Fresh out of high school, you’d expect the average teenager to be partying, drinking or perhaps even travelling the world.
But for Melbourne singer-songwriter, Belbel – that couldn’t be further from the truth. At just 18-years of age, she has just released her debut single, ‘Violets’.
Growing up in a generation that will be remembered for cat videos, instagram and selfies; Belbel, real name Isabelle Rich, has always felt out of place.
“I’ve always had different hobbies, I’ve always valued different things. Visually, I look different, and emotionally, my mind is elsewhere,” she says.
Determined, outspoken, emotional and hard working, Belbel is focusing on her career.
From an early age, she had an artistic interest. Whether it was expressed in singing or writing, her creative bells have been ringing for some time.
Belbel attended a private school in Hawthorn, which is academically driven and often felt ostracised for her creative and different choices.
“I was always the girl with the bright red hair walking around, and during my lunchtimes I would go to the music labs and compose music,” she says.
As well as music, Belbel is completely immersed in fashion, clean-living and has been vegan for three years.
In an interview with OnyaMagazine, Belbel was labelled as ‘someone who has gone against the grain and forged her own path’. When asked to explain this further, she took a moment to stop and reflect.
“What I’m doing is extremely rare and unexpected in the community I’ve grown up in. It was hard but courageous. People judge you. They stigmatize you…It is hard to follow these dreams because they are so uncommon,” she says.
After completing her VCE just last year, Belbel has seemingly made it through the awkward, tough and at times, lonely teenage years. Now Belbel is serious about her craft and is pushing herself to be the best artist she can be.
She doesn’t like to be categorised by one genre because she draws inspiration from many musical influences.
“One day you’ll find me listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s old stuff because they’re melodies are amazing. Another day, maybe James Vincent McMorrow, Broods, Banks or even Lana Del Rey.”
Belbel’s songs are based on her experiences and she says this is what made her most vulnerable when releasing her first single, Violets.
“It is the most honest depiction of me one could get”.
She wrote it when she was 16 years old, in 15 minutes and it “was the most intuitive piece of writing I’ve ever written”, she says.
The song was written at a time when Belbel was struggling to figure out who she really was, just like many other teenagers her age.
“I was confused, sad, lonely…and I wrote it as a way to empower myself and to make me feel better.”
The music video for Violets, directed by New Yorker Blake Farber, has been described as raw, haunting and dark.
Belbel credits the team of Australians she worked with who were able to bring her vision to life.
She had nothing but gratitude and praise for the people she worked with, with special mentions to producer Emma Haarburger, cinematographer Matt Wood, make-up artist Samantha Coles and stylist Julian Burak.
Violets, which was produced by Richard Harris, has strong emotional substance both lyrically and visually.
“I don’t like to impose a particular message or view on people [through my music]. I want people to look at it and take what they need in order to heal what they’re going through,” she explains.
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking Belbel is wise beyond her years. She’s been told she’s an old soul on many an occasion.
Hard work, respect and standing up for what she believes in are incredibly important to her.
She also has strong feminist views and wishes to empower her younger fans, urging them, “to never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re a female and that you can’t do a mans job, because you can!”
She likes to surround herself with creative, stimulating people and plans to release a new single and her debut EP in the near future.
For now, Belbel is doing what she loves doing – continuing to work on her craft.
Tiarne Swersky is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @TiarneSwersky