UK R&B-pop rising star Wallis is creating a unique genre blend through every release. Bursting with self-assurance and female empowerment Wallis is creating the music she wishes she had heard in her early dating years. “I know what I want to say, and I know what I want to write about.” the artist shares, this is what lies at the heart of all of Wallis’ creations.
The singer released her ninth single, “Skin” which centers around Wallis’ confidence: “I know what I've got. You don't need to give me anything. It's more of what you can bring to the table to better my life.” Bursting with snappy beats and hypnotizing vocalization, Wallis documents a complex love affair of give and take whilst standing her own ground.
Creating a track that sits alongside other female empowerment songs of the 2010s like Demi Lovato’s “Confident” or Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next,” “Skin” will have you grooving along in no time. The singer-songwriter sat down with Intersect to discuss 90’s R&B, disastrous dating, and growth.
How would you define your sound?
My sound it's a mixture, I'd say. I'm definitely trying to go more down the R&B route, but I do still have a lot of pop influences. But definitely gravitating towards the R&B style and especially with the production and the way my music sounds.
Being so heavily inspired by R&B, what are the aspects of the genre that really drew you in?
I mean, I am a 90s R&B girly through and through, I won't lie. I feel like you can tell when you're listening to a song that's from that styling. I just love everything about it. Even down to the fashion aspect. I love the music videos, obviously. You remember when Kelly and Nelly did their music video and she spoke to him on an Excel spreadsheet. It’s iconic. But honestly, I just love everything about R&B because the way the music's produced, and especially the lyrics focus on love and break ups and being an independent woman. I think that inspires me as a songwriter as well, my songs are heavily of that sort of ilk.
Aesthetically, you really draw from that 90s R&B look, your album covers are very bright, very technical. What are more elements of the aesthetic that you'd like to start incorporating into your work?
I always like to be bold with my covers. It’s a shame really because me and my producer Lawrence don't have a huge back catalog of music. So when we do a cover, it's probably because we're trying to upload it onto distro kid and we need something quick. [...] I very much like the bold aesthetic because I think I'm not a quiet character. I like to stand out. I like to be a bit in your face.
You mentioned how the content of 90s R&B speaks to you. What is it about writing about female empowerment, heartbreak and love of affairs that speaks to you?
I mean, I have had some disastrous relationships, I won't lie. *laughs* Dating in London is an absolute minefield. I just can't seem to get it right! [...] All my songs are written from personal experiences. And the R&B genre, it's always about love and heartbreak, isn't it? So I think I'm not purposely trying to be heartbroken. It's just something that's happening. And I think in that sense, it relates because I’m just a disaster when it comes to going out with the people.*laughs*
How do you find balancing Wallis as a stage persona against you, Wallis, as a person since you are very vulnerable and open about relationships in your songs?
I find it quite hard to differentiate from my life and Wallis, the artist. We had a conversation about changing my name. I want to be a relatable artist, but I think trying to differentiate between who I am as an artist and who I am as a person, there's a very fine line. Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce so in my head when I go on stage I’m like “alright I’m Wallis the artist now.” But that's one thing that I do find quite difficult, especially with the branding and stuff. I think everyone takes a long time to find their brand and their niche. And I don't feel I found mine 100%. But I'm getting there. It's a journey.
Speaking of that journey, how would you say your musical process has changed since your first single?
Oh my gosh, my first single “Never Gonna Be!” Funny story, I was actually meant to be singing on a cruise ship. We were halfway through “Never Gonna Be,” I was loving the writing, I was loving recording my own stuff, it's something I'd never done before. I got a job on a cruise ship and I was like ‘do I really want to do this for five months and be away from the studio?’ I made the decision to completely abandon the cruise ship. So when it did “Never Gonna Be,” that was me very much finding my feet, whereas now I know what I want to say and I know what I want to write about. [...] “Skin” is how I want most of my songs to sound and I only want them to get better from there. “Never Gonna Be” was amazing and I loved it but I feel I've come on a lot more as a writer, and as a vocalist as well, I've put in real graft with my singing. I’ve finally found my sound with “Skin.”
So you’ve really come into your own in this track, what is it about?
“Skin” is more about ‘I'm already a put together woman, I know what I've got. You don't need to give me anything. It's more of what you can bring to the table to better my life’ *laughs* I'm very content in my life. [...] I'm 26 years old and I know what I want from a man and from a partner. And it's more now what can you do to add to my life? I just need you to bring some joy to bring happiness to my life.
That sentiment is so powerful, especially since there’s such a misconception in your early 20s when you're dating to make things work and put so much of yourself into a relationship. How beneficial do you feel it would have been for a younger version of yourself to have heard these things?
All my songs have been sort of a journey. One of my songs “Pleasures,” I wrote “All for the women who are making noise and taking pleasure when it comes to boys.” If I was younger, and I heard that I'd be like, ‘Oh my God. Yeah, like that's so right.’ And then in “Skin” it's a bit cheeky. I never want to be crude, but I like to be honest. Like if I'm listening to a song and I hear a line and I'm like, “Oh, I felt that.” [...] I've come out of a relationship now. And I think I'm gonna be single for a long time after this. I won't lie. So you'll probably get some more songs in the future that are very much happy about being single.
Do you have a favorite memory whilst recording this track or some like moment in the creation that was really important for you?
When I go into the studio, when I'm in a recording booth, I get a buzz. I just love what I do! I love singing. I love writing and I just love being in a creative space. I have a good friend that always comes in and listens to my songs. And when I showed him the demo that was a night that was a special moment because he literally stopped the music and went “Oh, this is it! This is your sound isn’t it?” For somebody else who I hold so dear to my heart to think that as well was so special. I love bringing people into my creative space and listening to opinions and hearing other people's thoughts.
What's next for you?
I’ve got a show at the end of October at the Spice of Life, which is a venue in SoHo. Also look out for me Trafalgar Square, Tottenham Court Road, just outside the old Topshop Oxford Circus. I write songs for girls. So give me a shout, give me a listen.