Spice Girls

Meet our new music editor

Photo: Irene Baqué

In issue 33 we say a sad farewell to the wonderful Linnea Enstrom, who has left Oh Comely to start a creative writing course in Sweden. We're delighted to introduce you to Marta Bausells, who will be taking on the role of music editor. To get to know her a bit better, we sat her down for a little chat...

Hello Marta! Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I'm a freelance writer, editor and curator. I was born and raised in Barcelona. I started out by writing about music and culture at the same time as I studied politics. At the time, I thought they were two separate things and that I'd have to choose, but I later realised that culture is intrinsically linked to society, politics and social action. I then worked for a newspaper there, where I was lucky to report on all sorts of topics – social issues, environment, foreign news – before I moved to London four years ago.

I love that my work has allowed me to learn and explore all sorts of subjects and ideas. I always wanted to go back to writing about culture, though, and I eventually landed a job on the Guardian’s books desk, where I hosted discussions about books, created a series about books set in American cities, chatted to book-lovers around the world daily, and discovered the wonders of the literary internet. Currently, I’m really enjoying working with Literary Hub on covering books from this side of the Atlantic. 

I also do lots of other little things, like a collaboration with Subway Book Review (check it out!), which means I stop book-carrying strangers on the tube and chat to them about what they’re reading! It’s magical. No matter the subject, what I love the most about my job is that I get to meet fascinating people and share their stories. I can't wait to go back to writing about music!

What was the first single you bought? 
The Spice Girls' 'Wannabe'!* It caught me at the exact target age, and everyone at my school was crazy about them for a year.

*If by bought you mean copied on a cassette tape and passed on among friends countless times (oops). But I'm sure I ended up buying it too! 

What was the last gig you went to? 
Well, this is a bit random – but it’s the truth! It was this Catalan guy called Ferran Palau. I had gone back to Barcelona for a few days, it was the end of the summer and it was starting to drizzle (that sticky, humid end-of-summer Mediterranean rain). One neighbourhood was celebrating its yearly festivities, which means the streets are beautifully decorated by neighbours and there are gigs in almost every little square. I had just discovered this guy’s music a few hours earlier in the car, with friends – and there he was. One of those serendipitous musical moments.

What song will always get you up and dancing? 
Anything by Queen. I have a special weakness for 'Don’t Stop Me Now'.

Vinyl, CD or download?
The day I actually have space in the house and money to buy many of them, I’ll go back to vinyls – which is how I grew up listening to music. In the meantime, I’m a Spotify and downloads gal. 

Who, dead or alive, would you most like to interview? 
Frida Kahlo. I visited her house last year in Mexico and I was like “can I just move in here now?”. I would love to have been around her energy when she was alive, even if for five minutes. I am so inspired by how, despite being in horrific and crippling pain, she got up every morning, kicked ass and made the most amazing art – and lived her life in her own terms. 

And if I might cheat and add a couple from the realm of the alive, right now my musical dream interviewee would be Solange – what a queen! I’d love to interview Michelle Obama once she leaves the Oval Office and gets to talk more freely. And Tom Hanks, always. 

Outside of music, what else do you like to do?
Like I said, I love reading. My bedroom is ridiculously full of 'to-be-read piles' – it’s almost like I live around these book towers, and not the other way around. I also love film – I ran a film club with a friend for a while – good television and storytelling podcasts. I used to feel stressed-out or guilty about how little time there is to follow everything, but now I don’t mind being behind on TV shows or anything else. There’s this growing backlog of great culture waiting for me when I get home! What’s not to love?

Let us know a secret...
I don’t like chocolate… (!)


Find out more about Marta on her website, or follow her on Twitter

Oh Comely at Citadel: Talking Songwriting & Spice Girls with Rukhsana Merrise

Describing a subject as effervescent is up there with the very worst of interview cliches, but Rukhsana Merrise is exactly that. Commanding centre stage at Citadel last Sunday, she belted out choruses with grace and wisdom beyond her years, encouraging the audience to love themselves and stay away from bad people. 

Offstage, she's warm and familiar. She laughs with her hair thrown back, makes jokes at her own expense, and rolls her eyes into the back of her head with comic disdain. As she twirls around dramatically in her satin cape and breaks into an impromtu rendition of Madonna's Vogue, I realise I've found my new favourite singer-songwriter among the grass. 

As her label celebrates its tenth birthday, we sat down to chat about tour snacks, Spice Girls and September Songs: the critically acclaimed EP recorded from her childhood bedroom in four short weeks. 

You have such a wide range of influences. Did you grow up in a musical household? 

My Mum did that thing where you play classical music to your bump in the hope it will make the child smarter, and she exposed us to everything and anything. It was a typical Black household in that we were always listening to reggae and R&B, but we also loved Leo Sayer and Karen Carpenter and Joni Mitchell. Joni is just perfect. When I got into Joni I realised I could write about anything. London also inspires me. It's such a melting pot that it can't not influence your art in some way. 

Do you remember the first album you bought?

Nirvana. I bought it in a charity shop for £2, purely because it had the artwork of the baby swimming with his willy out. As a teenager I was just like: "What the fuck is this?! I'll buy it". My first single was 21 Seconds by So Solid Crew. That combo sums up the conflicts of my personality perfectly. Part rock, part grunge, with full-on grime thrown in. 


I was amazed at how quickly you put together your EP "September Songs", challenging yourself to write and release a new track every week for four weeks. That must have been such an intense process. 

You could set a dinner table, and if the guests don't show up on time you'll start fussing over whether the napkins are folded properly. If you do something last-minute, you don't have the time to live with it. I was becoming an artist and I was finding myself and my sound, and I didn't want to put anything out that wasn't authentically me. At the same time, I had ninety recordings stored on iTunes and every night I'd sit and think "You've got to come out one day. I promise I'll share you.". September Songs was my way of putting fire under my own ass, saying "Ok. Let's go."

It's a really organic process. Not everyone would do it that way. 

Thank you. Yeah, it all took off from that. I got spotted by Communion and before I knew it I was saying yes to tours and meeting people from all around the world. I couldn't ask for a better label. They get me, and they allow me the freedom to take my time. I'm working on the album right now, and it's very nearly there. 

I wanted to ask if you had any rituals that help you get in the zone before you write or perform...

Conversations inspire me to write. You can spend weeks trapped in your own head lost for answers, and then a snippet of something someone else says spells it out. I've been known to snap my fingers and say "There's the answer to the question!". Performance-wise, I spend every moment before I go on trying not to wet my pants. I'll have a couple of Beers to calm down, and I always chew trebor mints.

It's weird that you say that, because I develop a compulsive tic-tac habit when I'm nervous. 

Yeah, man! It's the menthol. It's calming. Other rituals? Nah. Apart from meditating. I got into it when my Dad passed away about three years ago. He had cancer and I looked after him throughout, so once it was all over I felt very imbalanced. I needed to re-centre after all of that frantic running around and sadness so I tried it out and loved it. It's so calming. 

I want to do a quick fire round. What time did you wake up this morning?

10.38 am. 

That's very specific. 

Yeah, I was supposed to be collected at 11am and I woke up like "Shiiiiiit." I had exactly twelve minutes to get dressed. 

Did you have breakfast?

No, I didn't. I had a coffee. 

Dogs or cats?

Cats. I've got two, Snoopy and Tinkerbell. 

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?

The Spice Girls. 

Excellent choice. What's your favourite Spice Girls song? 

*Breaks into song* I wannnaaa make you hollerrrr! Holler, Holler, Holler, C'monnnn! I drive everyone mad on the tour bus with it. 

Which Spice Girl is the best? 

As Tomboyish as I am, Emma was my favourite. I love Baby Spice. She always had all the best ad-libs. 

And fluffy pens. 

Yes! And the best hairstyles and bobbles. Cute little skirts and tops. I like Posh as well, because no one else did and she got a rep for standing around doing nothing. But just look at Vics now. Go on, girl!

Do you have a favourite late night tour bus snack?


Plain ones or chocolate? 

Plain. All the way.  

Yes! The plain ones are woefully underrated. 

Exactly. Thank you! A chocolate digestive is like "Hey, pass the wet wipes! I'm everywhere! I'm melting!". Everyone complains that I choose the most boring, tasteless snacks, but to me they're perfect dunked in a cup of tea. I love digestives. I hand them out like a Nan. 

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

The Mad Hatter, because it would be a mad hatters tea party. Tim Burton, so I could inherit some of his craziness and use it to inspire me. And my Mum, so she knew it was real and that I wasn't just going off on one. And because she's amazing. She's such a strong woman. I always run to her immediately. It's boiling. Shall we get a beer? 

All images: Lubna Anani. 

Rukhsana shares more insight in the pages of our upcoming Letters Issue, in stores on 11th August.

Her label, Communion Records, are celebrating their tenth anniversary. Find out how you can join in the celebrations here, and keep an eye on the blog for more Citadel coverage coming very soon.