“There’s A Lot Of Layers” Lola Young Interviewed

The rising star with a big voice is more open than ever on new material...

Her husky, soulful voice earned her a BRIT Rising Star nomination. John Lewis snapped her up to sing their Christmas advert. She’s only a few years into her musical career, but Lola Young has already had quite the impact.

Arriving in 2019, the South Londoner’s debut record ‘Intro’ led her to be namechecked against the likes of Amy Winehouse and early Adele. Finding her feet within the realms of R&B, Young reflected on love, mental health and inner-self, sharing her ‘Renaissance’ and ‘After Midnight’ EPs in following years. 

Releasing May 26th, new project ‘My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely’ promises to dive even deeper into Young’s psyche than ever before. So far, the 22 year-old has shared three tracks from the project – the arresting, organ-backed spoken word ‘Stream of Consciousness’, heartfelt piano ballad ‘Annabel’s House’ and now, the grungey ‘Don’t Hate Me’.

The latter single signals the extent to which Young has been experimenting with sound, letting her London roots shine through even more. Plus, as she tells Clash, she’s been switching up more than just her sound, tapping into previously unexplored parts of her creativity. While Young is known to have a diary-like lyrical style, on ‘Don’t Hate Me’, she takes her storytelling ability to  the result of a freestyling lyrical session (more on that later).

While Young’s focus throughout the upcoming record remains around love, expect to peel back the many layers of her perspective and experience.

Your music has been described as having a ‘distinct London edge’ to it. How do you feel the city impacts your music?

My accent is quite South London. I think that has been a thing for my music to always have the South London edge. I’ve dipped in and out of using it, but in this project, I really wanted that South London feeling and the accent to come in. London has always influenced me. The culture of London, it’s a melting pot for one. And two, the music scene is just so real here. So that’s obviously impacted the sound a lot too.

Your new single ‘Don’t Hate Me’ has just dropped. It’s quite an expressive title – can you expand on what the song is about? 

So this song is actually me talking to myself in the chorus, but also reflecting – it’s saying to somebody else, ‘don’t hate me, but you’re not what I thought you was’. I’m flipping it, so it’s like, ‘don’t hate me, don’t put it on me, but you’re not what I thought you was’. And that’s the beauty of wanting to not be hated for something that’s not your problem. It’s got that punky grit to the song. I really like the idea of having the hip-hop beat and it feels really raw. I basically freestyled. I really love the song. I’m really excited.

You said you freestyled the track – did you go into the studio with an idea, or did the words come to you when you heard the beat?

I heard the beat and was like, ‘Oh, my God’. I was with Connor and Will who are my producers, we were in LA at the time. We kind of made it together. I felt really free. I didn’t want to put thought into the lyrics and I didn’t want to put too much thought in the vocals either. I’d lost my voice. I was drunk and I just got on the mic and freestyled the whole thing. Now that’s not the vocal that we’re using in the actual song but it turned out really good and I love the freeness of  the lyrics 

The track is quite a departure from your existing sound and moves into a more grunge direction. Did you set out to experiment on the new single?

I wouldn’t say so. I think I did it completely unintentionally. I had this idea that I didn’t want to create music that I’d already made, but I wanted to create music that I felt like was me and was in a different direction. I didn’t want it to feel super close to what I’d made before. So it wasn’t intentional, but it also was kind of intentional. 

Your upcoming project is called ‘My Mind Wanders And Sometimes Leaves Completely’. You’ve spoken previously about being schizoaffective. Is the title of the album a reference to that in some way?

It is a completely direct link to that. I think it’s a beautiful title that resonates a lot with me in terms of my mental health condition. It’s kind of got that essence of the intrusive thought nature of the mind, and how it can wander very quickly in different directions. I wanted to make a statement and it is a statement.

It’s quite poetic. Can we expect you to dive even deeper into your mind and experiences on this record?

Yeah, 100%. I think this project is definitely a deep dive into how I’m feeling. A lot of the songs on this project are quite love-orientated, but there’s a lot of layers to what I’m saying within that. 

Lyrically, you’ve always been an open book. Do you ever find the writing process challenging? Or is it like a release?

I find it a massive release. I don’t really journal anymore, but writing for me is journaling. It’s basically things I haven’t been able to figure out myself in my life, I figure out whilst on paper, or on my phone, or whether it’s the full piece of work. I really feel like with this project, I figured a lot of shit out and it’s really helped me find myself, find new parts of my creativity that I hadn’t explored yet before, but it’s very solid, and it’s a very clear sonic body of work. And I’m very, very proud of that. 

Because you write in such a diary-like style, once a song is out in the world, do you feel exposed? How do you reflect on releases?

I don’t deep it too much, you know. I started not to deep it, because the more I deep it, the more I get scared. I don’t get too scared anyway, because this is why I do it – I can’t write in any other way than that.

You’ve said that the album represents your “journey towards being a woman and figuring out who I am,”. What has that journey been like for you so far? 

It’s been difficult. As a woman in the music industry, it’s not always the easiest ride. But I think that now that I’ve found my feet, I think that it’s a beautiful thing. I’m very grateful, I’m very blessed to have people around me who support what I do and a great team. But I also think that it’s very important that I signed up for certain things that I really believe in and that’s always been part of my nature. With this body of work, it is massively a step in the direction of who I am. That feels really empowering to to know who you are and to really stand by it.

How has the process of making music interwoven with this journey?

I think in terms of womanhood, my music has kind of intertwined. It’s not really a separate thing. I’m a woman, I make music and those two things are very together. The way that music has influenced me, is because I’m a woman. And the way that I’m a woman is because music has influenced me.

How does your music make you feel?

Sad mostly [laughs]. But very thoughtful and inspired. It makes me feel empowered as well. I’ve got a lot of songs out that have that empowering nature to them. 

You must get a lot of DMs from people responding personally to your music?

I get a lot of people saying thank you so much for empowering me or inspiring me. That’s the main one. But [when people say] thank you for understanding things I haven’t really been able to tap into – that’s beautiful, because that’s what I want to be able to do. And that’s what I’ve accomplished already. I have a lot more accomplishing to do. 

You’ve hit some incredible milestones in your career already: being nominated for a BRIT award, a John Lewis Christmas advert…what else is on your bucket list?

Well, I’ve also worked with Malay, who was my biggest one. He’s Frank Ocean’s producer. That was my biggest milestone, but I’ve got a lot more. I want to go back to LA. I want to make another album. I think my emotions are very much creative milestones. I want a Grammy but I need a lot of work for that. So how do I get to that? That means making more music, going back to LA, maybe in March and create another body of work.

It’s onwards and upwards from here. I’m really excited for this year. I’m really excited about this body of work, I hope it really flies.

Words: Aimee Phillips
Photography: Charlotte Patmore

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