Anabel Englund Talks Debut Single 'London Headache' and Living in the Moment
Most known for her work with Hot Natured, the singer is ready for her solo spotlight.
Tucked away in the back corner of an unassuming café on Hollywood Boulevard, Anabel Englund and I are comparing, of all things, our Moleskine notebooks. “Your handwriting is so neat!” she exclaims while flipping through the pages of her journal. “Mine is a little more messy, but I like it.” Indeed, it’s filled with the loopy, uneven scrawls of someone who is often pressed to jot down her many thoughts before they evaporate.
Compared to her onstage persona, the 24-year-old singer is surprisingly understated in a one-on-one conversation. When she’s performing with Hot Natured (the group of Jamie Jones, Lee Foss, Ali Love, and Luca C.), she works the stage with the bravado of a seasoned rock star. During a show with Foss at BPM 2013, when there was no stage, she created one by hoisting herself, shimmering in a sequined crop top and hot pants, onto the table holding the DJ gear. As she belted the soaring vocals to “Reverse Skydiving,” the crowd was transfixed, though at one point, no one was quite as focused as Englund herself, eyes closed, seemingly in her own world.
“It just feels good,” she says of that reverie. “It’s like a form of therapy or meditation. When I’m singing, I’m not necessarily worrying about what’s happening tomorrow or what’s going to happen in the next ten minutes. It’s one of the few things that I do where, in that moment, I’m just there.”
This striving to live in the moment plays a central role in Englund’s debut solo single, “London Headache,” which is scheduled for release on Monday, November 14 via Defected Records. The occasion has been a long time coming for the woman who started out on her own but is most known for her association with the popular Hot Natured crew. “Working with a group, I have to share my energy as part of a whole,” she says. “Being on my own, I’m able to harness my energy into what I have to say.”
Before she was singing on stages around the world, Englund, a Southern California native, performed for restaurant patrons while waitressing in college. She began uploading videos to YouTube, ultimately catching the attention of a music coordinator at ABC Family (now known as Freeform), the cable channel home to television series such as The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Fosters, and Pretty Little Liars. After meeting with them, she was hired to write and sing material for their programming, with song themes ranging from Christmas to cheating partners.
One of those songs was “Hard to Forget,” a 2012 duet with Pretty Little Liars star Tyler Blackburn that confronts the latter theme—albeit with a sugarcoated, teen-friendly veneer. Then 19 years old, Englund’s vocals were already distinct, but she’s nearly unrecognizable in the accompanying music video. With her lace outfit and floral headpiece, her wholesome look is more country-era Taylor Swift than Ibiza tech-house. “I had to do things that weren’t necessarily me; they were more for someone who maybe likes to color more in the lines, whereas I’m a little more crazy,” she explains. “…I think [Taylor Swift] was what they were going for, but they realized that wasn’t me, so I don’t know what they wanted.”
Englund found her free-spirited niche in electronic music, thanks to a friend who made her mix CDs with tracks from the likes of Lee Foss, Jamie Jones, and Infinity Ink. When Foss came to LA for a gig, she snuck into the show and managed an introduction by a friend. After hearing her sing, Foss got her in the studio with him and MK, where they wrote and recorded a song, “Electricity,” as the trio Pleasure State.
Foss then sang Englund’s praises to Jones and convinced him to fly her out to London to contribute to Hot Natured’s 2013 debut album, Different Sides of the Sun. She is credited as a co-writer on four of its tracks, including “Reverse Skydiving,” which charted in the UK. As Englund recalls, working with Hot Natured was a world away from her sessions at ABC Family: musical differences aside, she had to get used to working at all hours of the day (and night) rather than by a set schedule. She was also the youngest and only female artist in a room of men. “I was more intimidated by them because of how much I love their work,” she recalls, “so I just wanted to add what I could.”
Following the album’s release, Hot Natured spent the better part of the next three years touring the world, performing at festivals and venues such as London’s O2 Academy Brixton, Scotland’s T in the Park, Sonar Barcelona, CRSSD (their US live debut), and Coachella. All the while, Englund lived in and out of London, fell in and out of love, and lost and found herself in the blur of what seemed like a never-ending night out. This period taught her a few hard truths, particularly when it came to mixing performing with partying. "I’ve learned that drugs and alcohol are horrible," she says. "Going from show to show, everyone wants to make you feel good and happy. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in all of that and forget who you are as a person."
“London Headache,” she says, reflects on those whirlwind years in its namesake city. The track, an easygoing pop-house hybrid, is quite bright and groovy for a song about a failed relationship. “Its overall message is how it’s important to give time time, and the universe is going to take what you don’t need and give to you what you do; like no matter what, things will be equal in the end.”
Though Englund’s talking about love in this context, the song could also apply to her career. Of course, she harbors no ill will toward her Hot Natured mates—it’s simply time to do her own thing, however that plays out. Allowing the universe to just do its thing has seemed to work out for her so far. “I think we as humans try to control everything, and a big part of life is learning to let go and loosen your grip to let things happen,” she says. “I like that aspect, the impermanence of things; it’s not going to last forever, so enjoy it while you have it.”
That’s not to say she’s closing the door completely on her work with Hot Natured and friends, though, as she’s featured on Foss’s upcoming debut album. As for what else, it’s all waiting to be scribbled down in that messy notebook.
“I want to do it all,” she says. “I just think we only have so much time, and if we can do it all, why shouldn’t we? I don’t see the point of not expanding myself. I’ve learned so much and that only means I have so much more to learn. It’s just a matter of saying yes.”
"London Headache" is now available for purchase here.