“One day I legit had an epiphany,” says 21-year-old South West Londoner Ella Mai, from her L.A. home. “I was in school for music. My friends knew I could sing. My family knew I could sing. But I was sitting there thinking about how I could get the world to know I could sing.” Scrolling through her Instagram feed she’d discover the addition of video to the platform, and decided to shoot a fifteen second cover of Fetty Wap’s ‘679’. “I'm very big on originality, so I made sure I switched it up and made it my own. I just sat there in my room and I recorded it.”
The clip would go viral after being picked up by Instagram-based gossip blog The Shade Room and broadcast to its 7 million followers. After continuing the momentum with weekly uploads her 500 followers rocketed up to 200,000 and when her cover of 2Pac’s ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ started to take off on the West Coast, it caught the attention of DJ Mustard - the producer who’s crafted hits for everyone from YG to Rihanna.
They’d eventually meet for a studio session while Ella was in New York and Mustard was playing Made In America festival in Philadelphia. “I felt like I wasn’t on earth,” she recalls of the realisation that the West Coast super-producer was making the two hour drive to see her. “I was trying to keep it as secretive as possible because I didn’t know what would happen. I honestly didn’t know how to feel.” They hit it off and Ella became the first signee of his 10 Summers imprint. “He didn't have to do that,” she says. “But clearly he saw something in me.”