With her multi-coloured, intricately braided hair and glitter-soaked multi-coloured face, you could be forgiven for thinking that 23-year-old singer/songwriter Espa is more of a digital creation of some sort of mad scientist rather than an actual human being. Working closely with renowned photographer Eddy Leonardo and BAFTA-nominated Production Company HAUS, the three created what is essentially a three minute gif inspired in part by a book of Rankin portraits "...full of colours and strong imagery."

It seemed fitting that Rankin's Hunger Magazine premiered the clip back in September to widespread praise across the blogosphere. The song itself, produced by close friend Erick The Architect (member of hip-hop collective Flatbush Zombies) is a beautiful combination of some of the best aspects of R&B, hip-hop and pop music intertwined with Espa's soulful, slightly guttural vocals almost acting as the glue fusing everything together. Combined with the visual, it's a strong testament to her creative energy and shows she's more than just your typical singer/songwriter.

It wasn't until the release of her first official music video for the Shift K3Y & Todd Oliver produced 'Your Ghost' where the world really got to see who Espa really is. ("Oh my god, you don't know how daunting it was! The worst thing was they spent eight hours filming [dancer] Joey dancing; I only had five takes! Can you believe that?") Hidden in the shadows and acting more of a second thought to the narrative of the video, Espa manages to keep something of an enigma around her even when she's fully exposed for all to see.

"Suddenly the director was like "We've got half an hour to do all of your scenes!" I've never done miming before so I had to just belt it out full voice along with the CD! It was weird, like I'd never thought before about how I would comes across on camera; I'm pleased in a way that I wasn't having those thoughts. I guess, further on in people's careers you have to be aware of what you look like when people are watching you perform or when you're picked up on camera or what pose looks good in a picture. I'm just not there yet; I'm just being me and doing it! I just pretended that I was doing a little gig really to the director of the video and my camera. That was it!"

Even as I finally get to meet her at her agent's office in North London, there's still something of a anonymity about her that makes everything we discuss that little more interesting. When we come to the topic of her mystery, she reveals that after a series of behind the scenes musical jobs, it now felt like the right time to come to the forefront. "I come from a family of musicians and since I was a little girl I always said 'I wanna be a popstar!' But I never really understood why. I kind of diverted away from that and did a lot of background work; I did a lot of composition and arrangements for other artists, song writing for other artists and came out of the other side after doing my degree and whatnot and was like 'Y'know what? I'm going to go back to that little 4-year-old and actually serve that!' There was a reason why at such a young age I felt a desire to be put on a platform; to sing to lots of people. But only now at this age and after all the different jobs I did I'd done within music do I understand why I'm striving for this unusual life, you know? It's not about fame or fortune or being loved or getting validation anymore. It's about something different; it's about being a voice, being an access to different ways of thinking and a new generation of cool young people that are actually going to be good to the planet. But to answer your question, yeah it's so natural! It's the only thing that could have happened; it's right and it's the right thing for me to be doing at this time."

Two days prior, the video for 'Your Ghost' made its premiere online to a wave of positive feedback that Espa is of course incredibly happy about. While the songs deals with a very close and very personal story of the loss of someone, the video also holds a special place with her as it stars one of her oldest friends. "The dancer in the video is my oldest friend who I met when I was three years old in ballet class back home. I had this concept in my head that was really clear that I wanted 'Your Ghost' to... For me, it's a very personal story about the loss of a man who I was really close to but we wanted to flip it on its head a little bit and create a little more mystery around what I'm trying to say and leave it open to interpretation a little more. So the dancer is the ghost in the music video. I was thinking about whom I was going to get and then I thought about Jo and she stepped up."

The stunning choreography wasn't created beforehand, she stresses, "It was fully improvised and that's what I wanted. I didn't want any set routines, I didn't want any choreography, anyone there interfering, I just wanted her to experience it herself. She danced for eight hours on bruised and bleeding feet. That girl just smashed it! I was really happy and the response seems to reflect that so it's all good!"

'Apartment 2F' and 'Your Ghost' stem from Espa's debut EP 150th & Broadway, which is a real place in New York City; her second home. Her fascination with New York City was born following a trip there when she was 18. "I went to New York for three months when I was 18 years old, had no idea what I was doing. I had no friends, no nothing, just an American SIM card. I created a little sub-life for myself out there, it's beautiful. I learnt how to be on my own firstly, which is one of the biggest lessons I learnt from New York, then how to make friends and find a little family, no matter where you are; people are amazing and people are kind. Then I started going back four times a year with the intention of making music."

A chance meeting with producer Grant Robert Cutler at a gig at the Bowery Ballroom enabled her to send him his music and get the ball rolling on what would eventually become her debut EP. "That's how I met the Flatbush boys as well; at a gig. But by that point, someone else had introduced them to me. It's funny how you can meet one person and then you've got a little circle of people there and that's kind of what happened in the UK as well. I didn't have a manager for a year but I was still in writing sessions four days a week and just going to stuff, being a "yes" man. Working with the Flatbush Zombie guys was... I knew I'd struck gold and I knew there was a reason for perusing my relationship with New York and that kind of was it. I know it will continue but going to the studio with those boys was a real eye opening experience; they're proper poets and so serious about what they do. Their videos are of them like... taking LSD, going on stage screaming and all the crazy shit they do but I've never met more serious boys in my life. They're just amazing."

The title serves as something of a representation of a period of her life, rather than about the place itself. "It's in Washington Heights. It is a place where I did a lot of growing up. It's not necessarily about the place; it's more about what it signifies. It's almost my passage into adulthood; that cross section. I actually visited it the last time I went and I was like 'Wow, the first time I set foot in that neighbourhood, I was young!' This first EP is kind of representative of that time; of that shift into coming back home internally, looking at what's going on."

150th & Broadway is also the culmination of a year's hard work and self discovery, following studio sessions all over the globe. "About a year ago, I graduated from uni in July 2013 and sort of fell into a pit of panic, not knowing what I was going to do with my life for a little bit and then got my shit together and started writing and then that was a year almost to the day before 150th & Broadway came out. It basically involved me writing in so many different genres with so many different producers all over the world. Mainly in New York and London but in a few other places a well and just experimenting until I really honed in on my sound. So that means I've got a catalogue of a ridiculous amount of tunes which I would probably never release, but I found four that went on the EP. [Laughs] In the end it ended up being a 50/50 split between my New York producers and my London boys. My London boys being Shift K3Y & Todd Oliver who did two tracks on the record then the Flatbush Zombies and this other guy called Grant Robert Cutler, who I met at a gig at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. It's a little representation of my writing life, I guess."

'Apartment 2F' specifically deals with that period of self discover and self growth as she explains to me: "['Apartment 2F'] is really about recognising the inner child and seeing the light as such which is after a dark situation occurs, realising that there really is light but it has to come from within and that's when the growing up takes place. When I was at my most broken is when the light was shed on the situation and I was able to expand. That's kind of what 150th & Broadway represents as an actual place and as the title of my EP."

In recent months, a number of new artists have tried to distance themselves from the almost controversial "altermative R&B" moniker. It is a genre that raises a number of questions and eyebrows among the music industry. But Espa is more than happy to lead the revolution, adding she wants to create the "lovechild" of Jimi Hendrix and Björk. "People keep saying "alternative R&B" or "progressive R&B" or whatever. I think that's so cool; let's just go with it, let's make some crazy little genres up! At the end of the day, my music is influenced by such a vast span of artists. I love [Jimi] Hendrix; I love him. I love Bjork for her visuals, for her artistic integrity. I like to say its genre bending or... I don't know, I come up with a different thing every day. At the moment it's "cosmic R&B" because at the minute I'm writing loads of tunes that are all universe-y but they've still very much got a hip-hop root to it."

She's also keen to bring more of a political edge to her music, citing Erykah Badu as a huge influence. "I want to make visually striking, creatively sound R&B I guess with a bit of a political stance like Erykah has. I really respect that woman, especially being the only woman in that kind of new hip-hop scene that was around in the '90s with the likes of D'Angelo, I respect her so much."

Her musical influences stem further than just R&B and hip-hop though: "I love Jazz music and I love Nirvana and I love.... everything! Apart from country! [Laughs] I don't mind a bit of Dolly but I find it a little bit... I guess I haven't been exposed to that world. I like Bluegrass; that more roots-y, folk kind of country, but produced country music creeps me out a little. It's like if someone was to take Joni Mitchell's album Blue, which changed my fucking life; the songwriting is next level ridiculous, storytelling, profound, eye opening music. If someone took that record and then put a beat on it with some glossy production, I'd be a bit creeped out and I kind of feel like that's what's happened to country music a little bit."

Espa is also heavily influenced by her peers. She is a fan of some of the UK's best up-and-coming talents including Atlantic Records' Kwabs whom she grew up with. ("I'm a little bit biased but he is a voice of a generation, we need to be ready for that. He's like... Donny Hathaway, the second coming! Can I say that?") Spending much of her time with the Flatbush Zombies plays a part in her musical influences as well. "I'm basically a frustrated rapper. I think rapping is the most profound poetry ever." She's a fan of Grime music ("I love Boy Better Know; I'm obsessed with Skepta, obsessed with Jme,) and recently started working with Birmingham born Grime super-producer Preditah. "When someone's singing, I guess you can kind of hide a little bit behind the fact that you're making a beautiful noise and singing these melodies. When you're rapping you're telling the truth. You're telling a story that's in the most direct way possible. Something about it goes right through me and [PMR Records'] Jesse James Soloman has got a gift."

She speaks highly of Sasha Keable ("she's got the voice of an angel; I can't wait to meet her") Elli Ingram and Hugh, who she's partly been working with to put together her live show. "Andy, the guy that plays keys, he's my musical director and we've done a lot of production together and we've worked together to produce my live show. I think their music is amazing; it's kind of like "art synth music" I think." Continuing the political theme, she's also recently discovered a love for King Avriel. "Oh my god, oh my god! Kwabs introduced me to her actually; she's doing a sort of political R&B thing. She's done this video for her song called 'Caricatures' where she's completely naked but it's not sexual at all. It's commenting on the sexualisation of women's bodies in music videos. It's really profound actually because suddenly it's just a body when you take away anything extra about it. She's sick."

Citing her first live experiences with Chaka Khan and D'Angelo, Espa wants to have that same connection with her ever growing fan base. "I remember the first time I saw D'Angelo live and I just weeped; same with when I first saw Chaka Khan. She did this sermon on stage. It was mental! She's a born again Christian. I'm not religious at all but in the middle of her gig it just went into this Gospel groove and she stated preaching. There was something really touching about it and I was like... You wouldn't get this experience on record, you can't capture it! It's something very unique. So I'm really so excited and I keep telling my managers 'Can we do all the live shows now?'"

While 150th & Broadway has something of an electronic base to it, Espa has been preparing for this for a long time and hasn't found any issues when translating her music to a live setting. "I'd done a lot of live before this project started with other artists and with myself, starting off doing little pub gig, trying to get myself together. But coming from a family of live musicians, whenever I go to the studio, I'm already thinking about how this is going to translate live. So there's nothing I'm going to write that isn't possible. Every key has to fit with my voice; everything has to be translatable on guitar or synths... We've got a lot of triggers in the set up and a lot of really cool synths but in the back of my head, if I'm writing some kind of trap-y high hat pattern, it has to be playable. I'm not going to give the drummer something that's not playable because that's not music, that's just machines."

Not one to slow down or rest on laurels, Epsa is already in the studio working on a follow up project for 2015. There's a lot on her mind that she needs to get out. "I haven't stopped writing at all even when this EP was coming out and we were doing the video and whatnot, it's really important for me to feel like a normal human being to be writing at all times. I'm not writing right now in my head but to have a nice balance of working on the EP that's out already with interviews or whatever, but to carry on writing there has to be an intention always to make new music. I can't be one of those artists that takes a year off. Maybe I will but right now, I just want to keep writing; I've got so much to say!"

150th & Broadway is available to download for free here.