Holly

Holly

Humberstone

Humberstone

on writing as healing & her EP as a safe space

I found Holly Humberstone's music on a drive outside Nashville with two friends. My friend said, “you have to hear this song,” about Holly's "Scarlett" and I was hooked immediately. Lately I feel there is a very strong and recognizable group of young women in music expressing themselves candidly. Holly Humberstone, Olivia Rodrigo, Phoebe Bridgers, Gracie Abrams, and Arlo Parks, to name just a few. Some people call it ‘sad girl music,’ but to me it is writing that lives freely in the music industry without a misogynistic hue diminishing its power.  I'm on the tail-end of the millennial generation, and a sexist attitude was what I saw projected on the young women singing when I was growing up. I'm encouraged to see young women writing about relationships, mental health, betrayal — both unapologetically and successfully.

I’ve taken a long break from these interviews — I started Midnight Woman with a clear purpose and that hasn’t wavered. When I created l’Odet out of that, I didn’t fully know what it could turn into; I just knew it had potential and I wanted to find out what it was. I’ve taken the last couple years to distill what I feel for this project into a clear mission: to search for and portray human commonality through the interview format; and to give artists a safe space to open up and control the narrative. It's an honor to do these interviews.

And I feel honored to introduce Holly Humberstone for l’Odet.

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Cariann: Well, hi. [Laughs]

Holly Humberstone: Hey it's lovely to meet you. How are you doing?

CB: It's so nice to meet you, too. I'm doing well. I'm so excited. This is my first interview back in like two years.

HH: Oh my gosh, congrats.

CB: Thanks! I might be a little rusty, but…

HH: Well that's absolutely chill. I'm a little hungover, I can't lie.

CB: [Laughs]

HH: We went out after the show last night, so don't you worry!

CB: This is a big week for you. How are you feeling about the EP coming out?

HH: I don't know. I'm a little bit terrified. I haven't really thought too much about it because I've been doing a lot of touring. The thought of the release hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. I'm excited to hear the songs in a fresh way. I feel like when I put music out, I always have a new perspective on the songs because I'm trying to hear them through a fresh set of ears, like how somebody else would be hearing them for the first time. So yeah, I'm just excited. I think I kind of... [the songs] have a new lease of life for me once they've been released. I’m excited, and I hope people can connect to the songs; it'll be sick to finally get them out.

CB: The first song I ever heard by you was actually “Scarlett” and then I went and listened to the backlog, went backwards in your music. But my friend showed me “Scarlett,” and it is just so awesome. It's been soundtracking the last several weeks of my life and it's so lovely.

HH: Thanks. Oh my gosh, thank you! I think it's one of my favorites. Lyrically it just feels like it's breaking away from the rest of the EP, which is more negative and feeling, like, dependent upon something else or someone else for my own happiness. Then “Scarlett” is the only track that breaks away from that. It was just a relief to write that song for some reason. I feel like it needed to happen. I just…every time I hear it, I feel really proud of it, and the second verse is my most proud bit of writing that I've ever done probably. I love that song.

CB: Yeah. That's so beautiful. Yeah, the second verse is savage; it's so good. [Laughs]

HH: I know! I was really worried after I'd written it actually that Scarlett would take offense to it, because I am really fucking savage in that song. But yeah, she loves it I think. I think I feel kind of bad as well that I really tore this guy apart, but whatever —shouldn't have been breaking my friend's heart. [Laughs]

CB: [Laughs] That's my favorite. However, Pete [ed. note: Holly’s PR] gave me the preview link to the EP, so I've been listening to the rest! I have been loving “Please Don't Leave Just Yet,” your collab with Matty [Healy]. I love The 1975, so could you tell me a little bit about what that song's about, and how it was recording with someone like him?

HH: I wrote a lot of the songs about a time when I had moved away from my childhood house where I’d lived since I can remember really. I just suddenly felt really isolated from everything and everyone; it was completely different.

I moved overnight to southeast London, and I moved into a house with strangers in an area that I'd never really been to or seen before. I feel like nothing can really prepare you for that kind of move. I don't know, I just felt like in those few months I learned a lot about myself. I feel like I grew up quite fast because I had to adapt to being an adult really quickly by moving to London on my own. I'm at a bit of an awkward age as well where lots of things in my life are changing, not just my surroundings. It’s just a confusing time of life to be in when I still feel 12 and I'm supposed to be an adult.

I was living in this little flat in London and I didn't have any friends there at all. People would come down to visit, and then they'd leave, and it would be the worst feeling ever. I'd have the best time with them because I finally had somebody familiar, and then they'd leave and the feeling was just shit. I remember feeling like I'd do absolutely anything to make them stay just a little bit longer, even though I knew that it was going to hurt just as much the moment that they left and I was alone again.

So yeah, I think it's kind of a pathetic song, the more I think about it. [Laughs]

CB: [Laughs]

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HH: I think it's just about knowing that you're kinda dependent upon somebody for your own happiness. But writing that song was sick; we had a weird gap in the pandemic restrictions over the summer of last year. We couldn't travel, so everyone was just in London working again. I think [Matty] is just a cool guy and is supportive of new music and stuff. It was kinda just like, "Come on, come write together,” and yeah, he just agreed, and it was really sick.

 I love The 1975, and I feel like they wrote a lot of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so getting to work with him was so surreal. Seeing how he works and how he puts things together — his creative process was just interesting, and it was so cool. I loved it. I’ve worked with a lot of writers, and I think they're all really sick and all amazing at what they do, but there's something about working with someone who also has to write about their own experiences and is the front man or whatever. Someone who has to  pour out their heart and soul in a writing session to strangers. He really understood that, and he made it such a chill, comfortable environment, which is so important for me. It's such a personal thing to write a song and literally spill your guts out to some stranger, like a 30-year-old man, you know?

HH: I think it's just about knowing that you're kinda dependent upon somebody for your own happiness. But writing that song was sick; we had a weird gap in the pandemic restrictions over the summer of last year. We couldn't travel, so everyone was just in London working again. I think [Matty] is just a cool guy and is supportive of new music and stuff. It was kinda just like, "Come on, come write together,” and yeah, he just agreed, and it was really sick.

 I love The 1975, and I feel like they wrote a lot of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so getting to work with him was so surreal. Seeing how he works and how he puts things together — his creative process was just interesting, and it was so cool. I loved it. I’ve worked with a lot of writers, and I think they're all really sick and all amazing at what they do, but there's something about working with someone who also has to write about their own experiences and is the front man or whatever. Someone who has to  pour out their heart and soul in a writing session to strangers. He really understood that, and he made it such a chill, comfortable environment, which is so important for me. It's such a personal thing to write a song and literally spill your guts out to some stranger, like a 30-year-old man, you know?

HH: I think it's just about knowing that you're kinda dependent upon somebody for your own happiness. But writing that song was sick; we had a weird gap in the pandemic restrictions over the summer of last year. We couldn't travel, so everyone was just in London working again. That was when I knew that [Matty] was about writing. I think he's just a cool guy and is supportive of new music and stuff. It was kinda just like, "Come on, come write together,” and yeah, he just agreed, and it was really sick.

 I love The 1975, and I feel like they wrote a lot of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so getting to work with him was so surreal. Seeing how he works and how he puts things together — his creative process was just interesting, and it was so cool. I loved it. I’ve worked with a lot of writers, and I think they're all really sick and all amazing at what they do, but there's something about working with someone who also has to write about their own experiences and is the front man or whatever. Someone who has to  pour out their heart and soul in a writing session to strangers. He really understood that, and he made it such a chill, comfortable environment, which is so important for me. It's such a personal thing to write a song and literally spill your guts out to some stranger, like a 30-year-old man, you know?

HH: I think it's just about knowing that you're kinda dependent upon somebody for your own happiness. But writing that song was sick; we had a weird gap in the pandemic restrictions over the summer of last year. We couldn't travel, so everyone was just in London working again. I think [Matty] is just a cool guy and is supportive of new music and stuff. It was kinda just like, "Come on, come write together,” and yeah, he just agreed, and it was really sick.

 I love The 1975, and I feel like they wrote a lot of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so getting to work with him was so surreal. Seeing how he works and how he puts things together — his creative process was just interesting, and it was so cool. I loved it. I’ve worked with a lot of writers, and I think they're all really sick and all amazing at what they do, but there's something about working with someone who also has to write about their own experiences and is the front man or whatever. Someone who has to  pour out their heart and soul in a writing session to strangers. He really understood that, and he made it such a chill, comfortable environment, which is so important for me. It's such a personal thing to write a song and literally spill your guts out to some stranger, like a 30-year-old man, you know?

HH: I think it's just about knowing that you're kinda dependent upon somebody for your own happiness. But writing that song was sick; we had a weird gap in the pandemic restrictions over the summer of last year. We couldn't travel, so everyone was just in London working again. I think [Matty] is just a cool guy and is supportive of new music and stuff. It was kinda just like, "Come on, come write together,” and yeah, he just agreed, and it was really sick.

 I love The 1975, and I feel like they wrote a lot of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so getting to work with him was so surreal. Seeing how he works and how he puts things together — his creative process was just interesting, and it was so cool. I loved it. I’ve worked with a lot of writers, and I think they're all really sick and all amazing at what they do, but there's something about working with someone who also has to write about their own experiences and is the front man or whatever. Someone who has to  pour out their heart and soul in a writing session to strangers. He really understood that, and he made it such a chill, comfortable environment, which is so important for me. It's such a personal thing to write a song and literally spill your guts out to some stranger, like a 30-year-old man, you know?

CB: Yeah! [laughs]

HH: So yeah, he was really fun to write with to be honest, and yeah, it was a really good day.

CB: That's awesome. I feel like it probably feels like a little bit of a full circle moment to get to do that, and also it's really encouraging when you meet someone that you look up to and they turn out to be a nice person. [Laughs]

HH: Yeah, for sure. And also for my sense of…I mean, everyone struggles with self-doubt, and especially over the pandemic, social media was not good for me. Comparing myself to people online with where I am in my career, and putting pressure on myself constantly about wanting to be better at songwriting. I mean, it's just so unhealthy and it's not even necessary to do because it just puts more stress on you and makes you not wanna do it anymore. Also it's just not a thing — everyone can win and do well.

I just remember being in a bit of a rut, along with the pandemic. It was a global pandemic so I was pretty pissed about that, and then yeah, I don't know, going into the studio with Matty was so encouraging and I came out feeling like a good writer again. I felt like, ‘okay, yeah, this is why love writing, and this is why this is my job.’ Yeah, it was really affirming having written with one of my heroes and I love the song and I'm still able to work and stuff. It was cool.

CB: That's cool. Yeah, that's beautiful. I don't know, I really relate to that song. I was in a long-term relationship; I got out of it back in 2018, and I feel like I kind of put it off for a while — ending it — because I wasn't even really in love with the dude anymore, but the thought of being alone and not having someone on your side just automatically all the time…

HH: Yeah.

CB: It was something I dragged out for a really long time. I feel like I haven't heard a song, at least I haven't noticed a song, that really captured that feeling, and so it feels really profound to me, and I just really related to it a lot.

HH: Wow. I mean, that's exactly, to a tee, what I was going through at the time. It was friends as well, but I had my first ever boyfriend. Like, I'm not a relationship person at all, but I think just especially whilst I was going through so many changes, I needed those constants in my life because he was familiar. So, when he'd come and stay, I'd be like, ‘okay, that's like a bit of home, like a bit of familiarity,’ whilst everything else is chaotic and strange and new. I guess I wrote “Friendly Fire” a little bit later on when I realized ‘this isn't good for me anymore,’ about the same kind of situation, but yeah. I was exactly the same.

I think it's just also about, yeah, it's like comfort, isn't it? And knowing that someone's there, and just the thought of being, the thought of being  on your own, like left to kind of your own devices is just  it's not really worth it.

CB: Yeah, especially during such a time of transition, that must've been complete shit. [Laughs]

HH: [Laughing] Yeah.

CB: But it feels so empowering, at least for me, to look back and realize. It's empowering to feel completely confident in being on my own now. And I feel like a lot of that is represented on the EP, which is just…really, it's beautiful.

HH: I think so, especially with “Scarlett” that’s kind of how I feel about the situation now —and I wrote “Scarlett” obviously about my friend who was fully dependent on this guy. A couple months down the line, after the breakup, she was feeling like herself again, like a whole person on her own, and I was feeling completely dependent on so many other things during that time. I never really filter myself in my songs, I just kind of say it how it is, write down exactly what I'm feeling at the time.

Listening back to the songs, it takes me straight back to how I was feeling then. It's just weird to me, like I don't really feel like that person anymore. I can't imagine not feeling okay on my own. I feel like I can’t remember what it's like to feel like that, until I listen back to the songs. Then I'm like, ‘oh yeah, I was just not okay being left alone.’

CB: Yeah. One of my closest friends, Paige, is a musician. She wrote this song called “I Don't Feel It Anymore” — and she wrote it a couple years ago, like it's been a while, but she's just now tracked it in the studio, and it's my favorite song she's ever written. She invited me to go into the studio when she was tracking it, and I was like fully horizontal on the ground, laying on the ground [laughing] while she was recording. I was so emotional and she's just so good.

The song is just talking about not feeling anything for someone anymore. The idea that, 'now that I'm removed, I feel like I could maybe love again,' and hearing her track that, and then come out of the studio and be like, "I can't believe that came out of me." Like, "I can't believe that I was so confident in myself that I could remove myself from those feelings, and I just feel so good about that now."

I just feel like there’s such a strong group of women — young women — in music right now that are just being straight up about everything in their music. It’s so awesome.

HH: Yeah, it's sick. I think it's becoming kind of a trend, but it's such a good thing, like everyone is going through this, everybody understands how we're feeling. It's sick for me, getting to share this, because I'm seeing people react to it, and I'm like "oh, I'm not alone, you understand too." Also just the fact that I could be that person for someone else is fucking sick, like that's so cool. But yeah, like you were saying before,  it's weird listening back and hearing how I once felt.

And I think that's, that's the thing with songwriting for me; it's such a big part of my healing process. The relief that I feel after I've written a song…where I feel like I've said what I have the say, and I've turned something really negative that I was feeling into a beautiful piece of art. I don’t know, that's just the most healing way for me. That's the only way that I can deal with everything — is changing it from something really negative into something that I really love. It’s weird listening back to them now, but it's kinda cool too.

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CB: It's badass. It really is. I just think it's beautiful  how honest you are in your art, and I also feel grateful that  a couple million people see and cherish that, and that's what we need  more in the world, and being a musician I feel is a bit like being an open wound. Um, I'm not a musician but that's what I would imagine it's like, so I really commend you on that.

HH: Yeah, thank you. That's so lovely. Yeah, I mean, it's a lot to share of myself with so many people, but also everybody is going through this same thing.  It's not like I'm going through anything particularly weird or unique, like everybody's feeling these things,  everybody gets it, everybody understands, you know? I think that's the cool thing — it's so empowering being able to be so vulnerable with random strangers who live in like Australia or something. Being able to connect and share so much of myself with somebody so far away is so sick, and yeah, I've needed it as well.

This year it's been my only form of human connection, music has. And like you were saying, all of these females releasing over the pandemic just really personal stuff, it's just what I've needed. It's been the only thing that I've had to latch onto like, ‘okay, somebody understands this exact thing that I'm going through.’ It’s really sick.

CB: Yeah. I also wanted to ask — I know we've talked a little bit about writing the EP, but sonically, I want to talk a little bit about that. I don't know as much myself about music production and things like that, so I'm always really interested in learning more about it. What song on the EP do you think informs the direction you're trying to go with your music? Was there any turning point on where you think you're going sonically?

HH: Yeah. Honestly…I've no idea. I don't really think about it. I'm constantly changing, I'm not the same person I was when I wrote this EP. I just think my influences are different, the stuff in my life is completely different, so of course the music is going to sound different. I don't really think too much about it, I kind of go into the studio and just make what I feel like making at the time; I don't try and restrict myself into making music that sounds like the first EP, or whatever, just because it's not how I express myself I guess. I think it's just like a constant sort of changing, evolving thing that will grow and move with me as I go through stuff in life.

I remember writing the EP and listening to so much — I mean, obviously there's a lot of 80’s kind of influences in there. I'm obsessed with Fleetwood Mac and how they layer stacks of epic-sounding harmonies and stuff like that. Obviously, I went a bit crazy on all the synths in the EP.

CB: I love the synth. Yeah, it's working for you!

HH: It’s about, like I said before, changing something negative that I was going through into something fun. All I wanted to do was get in the studio and have a good time and turn the bad stuff into something that sounds fun, empowering, and uplifting. Something I wanna dance to. I feel like that's why the songs are little bit more upbeat, even though lyrically they're really kinda depressing and like [laughing] pathetic. I don’t know, I think I just wanted to turn the negative stuff into something that I really loved and enjoyed listening to. It made me feel good again about everything.

CB: That's tight though. I feel like, especially because music is your job now and you’ve signed to a major label, I would assume it still makes music very much a safe space for you, to just go in and be like, ‘this is what I'm doing.’

HH: Exactly — and throughout all the change that I'm going through constantly, like you said, it's like my safe space where I can go in and shut the door and do my thing. Just be with myself and make music about the stuff that's going on around me, and it really is like the... it has been the only kind of constant. I know that I've got this place that I can go to, and I can feel like okay, and like I can work through everything, and I can make sense of stuff.

Yeah, I'm at such an awkward age, I feel like everything is changing and everything's weird, and everything's foreign. Going into the studio is like a safe little haven, and I think, yeah. That's why writing the EP was so important, and that's why the songs sound so personal to me, um, just because yeah, it was my only kind of little, little spot that I could go to just figure my stuff out.

CB: Yeah, that's beautiful. I feel like all the music coming out of the pandemic is just... we're in a sweet time of music.

HH: Oh, yeah. It’s special, yeah. There's so much amazing stuff right now.

CB: I also did want to tell you — I know I told you that “Scarlett” is my favorite, but I've been listening to it for a couple weeks and have been falling for this new guy, and it's just been the soundtrack of it, and it's just been such a happy time for me.

HH: Oh, really? Oh my gosh, nice! Oh my gosh, how's it going? Like, what's the situation?

CB: It's going good. Yeah, I met this guy a couple weeks ago, and just have a giant crush. Like, I'm 26 — and have not felt this way since I was like 16. I feel like I'm in high school or something.

HH: That is amazing.

CB: It doesn't happen to me like this. And yeah, it's just been really nice, and I'm just in my feels right now.

HH: Oh my gosh, I'm so jealous! I'm so jealous.

CB: [Laughs]

HH: It's so rare for me to really feel that way about somebody — it's so rare, and it's just so nice. Ah, I'm really jealous of both of you.

CB: I started l'Odet as an extension of my website Midnight Woman. And I started Midnight Woman as a platform where people can share stories anonymously. It’s just a safe space for people online to share, you know, about things that have happened to them in a safe way, and they can kind of let it go, and then I hold space for it. And I started it after I was assaulted in college, so it was like very much about taking my story back, making justice for myself, it was very much an empowering thing to do. And even ever since then it's like...I didn't know that it was possible for me to feel this way about someone again, so it's nice to feel hopeful after feeling so bitter for a long time.

HH: Oh my gosh, I'm so happy for you. That's amazing.

CB: [Laughing] Thank you. Yeah, this EP, I know you've said that some of the songs feel pathetic, but it feels exciting…some of the songs are sad, but it does feel uplifting to me.

HH: Yeah. I think it's just as important to share that stuff as it is to share the good and positive stuff. That's when people need the connection and the music the most, to feel like they're not on their own, you know? That's when I need music the most, is when I'm feeling really shit and I need something to let me know that it's okay and I'm not alone. So yeah, they are pathetic, but it's necessary to share them because, yeah, everyone feels like that sometimes.

CB: Yeah, and your fans — you've got a lot of them, and they all feel that way too, so you know, we're all in it together.

HH: Yeah, for sure. [Laughs]

CB: Well, I'm happy for you that this is coming out this week. Thank you so much for talking to me and being so open and just willing to talk about your mindset on this album, and how it came about and your writing — it's just beautiful and I'm really, really excited to put this on my site.

HH: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to read it and, yeah, it's so cool to chat with you and get to know you. Thank you so much for having me. It's been lovely. 

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BY CARIANN BRADLEY · PHOTOS BY PHOEBE FOX & JORDAN CURTIS HUGHES · NOVEMBER 2021

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY

STREAM "THE WALLS ARE WAY TOO THIN" EVERYWHERE NOVEMBER 12TH

BY CARIANN BRADLEY · PHOTOS BY PHOEBE FOX & JORDAN CURTIS HUGHES · NOVEMBER 2021

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY

STREAM "THE WALLS ARE WAY TOO THIN" EVERYWHERE NOVEMBER 12TH

BY CARIANN BRADLEY · PHOTOS BY PHOEBE FOX & JORDAN CURTIS HUGHES · NOVEMBER 2021

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY

STREAM "THE WALLS ARE WAY TOO THIN" EVERYWHERE NOVEMBER 12TH

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Have you been to Midnight Woman? Submit anonymously here.

For questions or concerns, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com.

Have you been to Midnight Woman? Submit anonymously here.

For questions or concerns, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com.

Have you been to Midnight Woman? Submit anonymously here.

For questions or concerns, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

Our commonality is the need to connect over shared experience — l'Odet is our pursuit for that commonality through a series of uncontrived, intimate interviews conducted by our founder.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

Our commonality is the need to connect over shared experience — l'Odet is our pursuit for that commonality through a series of uncontrived, intimate interviews conducted by our founder.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

Our commonality is the need to connect over shared experience — l'Odet is our pursuit for that commonality through a series of uncontrived, intimate interviews conducted by our founder.