Bow Anderson wasn’t always destined to be a pop star. When she was 13, it appeared that her life was set to go down an altogether different path as she did competitive trampolining and was really rather good at it. In fact, she was a part of Team GB and was flying high and setting her sights for sporting success. Sadly though, a freak accident resulted in a longterm injury that forced her to give up the sporting path and look to change course. What once seemed like a disaster instead turned into a golden opportunity for Bow to blossom into a performer and realise those hidden talents into something glorious.
“It’s made me a much stronger person,” explains Bow of the adversity that started her journey to soon to be mega pop star. “I was 13 when I injured myself. I couldn’t walk, I had to do physio. I couldn’t hang out with my friends. It was a very rough and dark time. It made me grow up really fast. It kind of put life into perspective and showed me how short life is, and you have to go for what you want and be ambitious. I think everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t be where I am today if that hadn’t happened.”
That ambition has been the driving force that saw Bow move down from her home in Edinburgh to London when she was 19. “I came to London and didn’t know anyone, but I never got homesick as I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she says.
The realisation that what she really wanted to do was sing and make music came while she was recuperating from her trampolining injury and was unable to dance at her performance school. “They encouraged me to try to sing,” she said of her teachers. “I enjoyed it, but I never thought I was good enough,” confesses Bow. “Over time I got really into it though. I saw the film Dreamgirls, and that was my first introduction to a lot of Motown and soul music, and I fell in love with it. I went back and listened to classics like Etta James, Al Green and Otis Redding. I fell in love with music that comes from the heart. Music that’s believable and real. I worked hard and got to the point where I was like, yeah, I am good enough why not try to make this a career.”
The self-belief that she discovered in those early days as a singer comes out in the series of singles she’s released this year that highlight her vibrant pop twist on classic sounds. “‘Sweater’ is the first song I wrote that was Bow Anderson,” she explains. “The first song that was the blueprint, where everything made sense. ‘Sweater’ was trying to create that soul sound but make it more up to date and do something fresh that hasn’t been done. I love Amy Winehouse, and I love all the classics like Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin, but that’s been done, so it was about trying to put that into something fresh.”
“It’s about a break-up and not being able to get over someone,” she continues. “The idea that your friends try and pick you up and make you feel better, but at the end of the day, it’s not enough, and you just feel lonely. It’s really relatable. That’s why everyone writes about love and heartbreak.”
“‘Heavy’ is another break-up song. It takes me back to one night when I was in Edinburgh, and I got way too drunk, and I got really upset and was walking home in the dark, just crying. It was the idea that you’re not over someone,” she says of her second release this year.
The next one though is the big one. ‘Island’, complete with his stylish and hugely fun synchronised swimming influenced video, is Bow’s biggest banger yet. “‘Island’ is a different song. I don’t want all my songs to be about sadness and heartbreak,” laughs Bow. “I had a break up a few years ago, and after it, I was just miserable for weeks and always upset and sad, but one day I just clicked and had this realisation that life goes on and you’re a good person. You deserve good. It was a bit of self-loving and self-worth. That’s what ‘Island’ is about. The moment when you realise, I’m amazing in my own way, and I don’t need someone else to make me happy. It’s a sassy song, but it’s uplifting.”
“For the first two singles, I was new to being in front of the camera and having to sing and act and do all these things. It was intimidating,” says Bow about her development as a performer. “By this third single though I got into my zone and I had so much fun. I was really happy with this video. Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it makes it more exciting because I’m thinking, well, what else can I do?”
Good question, it seems the answer is anything she wants to do. Bow Anderson’s ambition is burning bright. “The dream is to headline Glastonbury and have people sing back your songs,” she beams excitedly. Ultimately though the real satisfaction comes from knowing that your music is truly resonating with people. “As long as it speaks to people and makes them feel good in whatever way I feel like I’ve done my job. I want my music to make people feel better.”
Taken from the November issue of Dork, out now.
Words: Martyn Young