Holly Humberstone writes vulnerable pop you can dance to
Get to know the Brits Critics Choice nominated artist and learn all about her EP, 'The Walls Are Way Too Thin', featuring The 1975's Matty Healy.
Photography Louis Browne
Grantham is rather unfortunately known for being the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher. Luckily, in 1999, Holly Humberstone came along, fated to grow up and give the Lincolnshire market town a much better poster girl. Now 21, the musician has made serious waves far beyond her hometown — releasing her debut EP, Falling Asleep at the Wheel, last summer to critical acclaim and making the BBC Sound of 2021 list. Holly was raised, she tells us, with her three sisters in a “really characterful old house that’s still falling down around us”, by parents that encouraged their creativity.
The artist -- who got noticed after sending a demo to her local BBC Introducing show -- remembers sitting in front of the piano as a child, tasked with turning the open poetry book her dad placed in front of her into music. “It was pretty cute!” she says. “I’ve genuinely been writing songs for as long as I can remember. It’s something I loved to do to help me process all the confusing things that were happening to me as I was growing up.” It’s through writing that Holly figures out how she’s feeling, noting that it’s “genuinely such a good form of therapy, as a lot of the time I find conversations really difficult and awkward”. Instead, she expresses herself in song form, always aiming to “make something beautiful out of a bad experience”.
The EP’s title track follows the aftermath of a relationship, with Holly reflecting on how much a now-ex partner changed over the course of their time together. It’s both beautiful and addictive: a proper pop banger in the vein of Lorde, full of piano stabs and dancing melodies. The video, which currently has over 1.5 million views on YouTube, sees her laid out on the ground behind her own car, outlined in chalk. Holly first performed Falling Asleep At The Wheel on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury 2019 (remember festivals!) and again just last week, live on The Late Late Show.
Having successfully won over fans right across the world with her honest and open approach to pop songwriting, Holly is currently working on her second EP, for which she has collaborated with a number of her musical heroes, including Matty of The 1975. If you’re not already familiar with her, now’s very much the time to get involved. Discover more about said collab and other exciting topics like her supernatural experiences, tattoo ideas and performance plans below, via these 10 interesting facts…
1. Holly turned 21 a few months ago. Naturally a big party was off the cards
“I actually share my birthday with my little sister Lucy who is two years younger than me, so our birthday is always a really special family time! I couldn’t have a huge party because of COVID but I had all my sisters back home with me and we just hung out by the fire and watched films all day.”
2. She knows exactly what kind of music we’re all desperate for right now
“My music is just really vulnerable, cutting lyrics with a twisted dark pop production.”
3. She thinks her music would soundtrack an early 2000s high school movie well
“One where lots of dramatic things happen, like people falling in love or someone going missing. I feel like my music would fit nicely on the soundtrack to The OC, so maybe something like that, because of the brutally honest lyrics and the darker sounding production.”
4. Fans will have watched Holly’s ‘haunted house’ livestream direct from her actually haunted family home
“I’ve never actually had any major supernatural experiences, but people have definitely died in my house and I’m convinced it’s haunted. It’s super old and there are mushrooms and frogs in the cellar and the house creaks and doors are always opening on their own. My friend’s mum has supernatural powers and when she came over she said she could sense lots of ghosts and see all the orbs and stuff! It got me thinking that, if there are ghosts, then they must be nice guardian angel ones that’ve watched over my sisters and I as we’ve grown up.”
5. Her ‘Fifth Sister Swap’ clothes-share project is something we can get behind
“My sisters and I are obsessed with charity shopping and upcycling old clothes. We’ve always found it really fun and sustainable fashion is something that’s really important to us. I thought it would be cool to set up a sort of system where me and my fans can swap clothes with each other, so that no one has to go out and buy something brand new. I’ll post a picture of an item I’m done with and then people can send me DMs of stuff they’d like to swap it for! I can’t wait to see people swapping amongst themselves too. I’m hoping to bring Fifth Sister Swap on tour.”
6. Holly has failed her driving test multiple times (not for falling asleep at the wheel)
“It’s just too much responsibility for me. I’m just a very anxious person and I’m just naturally so terrible at it! I failed again around the time we shot the video for my song ‘Drop Dead’, and so I decided that covering my dad's car in learner plates and setting fire to it for the video summed up how I was feeling [about the situation]. The thought of taking my test again is terrifying.”
7. “Deep End” is Holly’s most personal song
“I’ve had a few messages saying that ‘Deep End’ is their special song with their sister or their best friend, and that’s just so, so lovely to hear! It was the first song to come out, and it’s probably the most personal song I’ve ever written. It’s about not knowing how to help my sister out of a dark place but letting her know I'll always be there for her. At the time of writing it, I wished I could’ve had that song to comfort me and let me know that I’m not alone. It makes me so happy to think that ‘Deep End’ could be that song for someone.”
8. Her Matty Healy collab will be called “Please Don't Leave Just Yet”
“For my second EP, I’ve been lucky enough to write with some amazing people who I look up to, and one of those has been Matty! The song is about knowing a relationship is over but not wanting someone to leave so badly in that moment, and feeling like you’d do absolutely anything to get them to stay, even just for five more minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about my music than I am for this next EP. It has some bangers on there that I can’t wait for people to hear!”
9. Holly is secretly as massive nerd
“I literally live for stuff like Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, GOT and so on. It’s just so comforting to me for some reason. One day, I’m going to get a tattoo of something in the elf language from LOTR.”
10. Holly has found the past year tough but is feeling positive about the future
“I found the year particularly testing especially when my only form of communication with the outside world and the industry was through social media. I really struggled with comparing myself to others online and not feeling like I was doing enough. I battled with low self esteem a lot. I learnt a lot about myself though, and to focus on me rather than what everyone else was doing. In 2021, first and foremost I’d like to play a live show. I’ve been dreaming about it and still can’t believe I haven’t played a single headline show yet, even with all this music out! I’m looking forward to meeting people and hugging everyone.”