Mid Air

Mid Air

As much as Romy Madley Croft’s debut solo album is an absorbingly personal record, its roots lie in music intended for other people. In 2019, The xx singer/guitarist met—and immediately gelled with—Fred again.. during a period of creative exploration that lead her to Los Angeles to try writing chart-topping pop songs for other artists. “I ended up writing some quite honest songs about myself, thinking someone else was going to sing them, and realizing, ‘Actually, maybe these are my songs…’” Romy tells Apple Music. Arriving in 2020, airy, anthemic debut solo single “Lifetime” was written to uplift herself during the pandemic. In stark contrast to the hush and restraint of The xx, the song leaned into the rapturous dance music influences of Romy’s youth, and it’s a direction continued on Mid Air. “At the time [that The xx emerged], I was genuinely just suited to feeling more shy and being more guarded,” she says. “It was nice to share a different side, and it definitely opened up a lot more doors in terms of the way people see me. I wanted to find a way to balance melodic, storytelling pop writing with club-referenced music, and Robyn was a big reference. She makes very emotional songs within a dance/electronic sphere. Robyn is someone that I really admire. I’ve met her a few times and I’ve sort of mentioned to her that I’m on this journey with it and she’s been really encouraging and supportive.” Co-produced with Fred again.., bandmate Jamie xx and veteran hitmaker Stuart Price, Mid Air succeeds in building a dance floor on which Romy can shake out her feelings. The joy and freedom of the shiny synths and skyscraping melodies serve as a misdirect to the lyrical themes of grief and heartbreak, rooted in the loss of both her parents at a young age and, recently, another very close family member. “I wrote [lead single] ‘Strong’ and ‘Enjoy Your Life’ as part of an ongoing ambition to remember to check in and talk to people and let things out,” she says. “I’ve had to talk about grief and my parents way more than I would if the whole album was just love songs. I’m ready to talk about it more. It’s been amazing having conversations with people that I wouldn’t normally have, and hearing and learning and connecting. People come up to me in a club to talk to me about grief and I’m like, ‘Wow, actually, this is very special.’ The fact that people feel like they can talk to me means a lot.” Let Romy guide you through Mid Air track by track. “Loveher” “This is the first song that I made with Fred after writing these songs for other people, the first track that I wrote thinking, ‘This actually is my song to sing.’ Very much the first tentative steps into this project. It opens the album because I can hear that slight nervousness in it and I shed that as the tracks go on. I had done a songwriting session with King Princess and she was like, ‘This is who I love, I’m writing a song about a girl, there’s no question.’ I was really inspired by the way that she was very comfortable with that. I thought about myself at that similar age and I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t feel comfortable or reassured that it would be chill for me to say that. Maybe it would’ve been fine, but in my head I was worried about it. The more young, queer artists I hear talking about their exact experiences and being really amazing, visible, inspiring people, the more I’m inspired to do my own thing and talk about my actual experiences in a clear way.” “Weightless” “This song is about realizing, ‘Wow, I’m really feeling all these things and that’s OK,’ and really embracing that. It still feels like it’s from the earlier, tentative time, lyrically. It was originally written as an acoustic ballad, and I wanted it to become more than that, so I went on a journey to take it into an electronic space. It was a challenge I set myself—I still wanted it to work when you take it off the track and take it back to the guitar. That’s something I admire about a well-written song.” “The Sea” “The lyrics for ‘The Sea’ are inspired by a trip to Ibiza. Or my vision of what it would have been like in the early 2000s—the dream of Ibiza. I went for the first time for Oliver’s [Sim, The xx bandmate] 30th birthday. We went out clubbing and we went on a boat and it was exactly what I had hoped it was. I’ve been back since, for my honeymoon. I also got to play Pacha in 2022, which was really amazing. But that first time, I was listening to the instrumental while I was driving around and I was thinking, ‘I want this song to feel connected to this place. I want it to feel like a home in a summer situation.’ So that’s how I framed it, lyrically.” “One Last Time” “I wrote this thinking it was for someone else—I didn’t have anyone specifically in mind, but just as a fan, if I had to pick someone, Beyoncé is my number-one person. Thinking it wasn’t going to be me singing pushed me to try out something new, vocally. Just pushing my voice. It was fun to come back to it and sing it in my own way. It’s one of my favorites to sing.” “DMC” “I love an interlude. I feel like that’s quite a pop-album thing. My friend always says that she loves a DMC corner in the club—I don’t know if everyone knows DMC is a deep, meaningful conversation, but that’s what it means to me. Those moments where you have a kind of emotional exchange somewhere that ends up being the right place, even though it’s not typically the place you have those chats. This is just a little moment of stepping outside of where we’ve been, like we’re outside the club. You have a little reset and you carry on.” “Strong” “I wrote this one for myself, using songwriting as a way of processing grief and my relationship to it and putting it out there. I internalized a lot of things for a long time and thought I’d put it out of sight, out of mind. I think having time off tour and being in a good place in a relationship was when it all started to come up and I had to face those things. ‘Strong’ was me just reflecting on that at that point, and just feeling it out, and trying to write around that. It was great to put it in a song that is quite uplifting and high tempo. It keeps giving different meanings to me in different contexts.” “Twice” “I worked on this with an amazing songwriter called Ilsey, who co-wrote ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ [by Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus]. I’d been writing for other people for a while and finding it hard to make connections. I wanted something a bit more real. Ilsey has got quite a country style, so when I got paired up with her, I opened up and said, ‘This is what I’m going through,’ and she helped me write this very storytelling-like song. I’d never had a songwriter help me lyrically before, but it was really cool. It’s another one that started as a guitar ballad, but I didn’t want it to stay that way. Stuart worked on it and it evolved into what it is now—echoes of a club and then building into being a big club-experience track.” “Did I” “This was sonically created around the same time as ‘Strong.’ I’ve written a lot of acoustic music and I wanted to put it into a different frame, so I was playing a lot of early-2000s trance to Fred. There’s already a blueprint embedded in trance—a haunting vocal and huge chords and builds and euphoria. It’s one of my favorites, so I’ve been playing it out in clubs recently. Lyrically it reflects a part of my relationship [with my wife], from back when we were younger and we broke up.” “Mid Air” (feat. Beverly Glenn-Copeland) “I consider this to be a transitional moment on the album. The fact that Fred and I made this piece of music together is a reflection of a weird moment we were both in—it’s more winding and introspective than everything else we did together. Although there’s a lot of euphoric sounds on the album, I’m not always super upbeat, there’s times when I have a bit of a weird time mentally. It’s kind of the aftermath of the night out: ‘Twice’ and ‘Did I’ connect as a mix and ‘Mid Air’ is the musical comedown. [American singer and composer] Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s voice comes in as a reminder, a self check-in. Then you come back into ‘Enjoy Your Life’ as a reaction to that.” “Enjoy Your Life” “This was probably the most challenging song to make because it contains a lot of different elements. I’m trying to say quite a lot in it and make it danceable and contain lots of samples. Finding the balance took quite a long time. When I heard [Beverly Glenn-Copeland] say, ‘My mother says to me/Enjoy your life,’ I thought it was such a beautifully simple disarming sentence, but I didn’t want to just say, ‘Yeah, life’s amazing.’ I wanted there to be a journey in the song. In the verses, I’m processing some stuff, I’m having a bit of a weird time, but I’m reminding myself: Life is short, enjoy your life. I wanted there to be enough of a narrative to give that context. Just to acknowledge and then also celebrate.” “She’s on My Mind” “I wanted to end the album with this because it feels like the end of the night when you’re at a party and someone puts a disco song on and everyone just has their hands in their air. It’s a fun one to end on. Just embracing and accepting how you feel. From the way that I start the album—the more tentative way of singing—to the end where the last thing I sing is, ‘I don’t care anymore,’ it’s a bit of a release of pressure.”

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