Maxim Meyer-Horn

24 Oct

SHYGIRL: “I Wanted to Make an Album That’s Eclectic and a Journey to Move Through”

The pop gods have answered our prayers because SHYGIRL finally released her long-awaited debut album ‘Nymph’ a few weeks back. The British singer has been a fixture of the underground pop scene for years, embracing her sensuality and not shying away from pouring her sexual feelings into songs. Her first full-length is a dreamier approach than we expected, but the basic values remain the same: exciting pop productions combined with incredible vocal productions. We spoke to one of the world’s most interesting artists to talk about her monumental debut and got a lot of surprising insights.

Your debut album Nymph finally arrived. What’s the main sentiment you have now that it’s out?

I’m actually very happy that it’s out. It’s nice to be able to talk about it with people that know what it sounds like. It was always weird trying to conceptualize the sound, and it’s nice that people can add to the conversation. It’s not just me describing what it’s going to be like and how personal it is to me. The album has more life now because other people are attached to it. It’s what I always wanted, and I like to have people engage with Nymph rather than have it for myself.

Nymph sees you dive into different soundscapes. What would you consider your main inspiration for Nymph?

I listen to a lot of different music, so there’s always going to be a genre-blending to how I make music. I listened a lot to Madonna, and she’s definitely someone who has lived in different eras and genres and played with different things while staying authentic. That’s something I only hope to do with my own music. It’s the benefit of being able to listen to other people’s careers in hindsight. I can consume all these decades of Madonna in just one session and can look at it as one whole rather than having to engage with it as it’s coming out.

That’s why—when I do my own music—it ends up being blended like that because I have been consuming all these different genres. For me, it’s the missing part of hearing it or all this mixed up together. Most people stick to one genre, but I lean into playing with it much more. That’s the space left empty for me. I don’t want to be too much in someone else’s name but want to make something unique. I like to fill the missing part and want to make something you may crave in the assets of it.

You worked with some of the biggest producers like Sega Bodega, Arca, or Mura Masa for this album. How did you curate the list of producers you wanted to collaborate with?

I was working with a lot of people trying a few different sessions. I loved all producers I worked with; I really enjoyed their company. When I met BloodPop, we had a session in LA, and we just wanted to see what happened without the intention to make something for the album. I returned to LA later with Sega with the intention of making this record, so I knew that I wanted to work with BloodPop again. This time, entering the session with intention, and I could only do that because we’d spent time getting to know each other. For me, that’s a really important part of the process of making a record. I wanted the record to include people that gave me space and believed in me. I wanted people to be part of my story, whom I admired not only for their talent but also for who they were as individuals. All the collaborations on this record are people I really value and give me the space to be myself, but also trust me, and I trust them. I’m grateful that some of them happen to be the greatest producers of our generation.

We were kind of surprised that “Cleo” isn’t on the album. Why did that song not make it on Nymph?

The thing with the album is that the stuff I made was with the album in mind. Even though some songs on the album are things I made in 2018, when I made them, I knew I wanted them to be on my first album. I made “Cleo” with the intention of it being in its own world. It didn’t need to be in any higher concept because it fulfilled its own prophecy. I did try and play with the idea of it being on the album, but in the end, it felt like I was forcing it into smaller confines than there was room for. The album tracks do their job, all complement each other, and help create this world for the album. I wanted to create a concise story with everything having a purpose. 

I’m playing with the idea of a deluxe version of the album that can extend the story of Nymph. When I was done pushing “Cleo”, I felt tired of the world “Cleo” gave me because it was actually so one emotion. I wasn’t always feeling that emotion, so I felt a bit trapped in the confines of it. I really try to embody the emotion of my songs authentically when I’m performing them, and I wasn’t in love with the person I was talking about and wanted to be happy all the time. The song was reminding me of a feeling that I wasn’t feeling, and it really pushed me to produce the album in a way that gave me more room to be myself and be myself on stage because I wasn’t feeling like that when I was doing “Cleo”. I kind of love the song again now because I have other emotions I can share on stage. It was really important for me in my journey, so I’d be happy to include it in a deluxe version, but I think it would be distractive from the story of Nymph if it was on the album. Especially because of how “Woe” works as an opener, it would have been difficult to put “Cleo” in. I didn’t want to compromise the song, and that was what it would have required if I was to put that in the tracklist. The long intro really required to be at the start of the album, but I felt like “Woe” tells the story better.

The songs have such a beautiful sensuality. What’s the origin of that energy?

Music gives me that space. Knowing that I have music makes the energy come out of me. I think I’m just a very sensual person in life, and it’s something that I gain power and affirmation from. Music is definitely part of that story, but knowing I have the space, I can lean into these parts of myself even more and let that grow and develop.

Before releasing Nymph, you released a few EPs. Did performing these earlier projects inspire the outcome of your first album?

I wasn’t really performing for a while and feel like I only started to perform intensely recently after the lockdown. That was kind of in the making of the album, but I think I made most of it before. Being vulnerable on stage definitely made me want to be more vulnerable in the music and in the studio. I knew how thrilling that was, and it was a new feeling I never really thought a lot about these states. Making music was more of an introspective space, and the stage isn’t always perceived as that. I love the spontaneity that the stage offers, and you have to be visibly accountable for your music and what you’re presenting. You have to put your body there, and I really wanted to be able to stand by the music I was making. I had to utilize the environment I was putting myself into, but the awareness of it was more after those two projects. Generally, I would say the projects helped me to become more confident and be a bit more experimental, or at least they did to me.

The artwork of the album is very dreamy. What does it reflect?

The artwork was quite divisive for some people because I can take a good picture—I know that. (laughs) I enjoy that, and I like being expressive in the photography that we do or in editorials. I’m very much involved in the creative, and I know how to get a good picture, but for me, I wanted the artwork to feel timeless. I didn’t want it to be inscribed to a certain time too much. I like this kind of watercolor effect that happens with the blur. It’s also quite reflective of where I was with the concept. I was still in the mist, and I needed the development of the album to reveal more of my intention that I was following an intuition. That’s why it’s slightly out of focus because it wasn’t defined yet, and it won’t be defined until you listen to the record. That’s why the single artworks were making more clarity each time because there’s more clarity in every single one of them before you engage with the record. I wanted there to be still some mystique about it, and that’s what the cover gives. To not be judged entirely by the cover was the goal. I know people live with it and have it, so I think they’ll appreciate the cover a bit more.

The visual aspect of the album is stunning as well. What’s the general mood the visuals should portray?

It’s kind of eclectic, but there has been growth. When you make an album with the intention to have every aspect complement each other and give color to a broader picture, it’s hard to then approach them individually. So it was quite difficult to do the singles and try to give people an idea of what the album was going to be. Once you release singles, you think of how they can work together. “Coochie” is, for example, completely different compared to “Shlut”, but that’s the point. I didn’t want an album with all the same types of tracks. I wanted to make an album that’s eclectic and a journey to move through. There’s a world that’s slightly more playful with “Coochie” being more fantastical, and “Shlut” had a darker, more grown aspect to it. I was touching on things from all the previous work and tried to accumulate them. “Nike” was, for example, made at the same time as “Tasty” but didn’t end up on ALIAS and instead became an album track.

What can we expect from your upcoming tour, which is your first bigger tour?

I will get more into a theatrical aspect compared to the festival, where the focus was more to introduce myself. I really want to showcase my ambition in this headline tour and was reflecting on how I can give you a new way to access the music that’s an extension of what you’re used to in my visuals online and everything. I wanted to make sure first that I was really standing on stage without having to rely on productions etc. before I wanted to move on to elevate the production, which will be the case for the tour.

‘Nymph’ is out on all platforms. SHYGIRL embarks on a European tour in December.

Pictures by Jacqueline Landvik, Samuel Ibram, and Angela Steps

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