Growing up, Holly Humberstone was always surrounded by “feminine energy.” “I went to an all-girls school. I grew up with three sisters,” she says. “I’m used to that!” So when the 22-year-old embarked on two consecutive tours this spring — the first supporting Norwegian indie rocker girl in red, the second opening for overnight pop star Olivia Rodrigo on one of the hottest tickets of the year — Humberstone was glad to know she’d be spending it with other young women, especially as she left home for the longest time ever.
“I’m very much a homebody — I think about home all the time. I miss my cats and my mom’s cooking!” she says, Zooming in from a hotel room in Houston, Texas. “But [touring] has made me appreciate that sort of thing so much more. Now, when I have time with my friends and my sisters and my parents, that’s so special.”
Those intimate relationships are what define Humberstone’s music. In her first hit, “Deep End,” she writes about her sister’s mental-health struggles, while in “London Is Lonely,” she describes her homesickness after moving to London from her rural hometown of Grantham. She’s part of a rising group of young female singer-songwriters — like the two she’s supporting on the road — who create brutally honest music, hits that are best heard in a bedroom with earbuds or alone in a car.
Fresh off her first Coachella set, Humberstone debuted her newest single “Sleep Tight” on April 29, her second collaboration with the 1975’s Matty Healy, and today announced a brand-new set of North American tour dates. But with a highly anticipated first album on the way, Humberstone is just trying not to, ahem, fall asleep at the wheel. “At the moment, I’m trying not to overthink it,” she says. “I’m just really, really overly critical of myself, and I just want it to be perfect. There’s so many iconic first albums out there in the world, and I want mine to be the best that I can do. I’ve got enough for an album now if I wanted to put one out, but I don’t think I’d be satisfied.”
Nearing the end of the Sour tour, Humberstone sat down with Vulture to chat about homesickness, American beer, and her fascination with a certain vehicle.
You had your big breakout in 2020 with “Deep End” and “Falling Asleep at the Wheel,” all during the height of the pandemic. How’s it been going from not meeting any fans in person to meeting so many on tour?
The fans have been so, so nice, and that’s not something that I was really expecting. In the U.K., it’s a little different. I’ve been the support in the U.K. a few times, and people aren’t anywhere near as kind or respectful. People just talk throughout your whole set, and it’s kind of a battle to get them to listen to you. You come offstage feeling a bit deflated. But here, it’s been the complete opposite. People are so respectful and so down to just listen, and people seem to be rooting for me. I come upstairs just feeling, honestly, like I’ve been love-bombed. I think more than anything, it’s just made me realize that I want this for myself. I hope that I can do a tour like this.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you’re done touring? See your sisters?
Oh, gosh, yes. I live with my sister at the moment in my flat in London, and my sisters and I are so close. I’ve never spent this much time without seeing them. So I’m gonna go back home to my flat, probably. I would love to just go to my local pub and just have some pints that aren’t really rubbishly poured. No offense — you guys can’t pour a pint! Then, I’m playing Big Weekend, and my parents are coming to that. I was on FaceTime with my mum yesterday and she was like, “I’ve made you a banana bread!” She’s putting it in the freezer. So I think I’m just gonna be, like, crying and shoving banana bread into my mouth backstage after the set with my parents.
Is life on the road better? Or is life in London better?
[Touring] has really made me appreciate London a lot more. I think when you’re in it, you kind of hate it, and get caught up in it. But taking a step away from it, I’m like, “Oh, I miss rubbish, dirty, gross, London!” I don’t know if it’ll ever feel like home home to me, but I’m learning to appreciate it a lot more.
You’ve been grouped with this generation of young female singer-songwriters with intimate lyrics. Does the “bedroom pop” label resonate with you?
I guess so. To me, bedroom pop is really personal lyrics and unfiltered, intimate-sounding music. That’s the kind of music that I listen to, and that’s the kind of music that I want to create. I want people to feel like they know me really well through the songs. I think there’s something really empowering about being able to share so much of myself with strangers.
I’m writing about really universal things. I’m not going through anything particularly unique that I’m writing about, so maybe that’s why people can connect to it in an intimate way. A lot of these songs I start in my bedroom on my own, so maybe that’s why. I have no idea what it sounds like to other people. Honestly, I’d love to be able to hear my music through fresh ears.
Your debut album is coming later this year. What can we expect from it?
There’s been a lot of changes that have gone on in the past sort of few months, so I’m writing about all of that. I’m trying to navigate a lot of these firsts that are going on — growing up and coming out here on tour, being away from family and friends and just being an adult. I don’t really know what it’s gonna be. I think it’s gonna be a fun surprise for me as well.
So, can we anticipate songs you’ve written on tour?
I think so. I’ve got little ideas. I had a bit of time to write in New York. So, I’ve got a song that I really love that we did there. I’ve still got a little while to go, but I’m just trying to really enjoy the process.
You recently dropped “Sleep Tight,” which is your second collaboration with the 1975’s Matty Healy. What about him makes for a great collaborator?
Songwriting is such a personal thing to me. I’m so vulnerable with my lyrics — I kind of tend to overshare. When I first started doing co-writes, it was really, really unnatural to me. I was going into rooms like every day of the week with a different, like, 40-year-old man that I had nothing in common with, and I’d have to be really vulnerable and talk about my mental-health struggles or my relationships. They were all lovely, but for me, it just wasn’t a good way to work because I got nothing out of it. Then, I was really lucky enough to find this core group of people that I felt really understood me, and Matty was one of them. I think maybe because he’s a front man, he understands what it’s like to be sharing your inner thoughts with strangers all the time. He’s nonjudgmental, and it was just so fun to be able to create with him. I feel like there’s just something about collaborating with other artists who know what a weird kind of process it is to be so vulnerable with people.
Was there a specific situation that inspired “Sleep Tight”?
There was like a little gap in between lockdowns in the U.K., and we were basically free for a summer. I had some really fun, wild times with my friends during that period of time — I think because we’d been inside for so long, and we never knew if we were gonna get our freedom back. I don’t know if there was a specific situation, but it was just like, a whole amalgamation of all this fun, weird, crazy romantic stuff that went on in that summer. My head was just kind of full of it. I just wanted a song that sounded like that summer to me.
In the music video, you’re in a car — just like “Falling Asleep at the Wheel.” What is it with you and cars?
When I was releasing that EP, I was stuck at home because we were in lockdown. I didn’t have anything to make a video with apart from the stuff that was around me. We’re just like, “Right, what can we do with what we’ve got here?” That’s my dad’s car, actually. I had all of those learner stickers from when I was trying to learn [to drive]. And we just did loads of weird stuff with this car. I failed my test before going into lockdown, and then it was just something that kind of made me feel a bit stressed out and angry. In one video, we kind of set it on fire. We’ve really put that car through a lot.
Is the car still on the road?
It’s still around! It’s my dad’s pride and joy. One day, I’ll learn to drive and you’ll see me actually driving it.
So, you haven’t passed the driving test yet?
I’m yet to pass. Honestly, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how people drive. I just don’t feel like I’m mature enough to be driving a car. I don’t really trust myself with other people’s lives, you know? It’s harder than performing at Coachella.