Some things in Molly Payton’s life never quite go to plan. Take, for example, when the 20-year-old singer-songwriter first relocated to London from her home in Auckland, New Zealand when she was 16, and a stay that was supposed to last a year soon stretched into three. Or when she finally got the chance to travel back home for a few weeks in late 2020, only to end up staying for eight months. “I mean, that’s kinda how my life is these days…” she nods, from the Airbnb she’s been staying in since her return to the UK a month ago. “I’m by no means a chilled person, but I’m just kinda happy to go with the flow now.”
Fortunately, these changes seem to be having a positive impact. It was after moving to her new school in the UK that she met fellow musician Oscar Lang, who’d go on to produce her debut EP ‘Mess’, before meeting producer and collaborator Oli Barton-Wood and completing last year’s offering ‘Porcupine’. Even being in New Zealand for longer than anticipated this year ended up working to her advantage; the geographical distance provided her even more freedom when working on new mini-album ‘Slack’.
“I’m by no means a chilled person, but I’m just kinda happy to go with the flow now.”
“When I was recording my first two EPs over here,” she explains, “I was kinda shy and nervous to make calls on things, just because I hadn’t been in the studio a lot and I didn’t know much at all.” But with ‘Slack’, she was forced to work remotely with Oli on a 24 hour schedule, Molly working a full eight hour day on NZ time, before he woke up and took over. “Because Oli wasn’t there in real life, I was making decisions. I think the songs have ended up a lot more me because I had a little bit more control. I didn’t have anyone listening to it and saying, ‘Oooh, I don’t like that’, you know? It was all me.”
A collection of tracks written over the past few years, ‘Slack’ is an astonishing step up for the singer. “There’s one in there - ‘Like A Child’ - which I wrote with the Aquilo boys like, three years ago I think,” she notes. “There’s everything from that to ‘When I’m Driving’, which is one I literally wrote two months before recording.”
Building upon the intricate and intensely personal lyricism of ‘Porcupine’ - something very much still present here - her newest release melds together the scuzzy leanings of her previous EP with soaring melodies and spine-tingling moments. “I never just wanted to make one sound,” Molly confirms. “I wanted it to have that full spectrum of emotion. To have those ecstatic heavy guitars, and the real joyful melodies of ‘January Summers’ and then the darker sound of ‘In Your Arms’ - that real sadness - as I think that’s what my voice does well. I just wanted to have everything in it.” With ‘Slack’, you can tell that plan’s paid off.
As featured in the October 2021 issue of DIY, out now.