Def Jam Artist Bibi Bourelly Prepares Her Debut Album, Co-Writes Hit For Rihanna, And Songs For Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello and Usher

Bibi Bourelly
Bibi Bourelly

Bibi Bourelly is a talented, young singer/songwriter who has quickly emerged as a rising artist and hit songwriter. She has released two EPs on Def Jam Records (Free The Real Pt. 1 & Free The Real Pt. 2), and she co-wrote the compelling hit “Bitch Better Have My Money” for Rihanna. She is known for having a soulful, powerful voice, and she has a strong attitude which gives her songs and performances a distinctive edge. Currently, she is working on her debut album, and she’s on tour as the opening artist for rapper Lil Uzi Vert.

Just 22 years old, Bourelly moved to Los Angeles when she was 19 and subsequenly landed a label deal with Def Jam. Impressively, she has already accumulated some major songwriting credits. Rihanna has recorded four of her songs: “Bitch Better Have My Money” plus three songs on her platinum Anti album (“Higher,” “Yeah, I Said It” and the bonus cut,“Pose”). Bourelly has also co-writen songs for Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, Usher and Nick Brewer.

Bourelly was born in Berlin, Germany, and her father, Jean-Paul Bourelly, is a professional guitarist. She speaks both German and English. Bourelly attended high school in Maryland, before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her artist career. Now based in Los Angeles for the past three years, she has signed with Def Jam Records, and she’s signed a music publishing deal with BMG Rights Management.

In addition to releasing her two EPs and writing songs for other artists, she has been a featured artist on other artists’ singles, such as Nick Brewer’s “Talk To Me” and Usher’s “Chains.”

Bibi Bourelly Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Bibi Bourelly. She tells how she got started, and she discusses her upcoming debut album, plus the songs she’s co-written for other artists.

DK: I read that you were born in Berlin, Germany. How did you first get started with singing and writing songs?

Bibi Bourelly: I was born into music, because my dad is a professional guitar player, and my mom worked in the art, music & dance department, as a coordinator in the House of World Cultures (in Berlin). So I was kind of born into art, you know. The way that I explain it, is that I picked up on the language of music a little bit before I picked up the English language. I think as children, we have a lot more [ability] to comprehend sounds and emotions in music.

DK: When did you start writing songs?

Bourelly: Well, I’ve always correlated singing with songwriting. To me, it was always kind of the same thing. Ever since I could sing, I’ve been singing melodies that I wrote in my head. I never actually sat down with a pen and paper, and decided to write a song—I don’t even do that now. It’s just whatever I hear in my head I sing, and that to me is songwriting.

Here’s the video of Bibi Bourelly’s song, “Ballin’.”

DK: I read that when you were 19 and moved to Los Angeles, you got a break when you had an opportunity to meet with Kanye West and Rihanna. How did they find out about you?

Bourelly: I don’t really know how it happened—I just knew that word of mouth spread. I was in the studio creating music, and I had been shopping my artist deal (to labels). When I first met with Kanye, he had me meet Rihanna too.

DK: I read that the first day you met Kanye, you were asked to write a song, but things didn’t work out. But then you came back the next day and wrote the song “Higher” (which was recorded by Rihanna). Is that correct?

Bourelly: Yeah, on that first day I tried to write to the beat of “Higher,” but I was too nervous. So the next day I went in [and wrote the song].

DK: You also wrote two other songs for Rihanna’s Anti album, “Yeah, I Said It” and “Pose.” Did you write all three songs around the same time?

Bourelly: Nah, the two other songs came gradually. I write songs every single day. Those songs came within two months of each other. They just kind of came out.

DK: You’re also known for writing the hit for Rihanna, ”Bitch Better Have My Money.” How did you come up with the title and concept for this song?

Bourelly: I was just drunk, and broke (laughs) and I was 19. That’s how it really happened—I was just drunk, broke and 19. I heard a beat and I went in and I wrote the song.

DK: When you write songs, besides writing to a beat, do you write songs while playing guitar or piano?

Bourelly: I like to write usually to guitar. My father’s a professional guitar player, so that instrument has always been really close to my heart. I just have an intuition for the guitar. I also like to write to piano. I play enough guitar and piano to write to.

Here’s the video of Rihanna’s hit “Bitch Better Have My Money,”
which was co-written by Bibi Bourelly.

DK: I like the song “I Have Questions” that you wrote with Camila Cabello (formerly of Fifth Harmony). How did you get together with her?

Bourelly: I was in Atlanta for a couple days after I’d gotten off the road; I was doing radio promo. And my publisher asked, “Do you want to go (in the studio) with Camila Cabello?” I wasn’t planning on doing any songwriting sessions with anybody at that time, but something in me said “Alright, cool.” When I met her, I saw a lot of myself in her. ‘Cause she was 19 years old, you know, fighting to find her voice as an artist. And she kind of explained her situation to me, and had this concept called “Questions.” Then we turned the mic on, and I just went in and did the first verse, and from there she went and did the second verse, and it really worked fluidly.

DK: Let’s talk about your upcoming album. How far along are you with your album?

Bourelly: I have so many songs—I have like 400 songs (laughs). What I have to do is narrow it down, and mix and match up, and kind of put it together. The priority is just to figure out a cohesive body of work, the recurring theme that I’m singing about. I write very subconsciously. A lot of the times I’m writing about what’s happening in my life, without even realizing it. So it’s kind of like going back and looking at your diary or something from a year or two ago, and figuring out where your head was.

DK: I listened to your two EPs (Free The Real Pt. 1 and Free The Real Pt. 2). Will your album be an extension of those EPs, or will it be going in a slightly different direction?

Bourelly: It’s too soon to tell, to be honest. It’s always going to be an extension of what the EPs were, because it’s me. It’s always going to be an extension of myself, because I’m writing all my music. I really don’t have many co-writers on my album—it’s all directly coming from me. And so I feel like my work is always going to be an extension of what I did last. It’s always gonna sound like Bibi Bourelly, but just an evolved version, the next stage of it. And I think that my album is going to tell a little more of the story, of who I actually am.

I think the EPs kind of told it, but not completely—it wasn’t the full stories. I think on my album, you’re going to find out where I’m from, and the shit I’ve seen, and the shit I’ve been through. And stories about my mom (who has passed away), and you know, the stories of my struggles as a real artist in a corporate world, and kind of like that.

Here’s the video of Bibi Bourelly’s song, “Sally.”

DK: I like the songs on your two EPs, like “Sally” and “’Ballin’.” But another song that really stood out is “Poet,” which is powerful and emotional, and mentions Kurt Cobain. What inspired you to write this song?

Bourelly: Thank you. [I was] just obsessed with a boy. Unhealthfully obsessed with a boy. It felt like he was like a dream to me, like something you know, that you feel in movies. But it’s just a little more of an edgier version (laughs). It’s about thinking you love someone, being obsessed with someone.

DK: You’re currently on tour with Lil Uzi Vert. Are you the opening artist on this tour?

Bourelly: Yes I am. I come on right before Uzi, and it’s a great experience, man. You know, a lot of singers wouldn’t really have the balls (laughs) to get up in front of a demographic like this, performing in front of Uzi. It’s so different from what the headlining act is, and [some kids] are trying to get drunk, you know? But it really challenges me as a performer, and challenges me as an artist. One of the most humbling and fulfilling experiences on this tour, has been looking out to the crowd and seeing people who don’t fuckin’ want you there, and then seeing people that are like singing every single lyric to your song, you know? Both at the same time. I think that as an artist, you have to have a thick skin and be able to fight for your art. One of the biggest blessings in the world is to be able to fight for your art. Not everyone is going to agree with you or like you, but in people disagreeing with you and others agreeing with you, you can kind of find what your perspective is. You know there’s objectivity, and you can find out what it is you’re trying to say. And I’m honored that I get to fight for it (laughs).

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima