Interview: Bow Anderson on New Wave, songwriting and Elton John

Bow Anderson New Wave

Bow Anderson is the next biggest thing to come out of Scotland – you could say she’s the New Wave. At twenty three, she’s already familiar with hard work and setbacks, after her semi-professional trampolining career crumbled from a leg injury.

It was through rehab that she found her passion (and talent) in music, singing with her father late at night while he comforted her. Since her recovery, she’s gained fans such as Sir Elton John and Cyndi Lauper for her 60s soul influenced pop, and inked a global record deal with EMI.

Her first release, “Sweater”, saw her team up with Jamie Scott (Ed Sheeran, Major Lazer) and Jonny Coffer (the man behind Beyonce’s “Freedom”), now boasts 3.85M streams on Spotify. This partnership produced Bow’s debut EP New Wave, a six-track collection that we sat down to discuss while Bow was stuck in London’s interminable lockdown.

Bow Anderson, where are you right now?

I am in London, currently. I was in Scotland like a month ago for Christmas time, and then I came back.

How long have you been living in London for?

Oh, I sound like an old lady. I’m like, “Oh, way back in my day.” Five and a half years now. Been here awhile, moved down when I was, I’d just turned 19, so it’s been a while. I’d love to come to Australia. I’ve never been. So I’d really like to come out when things get back to normal.

Dude, you’re missing out. It’s a good spot in the world!

Well, I was just saying I’ve got two cousins out in Australia and they’ve lived there for a few years now. They’ve moved between, they’ve been in Perth. They’ve been in Melbourne. They’ve been in Sydney. They’ve been to loads of different places, but yeah, I really want to come out and see Australia.

Yeah, I would recommend it! Now, congrats on your new EP, New Wave. I wanted to ask you about the producers you worked with on this one, because you worked with an insane crew. Was this all across Zoom during lockdown? Or was this a pre lockdown thing?

So New Wave was actually written before lockdown. I’ve actually had a lot of my songs for quite a while. I feel like songs always exist for a while before they actually get out in the world. The main guys that I work with are Jonny Coffer and Jamie Scott.

And, Jonny came in with an idea that he originally had written with a guy called Corey Sanders, and Emily Burns. And he kind of brought this production idea in, and we were like, “Oh, this is sick.” And we were all, “Right, let’s write it. Let’s see what happens.”

I love working with those guys. Everything just always falls into place and everyone’s on the same page and everyone gets each other and yeah, I think I’ve definitely found some good eggs to write with. So yeah, “New Wave” was written before lockdown and there was some adjustments to it. We would always come back to it and adjust things and change bits. And then we’d forget about it… Not forget about it, but we’d work on other stuff. And then we’d come back and we were always going to finish it, because it was a great song, but yeah.

It’s pretty wild because you’ve mentioned that Beyonce is one of your biggest influences and Jonny obviously produced her track “Freedom”. Was it a full circle pinch-me moment when he was brought on board?

Yeah, definitely. The first time I met Jonny, it’s funny, because now I know him because I’ve worked with him a lot. But, when I first met him I just was like, “Damn, you’ve worked with some crazy people.” And he’s just so talented. He’s incredible. When I first met him, basically I did a session with him and Jamie and the idea was, “Right, let’s do a session and see if we can actually get something that’s Bow Anderson”.

Taking into account that I love soul music and hip hop and yeah, it was quite scary, because if we don’t get something, then that’s kind of it. And you’re both legends and, “Oh God.” So it was really scary, but it was great. That’s actually the day that we wrote “Sweater” which was my first single.

We wrote it. We had this other idea going, and it was good, but it wasn’t anything special. And then Jonny, just classic Jonny style, comes out with this. Plays this sample. It’s all chopped up and it’s like retro soul. And I was like: “Oh, this is sick.” And then it just fell into place and yeah, it’s just been great from there. But yeah, they’re really good guys. They’re really good guys.

Sounds like a really easy partnership.

What did you learn about your craft in working with them?

Well we actually, to be honest, we all work together really well equally. I’ve learned a lot from them with melodies and structure of songs and lyrics. I think just being around people that are so top of their game. You do just learn the tricks and trades of what they do. I mean, production-wise, I can’t produce. I’m like a gran with technology, I leave that to them.

I remember Jonny once was like, “Oh, you could do this. You just get some of this and get some of that. It’s easy.” And I’m like, “No, Jonny come on now. That’s not realistic for me.” But in terms of what I do, I really look up to them and I’ve learned a lot overall, lyrically, melody-wise, structure-wise. I’ve learned a lot from working with them, so I’m very grateful to have them around.

“New Wave” is your title track of your EP. Why did you feel like that track was encompassing of the body of work enough to name it after it?

I think “New Wave”, because it came out in January, it’s a new year. It was quite relevant. Not that we brought it out for that purpose. But, I think the songs that I had released, so I’d released “Sweater” and “Heavy”, which are heartbreak songs. And they are about being in not a great place and trying to find yourself and pick yourself back up. And then “Island” is you’re kind of re-finding yourself and trying to find that power in you and that kind of confidence. Then “New Wave” just sums it all up because it’s like: “I’m good. I’m on a new wave. I know what I deserve. I know that I’m amazing and I’m still on that journey of trying to learn to love myself,” and all that kind of thing. But I think “New Wave” just sums up that story of like, “Yes, there are bad times and things can be rough, but you will find yourself and when bad things happen, it always gets better.”

The turning of a new leaf, I suppose. How does “Black Heart” fit in then?

“Black Heart” is basically on the EP because I feel like that’s the more musical – like all my songs are musical – but that’s the more artist musical song on the EP. And I wanted it to have something like that; to give people something that’s a bit more raw and also, it’s not actually about me or my story.

It’s about me dealing with a friend who basically was going through ups and downs with this person in her life that was just basically treating her bad. And she was upset all the time and that’s kind of what “Black Heart” is about because I think there’s so many people that are with people that aren’t maybe right for them and they don’t treat them well.

And as a friend, looking from the outside, watching that, it’s just it’s quite hard, you have to just let them get on with it and be there when they’re upset, but it can be really difficult. I think that I wanted it to put on the EP to show another side of me as an artist. Because, I do love that Amy Winehouse vibe and I loved listening to Amy Winehouse growing up. So I want it to have something on the EP that gave that.

It’s nice to bring those different perspectives, I think.

So you’re going through lockdown at the moment, and I imagine you’d be getting around a fair bit of music. Do you have any local artists you’d recommend to people in Australia that we might not have heard before?

All right, let me have a wee think. There’s a girl called Olivia Dean, who’s really good. She’s got a song called “The Hardest Part” which is really good. Or there was a song I listened to the other day. What was it… have you heard of “Heaven Falls”? And it’s Surfaces. You might know them. I love that song. I think it’s one of their newer songs, but it’s really good.

Elton John’s also a really big fan of Surfaces as well, which is huge as well. And we should mention Elton John being a fan of yours! And Cyndi Lauper!

Oh I know. I know. I was like, what? Nah, surely. I didn’t actually believe it was Elton John. I saw it on a social media post because no one had told me at this point. I hadn’t found out. I ended up having to compare his voice to, to his voice, if that makes sense. I had to go on his profile and be like, is this Elton John? I was like, oh surely, no. But it’s incredible because he’s a legend – you look up to him. So for that to actually, for him to acknowledge your music, and be like, “I like this,” It’s like, wow. Okay, I must be doing something right.

You definitely are! Bow Anderson, thank you so much for chatting with me.

Bow Anderson‘s EP New Wave is out now. Keep up to date with Bow on her Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Tait McGregor