2020 may have been a write-off for most, but for Holly Humberstone, it was her best year by far. Starting with the release of debut single ‘Deep End’ in January, by the end, she had a critically acclaimed EP under her belt (August’s ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’), a second place spot on the coveted BBC Sound Of… list and pretty much universal praise across the music board. Not bad for your first year in the game, eh?
“I’ve definitely got imposter syndrome!” the 21-year-old laughs over Zoom. “I don’t know why people even like my music so much!”
Though it may still be sinking in for her, Holly’s brand of confessional pop was destined to strike a chord. Growing up in a creative household in Grantham, she was always encouraged by her family to give music a go, making up little songs at home and recording “terrible demos” in school; “I wasn’t interested in doing my homework and Henry VIII, I just wanted to get home and do my music!” she beams.
Naming Damien Rice, Phoebe Bridgers and Lorde as some of her writing influences, Holly was drawn to penning lyrics she refers to as “unfiltered thoughts”, leaning towards the cuttingly personal and vulnerable feelings that come straight from trying to figure stuff out in her head. “I have this thing like, if it’s not a lyric that someone can get tattooed onto their arm, then it doesn’t go on the record,” she says. “That’s a mantra I try and stick by, even though no one’s got a tattoo that I know of. Hopefully someone’s gonna get a tattoo one of these days!”
“If it’s not a lyric that someone can get tattooed onto their arm, then it doesn’t go on the record.”
Though not quite inked-up just yet, Holly’s ever-growing fanbase are more than ready to go all out for their fave. With numerous fan accounts on Instagram and constant funny edits of pics flying about, they’re yet to find a definitive name - "There was a dispute on Twitter when one side said the Humberstoners, which is weird because I’m not a stoner, and the other one was Humbernators, which my best friend made up and tried to enforce” - but the group are united in their support for Holly, even crafting a special congratulations video when ‘Falling Asleep At The Wheel’ dropped. “It turned midnight and I was on Instagram and they’d put together this lovely video, and it’s all people from different countries like, ‘We love you’,” Holly recalls. “It was so nice. It made me cry, it was so wholesome and just what I needed. It’s so bizarre to me that people really care about my music, and it’s just really lovely.”
Not only capturing the hearts of the public, Holly’s music has also resulted in some famous faces sliding into her DMs - most notably The 1975’s Matty Healy, who co-wrote new song ‘Please Don’t Leave Just Yet’ which features on her eagerly-awaited new EP. “I’m such an awkward person so I found it really hard to play it cool,” Holly laughs. “I’m still kind of not over being starstruck by him. I’ve been such a huge fan of The 1975, and I have so many memories associated with their songs. It’s such a cool thing to be able to work with the guy who wrote the soundtrack to my adolescent years, you know?”
Keeping tight-lipped for now about what the collaboration entails, Holly does tell us however that her new music is by far her favourite yet. Where her first body of work was written at her childhood home, her newest EP charts the changes in her life following a move to London. From feeling like your childhood is slipping away in first single ‘Haunted House’, to documenting her best friend’s heartbreak, to awkwardly hearing flatmates through paper thin walls, the release explores Holly’s shifting situation and the experience of being in her early 20s. “The writing for the second EP has been really fun because I’ve been able to experiment and expand my little sonic universe,” she smiles. “I’m constantly trying to be better than my first song, and I think it’s a million times better than my first EP.”
Only set to push her rising star status further, Holly’s breakthrough year still hasn’t quite settled in - mostly due to her having to mark all the milestones via social media - but she’s keeping optimistic for the year ahead and ready to finally reap the IRL rewards. “I find it so hard to believe that I actually have fans because I haven’t seen these people ever!” she laughs. "It will be really scary but really, really cool when stuff opens up again and I can go and do live performances and meet people. I’m gonna be a next level anxious wreck but it’ll be really fun!"
As featured in the April 2021 issue of DIY, out now.