“I find having conversations really hard,” Holly Humberstone tells Apple Music. “Putting things into the context of a song makes it much easier for me to [talk about].” It’s no surprise, then, that the English singer-songwriter’s debut EP is a collection of profoundly personal thoughts and feelings that the fast-rising talent is seemingly unable to say out loud. On “Falling Asleep at the Wheel,” for example, the singer calls time on a going-nowhere relationship, while on the moving “Deep End,” she offers her unending support to her sister, who struggles with her mental health. All of which is set against the raw, relatable pop Humberstone has been crafting since she was just 11 years old. “I want to make music people can connect to,” says Humberstone, whose music at times recalls the brutal honesty (and irresistible melodies) of Lorde and even Taylor Swift. “I love it when people send me messages to say, ‘I can relate to this, I’m going through something similar.’ I’ve been collecting and sitting on all of these songs, and I’m really excited to finally get to release something I’ve made.” Below, let Humberstone guide you through her emotional first EP, track by track.
Deep End “This song is about my three sisters. It came really naturally, because when you’re worried about someone else, it’s always in the back of your mind. It’s about someone struggling through a hard time and [how] it’s really difficult to know how to help them when you don't really understand what they're going through. Conversations like that are really hard to have, and the song is my way to tell my sisters that I'm always going to be there. It’s me saying: ‘I'll still support you and I'll still try my best.’ My sisters were really moved by it. The first time I played it to them, we were at one of my best friends’ birthday parties and we were already drunk—they were literally sobbing. It was very sweet. I feel like this is the most important song to me, because my sisters are the most important people to me. I’m really proud of it.”
Falling Asleep at the Wheel “When I wrote this, I was going through something—a dead-end relationship that was just slowly fizzling out, a bit like when you’re feeling asleep. But despite what it’s about, this song was really fun to make. I wrote it in Nottingham with [UK producer] Rob Milton, who was one of the first people I had done a session with. I was a nervous little teenager and new to the whole thing. But sometimes these sessions are a bit like therapy: You go in and turn a bad situation into something beautiful. I introduced more electronic, wonky, darker elements while still keeping acoustic instruments in there like the piano and the guitar. The whole thing was really organic.”
Overkill “This is another song that I wrote with Rob and also [English singer-songwriter] Benjamin Francis Leftwich. At the time, I had just got into a relationship, and the song is basically about wanting to tell someone that you love them, but you don't know if it's going to put them off because it’s too soon. I wanted to capture that excited but nervous feeling of just being in love. We wanted to go for a HAIM or Maggie Rogers vibe with the sonics on this because it’s a bit more of a happy song. With some of the other depressing songs on this EP, I feel like it needs it!”
Drop Dead “I wrote this song with British artist Frances [real name Sophie Cooke] just when I was thinking about dropping out of university. In such a shaky time, it was really nice to come to London and just talk to her about it, especially because she had gone to the same university as me. Weirdly, this started off as a really garish country song. We weren’t really feeling it and just didn’t think it was very good. But then in the last half an hour, we quickly did a stripped-down version. We only left in the piano and the vocals, and it turned out to be the best song of the session.”
Vanilla “I was on and off with a guy for about two years and he was basically just a dickhead. This song, again, was a bit like therapy. I wrote it with Rob and it was my way of saying, ‘This is finally over, and for once, I’m going to be the one to say that this is over.’ It was empowering. When I’ve played this song live, people have DM’d me saying that they can really relate to it and that they’re going through something similar. I try to make my songs as conversational as possible with lots of little personal details, because the more personal it is, the more people can relate. We all feel similar things, and my situations aren’t unique.”
Live Wire “I grew up in the countryside around Grantham, just below Nottingham, in a really, really old house that's kind of falling apart. Rob drove to mine and set up a mini studio for a few days at the house and we wrote this song there. It’s really special that the piano I grew up playing on features in this track—it feels really personal. We didn’t want this to feel like a clean studio recording, so instead we captured the noises of the house and how it sounded when we wrote it. It feels organic and true to me. This song is about a period of time when there were three of us [in a friendship group] and we were inseparable. We were so, so close. And then we just grew apart and stopped doing things together. It's really sad when that happens for no reason. Now we’re almost like strangers again.”