Fleur East is back and her fierce new single ‘Favourite Thing’ is already living up to its billing.
The London bred talent first found fame on The X Factor and quickly followed with mega-watt offering ‘Sax’ – which became a worldwide smash and amassed over 100 million streams. Its housing album ‘Love, Sax, & Flashbacks’ earned critical acclaim too.
All of which set the scene for a seismic takeover. Yet what came next was…silence, with the next the masses heard from the stage blazer being confirmation of a split from Simon Cowell’s Syco record label.
Now, after recalibrating on ITV hit ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here,’ East has returned more energised than ever with a whole new sound to match.
In an exclusive interview with That Grape Juice, the potent performer opens up about her rollercoaster journey and its next chapter.
She candidly turns the volume up on what transpired during her hiatus, excitingly dishes on her new record deal, 2019 plans, and a lot more.
That Grape Juice: Well done on lasting so long in the Jungle [on ‘I’m A Celeb’]. How did you find the experience and what was the goal going into the show?
Fleur East: I found the experience so much more rewarding than I thought. On a personal level, I learned so much about myself. Just being on your own, you have to forge on with no family, no loved ones around you. You’re just thrown in there with so many big personalities that I think if you haven’t kind of had a word with yourself before then, you’ll have a real shock because literally, you’re on your ones in there. You have to survive, pretty much.
TGJ: Honing in on that, is there anything you’re drawing on from that experience now that you’re back with your new single ‘Favourite Thing’?
Fleur: My goal was to get the most out of it as possible when I went into the show, and I feel like I definitely achieved that. I feel like I experienced everything I wanted to there, and more. I’ve learned that I’m a lot braver than I thought I was. I’m just not afraid anymore. I feel so free now because I was just myself on TV for three weeks and now, I don’t have to really pretend anymore. People know…me. So when they hear my music now, they’re going to understand it a lot better.
TGJ: And speaking of your new music, we’re super buzzed about your new single.
TGJ: But before delving into that, there’s been a fair amount of change in camp Fleur of late. It’s been widely reported about your split with Simon Cowell’s SyCo. Just to clear up any confusion, tell us a little about why you went your separate ways?
Fleur: Well, the release of ‘Sax’ was just such an explosive time. In some ways, it was like a blessing and a curse because it was such an amazing start.
But then I feel like everyone in the camp was sort of, “Oh, we need to match this”. But me as an artist, I was like, I just want to get music out. I don’t care about trying to match that or try to chase a #1 single. I just want to release music because ultimately, that’s what I came to do.
I was recording for over a year and a half and I constantly kept thinking that I have the new single. I’d go into the meetings and be like, “Guys, we’ve got it”. And the team would say “No, I don’t think we’ve got it, I don’t think it’s strong enough”. That was really hard so I had to keep going back to the drawing board on several occasions. And ultimately, it just got to the point where I was like, I’m not releasing any music. I don’t want to be signed for the sake of being signed, there’s no point. I didn’t come here to just have the accolade of being signed to a major label, I want to release music. That’s what I want to do. Basically, I was quite bored and just called a meeting and said, look, if we’re not going to release and you don’t feel that I’ve got music, then I think respectfully, you’re just going to have to let me leave. And they were like, “You know what? We respect you and we think you’re such a huge talent. We’re just not on the same page, so we’re going to let you go”.
That’s basically what happened.
TGJ: You’re now with Hunter Corp, who have a really unique USP. Tell us a bit about your new partnership?
Fleur: It’s really cool. Pretty much they are trying to democratize the music industry to make it fairer for artists, and you basically go into a joint venture with them. So, I ‘m essentially the CEO of my own label. I’ve put together my own dream team and they believe in me and they’ve helped fund my project. They essentially back you and work with you creatively to build whatever your dream is, which is really refreshing. You know, after being in the whirlwind of the music industry and being on a major… it’s quite refreshing to be with a nice little hub and a team of people that I’ve essentially pit together; my dream team I call it. Everyone believes in it and everyone’s working really hard. It’s amazing. I’m in a really good position.
TGJ: So, moving forward, we’re so buzzed about your new music. What can fans expect from your new single?
Fleur: It’s still very up-tempo and still feel-good, and it’s still something you can dance to that I can sing to because I love to do that. It’s a different kind of energy. It’s not so in-your-face, it’s not so aggressive. It’s a different kind of energy. It’s quite sultry, it’s got tribal references in there. My Mum’s from Ghana so I’ve got a bit of influence from that in there. It’s quite anthem-ic as well, it’s got chants in it. I feel like people can really connect to it now because they know me a lot better now after being in the jungle. I’m really excited because it’s different.
TGJ: The industry is so different these days – with artists being freer than ever to release what they want and how they want to. With that said, is ‘Favourite Thing’ the precursor to an album? An EP? A project of some sort?
Fleur: I had a few writing sessions before I went into the jungle and essentially it was like to get the creative juices flowing again after being away for a while. And then we ended up recording an album’s worth of songs. Yeah, it’s mad. Who knew I had so much backlog in there that was waiting to come out.
So now, I think I’m, just going to play it by ear. I’m going to release music, see how it goes. I’d love to just release more singles this year because I feel like I had such a massive start and then everything halted. I feel like I owe it to everyone that supported me to just share with them, so I wanted to see more singles. And then the ultimate dream would be to tour, so we shall see.
TGJ: Who have you been working with on new material? What kind of sounds can we expect?
Fleur: Sonically, it’s very much in tune with ‘Favourite Thing.’ There’s a lot of cultural references in a lot of my music now and I collaborated on a lot of works with Camille (Purcell), who’s written a lot with Little Mix. She wrote ‘Sax’ with me. I also worked with Dyo, who wrote Neiked’s ‘Sexual.’ She’s done a lot! She’s amazing. There’s loads of new producers as well.
I think what was exciting about this time round was that I gave a platform to a lot of people who are so talented but maybe just haven’t had their foot in the door or maybe they’re just getting out there. For me, it was refreshing to have new blood and people that are really hungry because it’s such a hard industry to get into. I think us and me leaving Syco just put a lot of things into perspective that nothing’s guaranteed and that everyone needs a bit of a helping hand. So I love doing that. I’ve collaborated with so many new people and I feel like that’s what’s made is really refreshing, like the sound is really fresh.
TGJ: The music industry is such a whirlwind sometimes. What advice would you give the Fleur who was on the verge of releasing ‘Sax’?
Fleur: I would say enjoy this now, don’t get too comfortable. I’d say keep working hard, always remember why you’re doing this, essentially for the music, so don’t lose sight of that. And keep pushing because ultimately, hard work always breeds results so never start working hard.
TGJ: What advice would you give others looking to break into the industry today – specifically those doing so via a reality show?
Fleur: I would say it’s a lot harder than you think it is so be prepared to work your butt off! And to know that nothing is guaranteed, so just do it for the right reasons. If you think you’re going on there and you’re going to be a superstar overnight then don’t do it because that’s not what it is. The people that have done well coming from that show ultimately have worked hard and they’re in it for the right reasons, because they love to perform and because they’re artists and want to create music. So I would say enjoy it to the fullest but know that you’re going to probably have one of the toughest times of your life.
One thing I will say is although I’ve left Syco now and gone in a different direction, I’ll always be grateful to them and always grateful to Simon. He gave me that start. And genuinely, I don’t look back on it feeling bitter or angry because ultimately, I wouldn’t even be talking to you now about new music if I hadn’t been on the X Factor and if Simon didn’t believe in me, given me that chance. The music industry is hard and you never know which way it’s going to go. I just think if you know that you love music and that’s the reason you’re doing it then you can do it for life.
TGJ: Amazing. Rounding up, who are some of your dream collaborations?
Fleur: That’s a good one! I would love to do something with Alicia Keys. I’ve said this from day one. I just think she’s unreal. I’d love to do something different like a song with someone like that. My dream performance collab. Would be either with Bruno Mars or Janet Jackson because she us everything, so I would love to perform with her. But also, I would love to do a girl power anthem with some female artists in the UK. I feel like in America they collaborate a lot more than artists on the UK. We don’t do that much here.
TGJ: Who would be some of your picks?!
I think Anne Marie’s sick. I’d love to do like a proper super group with all the females at Little Mix, just get everyone and do a massive song. When ‘Bang-Bang’ came out, I was like, how insane is that? If it would have been all UK female artists, I would’ve been more excited. And we have the talent here. We can deliver. We should unite a bit more I think.
TGJ: Here are TGJ, we’re all about positive energy. So, we’re at the start of 2019, what would you like to have achieved by its end?
Fleur: I would love to be able to share as much music as possible with all the people that supported me, fans… release a lot more singles, go on tour, be able to share the experience with them. And also to be able to create a platform to help other artists that are coming out because people need help. It’s all about who you know and connections and timing and opportunities. I would love to get into a position where I can help people like that.
‘Favourite Thing’ is out now on all digital retail and streaming platforms.