There’s no one like Bree Runway. Whether it’s bombastic floor-fillers (‘APESHIT’), playful pop hits (‘Damn Daniel’) or sensual country-inspired bedroom bops (‘All Night’), she smashes them all and with her own Runway twist.
Pledging no allegiances to any genre, always expect the unexpected with Bree. She’s got big dreams and a 20/20 vision that’d have you thinking she’s been doing this for decades.
In a way, she has. Born in Hackney, Bree grew up glued to the telly, watching music videos on MTV which influenced her own artistry later on (the ‘APESHIT’ video is so Missy Elliot, it got co-signed by the legend herself). A born performer, she’d put on shows for her family as a kid, organising the whole thing herself.
“My mum used to go to work, and me and my cousin would be left at home, and we would always watch MTV. That inspired me to start hosting mini-concerts to my family members,” she says over the phone from London, where she’s performing the decidedly less glam task of combing banana from a hair mask out of her hair.
“So I’d organise the line-up, and I would decide which cousin would be singing and which cousin would dance and which cousin would rap, and then I’d tell the adults that we’re gonna come down by eight o’clock, I need everyone’s sat down and then we’d perform for them. Then that carried through to primary school and stuff. I would do performances, and my mum was almost like our own Tina Knowles because she’d make our costumes for us. And she’s still very involved in my costume stuff today.”
When it comes to inspiration, she’s got no end of it. From actual Michelle Obama coming to Bree’s school (yes, really), watching her sing and encouraging her to pursue music (“She had a lot of time for me that day, and she gave me some very inspirational words, I have to thank her for that”), to the icons she grew up watching, she’s constantly motivated to create bold and distinctive art.
The confidence she exudes today, however, has taken a long time to build up. She mentions she was wary about the idea of becoming an artist due to how she was bullied over her dark skin as a child.
“I was never fully confident enough to go for music completely, though, so I would start and stop a lot. I was just aware of how much more you’re seen when you’re an artist, you’re more open to the public, and because of how much I was bullied growing up, I didn’t want to put myself in that position. But with age and just being exposed to more artists, like Lady Gaga, Grace Jones, because I saw pieces of myself in them, they kind of inspired me to just go for it no matter what people think about you. Some people think they’re crazy, some people think they’re amazing, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, because they’re still icons.”
But learning to love herself was crucial to who she is as an artist today. Click on any of her music videos or check the replies to her tweets and you’ll find many young Black girls telling Bree what an inspiration she is and how she’s everything they wanted to see in a pop star growing up. The video for ‘Big Racks’ kicks off with statistics about racism in the workplace, and throughout she’s shown experiencing various microaggressions, and eventually covering her face in white plasters to assimilate.
“I want to stand for something, you know, because in general I do stand for something, and I want to show that to like the world as well. I’m not someone that just gets up on camera and dances like I really do care about shit. And with my platform, no matter how big or small I want to share my own important shit.”
Her new single ‘Gucci’, which features Maliibu Miitch, is an extension of that. “It’s definitely a celebration of just being an excellent Black woman, like 100%. It’s a song where I’m super feeling myself and super celebrating myself because through life, I haven’t really celebrated myself that much, but I’m trying to get to that stage where I’m unashamedly proud and happy to be me, you know?”
Of course, lockdown is not stopping Bree from working. We might’ve missed out on the headline shows and an appearance at The Great Escape she had coming up, but we’ve since been treated to a video for ‘Damn Daniel’ that she made in quarantine, with co-star Yung Baby Tate appearing from the other side of the world, and she’s currently working on an EP (like literally right now, she’s dashing off to an at-home session when this chat is over), coming ‘soon’.
“I’m definitely going to be tweaking it from like the original idea because I feel like the stuff I was singing about out of quarantine is not what I’ve lived in quarantine. I want to put a bit of my quarantine experience and emotion into the project because I’m sure a lot of people can relate. So yeah, there’s an EP being worked on, and it’s going to be a bigger project than it was the last one.”
With such a strong artistic vision comes a lot of hard graft. Luckily, Bree’s always had the work ethic to match and is wasting no time cracking on with fulfilling her goals. After the release of 2019’s ‘Be Runway’ EP and a string of outstanding singles, she assures us the ideas are just getting “bigger and better” (FIRE EMOJI). If this is only the start, imagine where she’s got to go yet?! She’s blazing her own trail as we speak.
“The plan this year was to be super consistent. So no matter what I’m faced with, I’m just going to keep it up, just keep going. I know where I want to go, and my vision is so detailed in my head, so I just have to use every single moment to gear towards it. It’s a big vision, it’s a big dream that I’m trying to achieve here, and every day, I see it definitely becoming more possible and more real, and more different.”
Taken from the August issue of Dork, out now.
Words: Abigail Firth