As Venbee, Erin Doyle already has two viral singles under her belt and her drum & bass bangers are set to light up 2023. Here, she reveals her plan to turn perseverance into pop stardom…
WORDS: NIALL DOHERTY
Back at the beginning of 2022, when she was making ends meet pulling pints in her local pub and working as a personal trainer, Erin Doyle was close to giving up music. The 21-year-old Kent-born producer and songwriter better known as Venbee had been writing songs since she was nine, but she was starting to lose faith.
“I had no hope whatsoever,” Doyle begins. “It was like, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get there.’”
Her TikTok videos weren’t making any impression beyond approval from family and friends and she wondered if the people who told her that it wasn’t realistic to dream of a career in music were actually right. And then... BOOM!
Early last summer, Doyle uploaded a half-finished version of a track called Low Down that she’d made with Manchester songwriter Dan Fable and it’s fair to say her life hasn’t been the same since. An emotive headrush of a song that perfectly sums up her minimalist drum & bass sound, it became a huge viral hit (its UK sales tally stands at 118,548, according to the Official Charts Company) and a deal with Columbia soon followed. The turnaround still hasn’t sunk in.
“I can’t actually believe what’s happened, I feel like I’ve been watching my life unravel through an out of body experience,” marvels Doyle, who now has more than two million likes and some 94,000 followers on TikTok.
She uploaded Low Down more out of desperation, she says, rather than part of any masterplan.
“I had nothing else,” she explains. “I had no other promotional tools. I was like, ‘I’ve got this one thing and I’ll sit in my back garden and do a video to it.’ Fast-forward six months and now we’re here.”
The thing that makes Doyle one of 2023’s most exciting new acts is how she used that breakthrough as a launchpad rather than settling into the triumph of a standalone success. Her next single, the pulsating Messy In Heaven, made with producer Goddard, was even more of a hit, peaking at No.3 and amassing 253,523 sales to date.
Clued up, smart and funny, Doyle thinks the reason TikTok is so great is because you have to start from scratch with every song you do.
“Just because you’ve had one viral moment won’t mean you’ll go viral again,” she says. “You have to be consistent. It’s not guaranteed.”
It’s that sort of steely, measured outlook that was behind her decision to release Low Down independently despite a flurry of label interest.
“I wanted to prove something to myself,” she says.
Picking a label was an intense process, Doyle recalls, and one that she approached with caution.
“With contracts you have to be aware of what you’re signing yourself up for,” she says. “There are label horror stories, so you have to be careful. My management team gave me a good insight into what would be best. Also, I follow my gut and my gut instinct was to go with Columbia from the very first meeting I had with them.”
The label came in with a watertight plan and didn’t stroke her ego, something that she sees as important for helping her stay grounded.
“But it’s no guarantee,” she adds. “It’s always down to the music and whether [people can] relate.”
The reason her music has connected in such a huge way – she has more than 3.5 million monthly listeners and 32.4m total streams on Spotify – is the emotional vulnerability at the heart of the ravey euphoria. She began writing songs because it helped her understand what was going on around her.
“If I’m ever feeling rubbish or struggling to process a situation, songwriting is my main go-to to deal with it,” she says.
She’s also enjoyed opening herself up to collaboration.
“It was weird at first because I hadn’t had much experience with co-writing, then I got signed and you get chucked into a sea of writers or producers, so it’s been a big change but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” she explains. “I feel like I’m becoming a better writer when I work with these people.”
Recently, Doyle has been in the studio with Rudimental and Clean Bandit working on new music. Her next single is titled Gutter and due for release in early 2023, while there’s an EP in the pipeline too. Time spent in the studio has taught Doyle not to overcomplicate things.
“Don’t overthink ideas, just get it down and you can come back to it,” she says. “I’d spend hours on one word and then not be able to get the song finished afterwards.”
Another key influence is her hometown of Chatham.
“It’s shaped me massively,” she states. “It’s common knowledge that Chatham is a bit run-down but the people are good and it’s my home. Growing up there, I saw a lot of situations that were quite brutal and rough and that inspired me to write. Through and through, I’m a home bird.”
Doyle says that her fast-track into the music industry has taught her a few things. She’s learned how long it takes to get a song out into the world and how much work goes into marketing, and she’s also noted what a male-dominated environment it is. She wishes there were more female producers to work with. It’s something that has no doubt come up on the WhatsApp group she’s a member of where more than 60 female artists, including fellow emerging star Piri (of Piri & Tommy), singer-songwriter Issey Cross, Tapwaterlucy and more offer advice to each other.
“The main vibe is about bringing each other up and helping each other through certain situations,” she says. “Organising meet-ups and being there for each other.”
In the future, she’d like to experiment with a poppier sound or write a piano ballad, but for now she’s happy riding the drum & bass wave (“It’s my heart and soul,” she says.)
Ultimately, Doyle wants to grow as an artist, build her fanbase, keep writing, and establish herself as a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. But, before all of that, she wants to go to the BRIT Awards and get chatting to someone famous.
“I want to go and see how fancy it is,” she says as our interview comes to a close. “Meet my favourite celebs, have a chinwag and then leave, that’s the goal!”