Just like her music, Holly Humberstone wears her heart on her sleeve
The British singer/songwriter Holly Humberstone will perhaps need no introduction for many of you, ‘Falling Asleep at the Wheel’ singer joined us for a chat after performing at Sheffield’s Tramlines
Often referred to as a proponent of so-called ‘vulnerable pop’ or in some cases ‘wonky pop’, a la Lorde, it quickly becomes apparent that although Holly’s influences or rather those who she’s quoted as listening to becomes the de-facto means of describing her musical output – she’s so much more than that and instead of relying on the popularist tropes or media-savvy genre boxes – sometimes it’s best to let the person speak and define themselves;
“I feel like there’s a trend in female singers at the moment who are being really brutal and honest in their lyrics, and I think that people are really connecting to it because they’re talking about things that haven’t been talked about before, oversharing”, which translates to cutting lyrics with a twisted dark pop production… how apt for the now times.
We discussed a number of rather deep topics, from her childhood and how her parents encouraged creativity, artful-expression and music in their household to gendered labels and mental health — you know, the deep stuff. As the youngest of three sisters, as pretty much every interview to date will attest to, Holly loved her childhood and her close bond to her siblings, “I just remember it being such a fun place, we live in this really old house which is kind of, really quirky and kind of falling down” but despite being in a dilapidated state the house is the place that continues to bring them all together. And it’s apt that such an experience of growing up had - and continues - to have such a profound effect on Holly both as a person and an artist.
Favourite kind of music? “Literally everything, and that’s not a cop-out. I just listen to as much as I can. There’s so much out there”, and it’s true. “I feel like I’m most inspired when I’m just listening to like everything, all different types of stuff. I usually like something with personal lyrics that I can latch onto and connect to in some way”, and this is where the ‘vulnerable’ moniker that’s often applied to her music comes in, purely because she articulates a connection to something that’s less... meek and more-so evocative and emotive in tone.
“I think that it’s [her thought process] really empowering for me to be able to write exactly how I am feeling, to release and have something so personal out in the world with people connecting to it. To have my heart on my sleeve.”
Holly’s wisdom and open-mindedness belies her relative youth, she turned 21 earlier this year. She has that youthful enthusiasm you could say, I’d put it down to an unbridled passion, being self aware and a desire to learn and absorb new approaches from her peers, not her ‘idols’ or ‘faves’, peers. It’s why it’s so important to separate her from the ‘vulnerable pop’ label, she’s more than that. And alongside her classical music skillset, a dexterity with musical instruments and a vocal range which is undeniably steeped in pop, hints at so much more to come. If anything she’s ‘honest’ and her outlook on music is one of embracing it all.
“I feel like music is something that I’ve really relied on for personal connection, something human, something that’s real. You know?”
“I’m really appreciating (all) music, especially after this past year a lot more. Because apart from my family that I’ve been with throughout lockdown, I’ve not been able to see anyone and…” isolation in these times is something that’s afflicted us all and we’ve all found it difficult.
The Walls Are Way Too Thin was written at a time (ironically pre-Covid) where Holly felt she was no longer in control, how to process what she was feeling and ultimately her place in the world – a relatable moment to so many over the last year. How cliché you could say, but instead I’d say honest… earthy even. Unbridled in its embracing of the anxieties of growing up, finding her place, ‘same old sad songs’ - ironically her Spotify playlist moniker - and an eschewing of feelings that resonate with so many, regardless of age.
Only a couple of days after our chat Holly Humberstone was nominated for an Ivor Novello award, deservedly. I could bombard her with countless superlatives but it wouldn’t do her justice — she’s already been embraced by this city, now it’s onto the next for the world awaits.