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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

RedFestDXB 2018: Kelli-Leigh is bringing her own sound

British singer Kelli-Leigh is set to emerge from the shadow of guest slots

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 16: English singer and songwriter Kelli-Leigh attends 'Radio Forth Awards 2017' at Usher Hall on November 16, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 16: English singer and songwriter Kelli-Leigh attends 'Radio Forth Awards 2017' at Usher Hall on November 16, 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns)

After years in the background and the studio, Kelli-Leigh Henry-Davilla, who performs as simply Kelli-Leigh, is ready to step out on her own. The London singer may not be well-known as a solo entity, but her powerful vocals have formed the soundtrack of their fair share of parties. In addition to being the singer of choice on various dance tracks, by the likes of Duke Dumont and Secondcity, the 32-year-old travelled the world as a backing singer for Adele as part of her 2016 stadium tour.

The UAE is going to be one of the first places where you perform your new single, Do You Wanna Be Loved Like This. Can you tell us about it?

I really love old-school soul and rich harmonies. It’s the kind of fun song with these really big vocal moments. If I was to describe it even further, I would label it as retro-pop. The people that heard it love it, so I am looking forward to what the crowd in Dubai think. But this is definitely me and my sound.

You have sung on many big tracks over the years, such as I Got U by Duke Dumont and I Wanna Feel by Secondcity, but without any official credit. How frustrating is that?

I would be lying if I said it’s not frustrating. That’s because there were a lot of people that were hearing my voice and didn’t know it was me. But the good thing is when I perform and sing those songs, I see people’s eyes [when they] realise it’s me. I try not to get caught up in that, anyway – everything happens for a reason.

Do you feel the practice of not crediting vocalists is because of producers being too precious with their work?

I have seen that in this industry. But I have also seen the producers who are amazing and who support everyone they are working with. An example of that was me doing the [uncredited] song Love Too Deep for Ferreck Dawn and Rodondo – those guys were amazing and they were always saying my name. Dawn would tell people: “That’s Kelli-Leigh who sang it. She’s amazing.” I think with all industries, you’ll find good people and selfish people. You eventually learn to work with only the good people.

You have sung on many big tracks over the years, such as I Got U by Duke Dumont and I Wanna Feel by Secondcity, but without any official credit. How frustrating is that?

I would be lying if I said it’s not frustrating. That’s because there were a lot of people that were hearing my voice and didn’t know it was me. But the good thing is when I perform and sing those songs, I see people’s eyes [when they] realise it’s me. I try not to get caught up in that, anyway – everything happens for a reason.

Do you feel the practice of not crediting vocalists is because of producers being too precious with their work?

I have seen that in this industry. But I have also seen the producers who are amazing and who support everyone they are working with. An example of that was me doing the [uncredited] song Love Too Deep for Ferreck Dawn and Rodondo – those guys were amazing and they were always saying my name. Dawn would tell people: “That’s Kelli-Leigh who sang it. She’s amazing.” I think with all industries, you’ll find good people and selfish people. You eventually learn to work with only the good people.

You played in some of the biggest stadiums in the world as part of Adele’s 2016 tour. As someone now focusing on a solo career, what have you learnt from watching a singer at the peak of her fame?

Watching Adele every night taught me how to believe in myself, write my own music and stick myself out there. Generally, all the artists I’ve worked with, they believed in themselves and went for it. It’s not an easy journey and you’ve got to hope that other people will be on your team and cheering you on, but the feeling when you see other people singing your songs is unbelievable. It’s worth it.

As someone heavily involved in dance music, do you think the EDM bubble is going to burst anytime soon?

I think it’s going to evolve. Right now, the reggaeton sound is becoming quite big, so I’m sure there will be DJs and producers who will mix dance with reggaeton. As for me, I’ve got my own sound coming, and I don’t think it sounds like anybody else, and that’s what I’m excited about. So I’m really hoping that everybody who loves my voice will embrace my sound. It’s still got the dance element, but with more interesting turns.

Kelli-Leigh performs at RedFestDXB on Thursday at 7.30pm

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