Known for her angelic yet raw vocals and gut-wrenching lyrical honesty, Notion meets South London singer-songwriter Lola Young.
The recent Covid-19 lockdown has been an extremely difficult period for a lot of music artists – rising musicians in particular – for not being able to gig and needing to find new ways to connect with their fans and release music. Lola Young, however, has been able to take it in her stride, and although – like many of us – struggled with motivation on some days, she used the time to truly understand herself and get really introspective.
On new EP, ‘After Midnight’, Lola recalls a late-night rendezvous that takes her from being confident and in control to gradually becoming more vulnerable and eventually towards a manic state of mind. Promised to be her most unapologetic and honest music to date, Lola is solely accompanied by the piano throughout. A single-shot visual for track “Bad Games” has also just been released, which sees Lola sing straight to the camera, all the pain and memory visible in her eyes.
Seen as one of the UK’s most exciting balladic talents, Lola has been rightfully lauded for her powerful singles “Bad Tattoo”, “Ruin My Make Up” and “Woman”. She has an exciting few months ahead, getting back to performing live shows, including support for Dermot Kennedy and some end-of-summer festivals.
Notion caught up with Lola Young in the week leading up to her highly anticipated new EP to talk about mental health, sleep paralysis, heartbreak, and of course, her new music. Her new record really is the perfect ‘After Midnight’ accompaniment.
Firstly, mental health is such an important topic of conversation, so how are you doin
I’m alright you know; I think I’m good. I have a mental health condition, so I know and understand the struggle of someone who goes through it day-to-day. Luckily mine is very much sporadic, my episodes kind of come at different points in my life. So, right now I think I’m good, I mean it is what it is. I also just want to say thank you for asking this question because I think it is so important for it to become normality to ask people how they actually are. I’m someone who usually does ask that question, I think it’s really important to check up on the people around you, or even those that aren’t. I met a girl recently on a video that I was at, and I could tell that they seemed quite down, so you’ve always got to check. Sometimes you can sense it just by a person’s energy.
What inspired you to become an artist? Had you always known you wanted to do music?
Yeah, I’ve always known I wanted to do music since I was very young and it was just one of those things where there was never another option for me. It was only this. I was never really good at anything else when I was at school. Like I was good at school, but I wasn’t amazing, you know? And I feel like there are two types of people in this world, there are the people that are sick at school and academics and then there are the people that just aren’t very good. And with the education system, there seems to be this thing where there’s just no middle ground. I mean there are people who get B’s and C’s, but they just classify that as being ‘not good’. There are a lot of creative people in this world, and I think a lot of them have a tendency to be a bit contained or reserved when this shouldn’t be the case.
I read that you released your debut album at only age 18; have you felt people treat you differently in the industry due to your age [Lola is now 20]?
Yes and no. Growing up I was always – I don’t want to say mature, because I definitely haven’t always been mature, haha. But in the sense of that, I’m able to just talk to people and to communicate what I want. So, I don’t feel like that’s ever really been an issue because I always know what I want in regard to my music. Also, that first release, I see it more as just a little project that I dropped, and yeah, I guess you could call it an album, but it was more just me experimenting. Basically, I feel like people will only treat you differently if you feel differently yourself. Now that’s obviously not the same in every scenario, but I feel like people will only treat you differently if you allow them to.
Can you dive into the name of your recent single “Pill or a Lullaby”?
“Pill or a Lullaby” basically means do I need a pill or do I need just need someone to sing me to sleep. Because I had sleep paralysis for the second time in my life the other day. Have you had it?
Yeah, I’ve had it a few times, it’s horrible. Did you see anything?
So, in my first ever sleep paralysis I saw a man in the room. I can’t really remember because my first time was when I was around 10 or 11. But there was a man in the corner of the room and I could see my body asleep through the eyes of the man, it was really weird. I’m so glad I’ve only had it twice because the last time I had it right, I was lying in bed, and I woke up in my sleep paralysis loads of times almost like the film inception. So, it was a dream within a dream whilst being paralysed. Horrible.
A lot of people don’t ever get it in their life, some people get it loads. But yeah, I know some other artists suffer from sleep conditions like Beabadoobee made a song about it and about insomnia. Obviously, I’ve had insomnia before, but that was a result of other things, so as in I’d be up every day until I don’t even know when, I just couldn’t sleep basically. Anyway, my there’s a lyric in the song that says, ‘if I befriend tomorrow, will it treat me right?”, so that’s saying if I think positively about tomorrow, ‘will it treat me right?’, and I’m actually posing that question ‘will it?’. Because naturally, I’m quite a negative thinker, which isn’t a good thing. I know quite a few people that are, and I also know a lot of people that aren’t. Sorry if I’m going off on one for this question but I honestly feel like, when it comes down to it – Pill or a Lullaby is the idea of do I need something artificial in this life or do I need something natural to make me feel better about myself?
You’ve promised that your upcoming EP will be your most open and honest music yet – how difficult did you find this process?
I actually found it very comfortable, it’s the only place that I feel like I can be that open and honest. I really just feel like music truly is the only place where you can be that honest to yourself and your audience. So why not?
In a recent Instagram post, you said the EP is inspired by some of the thoughts that run in your head whilst trying to sleep. Have you found the best way to get yourself to sleep yet?
No not yet, but I’m getting there. It’s so annoying because I love my sleep, massively. And just stay with me on this, because this is really interesting. So, animals in the wild only know when to sleep when the sun goes down, right? But we as humans invented the light bulb, which means that we can stay awake past sunset. So, what that does is, it means that obviously if you party, take drugs, and what not you are damaging your body not sleeping at the right times. I’m massively into being more like the animals, so I feel that when the sun goes down, that’s when you should go to sleep. So, depending on the seasons, whenever it starts getting dark, that’s when you should sleep. Sleep is actually really complex, there’s ways you can train your body to get a certain amount of sleep, and too much sleep can also be awful for you.
When the world gets to listen to your EP, what is one thing you’d want them to take away from it?
Just the fact that love and relationships are really hard, but music can be an amazing cure for them. And I feel like this EP allows you to really feel certain emotions, like I can sit and cry to it. But I also want them to be hopeful as well and know that love in any form whether it’s mum, dad, friend, or partner, is so important. Just not too important to the point where you stop being yourself.
What did you learn from your first heartbreak?
Oh my gosh, what a question! So, I properly learned what kind of person I am in relationships and how difficult I can be. But I also learned how not everybody works together you know. You can meet someone and think that it’s forever and it never is. I don’t mean to be negative. It can be for some people and when it is, it’s beautiful. But, when you really think it is, when you believe it’s going to be forever, unfortunately, it usually isn’t. It’s a tough pill to swallow because you know when you’re in a relationship and you think about that person every day, you love them so much and hope for it to feel like that forever. You end up doing things to push them away or you end up getting pushed away by little things that they’re doing. I honestly believe that if you love someone and it’s going to be forever, you don’t necessarily realise it until a bit later.
Did the Covid-19 lockdown affect you as an artist or was it a blessing in disguise?
I’d say a blessing in disguise in some sense where I could really focus on myself and my music. But also, the complete opposite at times. It was very hard for a lot of people, especially us creatives because it messed up a lot of things. It messed up a lot of my plans and other artists’ plans. So definitely a blessing and a curse at the same time for sure.
How do you go about setting yourself goals? Do you tend to set massive ones or like month by month?
I think I try to set small ones but sometimes they just end up really big and too far for me to reach. I think it’s important to set yourself small goals. Even just when we spoke about mental health, setting small goals like I’m going to wake at this time tomorrow and make my bed. In reality, that is such a small goal but if you do it then it can help set off a chain of events. So yeah, in terms of my music I definitely try to set up a group of smaller goals rather than a few big ones.
How would you describe your fashion style?
Fucking random. I don’t have a fashion style; I wear what’s comfortable or I wear what I think I look good in. I’d say it’s classic, kind of Victorian esc mixed with streetwear. Because I love a good corset, but I also love trainers and shoes. I’m massively into them. It’s definitely eclectic, I like to wear different things. I would never wear anything bright or neon yellow for example. That’s just not me. But the word would 100% be random.
The next few months are very busy for you with live shows etc, do you prefer the outdoor festivals or the smaller more intimate gigs?
I personally prefer the smaller intimate gigs. But I love both, they both offer very different things, hold specific purposes and are both so much fun in their own right. So, I definitely prefer the smaller, intimate gigs when watching other artists. But when performing it’s pretty much 50/50 or right now post lockdown its whatever I can get!
Who’s the best performer you’ve ever seen live?
Prince. Hands down. I saw him when I was really young, but it was amazing.
Finally, what are you currently most grateful for?
My family and friends. Honestly, that’s such a cliché answer but I feel like everyone should be even more grateful for them and it’s easy to take them for granted sometimes. I’m so grateful that I have so many amazing people around me because if something ever happens within my music as I progress to the next level, then it’s very important that you have actual real friends with you. Like say if you get a promotion from your job, you need real people around you to actually congratulate you with no hidden agenda, no jealousy, you know. I’ve seen all that already so I’m really grateful for who I have close to me at the moment.