Maria Hanlon caught up with Molly Elizabeth, after her stunning set at The Great Escape Festival, to talk artist progression, songwriting, UD, Talent House and her future in music…
MH: First of all, how was it headlining the UD stage at The Great Escape in the Komedia Basement!?
ME: I was so excited to actually finally do it. That’s been one of the festivals I’ve always wanted to play at. I used to watch all the YouTube videos years ago when I was like 14, 15, so it was so weird actually doing it! It was really exciting and it was so cool to watch everyone else and meet other artists.
MH: I last saw you at the UD Songwriting Camp in UD’s brand new Talent House. What did you think of The Talent House and Songwriting Camp?
ME: The Talent House is so nice! It’s all so shiny and new. The songwriting camp was really cool too. It was the first songwriting camp I’ve done with Flames Collective. It was really interesting, I’ve never been in a setting where there’s eight people in one room writing a song. Usually I do everything myself, like me and a producer or whatever. So it was really weird being in a room of eight people and seeing what everyone else’s ideas are. It was a really good experience, it made me want to work with more writers and bring more people into my sessions. It’s so nice getting everyone else’s perspective, you don’t realise that you can get the same beat and everyone will write completely different songs.
MH: Before we get onto your new single, I want to know a bit more about your journey as an artist. So when did you start singing & realise this is what you wanted to do?
ME: My mum’s a really good singer, so from age 10 she put us in singing lessons but I was so shy so I didn’t actually sing, I would just talk the words. My singing teacher would put on karaoke and I wouldn’t sing, I’d just speak whatever’s on the screen because I was so shy. Then I got taken out of school to get homeschooled in Year 10. My mum was like, ‘If we’re taking you out of school you need to have a hobby, you can do whatever you want, you can go swimming, dancing…’ So I was like I’ll just stick with the singing, it was the easiest option, I didn’t need to do anything physical (laughs). So she said, ‘OK cool, why don’t we start recording and doing covers, let’s start posting so you’re active and doing things’. So my singing teacher recorded one of my songs, this was when I was 14, a cover of a Zara Larsson song. Then I made a video of it so it looked like I was singing it live and we posted it on Facebook and it went viral in my little town, everyone was sharing it…
After that, one of my mum’s friends knew a really big producer. I was put in contact with him and he then got me in with Adele’s singing teacher, who helped me get into ELAM (East London Arts and Music). I also had a weekly slot at Camden Lock where I sang at Proud Camden and it would get so busy that I did it every Sunday for three hours. I was 14, 15, and sometimes there’d be, I’m not even joking, like 300 people watching me. I had my little tip jar out and some weekends genuinely, my Mum was having to pour my money out. I was 15 and I’d be coming home with 500, 600 pounds in notes and coins – it was crazy! That definitely brought my confidence up with singing live and singing in front of people because everyone would be filming you. It’s kind of like busking really; I just busked for a bar, and then after that I got into ELAM, everything happened from there.
MH: How have you found being part of UD’s Flames Collective?
ME: I’ve been in Flames for two years and I was so scared when I first joined. I was like, no, I can’t do it, but everyone is so nice. The majority of my best friends who I speak to every single day, do everything with, are from Flames. I was scared to join because it’s loads of vocalists but it’s not like that, it’s not anything competitive, everyone’s rooting for everyone. Everyone shares everyone’s posts on Instagram, someone posts a song everyone’s on it. Andy (UD’s Singing Teacher), usually goes around in a circle and everyone will sing a solo and then he’ll be like, ‘Oh actually, can you do it?’ No one gets like ‘Ugh they got the solo’. It’s like ‘Well done, that sounded so good!’. You feel like you can mess up, if I sound rubbish I’m like, ‘Sorry, guys, this is going to be really bad’. You’re comfortable enough to be like, ‘That was the worst singing I’ve ever done in my life’, but no one will laugh at you. It’s kind of like a little family, everyone just wants the best for everyone.
MH: Do you feel like you’ve built up a community with other artists?
ME: I have people on Instagram, where it’s like if they post something I’ll share it, if I post something they’ll share it, everyone comments on each other’s things. It’s a nice community, and everyone kind of knows everyone, the industry is so small. Especially coming from ELAM, a lot of people are now doing their thing in the industry, you’ll always know someone. I feel like a lot of the time everyone does have everyone’s backs and wants the best for everyone.
MH: Musically – who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
ME: I don’t really think I have a specific person or like a specific genre, but I grew up with lots of different music. My mum was really into R&B and Soul, you’d be in the kitchen and it’d be D’Angelo, Erykah Badu or India.Arie and then you get in Dad’s car and we’ve got Chase & Status and Drum & Bass. It was really versatile, you’d be in Mum’s car and you’d be in Dad’s car and you will not get the same vibe ever. Then, just growing up as a teenager, you listened to a lot of pop and whatever’s on the radio. You can hear that, I feel like I have an R&B-pop type of vibe anyway. You can hear what I’m interested in through what I make and how I sound, but as for a specific genre, I don’t think I could even say, because my playlist is a mess. People get in my car and they’re like ‘Molly this is stressing me out’. I like just listening to everything really.
MH: So let’s talk about your debut EP ‘Cruel Intentions’ as it was Produced by Lauren Faith (KAYTRANADA). How did the collaboration come about and how was it working with Lauren?
ME: I DM’d Lauren and it was a fan girl moment, ‘I love your stuff’, you know the usual. We had one session with each other, I came home and I was like ‘Mum I really like her!’ It was so nice to get in the studio with another woman. When you’re writing songs, it’s really personal, but I’ll be sitting there and sometimes it can be a little bit daunting when you’re there with a 40 year old man and he’s like, ‘OK what should we write about today?’ and I’m like ‘I just broke up with my boyfriend, I’m 16 years old and I’m going to cry if that’s OK’. I first met Lauren in 2019 and I’d freshly come out of break up and I told her about it and she was like ‘Same, I understand how that feels’. Usually I’ve got men being like, ‘Oh ha ha, another love song’, so it was really nice to have another person to understand what it’s like to be a girl and go through these things. Since then, she’s become more of a friend, I look at her as an older sister figure. I’m the oldest in my family, I’ve got 13 younger cousins and I’m the oldest of three sisters so I’ve never had the older sister vibe, I’ve always just been the oldest. So it was so nice to meet someone older than me that I can just pass on my rubbish to and just let her listen to it. I speak to Lauren all the time, not just about music, I FaceTime her and we’ve been out for dinner and stuff and not even been to the studio. We’ve created a separate bond and friendship now so when we do go into the studio it’s not like ‘What should we write about today?’ because she knows everything that’s gone on in my life. It just happened and it’s so natural, it’s just flown so perfectly.
MH: Your new single ‘Heart Eyes (Messing With You)’ is out now, tell us the story behind the song?
ME: So, I went to my local Tesco and literally just saw a boy in the aisle. You know when you see someone and you plan your entire life with them and look at them and think ‘Oh my god, I could bring you home to my dad, my dad would love you. Never spoken to you in my life but you would just fit in so perfectly and look so good and we’d make beautiful children’. I never spoke to him but I really fancied him and wrote a song about how much I was in love with him and how it was love at first sight. I’ve never even seen him since, he’s probably caught me running around the shops looking for him (laughs). I like to overreact, I’m extra in real life and my songwriting life.
MH: You’ve already been called ‘Essex’s next pop star in the making’ by BBC Introducing this year, and had lots of radio play and love from BBC, you sold out your headline show at Camden Assembly, and performed Great Escape just to name a few – what else is on your bucket list as an artist?
ME: I would love to support a really cool artist and do a tour supporting an artist, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and just release more music. I feel like I have so much more music that I want to get out there and just release as much music as I can. I would love for someone I don’t know to be like, ‘Oh my god, Molly I was listening to you today’ or ‘I’ve been listening to your songs I know all the words’ or add me to their playlists. Just little things like that would just be really cool.
MH: So what is coming up for summer? Do you have any more plans? Any more gigs?
ME: I’ve been planning more gigs. I want to be able to do gigs all the time, I miss performing weekly. Also, releasing more music, I’ve got more music that will be coming out this year, I don’t know exactly when. I’m just trying to get out into the music scene more, show my face a little bit more, network more and create a bigger community of people that want to support me and I want to support them.
MH: So just touching on that then, with networking and Instagram and DMing people, how important do you think that is nowadays to build up a community in the music industry?
ME: I think that’s a key factor especially in this industry. A lot of things in the music industry are about who you know, and obviously about the talent but you can never know too many people. It’s about knowing as many people as you possibly can, seeing as many new faces and learning as many names as you can to be put into a situation so if someone talks about something you’re like ‘Oh, I know them’. On the flip side, not being in a room and people talking about you is really important. It’s the most vital thing in this industry, literally just your name being spread as much as it can.
MH: Last question – what advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out?
ME: I feel like a generic one is don’t stop, just keep pushing. In this industry, it can be really hard. Sometimes I have days where I’m like, I can’t do it anymore. Every time you hit a wall, you just have to figure out how you’re going to overcome that or knock it down. You have to just keep pushing for it because it’s a very big industry and there are so many people that want the same thing as you. The only person who’s going to get you to the end goal is yourself. Even out of everyone that you know, and everyone that you meet, the one person who is going to make your dreams become reality is you, no one else can do that for you. Also just practising your skill and what you’re doing day in day out. It can be hard, you can definitely forget or slow down but keep enhancing your skill because you’re constantly going to grow and get better at what you’re doing.
Words by Maria Hanlon @mariahanlon
Listen to Maria Meets on the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month 3-5pm on voicesradio.co.uk