The alt-pop artist discusses her new EP and ever-growing fan-base.
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2021 is undoubtedly the year angsty-pop returned, and while many artists have contributed to the genre’s recent success, none have made a mark quite like Holly Humberstone. Sounding like the lovechild of Avril Lavigne and Lorde with a piercing, self-aware lyrical delicacy and a wisdom beyond her years, the 21-year-old prodigy emerged out of the pandemic’s torturous depths with an (ever-growing) cult-following, all rendered spellbound by her ethereal tone and emotive penmanship. Garnering industry-wide praise with the popular releases of her hypnotic singles “Scarlett” and “The Walls Are Way Too Thin”, Humberstone’s meteoric rise recently landed her in The Tonight Show’s career-making spotlight. “It was so cool, but it was very terrifying,” she shares of the experience. “It was the most terrifying thing that I think I’ve done so far because there was an audience and lots of cameras. I thought, ‘If I don’t get this in one go, it’s going to go out to the whole of America and everyone’s going to see it.’ But it was cool!”
Speaking to the artist about the release of her intimate EP, “The Walls Are Way Too Thin”, Humberstone talks about the inspirations behind her new EP and how her URL fans unexpectedly add up IRL.
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Erica Rana So, we’re on the set of your Wonderland shoot! Do you have a favourite look?
Holly Humberstone We’ve only done two so far but I think this is my favourite – it’s very punk-goth fairy!
ER I wanted to talk to you about your love for second-hand clothes. Can you tell us about setting up Fifth Sister Swap Shop?
HH It’s something that I set up over lockdown, and it was at the time where I was working more and I needed new clothes faster than I could source them. I have always shopped at charity shops with my sisters, and we swap and share our clothes all the time. So, I thought it would be a cool idea to start doing it online with fans. I was already doing it with my sisters, so I called it the Fifth Sister Swap Shop. Basically, I upload pictures of my old items onto Instagram and then people will DM me items that they want to swap them with.
ER So, let’s get onto music! Do you have a specific memory from when you first fell in love with music?
HH My parents were music-lovers and they had music playing all the time when we were growing up. I remember they had stacks of CDs, and I’d sit there and go through them all. I used to take the ones that I thought looked aesthetically pleasing, play them and get obsessed. I think that my first favourite was Damien Rice’s album O. I had no idea what he was talking about because I was probably like six! But there was something about the vulnerability in his voice and the lyrics.
ER Something that definitely informs your own sound today. Talking of which, you have your new EP out, what inspired it and how are you feeling about its release?
HH I’m really excited! I’ve had it for a long time and I’m one of those people that will get really bored of what they’ve made. But these are the few songs that have stood the test of time. This EP represents a feeling of being lost. It’s the kind of ‘lost’ that makes you question who you are and where you belong – so lost that someone might need to find you again because you can’t find yourself. That’s how it felt to move to Liverpool, then London, and being in transit between cities and never settling.
ER You also have your UK tour coming up, is that nerve-wracking?
HH I feel like I’ve done quite a lot of gigging this summer, and I think doing festivals is fun but it’s always like, ‘Will people show up to my set?’ I’ve done my first ever headline shows this summer, and it has been surreal to see people actually coming. Everything has been online this year, so it has been cool to watch the figures on Spotify or comments on YouTube, but it has been hard to feel like it was legit and realise that these are real people that aren’t just statistics!
ER What’s been the biggest standout moment in your career so far?
HH We did a four-night residency at Omeara – which I think was a record! I’ve never been able to put my own show on before, and it was strange to see people showing up and singing my words back to me. I put my first song out two weeks before we went into lockdown in the UK, so I’ve never had anything like that before. I don’t think there’s anything more inspiring than playing live and seeing people having a nice time to your music.