Maxim Meyer-Horn

16 Nov 2020

Holly Humberstone: “My EP Is A Little Time Capsule of The Past Year”

Without having a single song out, Holly Humberstone performed at Glastonbury and toured with Lewis Capaldi during his European arena tour. The British singer is still a fresh face in the busy music industry but is taking time to develop herself as an artist. Her first big step was the release of her debut EP Falling Asleep At The Wheel, which put the young talent in a frontrunner position to have her big breakthrough in 2021. We had a Zoom-call with the upcoming talent and used the opportunity to look back and forward.

Many people can’t wait for 2020 to be over, but it was a big year for you. How would you summarize the past eleven months?

I’d say it was a weird year. It’s been a whole mix of emotions for me, and I’m sure for everyone else as well. I’m so grateful for this year and how it worked out, to be honest. All the opportunities I had, I wouldn’t have got if it weren’t for the lockdown and the coronavirus, but I would have loved to tour the EP. I’m sure that our current situation will make room for other opportunities when everything is back open and give me the chance to actually perform more music to hopefully a few more people. I’m just really looking forward to next year.

Reflection is the key to growth. Are you someone who often looks back or do you prefer to look forward?

I definitely look more into the future than I look back, which is probably a good thing. This year has been very important for me and for my self-growth that I wouldn’t really have an opportunity to stop and think about stuff as deeply as I have during the lockdown. I’m usually on the go all the time and am a really busy person, so this year has given me the chance to sit back and think about what I want to achieve, who I want to be, and don’t want to be.

With all the political things going on, it’s given me the opportunity to realize that I want to be better at that sort of thing. I want to stand for something, so it’s definitely been a year of growth. I’ve taken my time to see into the future and thought about what needed to happen to achieve that.

You’ve written your debut EP Falling Asleep At The Wheel over two years. What made you struggle at first?

The EP took so long because it was my first piece of music, and when I started writing for the EP, I was probably 18 or something. I just knew that I wanted to make music, I could write songs pretty well, and that it is what I want to do. But there’s so much going on behind the scenes for every artist and every project people maybe don’t even know about.

I started writing and moved to London, where I wrote with different people and producers. Having the opportunity to do that, helped me shape who I am, and I could take things from different people who I really like. I learned the craft of songwriting a bit better and improved. It took two years for me to really figure out what sort of music I wanted to create, and I remember writing every song on the EP. It’s nice to have the project as a time capsule of everything that has been going on in those two or three years. I know who I am now and am excited to write more by exploring within my little world that I made. It was a fun process, and I definitely wrote some awful songs as well, but that needs to happen.

Would you consider the EP a coming-of-age project?

I feel like it is because it has been written during some crucial years, my late teens, and early twenties. Lots of life-changing moments happened to me like finishing school and going to uni. I moved away from my family to Liverpool, which is by UK standards quite far from where I live, and that was really hard for me. I had a rubbish time at uni and felt that it wasn’t for me, so I moved to London which was very scary and weird because I’m a real ‘home’ girl. That stuff along with relationships and things going on with my friends is all something I needed to process in some way.

I found out that my outlet to process these things was writing, and it became an important part of my life just for my mental health and to work out all the different things that have been going on around me. I still write for myself, and it’s my coping mechanism, so my EP is definitely a coming-of-age thing, and I can hear it in my tracks. I’m very truthful in everything that I write, and I’m always reliving the feelings when I listen to these songs.

A lot of media outlets are championing you as ‘the next big thing’. How overwhelming is that label?

I guess I put pressure on myself as it is, so I don’t think it’s much of a difference. It’s actually more encouraging because people are really liking what I’m doing and it makes me feel like I can trust myself or that I’m not completely shit. I don’t have a lot of self-confidence and apart from social media, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet anyone out there that loves my music besides my dad. Instagram DMs are the closest I got to interacting with people so that feels a bit weird.

As I already said, I write for myself and need to be honest in my writing because it’s my way of processing stuff. The reason why people are resonating with it is that I’m singing about my unfiltered thoughts. I write about universal topics that everyone can relate to, so it’s definitely validating that people are backing me and love the things I’m doing. I can’t wait to get out there and meet people in real life.

You play the guitar and the piano. Does that give you another perspective on music?

It’s very important for me to be able to play an instrument. I’m no expert in either of those instruments, but my parents motivated me to play music and get creative as well, like you’re doing your homework. I was very lucky to have supportive parents that encouraged me to do creative things, and it helped me in my writing process. I always start off with a guitar or piano, so it’s important but not essential for songwriting.

You’ve already performed at Glastonbury and toured Europe before you had a song out. Did that help you prepare for the hype that is building around you?

I did a big European tour with Lewis Capaldi, who was obviously on a way bigger scale than I did before. I had no music out, and I was pretty much doing only small tours in the UK as support. Going from doing that to performing in front of 12.000 people was a huge jump. I played all my sets solo because it was easier, but it was terrifying as well. That experience made me realize that I wanted that for myself too, and it was such a great learning experience for me. Having other artists around me that know what it’s like to have music out and have fans, was really useful. I could see that they’re just humans as well, and they’re still very normal.

The most beautiful thing about music is that it unites so many different people. Do you witness that as an artist too?

It’s extremely rewarding for me to receive messages on Instagram from people who express that it’s their favorite song or tell me that they have been through the same thing. I’m so happy that I can help someone in such a small way. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t filter when I write my lyrics and basically have a conversation with someone about how I feel. That’s probably why people are connecting to it, and that’s an amazing feeling.

Why did you shoot all the video clips for this project near the place you grew up?

My EP is a little time capsule of the past years. A lot of the songs were written on this piano, in this room I’m sitting in now or at my childhood home where I grew up, which is way far out into the countryside in the UK and is really old and not in a good shape. But it’s the place where I’ve grown up and where all the things happened that I’m writing about. That’s why we wanted to do all the videos here as well, so everything was filmed in the countryside and it was really nice to stay in my personal environment.

The “Deep End” video clip was literally shot in front of my front door, and we used my dad’s car in “Falling Asleep At The Wheel”. I love all the videos because they all fit into the same world and match perfectly with this project. By the way, it’s literally funny how I’m singing about falling asleep at the wheel when I’m not even able to pass the driving test. (laughs)

You released a short movie called On The Run. What’s the concept of that project?

We only filmed it a week prior to the release, but we had the idea for so long. With everything going on with covid, we had to wait until we were allowed to legally shoot the short movie. Since we aren’t able to do any live shows, we have to create our own occasions. I wanted to do a whole performance of the songs that are on the EP in one space, so we found this really old paper mill, which is the oldest paper mill in the world, one hour out of London. The guy who works there told us that there were three ghosts, so it was kind of scary but most of all very cool.

We wanted to make it look as if I was still on the run since the “Drop Dead” video and people are looking for me. It’s been really cool to do performances our own way, we wouldn’t be able to do that if it was a live show. We were able to do it the way we wanted and get the songs really good. I’m excited about my next body of work, and this will be a pretty good bookend for my first EP, so I can start releasing new songs for my second project.

Are we already talking about an album?

It’s going to be another EP. There are so many songs I’m already excited about because I outgrow my songs pretty quickly, so I’m more excited about the coming projects for sure.

Pictures by Phoebe Fox

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