Ella Montclare has cat problems. Sahara wants some attention and is purring in the background as we begin to chat. She's female and apparently - due to a recent bereavement in her cat's family - "it's all about her. Sometimes I have to arrange my life around her". Fittingly, Ella later confesses that that is the same story for her songs, or at least the lyrics. She writes from the heart and knows no other way.
Evidence of that writing will soon be heard in 'I Surrender', her forthcoming single, which is about how modern women don't surrender to love anymore. She's just done a photo shoot for the publicity and she's pretty sure it might upset a few people: "It's a bit sexy the song, and we wanted to get a feel for that". Ella's influences are wide and varied but there's an undoubted hint to Portishead, Massive Attack and Kate Bush in her songs.
"My mum liked Joan Baez and people like Simon and Garfunkel when I was a kid, and then I started getting into hip-hop and bands like Massive Attack, before getting into trip hop more and delving deeper into that genre. Ultimately what I do is a mix of all the things I like".
Isn't that a brave move, it makes pigeon-holing hard?
"No one likes to be pigeon-holed, but I wouldn't call it brave. I've been really, really lucky with assembling the band around me. We've all ended up liking and wanting the same thing. Real serendipity. It's not a conscious thing to set out to sound like this, it's just happened that way"
What about your work in Sweden, with the music hit machines out there?
"That was a horrible experience. It was like doing a job. I'd arrive in the morning, work on a song. After lunch we'd sort out the lyrics and then in the evening we'd record it. A day per song. It was all about having hits and pure pop music, and that wasn't enjoyable. I decided that's not what I am about."
Ella Montclare released 'Between Islands' earlier this year after it spent no less than a year at the number one spot on the UK MySpace trip hop Chart; her plays exceed half a million. She's no stranger to the music scene, having done backing vocals around the world with artists as diverse as Babyface and Julio Iglesias.
Ella began work on her album during recording sessions for Dr Dre's Aftermath label in LA: "After forming an instant connection with Dre's engineer, Steve B, we began to co-write and co-produce some songs. I nicked him essentially!"
Now the album is imminent and we're told it sounds like a subtle, contemporary and highly original incorporation of her first love trip hop, the hippie folk music of her mother's affections, and the righteous power of the hip-hop played in the underground clubs of her teens. Between Islands is an exploration of her mixed-race heritage, of English, Caribbean and Spanish, and the conflicting freedoms and sense of alienation she experienced growing up on the North East coast of Durham, England.
It sounds a fascinating listen, and she could well be a star-in-the-making for 2009. At the moment she still works as a waitress: "I drive them mad with my singing".
Let's hope if she does make it, the cat is happy!