BBC Sound Of 2021 Holly Humberstone Wants Her Lyrics To Be Tattoo-Worthy

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BBC Sound Of 2021 Holly Humberstone Wants Her Lyrics To Be Tattoo-Worthy

Holly Humberstone has high standards.

When the 21-year-old sits down to write her emotionally-captivating pop songs, she doesn’t just want them to be memorable. She wants them to be indelible.

“When we were writing, we said that if a lyric isn’t painfully honest and really brutal, then it can’t be on the song,” she says.

“That’s what I aim for: If it doesn’t look like a really dodgy, tattoo-on-the-arm lyric, then it doesn’t go on.”

So far, no-one’s actually inked one of her songs onto their wrist (“obviously I’m doing something wrong,” she laughs) but it won’t be long.

Humberstone’s sparse arrangements and effortless vocals focus your attention on those lyrics – a mixture of acutely-observed detail and conversational asides.

You never smoked this much before we met,” she sings on the recent single, Falling Asleep At The Wheel, raking over the embers of a dying relationship. “Don’t know how I got you in such a mess.”

On the forthcoming single Scarlett, she captures the messy imperfection of a teenage friendship in one line: “We go together / Like bad British weather / On the one day I made plans.”

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Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, she was encouraged to be creative by her parents – both doctors – who banned TV in the house so she would make up songs from poetry books.

While she was still at school, she uploaded songs to her local BBC Introducing show, and made her radio debut a week later. That led to an appearance at Glastonbury, where she was spotted by Lewis Capaldi – who invited her on tour at the start of 2020.

Although Covid ruined her plans for the rest of the year, she’s amassed more than 65 million streams for her debut EP, and has just come second on the BBC’s Sound Of 2021 – which aims to predict the most exciting new music for the coming year.

She talked to BBC News about her early “crap” songs, finding her sound and living in a haunted house.

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Congratulations on making the BBC Sound of 2021 list. After a year of being stuck at home, does any of this feel real?

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Not really, no. So far, my whole career feels like it has been over social media. I’ve never done a headline show or anything like that, so I’m really looking forward to being able to play live again in a few months.

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Just before lockdown, you supported Lewis Capaldi at Wembley. What was that like?

I didn’t expect to be doing Wembley. I was booked for the Europe leg of the tour – and I was terrified because I’d gone from playing to 200 people to 12,000 in the space of a month or two.

Wembley happened when the American support act couldn’t come over because of Covid. I was like, “Fine. If you’re forcing me, I’ll do it!”

BBC Sound Of 2021 Holly Humberstone Wants Her Lyrics To Be Tattoo-Worthy

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