could tell I liked it and played 24 more of her songs." 

They'd listen to tapes of Aretha and Ella Fitzgerald on repeat. 

On a trip to Romford Market she discovered Otis Redding when she was buying a gift for her granddad. 

She didn't realise it back then but there was something in the raw emotion of those singers that she connected with. 

"In my songwriting I'm far more inspired by heartbreak," she says


"There's a darkness even though some songs are underlined with optimism. Those moments were far more thought-provoking for me."

She and her mum moved to Brighton when she was six. 

At school she made friends quickly, but more importantly she found herself struck by the compulsory church hymns, even though she wasn't religious. 

"I loved singing them and hearing everyone's voices blend together." 

Even now she's obsessed with choirs and religious iconography, but at the time it was her first vehicle for communal singing.  


She remembers her first music teacher – down to her colour of stockings. 

"There was so much freedom in that class compared to others," she recalls. 

"I looked forward to it." 

The seeds were being sowed but it wasn't until Celeste was in her mid-teens that she started basing life decisions upon her love for music, deliberating over university versus pursuing a career as an artist. 

Her time at college had been testy and coincided with her dad's death.

"I'd never experienced that heartbreak in my life," she says, revealing that she kept it more or less secret. 

"I was brought up to be optimistic. My outlook was positive in terms of the unpredictable nature of life. 

"It shocked me and affected my confidence in the world and I became anxious for a year." 

She stopped turning up to class, she stopped hanging out with her friends. She wouldn't leave the house. She nearly got kicked out of school. 

After she plodded through that difficult year she felt a new sense of purpose, and a strong desire to use the opportunity of college as a means for self-discovery. 

At the age of eighteen she'd befriended a group of young talented local boys. 

Celeste would sing. She'd never performed for people before. 

They'd rehearse covers of Sly And The Family Stone, The Clash, The Specials, The Moody Blues, Alice Coltrane, Janice Joplin, Thelonius Monk and Ray Charles, turning each other on to classic discoveries.

Eventually she began to write original material with the boys. 

"The more time I spent playing music with my friends and doing shows the more I wanted to do it as a career," she says. 

Celeste posted a blurry video of her and the boys jamming in the garden and her first manager stumbled across it. 

He booked her writing sessions with credible songwriters in London. 

For two years, she'd jostle working in pubs in Brighton with staying with friends in London for half the week, taking sessions, finding her sound, etching out several EPs on her way to signing with a major.

"I understand my sound and how I want me to be perceived as an artist. Realising that making music isn't just about singing, it's about having something to say," she says now. 

The journey was long but there was always a little light whenever things got too dark. 

The music she's making and releasing now feels rooted in pain. 

"I'm not a dramatic person at all but small things affect people in a huge way," she says. 

"For me, significant things jerk me or make me overthink and inspire me to write."

And just this week Celeste has won the inaugural BRITs Rising Star award, and is the first performer to be confirmed for what will be the 40th BRIT Awards show on Tuesday 18th February 2020, at The O2 Arena in London.

Celeste is going to be huge in 2020. Check-out her music HERE.

by: Mike Cobley




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