Selected by: James Keith

Name: Debbie

Where She’s From: London

Genre: Soul

File Next To: Denai Moore, SIPHO., Demae, Yebba

When She Started: “I think I started making music around 2018. This was when I was gifted a guitar for my birthday and whilst trying to get my head around the chords, I was feeling inspired to write a song down.”

Sounds Like: “I find it really difficult to categorise my music. Whenever someone asks me ‘what type of music do you make?’ I normally say it’s a melting pot of creativity. I just enjoy telling my story and maybe even touching someone through my music.”

First Music That Inspired Her: “There wasn’t a specific song that made me want to start making music. I’ve always sung and made little melodies up in my head since I can remember! My mum used to tell me I’ve been singing from the womb.”

Nearly four years ago, TRENCH writer Jesse Bernard wrote on this very website about “gospel-influenced R&B gradually being erased from the genre”, but there is thankfully a growing movement to reverse that trend. 22-year-old Debbie, one of the first wave signees to 0207 Def Jam alongside Stormzy and Potter Payper, is one such artist. Although still right in the very earliest stages of her career, she’s already made an impressive opening gambit.

Growing up in a very religious household as the daughter of a reverend, most musical avenues were closed off, but the beauty and power of gospel music was always advocated. “Gospel music was a given,” Debbie tells TRENCH. “If I wasn’t listening to my parents’ cassette tapes, then I was listening to either Kirk Franklin or Mary Mary.” She’s been singing ever since and it’s given her an instinctual understanding of how to use her music to maximum effect. Her voice is gentle but hugely evocative, stirring vast swells of emotion with just a few notes.

As for actually writing and recording music, that came just a few years ago when Debbie was given a guitar for her birthday. Having got to grips with that pretty much straight away (and having secretly explored contemporary music), she turned to music technology at college to help her turn her well of ideas into actual songs. “That was the only time I had access to equipment back then,” she says. At that point, however, there were no plans for a career—it was creating for the sake of creating: “Looking back, I’m always smiling at the memory because I had a lot of fun creating something that had no expectations.” Nascent though her career is, it was the next step she’s most proud of: “I guess if I had to pinpoint one moment, it would be the very beginning of my career where I decided to perform in an open-mic competition that would eventually lead to me meeting my manager. Taking that first step took a lot of courage and a lot of belief in myself.”

Debbie’s put out only a handful of tracks so far—“Is This Real Love?”, “Summer In December”, “Stay” and this week’s “All Night Long”—but even so she’s drawing quite a crowd already. The 0207 Def Jam family, although effusive in their support, used the first two tracks to quietly test the water and, judging by the six-figure streams on each, and the radio play across BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and 6Music, there’s a more than healthy appetite out there; so much so that she’s already raring to get started on her debut album. “I think albums are like canvases for musicians,” she says, “and I can’t wait to paint mine.”

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Posted on May 24, 2022