- Words Isabelle Cassidy
- Photography Olivia Brissett
With the release of her mission-statement mixtape 'C.O.A', SPIDER takes us through the new record, her upbringing, and why Taylor Swift will always be her biggest songwriting inspiration.
At only 22, SPIDER has already proven herself an artist to be reckoned with. With viral tracks like ‘Water Sign’ and ‘I’M FINE! I’M GOOD! I’M PERFECT!’ striking a chord across the internet, her latest album expands on the artist’s commitment for big words, honest statements, and fearless songwriting.
Born and raised in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght in a Nigerian-Catholic household, SPIDER describes struggling to fit into the gender roles or social expectations of a first-generation immigrant family. After being banned from going to gigs, SPIDER found a community online through which to connect and shape her musical identity. Moving to London aged 18 to pursue music, SPIDER felt compelled to produce her own work, taking pleasure in the surprised reaction this fact was often met with.
Entering the internet mainstream during the pandemic, after ‘Water Sign’ blew up on TikTok in late 2021, the artist has been on an upwards trajectory ever since. Her songwriting is underpinned by themes of historical and spiritual histories, and the idea that the past often presents lessons to be learnt. We caught up with the artist to rundown all things C.O.A. Dive in!
Could you introduce yourself and your debut mixtape, ‘C.O.A’ to people who might not have been introduced to you yet? What’s the meaning behind the title?
I’m SPIDER and I’m a 22 year old alternative pop artist from Dublin, Ireland! My debut mixtape C.O.A came out last week which is very insane to me!!! The title C.O.A stands for Coming of Age.
I feel like there’s so many layers to the meaning of the project so I always end up writing like 5 pages worth of an explanation but if I was to introduce it briefly to people who have no idea about me or the EP, I’d say that this project is what finding yourself sounds like, from the perspective of a first-generation black Irish girl who only really started experiencing life after moving out of their strict Catholic parent’s house at 18. If you could imagine all that angst and self discovery and the fuck ups and put all of that into 4 songs, that’s what C.O.A is.
Thinking about coming-of-age, when did you start making music? Was it always something you knew you wanted to pursue?
Nah, I don’t think so. You hear the stories of people who say they’ve been singing since they were in the literal womb and that’s great for them! But I definitely stumbled upon my passion for making music when I was a teenager. I think I was 13 or so when I started singing but 16 when I actually started taking it seriously and playing around with the idea of pursuing music in London when I got older. I always knew I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry though.
I did acting from when I was really young (I was tragically bad) but I quit when I was 12, and then I decided I wanted to have a lil author era and would write short stories on the internet but I got bored of that and did youtube for a couple months. Graphic design was my passion for about 2 weeks and I would make these really wack edits of Taylor Swift or 5sos and then I just lost interest. Music was the one thing that could consistently keep me engaged and the only thing that I’ve found myself going back to which is probably because it was more than just something to do but an actual emotional outlet as well which I definitely needed.
A lot of your songs are big on honesty, for example ‘IM FINE! I’M GOOD! I’M PERFECT!’ and ‘U GET HIGH / I GET NOTHING’ – what is your songwriting process? Do you feel there’s a cathartic element to the ability to process emotions through your music?
Yeah absolutely! I grew up in a very structured environment where I wasn’t really encouraged to express my feelings or even feel them myself because they were always ‘too much’ and if I felt anything other than happiness then I was being difficult or disrespectful. As a teenager that led to me bottling up a lot of shit that I would’ve never gotten to process or explore if I didn’t start writing. And even now as a young adult, I’m actually getting much better at it but I still struggle to articulate my feelings. Making music just allows me to have my own space to do all of that without people telling me that I’m wrong for feeling the way I do.
As for my songwriting process, it’s very random. I don’t even know if I can call it a process because I genuinely feel like it just happens and if I had a really good session and I try to replicate what I did, I never can and I’m just like ‘damn.’ I think whatever I’m feeling deep down inside ends up coming out in the songs and it’s normally either emotions and things that I’ve been trying my best to ignore or emotions and things that feel so much larger than my body that if I don’t find a way to write about it I’ll literally explode.
Who were some of your musical inspirations growing up?
Lorde, Halsey, Taylor Swift – I was obsessed with those 3 and still am. Lorde and Halsey were always amazing at creating bodies of work that felt like the soundtrack to my life and Taylor Swift just has a way of saying things, and you hear it and you know no one else could say it like that. Like, “You call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest” Who says that??!! They also had very strong online communities and that’s always been something that I gravitate towards. I love when artists have a very tight knit group of supporters who have their own pocket of the internet. When I was younger it was the main way I interacted with music and popular culture so that’s also why I loved them so much.
How has online culture overlapped and influenced with your music career? I understand that you were immersed in online communities, running pop band stan accounts…?
I did run a ton of stan accounts when I was younger, It’s actually mad how I was able to keep track of them all but now as a 22 year old I can only think of one thing at a time lol. I also ran a 5 Seconds of Summer update account with two other girls from London and I remember literally tweeting about the band underneath the table during class. Honestly I think that being so involved in stan culture so young has given me such an interesting perspective that I’m able to apply to my own music career – like, when it comes to the world that an artist creates around their work, I’ve now been both the consumer of a world and the creator of one if that makes sense?
I know how important having a sense of community and belonging was to me as a fan and that’s now the type of world and energy I want to create within my music and the way I want to navigate my music career is to be making sure that my music is more than just music but is also a safe space for people who’ve ever felt similar to how I have, to feel their feelings and access certain emotions that have maybe felt out of reach for some time. I feel especially strongly about creating this type of space for young people of colour, because we’re often demonised for expressing our emotions and raised to be so strong that there’s no room for sensitivity and vulnerability – If someone was to feel like they had found that within my music, that would be my biggest accomplishment I think.
What are you proudest of about your first EP?
Definitely the fact that I wrote and produced every song on the project myself. I still remember the first beat I ever produced and I truly hope it never sees the light of day – so to think I was able to go from that to producing and writing my debut EP all by myself is pretty cool to me, and I’m grateful to 17 year old me for not giving up even after that stinky beat lol…
Also as a female producer, we’re underestimated and have our abilities questioned so often. The fact that I was able to make this feels like a big fuck you to every mediocre white dude who’s ever looked at me shell shocked when I said I produce my songs. Like yeah, I’m talented and just as good as you. Go cry about it.
You were raised in a Nigerian-Catholic household, how do you feel like this translated into your musical process and the themes of your EP? Do you feel like the challenges of belonging shaped you?
100%. I think my upbringing and the fact that I was in a lot of ways expected to just keep quiet about how I felt and be the perfect daughter ultimately led to the honesty that you hear in the music now. I never felt like I was able to be brutally honest about how I felt out loud so I would just put it all in the music and just let it rip, not hold back anything at all.
The difficulty I had trying to find a place within society definitely shaped the themes of the EP. I was constantly between two different cultures and didn’t really sit comfortably within either. I never allowed myself to make mistakes because as a black girl in a white country with immigrant parents, I couldn’t afford to be wilding out like that – we’re not given second chances, the excuse of just being young or the benefit of the doubt. I was soooo busy trying to be perfect. The fact that I allowed myself to experience growth, mistakes, fear, sexuality and all the themes in the EP was me throwing away the rule book and deciding that I deserve the right to experience my own growth.
Is your personal history, and learning lessons from the past in a wider sense, something that’s important to your musical journey?
It’s probably the most important part about my musical journey. I think that because of my personal history the music comes from a place of what I could only call, like, rebellious vulnerability? I don’t know if that even makes sense lol, I know that being vulnerable isn’t normally seen as rebellious but I think if you’ve grown up in an environment where being sensitive and showing raw emotion are things that were rejected or basically forbidden, being able to express your feelings through any medium of art is an act of rebellion in itself. I feel like I’m starting to sound hella pretentious and I should probably stop now, but I do think that continuing to express yourself when you’re consistently shot down for it is so badass.
If people were to listen to one of your songs, which do you feel serves as SPIDER’s anthem? Is there a track that holds a special place for you?
Definitely “Water Sign”. Regardless of the fact that it’s my most popular song right now, it’s special to me because it was one of the first songs I’d made after taking a break from music for nearly 2 years. And it was the first song that I truly felt so connected with, It just felt really right and sounded like the fresh start I had been waiting for.
“Water Sign” went viral on TikTok, how do you reflect on it’s success now? Especially as someone so connected to internet culture, was the concept of virality something that was on your mind when you started making music?
To be honest, the whole situation still has me so flabbergasted sometimes. I always kind of knew that if I was ever to break through in some way it would be because of the internet. But then when it actually happens it’s like ‘Oh, damn it’s happening now I don’t know if I’m as ready for this as I thought I would be.’
But at the core of it I’m insanely grateful that it happened. I look back on it and feel very much like the way everything happened makes so much sense and I don’t see any other way that any of this could’ve happened.
What’s next for SPIDER? What are you manifesting for 2022?
Oh my god, I’m manifesting so much that I kind of stress myself out like I think I need to chill, It’s a bit mad lol. I’ve actually been manifesting even more lessons and experiences in 2022. It’s kinda like, why would I do that to myself, but it seems like I make my best art when I’m actively learning about life and my role in it. I think I’m also obsessed with self discovery and I should probably unpack that in therapy…
Other than that I just want to make a shitload of good music, find the people who will resonate with it and build this sick community of sensitive badasses who feel too much. Also, this is so unlikely, i’m giggling as I say this because it’s like girl, please seek help, but I feel like I should say it for manifestation purposes – a grammy would be cute as fuck. But maybe in a couple more years!