Hey Ren, how are you doing?
I’m good! This past year has been back and forth. There have been some points where I've been like, “I would prefer to not be in this situation”, but it’s helped with creativity a bit. I've had more time to focus on making music and working on myself, but there have also been times where I’ve been really down and it’s been hard. So I think there's two parts of it, but being out of it now, and just getting out and touring again is really crazy. I’m happy.
Is it a shock to the system going from lockdown to touring?
Yeah, it's so weird. In England it's almost like COVID doesn't even exist. Nobody wears masks. And there are full capacity rooms every night. It's crazy.
Your sound is so unique - you draw on such a wide range of inspirations from people usually separated by genre, from Bob Dylan to Avril Lavigne, and you’ve said that it’s hard to place yourself in a category if there isn’t one that exists. Your sound might be genre-less but it’s very much your own - its cohesive and distinct. Could you talk me through the process of how you worked out and found your very own, truly unique, sound?
Yeah, I spent three years just developing because I knew that I wanted to make music. Every Sunday I locked in with Producer Jeff Hazin, who I still work with all the time. Every Sunday we wrote a couple of songs and tried different sounds, from jazzy to folky to literally everything. We did everything until there was a moment where I was like, “This is the music I want to make for the rest of my life.”
What was that moment?
That was “Waves”, the first song I put out. It feels kind of ambiguous, and it's definitely “poppy” but there's some ambiguity to it that's interesting. It feels different and unique in the right way, not in a jarring way, which I thought was good.You’ve just got to keep going until it gets you. You’ll just know when it’s right.
What was your writing process like with Jeff?
That's another thing that we tried to figure out, how I wanted to write, because I was used to just writing to guitar in my room alone. Sometimes I would come in with ideas for songs and we'd work around them, or we'd start from scratch and just loop the guitar, and see where we’d end up. Sometimes we'd have a therapy session before. We tried everything, and I still do everything. I either bring something in, or I sit in a room with everyone and go, “Okay, this is how I'm feeling right now”. It just depends.
I think your song-writing really speaks to a lot of people who are your age - you’re writing about things that so many other teenagers are going through but are often scared to talk about. I read a journal entry that you bravely posted on your Instagram, from when you were battling anorexia, and it’s so honest and raw. Is song-writing a similar process to journaling for you - a space where you can be honest about the anxieties you’re going through?
100 percent. I always describe writing a song as a journal entry, because it really is someone being so vulnerable. I can't write if it's not something I’ve felt, I can’t make up feelings. I'm just going to be vulnerable, because at the end of the day I'm another human on the planet that feels things that every other human feels. What I can do is make those people feel like they're not the only people that feel those hard things. It's my duty to do that, which is good duty to have.
Yeah, I love that. You've obviously been open, both in posting things like that, and in your music and interviews, about your battles with mental health and an eating disorder – how has being in the public eye affected those things? Has it made them worse or helped?
It's honestly helped because you have all these people that love you so much. I had to make that peace with myself, and decide “I want to just be happy” and I'm happiest if I just live, and am not analysing every little thing that I put into my mouth or not living a regular life. Having people support me, and be like, “you're amazing, you're beautiful, we love you” is what I think I needed to get better, so I'm always so thankful for that. I genuinely think that's the reason why I'm not having these problems anymore. Obviously, my brain is my brain, and my brain is going to be my brain forever. So there are some things that don't change, but there are things that get better.
It sounds like your fans saved you.
Honestly, yeah. That's what I’m trying to say I guess.
Was there a light-bulb moment that triggered your decision to choose happiness?
I was just exhausted all the time and I had no motivation to do anything. That needed to change, and I'm so happy it did. Spending so much time with myself over the pandemic made me put things into perspective a little bit more and I think that's a big reason why I was able to combat those problems. Just being like, “I have an idea of what I want my life to be, and in order to do that I need to make sure first that my brain is okay.” You can’t take on such a big role and not be healthy. You wouldn't run a race if you had a broken leg, you know, it’s the same thing with your brain and mental health.
There are still moments where I'm like, “I just want to be skinny.” Then there are moments where I'm like, “I want to not be concerned about that, because there are way bigger things that I should be concerned about. Why would I just live unhappy?” That was just the root of so many of my problems so I knew if I worked to eliminate that, or at least just make it less of a burden, then I would be better, which is what happened.
That’s amazing, you’ve clearly come such a long way. You’re obviously touring right now with Yungblud, are you working on new music too?
Yeah I’m working on my album, which is really exciting. A lot of it has to do with mental health and it's definitely a bit of a different sound, but it's still me. I feel like as an artist I've just matured, and gotten better. It's better than anything else I've done before, which is really exciting for me.
What was your mind-set going into it?
I was like “just be true. Make everything true”. It was a weird time in my life; it was a weird time in everyone’s life during the pandemic. So just being honest and raw about everything. I wanted to try new sounds too, I’ve started using more synths recently, so it’s still alternative but kind of synth-y, and there are a lot of songs on there inspired by other artists. It feels really unique and special.