Five Minutes with Hope Tala: The singer-songwriter crafting music to soothe your soul

HUNGER catches up with the musician following the release of her latest single, ‘Bad Love God’.

Beginning her musical journey by playing the guitar and clarinet at school, Hope Tala’s rise as an artist has been entirely organic. In 2016, at just 18, Tala took a leap of faith by releasing the raw yet impressive ‘Peace Freestyle’ on SoundCloud, which now sits at over 100,000 plays. The London-born singer capitalised on that momentum with a series of independent releases, including the Starry Ache EP (2018) and the Sensitive Soul EP (2019). Thanks to her penchant for vivid, layered narratives and breezy melodies she’s been cemented as one of London’s most captivating young voices. Today, she has fulfilled that potential, cultivating a robust fanbase that resonates with her soulful, sentimental tales.

Her latest single, ‘Bad Love God’, is Hope’s second release of 2024, following April’s ‘I Can’t Even Cry’ — her first after a much-needed writing break in LA. ‘Bad Love God’ encapsulates what makes Tala such an intriguing and unique talent, melding styles with confidence and ease over plucky acoustics. Opening with an almost spoken-word segment, the 26-year-old eventually breaks into an anthemic chorus, showcasing her range with an attention-demanding performance at both ends of the vocal spectrum. The single couldn’t come at a better time, as Tala is set to perform at BST Hyde Park tomorrow (29 July), supporting SZA — one of her greatest musical influences. Alongside this performance and her latest release, Tala has also hinted at a debut album on the horizon. If her recent singles are any indication, the album promises to be a compelling showcase of her personal and musical growth throughout the past few years.

Here, HUNGER sits down with Tala to discuss the inspiration behind ‘Bad Love God’, performing at BST, and why Glastonbury is the real deal.

Your new single, ‘Bad Love God’, releases today — could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the track? 

It started with the bass line and guitar chords that Mikey and Scootie, the producers, played for me a couple of summers ago. I knew immediately that I wanted to write something heavily anchored in narrative; I wanted to tell an interesting story that would fit the atmosphere of the instrumentation. Lyrically, I was drawn to this idea of romantic obsession – which is probably inherently unhealthy – and how that impulse is positioned in direct conflict with the effort to be a sane, rational person.

Your songwriting pulls from both personal experiences and stories that might not have particularly happened to you, but are inspired by your feelings. Could you talk a little bit about that process and how you bring those stories to life?

The thing about my songwriting process is that I rarely overthink. I sit with my guitar, or with an instrumental, and when a word, phrase, or feeling comes to my head, I follow it to the place it wants to take me. I try to impose as little as possible. There are songs like my last single, ‘I Can’t Even Cry’, that are therapy for me. I was going through something hard, and writing that song helped me make sense of it. ‘Bad Love God’ is the other side of the coin — it’s autofiction. Something inspired by my own experiences but distorted and embellished. I’m always trying to make the best song I can, and the process of getting there can look very different from one song to the next. I think a big factor in how differently these songs turn out is the place I am in my life at the time I’m writing each of them and how much space I’ve had from the events I’m writing about.

This is your second single of the year. Could we be expecting a larger body of work in the near future? 

Yes, definitely. I’ve been working on my first album for three and a half years now, and we’re finally getting close to it being in the world.

You’ve got a number of years under your belt in the industry now, but do you ever feel any pressure whenever you release music? Or are you just glad to share it with the world?

That’s a difficult question to answer because it really depends. I have extremely high standards for myself, artistically and otherwise, and I’ve always been ambitious and driven. I’ve become very disillusioned with the concept of ‘success’, though, and in turn have been really putting my priorities under scrutiny and picking apart this image of what stereotypical success looks like. My main priority is to make the best art I can and be as true to myself as possible, so as long as I’m doing that, I figure I’m on the right track. That being said, I always feel pressure to make my team and loved ones proud, and also to make music worthy of my existing audience who have been so supportive and kind in letting my music into their lives.

How would you describe your creative process currently? And how has it evolved over the past year or so? 

I’m in a really good creative place right now, touch wood. Over the past couple of years, writing music has often felt like pulling teeth. That’s not to say that I haven’t deeply loved the songs that have emerged from the toil, but for a while, it didn’t feel easy at all. I’m feeling really inspired at the moment and, for the first time in a while, have been writing a lot at home on my guitar. Not just in the studio around other people. I’m a new driver and have been writing a lot in the car, which feels like a massive novelty. I’ll be driving around listening to something unfinished and accidentally work out the lyrics for the second verse or a chorus melody. I’m a very self-conscious singer and my car feels like the most private place to sing. I have flatmates at home, but even if I didn’t, I’d be worried about neighbours hearing me. I’ve realised that my melodies are often a bit more ambitious in the car because I’m completely alone and no one can hear me, so I’ve been pushing myself further in my range, I think, without realising it.

Where do you feel most at home creatively? Is there a specific place or someone you feel most comfortable creating around?

The first place I thought of was my friend Anoop’s house, which is where I made a good chunk of the new music. We started working together at a difficult time in my life, and working with him really felt like a safe space. It also feels like a home away from home because I spend a lot of time there just to hang out, so it doesn’t feel like some blank studio space or the home of someone I’ve only met a couple of times. I’m lucky to be able to collaborate with a crowd of producers who make me feel safe and seen.

You’ll also be performing at BST Hyde Park next Saturday. What can fans expect from your performance? 

I’m not 100% sure what to expect myself because it’s such a long time since I’ve played live. But they can expect to hear the most recent songs I’ve released! I’m really excited to perform those ones.

Do you still get nervous before performances, or has that faded with time?

I get terrible stage fright. I have this weird conflicting personality where I am capable of being extremely confrontational and feisty but also a massive wuss, depending on the context. For any astrology fanatics reading this, I think it’s my Sagittarius rising battling with my Cancer moon. Historically, though, I’ve always pushed myself towards the extroverted side of myself even when it feels terrifying, hence my choosing this job, I suppose. The performance terror became a lot more manageable when I started touring consistently. I think my nervous system worked out that it couldn’t sustain feeling so jittery for such long time periods, so it started to compartmentalise the feelings and only allowed them to take over for about half an hour before each show started. Like I said, it’s been a while, so I’m interested to see how I’ll feel this weekend.

What’s usually on your rider? 

Honey is the most important thing. I’m often having problems with my throat, and honey helps a lot.

What’s been your best festival experience as a fan?

I was obsessed with Wireless as a teenager. I went to my first one in 2013, and Justin Timberlake headlined. I’m not sure how much more I need to say about that. He is just the most phenomenal, electric entertainer. I’ve also been obsessed with his music since I was a kid, so I knew the words to every single song. He played at sunset, and it was genuinely magical. But Glastonbury really took my breath away. I was there to perform two years ago, but I caught a few other artists’ sets, and I immediately understood the Glasto hype. I didn’t see any of my favourite artists or anything; it was mostly artists whose music I was completely unfamiliar with, and I had a really special time regardless. I had never been before and didn’t really think it would be my thing, but yeah, it really is a completely magical place. I can’t wait to go back soon, hopefully.

What was the first-ever gig you went to?

I saw The Ting Tings with my dad. I can’t remember the venue. I was obsessed with their We Started Nothing album when I was a kid.

If you could share the stage with any artist right now, who would you choose?

Burna [Boy]. Every piece of footage I’ve seen of his show has felt like magic to watch. I can’t wait to finally see him live one day. I love the band Michelle — they’re great humans, their music slaps, and their live show is a blast to watch. I’d love it if Aminé and I could perform our song ‘Cherries’ together at some point. I’d love to do a clarinet duet with Clairo.

What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting their musical journey? 

Nobody, not even the most ‘successful’ person in the room, can make a better decision about your art than your gut can.

WriterChris Saunders