There's a quiet softness to Celeste that makes you feel instantly relaxed by her presence. Her voice has that natural ease that seems to just escape her throat, but contains so much detail, so many stories, such complex personal histories.
Celeste grew up in Brighton but she was born in Los Angeles. Her mother is from Dagenham, and her father is from Jamaica, and both of them wound up wherever the wind would blow. Her granddad was the one who'd expose her to music. “The first singer I remember hearing was Aretha Franklin,” she recalls, offering details of hearing a cassette in her granddad's old Jaguar. “He could tell I liked it and played 24 more of her songs."
After moving to Brighton, she found herself struck by the compulsory church hymns, even though she wasn't religious. The seeds were being sowed but it wasn't until Celeste was in her mid-teens that she started basing life decisions upon her love for music, deliberating over university versus pursuing a career as an artist. Her time at college had been testy and coincided with her dad's death. She stopped turning up to class, she stopped hanging out with her friends. She wouldn't leave the house. She nearly got kicked out of school. After she plodded through that difficult year she felt a new sense of purpose, and a strong desire to use the opportunity of college as a means for self-discovery.
At the age of 18 she'd befriended a group of young talented local boys. They'd meet up at “Sean's house” and gather around a tiny bedroom with their instruments, playing soul, funk and jazz. Celeste would sing. She'd never performed for people before. They'd rehearse covers of Sly And The Family Stone, The Clash, The Specials, The Moody Blues, Alice Coltrane, Janice Joplin, Thelonius Monk and Ray Charles, turning each other on to classic discoveries. Eventually she began to write original material with the boys.
“The more time I spent playing music with my friends and doing shows the more I wanted to do it as a career,” she says. Her first show was a heady cocktail of nerves and adrenaline. “The feeling overpowers you,” she laughs. “It seemed to work for me. It gave me a hunger.” Without any industry nous or contacts she just did what came naturally to her. “I had an instinct towards what I should do to get where I wanted to be.”
“I understand my sound and how I want me to be perceived as an artist. Realising that making music isn't just about singing, it's about having something to say,” she says now. The journey was long but there was always a little light whenever things got too dark. The music she's making and releasing now feels rooted in pain.