While writing her debut, Not Your Muse, Celeste was inspired by snapshots from her adolescence into young adulthood. As a result, the album that arrived last month doubles as a coming-of-age story that explores “the most romantic interactions I’ve had from being a teenager until being 23,” says Celeste.
Now, the 26-year-old Brighton, England native is enjoying the success of being so open: Not Your Muse debuted at No. 1 on the Official UK Albums chart. Meanwhile, the soul singer born Celeste Epiphany Waite has gained momentum stateside, too, from remotely teaming up with Grammy-winning producer FINNEAS on “I Can See the Change” (he was moved by Celeste’s 2020 BRITS Awards performance and the pair started texting soon after) to landing several high-profile synchs.
Most recently, Celeste performed a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for a commercial that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. Brigitte Green, VP of film and TV creative licensing at Interscope who helped secure Celeste’s placements in Ted Lasso and Grey’s Anatomy, says her job is made easier because Celeste’s voice is “timeless. She sings about broad themes of love that are incredibly relatable.”
From her musical upbringing to accolades and chart-topping acclaim, here’s how Celeste became one to watch.
Celeste’s musical education started when she was 3, sitting in the back seat of her grandfather’s car listening to Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. (She was particularly impressed by Simone’s “I Put a Spell on You.”) But growing up, Celeste resisted formal training. “As soon as there was a heavy hand from music teachers, I was put off by it,” she says. “I fought against doing music, but it always came back.” In college, she formed a band with school friends and landed her first gig at a local venue, with each of them earning “a tenner” (about $14 U.S.). “It felt like a lot of money when we were 16.”
While Celeste — whose manager Duncan Ellis secured her recording contracts with Polydor (United Kingdom) and Interscope (United States) in 2018 — won the 2020 BRIT Awards’ Rising Star honor (past winners include Adele, Florence + The Machine and Sam Smith), U.S. audiences are discovering the soul singer through high-profile synchs in TV and film. She has scored placements in Grey’s Anatomy, Disney/Pixar’s Soul, Netflix’s Bridgerton and, most notably, Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, for which Celeste earned a Golden Globe nomination for best original song (“Hear My Voice”). “Her music is cinematic, so when cut to picture, it helps elevate the visuals,” says Green.
On Jan. 29, Celeste released her first album, Not Your Muse — and later celebrated its No. 1 debut with her boyfriend and cake while in lockdown in their London flat. Now, she’s already writing her next album with hopes of touring in 2022. “I’ve got the time and literally can’t leave the country,” she says, “so I may as well get on with it.”