As I cross the Albert Bridge near Battersea on a standard London bus, a notification appears on my phone. It's a message from Clare Maguire, who's already waiting for me at our designated location. I let her know I'm two or three stops away and won't be much longer. It's an unusually warm May afternoon; so warm it almost feels like summer. She then asks if I'd like a drink for my arrival and rather unconsciously I request a cider as is my usual summer drink. But as I draw closer I begin to fill with a little guilt. I've realised I've asked Clare - the Birmingham born and raised singer/songwriter who just a few years ago quit music and sent herself into rehab for alcoholism - for an alcoholic beverage. I immediately begin to think this is some sort of rookie mistake or am I merely overthinking the situation? But later, deep in our lengthy conversation, it all makes sense. I realise I had no cause for worry.

"In rehab, they tell you not to go into pubs and the minute I let rehab I went straight into a pub and ordered myself two lattes'. When I used to drink - and even now I do it - I always order more than one drink because I drink so quickly so I started doing it with Diet Coke's or whatever and threw myself back into it. If I escape from it, I'll never go into it and just sink into a depression; I have to be around it. Even with drinking culture, I still enjoy it, I still want to be around it."

Clare Maguire's early back story reads like something from a musical fairy tale; a fairy tale, like most, that turns sour before spinning back to a happy ending. Plucked from obscurity in Birmingham, Maguire, at the age of 19, moved to London after popping some of her early demos on MySpace. The story goes she turned down the opportunity to sign with Jay Z's label at one point and even had dinner with Rick Rubin and Jay while on a trip to New York but eventually, she signed to Polydor Records and won a place on the BBC Sound of 2011.

Early hype started the catalyst for an album Light After Dark and commercially, the album performed to fair success. "The thing is, people recently have been saying it was a flop but I don't see it as a flop because it actually did really well. It was a top 10, it went silver, it did do well and I remember touring loads so something must have been happening! [Laughs]" Critically, however, it was slated and while Clare seemingly took the criticism like water off a duck's back, her family took the criticism much harder. "I think maybe it wasn't well received critically, definitely, because I really felt that at the time, particularly though the reactions of my family, it really affected them and that in turn really affected me. They knew that I'd... lost myself so much. They were like "That's not you and these people are judging you but it's not you." They couldn't deal with it and I couldn't either."

Admittedly, Clare knows it was her fast-growing addiction to alcohol that kept her together during this time. "I was dealing with it in a different way. I was dealing with it in a way... that I was so numb to it all that I wasn't even feeling anything, I was just drinking or just being a mess really. I couldn't take in fully anything that was going on, at all. Even when I was touring, I wasn't taking anything in, I was just doing stuff. I was just getting up, doing stuff but not really knowing or acknowledging what was going on."

Before sending herself away to rehab, Clare requested a meeting with Universal Music's Chairman & CEO David Joseph. Following a long period of touring commitments and general dissatisfaction, she asked Joseph if she could leave her label, who graciously agreed to let her do her own thing. With so many sour stories surrounding women in the music industry, it's nice to finally hear a story with a positive outcome and I was curious to learn more about the conversation they had. "I just went to him and said "Look, I can't do this anymore," and he was totally fine with it. I think I was quite angry by that point, I was just angry generally and I said "Oh, I feel mistreated" and what not, he just understood. He said 'Yeah, I don't think this is exactly what I wanted either so you should go and do your own thing.'"

Her anger was pointed firmly to one person at her old label, who fortunately now, is no longer involved with her career. "When I was on the label I was on before, really, it was only one person who really did mistreat me in a way that was not ok. When I look back now, it wasn't ok; the things he'd say and do, it was really unprofessional. But I think since then, it's been really good because the new team I'm with are amazing."

Now she's in a much better and more understanding frame of mind, she's empathetic of those that work in the system. "I think I'm in a better place, it's much easier to deal with people and to deal with those situations. I understand what major labels are now and back then I didn't really understand what they were. They have a job, they have pressure on them too, I don't want to disrespect anybody who does that job because I think it's a really hard job to do. I get it now."

She's also a lot more understanding and perhaps... forgiving of Light After Dark; she still speaks highly of the record and its producers but is aware it wasn't quite the accurate representation of her that she wanted. "When I look back on the album now, I could never disrespect that album and I think that people feel like I have... which I think is sad because I have some really amazing fans, now; still, from that record. I feel sad when they say "Oh, don't disrespect the record!" but I don't feel like I am; I'm just talking honestly about me at that point and that's what it was; it was a young person who was an addict, who was a manic depressant, who was in a really big, amazing recording studio with an amazing producer; everything sounded shiny but the heart and soul of it was somebody who was lost and quite numb and I can hear that."

Clare's recently moved back to Battersea in south London, where she lived after completing her touring commitments on the first album. She's redecorating her home when we meet up and is quite happy for the break from her home improvement works. With her two sausage dogs, who are unfortunately at home with her manager who's playing babysitter ("isn't that what managers are for?" Clare says jokingly) Clare likes to call the area her home away from home. "After I came off the first record, I lived here, then I moved for a year more north and I just came back here a couple of weeks ago which is good because I've got two dogs so I can go in the park, plus there's a river there; I don't know, it's just quite grounding for me here for some reason. It sort of reminds me a bit of Birmingham, which is weird because nowhere in London reminds me of Birmingham."

It's here where Clare, fresh from her much publicised rehab stint, began working towards what would eventually be her second studio album Stranger Things Have Happened. But the creation of the record wasn't easy. Against advice, Clare remained in a tumultuous relationship while in recovery. In fact, she and her ex-boyfriend were trying to overcome their respective demons together at the same time; something that ended up doing more bad than good. "It was a pretty messy one because we were both in recovery, he relapsed and it was a really dodgy time as he relapsed hard. When that happened I went through a time where I was quite depressed." This period of depression continued for quite some time until a close friend took matters into his own hands, forcing Clare to take control of her emotions and put them back into her craft. "'Swimming' was the first track that I wrote for this record and that was during that time. My mate Tom [Goss], who I've been mates with for years; he did the first ever gig with me at Green Man, he came to all the label meetings with me, he's been my longest friend in London; he came round to my flat, let himself in because I was just in bed; I couldn't get out of bed. He set up his laptop and started playing this loop over and over again. He gave me the mic; I was lying on the bed; the speakers were on in the room and I just started singing, we recorded it and that's the recording that's on the record."

After belting her voice to its absolute limits on Light After Dark, Maguire has found a new love in a more delicate, subdued and what she calls "whispery" voice that suits her new found soul-rich, country-flavoured, Jazz-inspired sound of Stranger Things... "I think you can hear on this record that I'm sitting down [Laughs]. The vocals are so whispery, but I think that's what I wanted with this record because I think I'd done a couple of tracks that I'd recorded like 'Changing Faces' and I just liked the sound of it so to make it cohesive - I'm so obsessed with making things about cohesiveness on albums - which I don't think you need to be really anymore, but I'm a bit obsessional about stuff like that and I was like 'Ok, this is the feeling of the record, it needs to all feel like that.' That's how I wanted it to be. I think there's only one track really where I'm belting out a bit more and that's 'Here I Am' but everything else... And even that one, I think I was sitting down. It was in Blue [May]'s studio; he's got this really nice chair and he put the mic really close to me... I think you can hear it; the record is all very much just us all sitting down and playing. It's that kind of record."

She notes taking on this new "lo-fi" sound wasn't a conscious decision when creating record and more just a matter of convenience in creating the album. "It wasn't like we purposely made noises happen in the background; we just happened to have the window open when we pressed record. It wasn't overthought."

Although Stranger Things... is marked as her second studio album, in the five years between her debut and new record, Clare had been making small but important steps back into music. While on hiatus, Clare completely wiped all traces of herself on social media, and focused on getting herself better. Random demos began to appear on SoundCloud (most of which eventually coming together for the self-titled mixtape and EP in 2014) as well as collaborations with the likes of Mike Skinner and High Contrast, who she'd known for years and become good friends with."'Who's Loving You' is another one I did in my bedroom and brought to him and he essentially remixed it and decided he wanted to put it out as a single and I really like that track."

More recently, she appeared on DJ Fresh, High Contrast & Dizzee Rascal's single 'How Love Begins' as an uncredited vocalist after being invited to the studio by Contrast. She was fascinated by their song creation process ("Watching them two in a room, they approach it so differently so it's really interesting watching it.") and was surprised to learn Dizzee would appear on the track with her. "I didn't meet Dizzee Rascal, unfortunately, they put him on after I was on. Which is a shame because I love him." As more of these unfinished demos began to appear on SoundCloud, Maguire gained one notable new fan in Burberry creative director Christopher Bailey who started to use her track 'Changing Faces' in a couple of his projects. Burberry's music team eventually reached out to Maguire, inviting her to participate in their exclusive Burberry Acoustic sessions series and later was personally invited by Bailey to perform at his London Collections: Men show in 2015. Maguire was surprised to see how involved Bailey was in all aspect of the shows. "Absolutely everything goes through Christopher," she reflects "He is 'the guy' there, he is so involved; I've never seen anything like it before. He's a genius and also, one of the nicest people I've ever met in my life; like ridiculously nice."

These performances were some of her first live set since completing her last tour in 2011 and more importantly, completing rehab so nerves were expected but she was also aware of the fact that most of the attention wasn't on her. "People kept saying to me "It must be so much pressure on you," and I'm like, 'No' because I knew full well everybody was there to watch the clothes, then they were off to Chanel! They didn't care about me singing at the end! It wasn't pressurised, it was just fun." Subsequently, following rave reviews, Maguire was then invited back to perform at Burberry's Womenswear show at London Fashion Week that same year as well as the opening of their flagship store in Hong Kong and has built a strong relationship with the fashion house. It's a rare case of serendipity really, where it's a relationship that actually feels very natural and not forced like other music-meets-brand collaborations.

Despite the negative press surrounding Light After Dark, it helped gain a formidable fan base for Clare; some of whom have been more vocal about her change in sound and vocal delivery. I questioned Clare on whether she feels pressure from her long term fans to return to her older sound but she says she's doing what she feels is right within her and for her own sanity. "I don't feel any pressure at all because I can't actually feel any pressure at any point because I think that when I feel pressure or if I feel like I'm letting people down and I allow myself to feel that, I'll crumble. I think I've grown so much as a person and I have a lot more strength so if I feel like that I think that's sad but it's not going to make me back down and change who I am for it. If I decide to do something that is more highly produced next time or if I decide to do something that's more lo-fi or whatever, it's just because that's what I felt at the time and I have to go with what I feel like rather than feeling like I have to do something for somebody else because I've done that for so many years and it hasn't really go me anywhere besides make me ill."

As a BBC Sound of alumni, talk soon turns to the many 'One's to Watch' lists that seemingly determine the fate of new artists within twelve months, putting an immense amount of pressure on young artists to perform outstandingly well in a ridiculously short space of time. Clare agrees, noting that there needs to be time to grow and simply enjoy life instead of being trapped in a bubble of statistics and finances, remembering a time where one of her earlier music videos had the same budget as a year's salary for her father.

"There's so many people who are signed, who are very talented but essentially, are lost because everything is thrown at them and it's not just the pressure, it's the money that's thrown at people. I still do not understand it because I say, when you're starting out, you don't need that much money; you just need people to understand who you are and your personality. When people understand that, they'll grow with you over time. When I look at somebody like Rihanna, for example, when you think about it, she's now my age and you think how much she's grown; we've seen her grow and right now, she's the best she's ever been. That's because of the experiences she's been able to have, she's grown as a woman. It gets more and more amazing as you grow. If people are allowed to do that, it's incredible but a lot of people aren't allowed to do that; they're just like, you need to it instantly, if you don't, you're over. And people will let them know; they will say explicitly, 'you're finished'. It's wrong. Artists grow as they grow older, as they have more experiences, as they get in and out of relationships; they just grow. There's a very small amount of people who are young, know it all straight away, know how to deal with it all straight away and can provide a massive song straight away. That's a very small percentage of people. Those people are amazing but it's a very small percentage of people."

Women in the music industry are often given an even shorter window to prove themselves with reports of ageism at all different levels and aspects of the industry; perhaps none more so than at radio. The BBC were accused of ageism when recent singles from Madonna were seemingly passed on because of her age and other artists – some more vocal than others – have voiced their frustrations at not being playlisted because they were deemed “too old” by bosses. Clare herself, early on was asked to claim a slightly younger age to what she was, despite still being in her early 20's when her first single was released.

“I understand what they want to show is something young, beautiful and fresh & shiny but we’re living in an age of the internet; we’re living in an age of personality, we live in an age where people don’t really care about your age or anything like that; all they care about is whether you’re providing something that’s interesting, whether you have a voice; as in something to say, and if you have something to say, it’s interesting. It doesn’t matter what you look like or how old you are, nothing. I don’t think that it does but the industry seems to still feel like it does; they still feel this pressure to make everything seem young.”

She takes this is down to the lack of younger minds and voices at a higher level within record labels, radio stations and other high ranking media organisations. “I think if younger people could get involved and if younger people were given more power in positions, you’d see a massive shift in what people are allowed to come through. Young people only care about what’s good and what’s interesting; that’s it really. That’s what it should be.”

Stranger Things Have Happened sees Clare take things back to basics. There's no collaborations and her production team is small, comprising of her friends Sam Beste, Blue May & Tom Goss while Jax Jones & Boy Matthews provide the album's centrepiece 'The Valley'. In a few days, she'll be heading off to LA to film a visual to accompany the album. Deciding not to do individual videos, she wanted to create a short film or sorts which explains more of what the album is about. "I just wanted to do a short film-type thing so we're going to film all different tracks from the album, 'The Valley' is going to be on there, 'Stranger Things Have Happened' is going to be on there because I really like that track but I want to get that track in, that track in; I spoke to this guy Bradley in LA and I liked what he did. We spoke on the phone and I think we just said let's just do a short film about what the record is about, it just feels right for this record to do that than do loads of different videos. To me, it feels like it will show the intent of what the album is about."

The album's lead single 'Elizabeth Taylor' did, however receive an individual visual, directed by Suki Waterhouse. Its piano lead, strings heavy composition is in stark contrast to its original creation which was first produced by High Contrast and intended to be more of a dance record. "When I first did that; I did it with Lincoln (High Contrast) and the original is actually a dance track which I want to put out as well but he has to do his single before we put it out and when we put it out it'll be a remix. It just felt like the song I'd been wanting to write for ages. Actually, I'd decided that I wanted 'Elizabeth Taylor' to be a single and I wanted everything else to fit around it so we did that on the piano and made it more cohesive to the record because there's always this weird thing when you do a dance track and whether that dance track will fit in with what we're doing. Like I said, I'm too weird about that sort of stuff so I redid it on the piano and just said 'Yeah, I want this one out first.'"

In an earlier interview with the BBC, Clare had said there was less pressure from the label for this album and she's fine with that and fine for things to go at a more natural pace. "I love the record, I actually listen to it and this is going to sound so lame but I've got a vinyl player and I listen to the vinyl. I really like it. But I'm realistic at the same time; there's no radio songs on there, it's not one of those things you can play over and over again but it's an interesting perspective of my experience and I know that's what it is and that's exactly what I said it was. I said I just need to put something out so that I can live. I had so much fear about putting something out that actually doing it and understanding what it is, being able to let go has been a massive thing for me so that in itself is what I want from it. Now I just want to have the confidence to put more out and do things more quickly rather than sitting there for five years worrying. You don't know what can happen but... That's it. Really, I'd just like people to now think of me as an artist rather than some BBC Sound Of flop. [Laughs]"

She's got some live shows coming up and she's nervous about them; knowing what effect touring has had on her in the past but this time around, again, Clare is taking it one day at a time. "Touring that record for me was what made me crack; it made me crazy. But I think I've made that really clear that I'm not going to do loads, I'm just going to do it very slowly and do small things then maybe leave it for a bit and see how I cope with that."

As the sun starts to dip and we wrap things up (we ended having our own impromptu therapy session off record immediately after) I wondered if Clare had ever had any thoughts about her musical legacy and what she's like to be remembered for and she'd genuinely never thought about it until now. After a period of silence, she would like to be known as someone who was simply true to themselves and "not boring, which is funny because everything I do is boring" With Stranger Things Have Happened, Maguire has already achieved that goal and perhaps rather ironically, seems to have found her own light after the darkness. For now, everything is looking bright.

Stranger Things Have Happened is available now via Virgin EMI Records.