I’m having a baby boy any day now, so I’m quarantining in London with my partner. Being a pregnant woman working in the music industry and not quite breaking through, yet having to meet financial needs, I have pressured myself to keep on working. I headlined shows, travelled and wrote songs for people; I did Radio 1Xtra in Birmingham – my first-ever arena performance – in the midst of crazy pregnancy hormones. A few days before lockdown, I flew in from LA and did a show at XOYO, when my belly was so big I had to perform sitting down. It’s beautiful, because one day my son will be able to watch that – but it took a toll on me. So lockdown is the first time during my pregnancy that I’ve been able to chill at home.
I’ve found the Spotify jazz playlists very calming. I’ve been listening to Al Foster’s Our Son, Yussef Dayes’ Love Is the Message and a lot of songs without lyrics. Instrumental music helps me have a clear head, because I’m not in the same space mentally as other people who are putting music out right now.
I’ve been playing a lot of my friends’ music, which has kept me me in a good place. It’s a good way to connect with them since I’m not physically seeing them. I’ve been listening to a lot of Raye. I love her song Secrets; it’s a club banger, but I haven’t been to a club for a while! I can reminisce, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, thinking back to how I started. When I was young I saw the musical film Rent starring Rosario Dawson and thought: “Oh my God, I want to sing.” As a young Algerian Muslim girl who wasn’t really allowed out, seeing bohemian lifestyles felt like liberation.
Lianne La Havas put a song out recently that I loved and it sent me back to her old stuff. I met her last year, at a festival. It was just before I got pregnant because I was definitely tipsy. I had these massive rollers in and because she’s so tiny I towered over her, going: “I love you.” I spent so much of my teenage years listening to her and feeling so lovesick and then suddenly she was standing in front of me and I was saying: “Please, can I please hug you?”
My partner is going to make me a birthing playlist of songs that connect us together for the baby to come out to. There’ll be a lot of hip-hop and the soul music we listened to a lot when we got together. Bob Marley will definitely be on there. My favourites are Could You Be Loved and Redemption Song. I Shot the Sheriff would be fun – a bit of rebellion for my son when he comes into this world.
Motherhood has already changed my music. My latest track, Woman Like Me, is a love song, about being strong for each other, because you don’t make a baby by yourself. I have another new song, Baby, coming out just before my due date. I wanted it to be cute but edgy. I’m going to be a mum, but I don’t feel I’ll lose my edge.
Coronavirus means I can’t have everyone I want at the birth, and both me and my newborn will be at risk in the hospital. So lockdown’s a curse and a blessing. The upside is I’ve had chance to really reflect on what I want to do. Going through all the physical changes makes me realise how strong women are. I think I’ll be able to create fresh new music based on how I feel, the experiences of being a mum, and the pain of childbirth. I like relatable, authentic music, like Amy Winehouse; everyone won’t connect with it or take it in but those that do take it all the way.
• Woman Like Me is out now on Island Records. Baby is released on 22 May. Read our recent interview with May.