Bella Ferraro burst onto the scene via last year’s edition of ‘The X Factor’. After beguiling us with her sweet, emotive vocal, she ultimately finished fourth, going on to sign with Sony Music and subsequently releasing her gorgeous debut single ‘Set Me On Fire’.
Sadly for Bella, an Australian summer dotted with bushfires put a cruel, premature stop to her single campaign.
But after ten months in the pop wilderness, Bella is back with a brand new single, a brand new sound and a brand new look. So we pop on the phone for a natter about her time on ‘The X Factor’, the new single ‘Forgot You’ and her doomed debut.
“It was just a shame that it was called ‘Set Me On Fire’ and there were bushfires across the country. It was just ill-timed,” Bella tells us. “I think that song could’ve done quite well – and it was obviously my first single coming off the show, so it was just a shame, but there’s no-one to blame for that.
“It was just shocking timing and a horrible co-incidence. But I wouldn’t have been comfortable having the song playing on radio with the fires anyway, so I’m glad it was taken off.”
Bella captivated Australian audiences on last year’s edition of ‘The X Factor’ (pictured left during her ‘X Factor’ days), with her performances of One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, The Temper Trap’s ‘Sweet Disposition’ and The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’, among others, striking a chord with viewers. The judges were mostly complimentary, but she copped some flack for occasionally forgetting lyrics. Ultimately though, she tells us she learned a lot from her time on the show.
“You quickly learn that there will be all kinds of stuff thrown at you; good things, bad things, negative criticism, positive feedback,” she says. “You’ve just got to take the good with the bad. I learned that you can’t just take good stuff and shut out the bad stuff, and similarly you can’t shut out the good stuff and just take in the bad stuff. I personally don’t take any of it in. The good stuff’s obviously nice to receive, but I don’t let my head blow up or anything.
“A lot of people on the show didn’t like me,” she explains. “That’s because of the way I was portrayed… with all the forgetting words. I was by no stretch of the imagination the only person to do it, but the producers just capitalised on my forgetting the lyrics, so it became the massive thing and I think people thought I just didn’t deserve a spot in the top 12.
“Which I probably would have agreed with if I watched it and didn’t know how much editing goes on in post-production, but obviously I know better and the people on the show knew better. But it’s just annoying when you’re getting criticised for things that didn’t actually happen. I mean, I can’t prove that I remembered all the words and no-one’s going to believe me.”
Strangely, Bella has never struck us as the ‘X Factor’ kind of artist . She’s always appeared to us as more of an organic musician, quietly honing her craft in the intimate live sphere. She agrees… to a point.
“Yeah, definitely. I’m just thinking just for the now, it would be silly for me not to do pop music,” she tells us. “I came off a show where the audience is really into the mainstream stuff and Sony are really good at doing pop, so I’m just making the most of what I’ve been given.
“I think eventually I’ll drop out again for a little bit and be completely different, but for now, I’m more than happy doing pop and starting off my career in this direction. But it’s not terribly long-term I don’t think.”
With so many former reality show contestants now littering the Aussie musical landscape and the top four of each of the various reality iterations seemingly picking up deals, we wonder if it’s been difficult for an artist like Bella to cut through.
“Not really. I think that’s just because with my whole image change, it kind of speaks for itself. People are paying attention now, I think I’m a lot more accessible in my style than I used to be,” she says, adding that along with her change in style comes an unexpected shift in her musical output.
“With ‘Forgot You’, Will Singe features and raps a bit and I don’t think people would have associated Bella Ferraro from ‘X Factor’ with that kind of pop music. That’s why I think it’s going to be easier for me.
“If I’d have come out with another ballad I think it would have been hard because I wasn’t changing. I would’ve disappeared for ten months and come back the same. I wouldn’t say I was smart, but I think business-wise, it’s pretty smart to have come back with a bang and be different and be someone who’s a bit more current.”
That different sound comes in the form of Bella’s new single ‘Forgot You’, a track co-penned with former Sony stablemate and ‘Australian Idol’ winner Damien Leith.
“Damien got in contact and wanted to write with me. He asked whether I wanted to start something from scratch or hear stuff he’d come up with. I said I’d love to hear stuff he’d come up with, because I was assuming that it would be acoustic stuff.
“But he actually had a lot of stuff with good beats and synthesisers and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I loved the idea of the ‘Forgot You’ beat and I started writing lyrics over that, so that’s kinda how it started. I finished the demo with Damien back in May I think.
“Then a friend’s dad asked if I’d considered a rap for the song. I hadn’t before he mentioned it, but I really liked the idea so I got Will to write me a couple of raps and the first one he sent me I loved. The song was kind of finished, but then to me it never felt finished and I think it was the rap that was missing.
“I really liked the idea of Will being the featured artist. He doesn’t get a great deal of time to rap now because obviously he’s in a group and they work together, so I think this was really good for him to get this outlet.”
But although there’s plenty of angst in the lyrics (and in the official video – above), Bella tells us that there’s no need to read between the lines. The song’s about no one person in particular.
“I’ve been asked a lot if the song is directed to anyone, but it isn’t,” she reveals. “I was in a relationship when I wrote it and I’m single now, so it actually has nothing to do with anyone or anything. I tend to get an idea or a concept in my head or I imagine a scenario and then I write about that as opposed to writing about experience. I’m not the sort of person that dwells on my own physical and emotional feelings. I just write based on ideas and imagination.”
One thing Bella is writing at the moment is her debut album. Although she firstly admits we may be waiting a little while before it sees the light of day and secondly reveals that from what she’s penned so far, it’s set to be a real mixed bag.
“I’ve written about five or six demos. I haven’t written an album’s worth of stuff yet, but that’s what I really want to do. I’d love to release an album next year, but at the moment we’re just focussing on my comeback into the industry, because I was so M.I.A. for a while. I’m just gauging people’s reactions at the moment and so far it’s been quite positive, so that’s really good.
“I’d love to do an album, but all the songs I’ve written to date in that ten months are all very different from each other. The next song I’m hoping to release doesn’t sound anything like this one – it’s a completely different vibe. And so my album would sound like a bit of a mixtape if anything. All within the pop genre, but different. This one is kind of folky-pop, then I’ve done a few dance/pop ones, a bit of EDM, a bit of jazz.”
EDM, we ask…?
“Well it’s nothing like Avicii or anything like that, but you could hear it playing in a club. It’s very uptempo and upbeat.”
So that’d be another new song with another new sound, then. Cross fingers Bella doesn’t keep us waiting quite so long next time.
Bella Ferraro’s new single ‘Forgot You’ is out now.