HATC Magazine Issue 4 Ashe Interview

In a world, still, dominated by Zoom calls we spend a few moments wondering who’s internet has a personal vendetta, frankly, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is revaluating their broadband provider this year. Ashe joins me on a gloomy LA morning and as we talk about the City of Stars it seems only right to dive into her latest single at the time “Till Forever Falls Apart”, a track with a sweeping cinematic tone  oozing old Hollywood romance. Just not romace as we know it.

“Some people thought it was a love song.” She said “But really it’s about the love between you and your best friend, you and your mother, you and yourself. A more cemented deeper love. It was a less fragile love that I wanted to talk about. First and foremost, it feels like a friendship record and I hadn’t heard one that I really loved since Carole King, “You’ve Got A Friend”. And I was like, Okay, I got it. Right here.”

As I ponder how long it’s been since I’ve heard a song that tackles such an idea Ashe takes out a handwritten note from King herself. “It’s like my shrine to Carole.” And for a brief moment as a big fan of King, I die a little. “I think that the relationship that we have with ourselves is always deeply complicated, you’ve got yourself till, till you don’t. So it’s the deepest, closest relationship you will ever have. So I think that’s a really good observation, that you and others are finding about the track.”

If you’ve watched the music video to Ashe and Finneas’ duet you may recognise the references to the legendary friendship of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers as the pair dance apart, and together in a mix of tap, ballroom and ballet across the Californian desert. I was intrigued to know whether the video took some real training or if it was all spontaneity.

“We were such idiots! I texted Finneas, and was like ‘Hey, is it cheesy to dance together?’ in the music video, and he text back and he was like, “No, I think it’s adorable” in all caps. And I was like, cuz I secretly (not so secretly), really wanted to dance with him. Can you imagine how much fun that would be? It ended up being really fun. The original video treatment for the video was indoors. We were going to walk around this sort of soundstage. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Singin’ In The Rain with Gene Kelly. But there’s a moment when they’re in the soundstage and they walk around and they step on the ladder, and he’s singing to her and I wanted it to be that, that was like the original inspiration. And then, you know, we were in COVID and I didn’t know if it was safe enough to do it indoors, so we thought let’s do it outside since we have a crew. I felt like Finneas and myself, that we were already in each other’s quarantine pod, but the crew weren’t, so we ended up doing it outside. And because we didn’t have stage props in the whole soundstage design, the whole video relied on the dance. So the video went from only having a proportion of a dance to the entire video being a dance. So at the time, we bit off a lot more than we could chew.

He zoomed in to the rehearsal. I was there with a choreographer and he zoomed in like a crazy person. I was doing multiple tests before she and I met up to learn the routine. I was just like, I need her I can’t do this on over zoom I’m not as talented as you. We didn’t dance together until five days later, the day we shot the video. So it was crazy. I feel like it ended up being the entire day of us shooting being our rehearsal as we essentially did it in one take. I’m so proud of that video. And I think you can tell, you can see how much we love each other and how fun it was to dance with each other.”

Ashlyn is a real tribute to Ashe’s talent, power and versatility as a songwriter and performer. An album that is difficult to compare to anything stylistically, as she flirts with references ever so slightly she expertly manages to do something most debut artists struggle to. Authentically find their own sound. Each track is unabashedly vulnerable, whether it be telling the tale of a messy divorce or paying tribute to a brother sadly missed, they show a woman in the process of bouncing back from a broken heart. Listeners get the chance to not only understand Ashe a little better but also themselves.

“I think there’s a little bit of an underlying style to my writing that is always just a bit vulnerable. I think it’s the only way I know how to communicate. I expect that in return from my friends when I talk to them, there’s sort of understanding that if I’m going to be vulnerable with you, then I expect it back. That’s what I want from other people. So I think it has always been an underlying theme to my music. I think “Moral Of The Story” really hammered that home initially, I wanted to play with a call and response thing, but I also wanted that to make up the chorus and I wanted it to be the whole melody. I felt like again I’d bit off more than I could chew. We painted with so many fun colours in that song that there was an interesting contrast so I could get really real and vulnerable in the lyrics.”

While I too believe in the power of embracing vulnerability, I can often be all mouth and no trousers.  It’s an endless struggle to be so open in a world that scrutinises so closely and shamelessly, every slight weakness. It’s a testament to Ashe authenticity and character that letting my guard down with her felt the easiest it’s ever been. Within moments I feel safe in her company, while she praises my candour, it’s because of the safe space she created with me, just like the one she created with her fans.

“I think it’s very rare to be so openly vulnerable, so I can appreciate that you have been that with me. It’s tough because not everyone is safe, but you are in control and you get to decide who you feel is safe. And if it’s not safe, at the end of the day, you tried. Even if I share my story with someone who I feel might take advantage of it or twist it or not believe me it’s still on you, how you respond to their reaction. So if you feel like you’re in a place that is emotionally tough to handle whatever they’re going to come back with and still keep it vulnerable. I think that’s very admirable.”

The global pandemic was catastrophic for many industries but especially live music and events. We’ve all been longing for gigs and tours to return and stages to be lit up again. In the second UK lockdown, we got as close as we could for quite some time when Niall Horan played a virtual concert for #WENEEDCREW at the Royal Albert Hall. The gig itself was reviewed in our second issue which you can read online now, but the undeniable highlight of the night was Ashe’s surprise appearance as she and Horan delivered a lovely intimate performance of their emotional ballad.

“It was the first time I actually got to sing it live” as she shows me a poster Niall gifted her on the day, another musical memento I’m incredibly jealous of. “Isn’t this really cute. I haven’t hung it yet. I just still can’t believe me, this little Californian got to perform there. It’s like, only UK royalty should be allowed in. I was like, Adele, she can go in there, maybe if you’re gonna let an American in it would be like Barbra Streisand. I was very humbled by the experience, it was such an empty room, but it was magical.

I was very much in two minds about it because it would have been so fun to sing to a Royal Albert Hall full of people, but it was also really beautiful and eerie to be singing to an empty hall. It was really magical. The last song I think he played was “Flicker’” and I was sitting on the side watching as there were 360-degree cameras and I was like hiding in a corner so it wouldn’t see just sobbing. I was so moved and humbled by the whole experience it was so cool. Even if there wasn’t anyone there I don’t think you should rule that out in the future. You’ve done it once. You can do it twice. That’s my attitude.”

The current global situation is surely not an ideal one for an artist about to drop their debut album. There’s no press junkets, world tour and late-night talk show performances to create big buzz. I wondered if COVID had dampened her release spirits.  “I wanted more time. I feel as though I’ve never felt this vulnerable. I’m already such a wearer of my heart on my sleeve with my writing, you know, I’ve always been that way. With every release, I’m typically like, go out into the world, my child, find who loves you, let them play you over and over and do your thing. I think I just have such high expectations. And maybe that’s my own thing that I probably need to work around. But I’ve never been this nervous or something.” 

I ask if putting her work out into the world had brought her a sense of solace? “I think music always has a way of being therapy. If I experience something in my life, I’ve got to grab it and write about it. There’s this Joni Mitchell quote, which I’ve quoted so many times that people are gonna think I’m just like a stalker for hers. But she talks about herself like a Bee. She goes out into the world, and she collects stories like pollen, and goes home, and then writes a song like as if it’s honey, and she’s like, I just have to, that’s my own particular brand of honey, if that flavour doesn’t suit everyone, that’s not my responsibility, that’s out of my control. That’s exactly what I want to say. With this album and “Moral Of The Story” it was this way, you obviously hope that people are gonna like your flavour of honey, you want them to love it, but I’m not a fictitious writer, I write from my life, I write from my own experiences. So I think that’s what makes it even scarier because I’m not writing music get a high out of it, or writing from a formula to try and get the maximum amount of people to love the song. I’m just writing my life down.”

“When “Moral …” started to go out I was in an amazing place, I was really digging into the album. February, March, April, May, June, July, that was when we went hard with writing. The world was validating my truth, you know, the world was saying, ‘Hey, you got really vulnerable on a song and we want more of that’. So, I was in a place where I was like, let’s get vulnerable. Once the album was finished, and we were starting to promote it and slowly rolling out a couple of songs my mental health took a decline. I wasn’t paying much attention to it, I used to journal almost every morning but at this point, I wasn’t doing that. I was getting so sucked into how do I make this album? How do I give it what it deserves, pouring more energy into it? My mental health definitely took a decline, and it’s still not in a100% place right now. I don’t mean that to be like, ‘worry about me’. Not at all. I’m fine. But I just want to be completely transparent. It’s something I need to pay more attention to right now especially before the world really opens up and the tour begins. But I know, I know, the things that are good for me.

A priority lately has been thinking about the things that fill me up that don’t have to do with my career. Things that have nothing to do with music. Obviously, music is where so much of my joy and my identity comes from but when that’s wrapped up in your career, and what pays your rent, all of that gets very tricky. And I’ll say, the more fans, the tougher it gets because it feels there’s more pressure, and there are more eyes on you watching and waiting for you to slip up. It’s definitely confusing territory. I’ve really had to lean into people like Niall and Finneas and just people who have been through it.”

As we talk about the pressures of working so publically in this industry I can’t help but think about the idea of the struggling artists that gets pushed around and forced down rising stars throats so often. The idea that you have to struggle and suffer for your art, you have to be great or awful with no middle ground ignores the murky grey reality of being a musician just as we often ignore the murky grey reality of mental illness. I wondered whether Ashe felt the same and if pouring these extremes of emotions into her music may be causing harm.

“Honestly, it’s the truth. A lot of musicians say, ‘Oh, my God, you know, my therapy is music’ and I think that’s wonderful. But I do think when it’s also your job, you have to almost dissociate from that because you can’t constantly be in that space. That’s like staying in your office working 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It’s not healthy.

It’s like if a banker was like, my therapy is banking. I mean, there’s an aspect of it right and the music is always pretty therapeutic but that is a piece of this massive puzzle that makes up Ashe. I’m basically one of my managers, it’s a joke between my managers that I’m the third manager because I am involved in every conversation from creative. Every artist should be involved in every ounce of the creative aspect and I think it’s part of the reason why I’ve taken a little bit of a nosedive, and I’m having to learn how to delegate and what to prioritise over other stuff. It was exhausting. I think it’s what keeps you with your feet on the ground. I think if you can remain grateful for the tough days and the good ones. I think that’s what keeps me from absolutely losing my mind.”  

It’s a relief to see her feet are firmly on the ground and she is aware of the positive changes she needs to make in the future, will this mean a change in approach when making the next album?

“That’s such a good question. I think that honestly, I’m going to carry all the honesty into the next album because as exhausted as I am already, imagine if I was pretending to be somebody else, or not sharing my own stories, or not being me. How much more exhausting would that be. If the world expected me to be someone I’m not, or expected me to write songs that I don’t like I would be a shell. I’ve been talking to some other friends of mine that are artists and they’re asking me, ‘how do you did you develop your brand? Like, how did you get to this place where it feels so solidified? And I was like, I appreciate that you think it’s a brand, but I’m really just being me. This is the way I dress, this is what I like to wear. The photos I take are the photos I like to take. The way I talk is the way I’ve been talking since I was seven. My writing is very honest, it’s the way I’ve always been and I was this way before the “Moral Of The Story”

I’m just trying to keep to that and staying honest and staying real, you know, the second you see me in a bikini on Instagram - that’s not to say that people can’t take photos if that’s you, then own it, you’ll do it better than me because that’s not my vibe - but if you see me doing that, you know that I’ve hit the bottom, I’m no longer myself. Not to shame anyone. I mean Finneas’s girlfriend, Claudia Sulewski, every time she posts one I’m like, drooling. She’s being her. And it’s authentic. And that’s why it works. And that’s why it is so gorgeous. Imagine living in a world where you have to keep pretending every day. It’s just not me.”

As I sign off from our conversation the thing I take away is how throughout that entire interview Ashe was nothing but her authentic self and it was nothing short of beautiful. I feel I speak for us all when I say we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Words: Alice Gee

Stylist: Cristina Acevedo

HATC Magazine Issue 3 Thaddea Graham

Let’s start with some wisdom Thaddea Graham shared at the start of our chat. “Trees! Oh My God, I learned this really cool thing about trees. Trees are incredible, they take what they need no more, and they give back to the forest floor to help each other. They communicate and they help each other grow. I think we can do that in life. It costs nothing to be kind at all. Just help each other and be gentle and patient and be curious. Be more like trees.”

Throughout this lovely chat with Thaddea, the 23-year-old, Northern Irish actress and star of the new Netflix series The Irregulars,  I was constantly inspired by her enthusiasm for life, her love of music and photography, as well as the joys of acting. From the comfort of her Cardiff hotel room (which she is staying in for another project), she fills me in on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock inspired series.

“The Irregulars is set in the very familiar world of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s not another spin-off of that. What we really focus on is the little gang of The Irregulars. My character Bea is the leader of this little gang and we live underneath this pub and pay rent to Mrs Hudson. So, we do have those very familiar iconic characters in the show but it’s more about the gang and how they navigate the world.”

Bea has been a mother figure to her sister Jessie since their mother died when she was three. Needing money Bea accepts a job from Watson, a close friend of Holmes. Asking more about what her character goes through in the series, Thaddea dove into the themes covered throughout this mysterious show full of investigation and discovery.

“The biggest one is grief and what that does to a person and if you do not address it, how it can really start to eat away at you and, I think, that is very important to talk about. Grief is something we all, unfortunately, will deal with at some time in our lives and within the past year especially, we are all feeling it a lot more intensely. I don’t think there is a wrong way to grieve as long as you deal with it at some point. I think that is a really important message that a lot of people will take comfort in.”

“You don’t actually have to deal with these things by yourself, there are always people around you, even if you feel like you are not ready to talk about it, there are always going to be there in their own way. I don’t know if this is a spoiler but there’s a line in the very final episode, I think it is, that she says, ‘it wasn’t the grieving that hurt us, it was that we didn’t grieve’ I think that’s so articulate in such a small amount of words it just phenomenal.”

Before The Irregulars, Thaddea was in two other hit 2020 series, the BBC’s Us  and Netflix’s The Letter for the King, where she got to stretch her acting chops portraying two strikingly different characters from herself. 

“Iona (The Letter for the King) is a lot more badass than me which was a lot of fun to play. She’s more confident and self-assured and doesn’t care what other people think. She will walk into a room and tell you exactly what she thinks whereas I would go in and go ‘sorry um…maybe I…I think this may be?’ I’m a lot more apologetic than she is.”

We chatted about the pandemic and how we had both completely forgotten when each lockdown started and ended, and what lockdown was like for her being an actress.

“With Irregulars, we were 2 weeks away from wrap when COVID hit and we got shut down as preliminary ‘go home for 2 weeks and we’ll see you after that.’ So, I only packed my bags for 2 weeks to go home, then 6 months later I was thinking, ‘I did not bring enough clothes for this.’

“We got told we going to come back with all these protocols, and I felt very grateful through the first lockdown to know that in the back of my head, I 

have two weeks to complete on that job and I felt very fortunate for that as the industry just ground to a stop and it was terrifying, and everything was so up in the air and I just felt very grateful that I had something that was needing to be completed.”

Thaddea then revealed what was the hardest part of the pandemic for her as an actress, “So much of my job is going into rooms and meeting people and to have that taken away has been quite isolating. We send off self-tapes all the time, now, instead of going into a room for castings. So, you’re sitting by yourself with someone on the phone reading in the lines and you’re sending off tape, after tape, after tape and it can feel like you’re just screaming into a void and getting nothing back.”

It’s strange. When Thaddea was discussing how her job has flipped upside down, going from being very social to not, I realised that as a journalist, I’d done the majority of it over Zoom and couldn’t think of the last time I interviewed someone in person. Being social is something we are both looking forward to being again. I asked what she was excited for when restrictions are lifted, “Just, you know, spend the time with people in a room and just talk and not be scared of making the other person feel uncomfortable either, I’m really excited for that. just simple things. Being able to walk down the street and not be so scared of getting close to people. It’s just human interaction I suppose.” 

I scrolled through Thaddea’s Instagram (@thaddeagraham) a few days before the interview and found many videos of her performing original songs she had written. I ask about her music and if it something she would like to do more in the future.

“My music is a massive theory for me as I’m not the best at articulating myself in terms of how I’m feeling a lot of the time. I’m in a hotel room at like 3 am going ‘oh my god, I’m so stressed.’ No one’s awake to talk to, so I put it into a song. I look back at all my music and I see it’s almost like a diary which is terrifying to me but to anyone else, there’s a song about being on a plane. So, I’d really like to do that properly, but I don’t know how.”

A little track titled ‘Try’ stood out the most, her sheer joy in performing, the warmth in her voice and her great storytelling makes it a pleasure to watch and listen to. Thaddea tells me the origins of the song came from a chat with a friend.

“We were talking about gratitude and how it really frustrates me. Our industry is so tough. Some so many people want to be in it, that want to do it, and it irritates me when I see people who are fortunate enough to be in the job, whatever aspect that is, and who just don’t care and don’t appreciate the fact they are lucky to be there. There are so many people that want to do it, you’re just sitting there half arsing it. Don’t do that. Why are you here if you aren’t going to give it everything?”

“Our industry is so creative and so many people are doing it because they love it so when I come across someone who is floating through, someone who is not trying their best when everyone else is working their arses off, it really frustrates me. You don’t need to be at the top of your field, I don’t need you to be amazing, I don’t need you to be incredible, I just want you to try. Even if you try and it doesn’t work out, you’ve done your best. That’s all anyone can ask for. So, we were having that conversation and that song came from it.”

“On Irregulars, we were together for so long. We spent like a year together, so I was able to snap loads of little photos and then print them off and then give them to the crew as little wrap gifts and so many of them said ‘I have never had a photo of me at my job because nobody wants to take it. “I was like ‘Oh my God, but it’s so cool and so exciting for me to see you doing what you do.’ They never expect it either, so they are not posing, they’re just doing their job. I love seeing them so engrossed and so focused.”

At Head Above the Clouds, our main focus is better mental health, and I asked Thaddea what mental health means to her and how/ if she’s been affected by it over the past year, during the pandemic “I think everyone has mental health struggles and I think everyone’s journey with that is different naturally it will peak, and it will drop, it’s a constant kind of wave, as cheesy as that sounds.”

“It definitely dipped at times and at the start, I definitely put this pressure on myself to constantly be doing something. I thrive in the environment when there are a hundred things to do in a day and when that all stopped, it was very abrupt.” 

“Something I learned over lockdown is how to be patient with myself. You don’t have to be doing things all the time. Sometimes I woke up and all I wanted to do was lay and watch Netflix and that’s absolutely fine. Some days I woke up and I was like ‘I need to write, I need to write this music, I need to write this story, I need to do this,’ and that was great as well. To have the time and the space to do whatever version of that it was, I felt very fortunate for that.” 

Thaddea is most definitely a huge positive force of energy and maybe we should follow in her footsteps and all “be more like trees”.  

The Irregulars is available to stream on Netflix from 26th March.

Words: Meg Atkinson

Photographer: Betty Martin

Stylist: Alice Gee

HATC Magazine Issue 4 L Devine

I catch up with the wonderful L Devine over zoom to get the inside scoop on the past year, what we should keep an eye out for, and her new single “Girls Like Sex”.

Hi, how you doing?

I’m good. How are you? Doing good?

Good. Good. Are you up north?

Yeah, I’m just outside of Newcastle down by the coast in this place called North Shields. I don’t know if you know it, but it’s lovely.

Have you been there for the whole pandemic?

Yeah, I was in London before that, I’ve lived there for like four years and just before the pandemic, I thought I’ll just dump my stuff at my Mum’s house, and then obviously all of this happened. So luckily, I did get out of London just before. But then I ended up falling back in love with Newcastle and I ended up staying and getting a place of my own.

I mean, London has not been great, I kind of fell out of love with it a little bit in the pandemic. I thought, do my move back because I grew up in the countryside. But now I’ve fallen back in love with it again.

Yeah, exactly. During the pandemic, I was so glad I’m here. But now things are open. And I’m like, gosh, I just want to be with all my mates in London. Enjoying the two degrees warmer than it is up in Newcastle.

Where did the progression of music come from? Has it been since you were a little kid? 

I got into music, really young. When I was probably about seven years old, I got a guitar for Christmas. I had this best friend called Niall who was cool and into punk music and played instruments, but he was really shy and I was a confident kid, so I just did all the things he did but shouted about it. So I kind of owe it all to him. We started a little band when we were seven called Safety Pins. Then I completely dropped music as soon as I got to high school, I just did that typical thing where anything that could be deemed uncool I thought, okay, not touching this. In primary school, I would be burning CDs and handing out all my music, if that followed me at high school, it probably would have been even worse than it already was. Then, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do when I leave school, I thought, okay, that is really what has always been in you, so I picked it back up, thank God.

I think that’s quite a normal progression, when I got to around my second year of uni, other things sort of took over, I just think it’s time has got to be right. I think it’s natural to leave it and come back to it, that’s quite healthy.

Yeah, it takes a lot of confidence to do it, so, you have got to make sure you’re ready.

So you’ve just released a brand new single (Girls Like Sex”). I would imagine it’s been in the works for a while with COVID

Well, I was always planning to release stuff, but, it was a huge change in plans for everyone. I’ve been working on the songs for the body of work that’s coming after the single, for quite some time. It’s been around three years since I last released a body of work which is pretty crazy, you forget how much you miss people telling you that you’re good. I know that sounds vain, but it does kind of take a toll, for example when nothing is out and you don’t have people saying ‘I like this song’, I feel like ‘Is any of this good?’ So It is so nice to announce it and get reassured that people are still excited to hear the music. I made that tune; Girls Like Sex”, over a year ago, just before the pandemic. Then in February, I managed to squeeze in a little trip to LA.

 I think that’s part of not feeling relevant, especially with social media, maybe that is because I am getting older, but I feel like everything moves at such a fast pace. If you’re not putting things out, or even posting images or whatever you may feel like, you feel that people just aren’t interested. 

Yeah, totally. You’re either not posting feel irrelevant, or you are posting too much and feel like, am I bombarding people? Yeah, it’s a storm.

Do you record often in LA?

When we were allowed to travel, I was going probably every two months. I managed to just get a two-week trip in right before the pandemic, I love working out there because it can feel as though I’m on holiday. I think when you work away, It feels like a work trip, so I have to get my head down. That’s what I like about living in Newcastle and travelling to London to go to the studio.

It must be exciting as well. The new track plays as a homage to the 80s. But we still have the same gender stereotypes around sex that existed back then, which is something the song touches on.

Yeah, totally. It’s all about just reclaiming my sexuality. It’s been a lot of fun to delve into the visual side of things. We have done little vignettes that aim to all take the piss out of sexuality tropes and reclaim those, then we did one that was a pillow fight, to mock those really cliché, nineties pillow fights with all the sexy girls. Then at the end, the camera pans down and I’m suffocating this bloke, I really just wanted to do some funny shit like that. Also, as a queer artist, I feel it is really important to have songs about sex as well. I think that’s still a taboo for some people, and I think queer artists and queer icons have always been the type of artists that have never been afraid to talk about sex in a liberating way, and they get rid of a lot of the shame around it. And also, it is just a fun tune, so it does the best of both.

I think you are right there with the taboo and I think that is why both straight and Queer artists write tracks that can be very heteronormative with regards to pronouns etc.

With regards to that, I’ve actually only got around three or four songs where I explicitly refer to female pronouns, when I am referring to a love interest. I feel that’s just because I’ve just recently, in the past couple of years, got to the point where I’m comfortable enough to do that. Now, you know, I don’t give a shit if it’s going to hinder how people perceive the music and see me as an artist, because that’s my truth. That’s what I’m going to write about. I’m writing about girls when I’m talking about love. For a while, I tried to just not touch the pronouns and leave them ambiguous, so people can relate to them. But, I think that makes it less relatable because it feels untrue.

Personally, I don’t think that it should make it unrelatable. I never listen to a song and find it unrelatable because they use same sex pronouns?

I agree, but I don’t understand straight people! I think, growing up looking at pop artists and the music that they make, I wondered when I was younger if I was going to have to pretend that I’m at least bisexual, so I can still appeal to men. Those were genuine thoughts that went through my head when I was around the age of 15. I’d look at pop stars around me and I’d think to myself, okay, none of these women are gay. So there was always a kind of fear in the back of my head, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve become way more comfortable and now realise the importance of portraying and showing my sexuality through my music and how much that means to other people as well.

As you said, like you at the age of 14 probably could have done artists like yourself being around. I think this new wave of young artists are representing something that makes it easier for someone to be a bit more open with themselves. So I think that’s a great way to go. And you’ve done some collaborations with Tinie Tempah?

Yeah, I did. So I jumped on a track with Tiny and a DJ called Torren Foot, and that was cool. It was so fun to do. I’ve never jumped on a track before and been a feature, so it was a great time to do it because I was busy finishing off my project and I hadn’t released music for a while, and yeah, it was just nice to delve into something different. I’m a fan of all music, and I’ve never really shown that I like dance music. And so it was cool. I mean, he’s a legend as well. I grew up with him on the radio.

He’s definitely a legend. I mean, he’s one of those artists that just doesn’t age musically. 

Yeah, so sick. Well, it’s funny though, because, on the video that we did together, they had him in prosthetics that made him look really old. So that was probably the oldest we’ll ever see him I don’t think he’ll even look like that when he’s a granddad. When he’s actually old.

So you’ve got this body of work coming out in two parts. I guess there is probably your own reason to split it. When is the plan to release the second part? I’m not rushing you but do you know what’s the plan with it yet? 

It’s all ready to go, so the plan is we’ll just keep rolling out the songs and keep putting new music out. I’ve got the tour in September so I definitely want all the music to be out before then so fans can learn the songs and I can perform the old songs too. It’s really exciting as I haven’t released this many songs ever. I think the fans have guessed that there’s an EP coming, but they don’t know there’s a second part. So, I’m really excited for when they finally find out about that.

Are you able to share your experience with Mental Health and your opinions around it?

Where do I even begin? It is hard to talk about because I think it’s hard to talk about things in hindsight when you’re also actively going through them. I haven’t talked that much about mental health on social media ever, and, it’s not because I don’t want to or I don’t care about it. It’s because a lot of the time I feel like a hypocrite, I don’t want to come on my phone and tell people it’s okay not to be okay, when 10 minutes later I may be chucking my phone across the room because I don’t want to go on any of the apps. After all, they are sometimes what make me have poor mental health.  Over the past 18 months especially, in lockdown, the amount of time that I think young people have spent on their phones is worrying, these things can become a cesspool of comparing yourself to people which can get dangerous as I think you don’t realise it’s happening. I can only speak from my perspective in the music industry, and so I guess people will go through loads of different troubles depending on where they work, but there’s definitely an element where artists sometimes self-sabotage to get art, which can be really sick and twisted. There is a danger that you will let yourself get to really vulnerable places, just so that you can write about it. And being a young woman in the music industry, particularly being 19 when I signed my record deal and being totally naive to like how things work you can be even more vulnerable to that. In hindsight, I wish that there was more support. I hope there’s more support for girls that age, well, anyone all who’s getting signed to a major record label now and all the trials and tribulations that come with that. There must be some sort of mentorship or therapy or, in a sense, life coaching that’s offered to these people in the music industry. I do worry about girls getting signed at that age and going through some of the things that I went through. There definitely needs to be some sort of support offered if there isn’t already. 

It’s funny you say that because it is a really vulnerable age. I know from my own experience, that was kind of where I was heading, I wasn’t in a good place around that age and my dad felt like, this is a disaster waiting to happen, pull back from it, because there wasn’t and, as far as I am aware, still isn’t much support there.

Yeah, I had a conversation with someone I work with at the label about it the other day and he said there is help you can get. So I said, I should have been told about that then because as an artist, I know for a fact, I would never go to the label and say; ‘This is something that should be offered to all artists.’ It shouldn’t have to get to the point where you hold your hands up and say; “I need help”. The help should be there before you even need it.

I’m not surprised, these people are the ones who put these contracts together who can also terminate them at any time. Besides, if you don’t fit that idea of productivity, and making money for them, I am not surprised people don’t want to go up to them and say they aren’t well.

I think there is also a shame and embarrassment that you carry with it, I wouldn’t want the people that I want to champion me and help me with my career ever know that I’m not in a good space and not on the ball and not ready to work. You feel you have so much to prove to these people and you put all this pressure on yourself, so it adds to the pressure where I don’t want anyone to see me slip up or think that I can’t do it anymore. But, if you don’t get the help and reach out, you will likely get to the point where you aren’t able to carry on because you have been suffering in silence.

There’s a big difference between your job and how you’re feeling. You know, just because you’re not feeling well, that does not mean you aren’t good at your job. Over the years I found when I feel I’m unwell or generally just struggling it means that I’m not good at what I do when that is not the case. We briefly went over this earlier, that you’re a big champion when it comes to being truly you, your sexuality and your music. Now, when you talk about it in your personal life, which can’t be easy when it comes to the world we live in, how have you found that fits in with your mental health?

One hundred percent and it’s weird, because I went to therapy a few years ago, and I really brushed over it. I think I went in and had other things that I wanted to sort out. Coming out was fine but it’s only in the past couple of years that I realized the shame that I carried with my sexuality when I was younger. Even though in some regard I had a pleasant experience coming out, my family were amazing with me, so when you think of really horrible coming out stories, I can’t even compare what I went through to stuff that other people go through. Some people are living in really unsafe homes and have to hide who they are, and I didn’t go through any of that. So in a way, I was kind of like: “Ah, I had it really good”. Now I realise the way I act around people and the way I am in relationships has a lot to do with the shame I carried around my sexuality when I was younger. If I had a crush on my friend, it wouldn’t just be: “I’ve got a crush on my friend”. It’s like: “oh my god, I’ve got a crush on my friend. I’m such a creep. They’ll think I’m so weird. I’m disgusting”. And you think you’ve let that go but deep down inside there is still that part of me in there, in any relationship. There’s a lot of stuff still to unpack. And even if you think something’s hasn’t affected you, I think it almost always probably has, and you should definitely go and just talk through it all with someone. Having perspective and self-awareness has really helped me to take the blame off myself and the pressure off myself regarding how I act in certain situations, not to point fingers at people but I think it does. It gives you a bit of ease when you can say: “oh, this is why I’m like that, you know?”

One hundred per cent I think you’re right when it comes to brushing over things. It’s quite common to just be like: “oh, that was fine. It doesn’t really matter”. In hindsight, you’re like: “oh sh*t”.

 That’s what trauma is, though! When trauma happens you don’t notice that it happens. And then it’s 10 years later you only just realise it. I found an email I sent to my school a few years ago, I wrote this song called ‘Daughter’ about a situation I was in with a girlfriend and a mum who didn’t approve of our relationship, and I found an email that I’d written to the school asking them for help. They didn’t reply, I’m glad things like that have really changed now.

That’s crushing!

Just throwing that in there. But it is ironic, because I’ve done talks on sexuality for the school now, and I didn’t even remember that had happened. And I found that was a bit hypocritical and it is a bit sh*t. But yeah [laughs].

I think that you’re doing the right thing. It’s bittersweet. With my bipolar, I’ve been in so many situations where now I can be like: “well, that’s double standards there”. I guess the only thing you’ve got to do is be pleased that your kids won’t have to go through that. It’s awful people have to go through these things, but if we can prevent this for other people in the future that’s the thing to take solace in.

You’re so right, you’re so right.

Do you want to talk about your podcast before we jump off.

Yeah, I haven’t done it in a while, I wrapped the second series last year but as soon as all this music out I’m going to get it back onto the world. It’s called Growing Pains, all my songs are written about coming of age I’m really fascinated by that period of life. I find other people’s stories of adult transition, and adolescence really interesting as well, so I just grab friends and family and we talk about all their experiences. And then in the next series, I got other musicians and influencers and people that I think are just genuinely cool. It’s surprising how therapeutic it is, it is almost like a therapy session. You go in and you talk about your childhood and all the fucked up shit that happened to you and why it makes you who you all are now and that’s essentially what it is. So, yeah, pretty relevant. I mean, people look at high school and be like: “oh, I remember the carefree days”. And I’m like, I remember it being a living fucking hell.

I absolutely love that. Thank you so much for talking to us. 

Thank you so much for chatting with me. It’s been lovely. 

’Girls Like Sex” is out now

Words: Alice Gee

Write up: Eden Hurley

Photography: Hayley Louisa Brown

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