Talking music, manifestation, and self-control with Poppy Ajudha

Talking music, manifestation, and self-control with Poppy Ajudha

by Ollie Cox
9 min

Poppy Ajudha is no stranger to soul-tinged pop bangers, and now she’s back after a two-year hiatus. Following up “My Future,” the celebratory track charting self-love and the pursuit of dreams with “Ready,” the South Londoner’s punchy jazz-infused sound is back and better than ever, fusing a range of musical influences with a socio-political lyricism that sets her apart from the rest. 

With the release of more new music on the horizon and days of back-to-back music video production being a reality of an independent artist, she appears in control and relaxed. “In creating this project and working on these songs, I had to sacrifice a lot”, she calmly tells us when we meet in North London. She pairs a black one-piece with vintage Gucci boots, which finish above the knee, adorned with the Italian label’s signature Horsebit. Pairing the look with a Chopova Lowena necklace and a Balenciaga Le City bag sitting by her side, Poppy’s fashion credentials are clear to see. 

With new music in our ears, we caught up with Poppy to talk fashion, vulnerability, studio essentials and more. 

Aura Arif for CULTED©

Hey Poppy, how’s life been treating you recently? 

Good. It’s an exciting time, I feel very optimistic and full of hope. Having just finished writing my album, and now releasing the first single, I feel like I’m finally in motion. That’s very exciting. 

At the moment, I can’t put my phone down for more than five minutes. I just have no social life. 

Your new single “Ready,” is releasing next month. How has it been working on your new project? 

“Ready” is a song that I wrote not that long ago, so it’s quite unusual for an artist to write a song and then it comes out a few months later. We wrote “Ready” and shot the music video a couple of weeks ago which was amazing. I learnt choreographed dance to do this whole routine as a duet, and I guess the whole process has been really interesting. I’m not a dancer, I’ve never done dance training in my life. With “My Future” we started doing choreographed dances. Every point feels like a learning experience, and I love being in that process of finding my feet with something and having a challenge and trying to overcome that challenge. 

Do you thrive when things move quickly? 

Yeah! I’m a bit of a busybody. I like to be working all the time. I love to be challenged, I love that feeling of being able to problem solve. I hate not being good at something, and not looking good at something in front of other people. To be successful at any process, you have to be shit at it first. You have to allow yourself the freedom and the vulnerability to be terrible at something in order to get to a place where you can express yourself beautifully. Understanding that journey is such an important part of any creative process. 

I hold myself to a very high standard. If I’m passionate about it, I want to work it out and I want to get somewhere, and I want to express myself in the best version I can. I think being curious about life is the best attribute a person can have to learning new things and gaining new skills. 

Aura Arif for CULTED©

You’re closely aligned with the fashion world, and have worked with Naomi Campbell and Virgil Abloh. How important is fashion to you? 

I fucking love fashion. What is life without fashion? I think as an artist, It’s an extension of my self expression. There’s nothing worse to me than wearing something that someone else has got. I can’t imagine wanting to wear anything that is generic. I want to express myself as an individual at all times, I realise that about myself.

I’m in such admiration of designers, and how they create new collections every season, and how they innovate an idea. I don’t, as a musical person, have to change my creative process in that quick turnaround. It’s very inspiring how fashion can make you think in a different way, make you deconstruct the constructs of gender, or masculinity and femininity, or who you want to present as that day, and how you feel about yourself. 

What are your top three studio essentials? 

Snacks are so important. In the studio I snack 24/7. I don’t want to stop the flow and leave, I want everything I need where I am, write a great song, and then leave at midnight. 

Really cosy clothes. You do not want to be flexing at the studio. I want to take my shoes off, have my legs crossed and be in the vibe. 

Water. Sometimes I bring tea bags with me. 

What songs can you listen to over again?

I really rinse the same songs over and over again. I love Troye Sivan’s album, and I rinsed it too much. Do you know the one song I have been rinsing? Ariana Grande, “Don’t Wanna Break Up Again,” [and] Tyla, “On and On.”

In “My Future” you talk about having self-control. What is the key to self-control? 

I think it’s something everyone has to learn in a world of instant gratification, society doesn’t lend itself for the everyday person to have self control. I think we’re taught that we can have whatever we want whenever we want it, which actually isn’t true. Anything that is worth having, takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of time and a lot of dedication, and a lot of sacrifice. 

I believe in manifestation, and really thinking about what you want, because you can’t have what you want unless you can see it, but you have to do the work to get there. You can’t just say that you want it. I think having self-control, being dedicated, being self aware, and being able to apply yourself are also the really important and non-sexy parts of achieving those accolades that you want. 

Aura Arif for CULTED©

What’s one change you made when you were working on your album? 

I don’t think there was one particular thing, but I’m constantly evaluating how I can be a better person, how I can be better for other people in my life, better for myself, and make better decisions. I think when you have a mindset of that, then you’re always filtering out. 

Your songs feel deeply rooted in emotion. For example, in “PLAYGOD” you talk about standing up for what you believe in. Is making music something that helps you get through your own struggles? 

Yeah, of course. I always make songs about my life, and so songwriting is very much a process of articulating how I feel. I can’t necessarily write a song about something unless I’ve processed what I’m trying to say. That process of writing a song can be me getting closure to a scenario or working out where I’m at. 

There’s a song on the album called “Somebody To Love” and I wrote the chorus first, and that is about wanting to be loved, and the universal need to feel loved in life. It took me a while to work out what this song is about. When I was writing that chorus I was crying.

A lot of this project, and the singles are that. They’re me working out how I feel. Creativity is this open expression that everybody needs. Go and fucking paint a picture, try and write a song, play a guitar. Do something you don’t overthink, [that] you’re not thinking about, you’re just doing. That’s when your mind is free. 

Who is your biggest influence? 

Growing up, Adele and Amy Winehouse. The storytelling is so raw and honest, you feel like you’re brought into that artist’s world, coupled with them being the most incredible vocalists, and having a uniqueness that is so true to them, I think it’s really inspiring to me. I felt like they speak to who I want to become in some way. 

Aura Arif for CULTED©

What is the best thing about being from South London?

I would say the music. That was musical education, growing up in South East London. I grew up in New Cross, Lewisham Borough. That whole area, there’s so many creative people, expressive, unique, weird people, who can’t help but be themselves, and that’s what we need in the world. I was surrounded by people when I found my people through the underground music world. [I was around] people who just wanted to express themselves and work out who they were through their creative practice. 

Finally, is there anything else exciting on the horizon? 

So much more new music. We have the new single, “Ready.” [I have] more creativity to put into the world, and I can’t wait to share it. 

Featured image via Aura Arif for CULTED©

More on Culted 

See: Score on and off the pitch with Batt Maillie’s guide to FA Cup fits

See: Taking the 66° North Snæfell shell jacket for a spin in the Lake District

in other news