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Oscar Nathwani-Hall | 21/06/24

Ladybyrd joins us to discuss her background, musical influences, battles with stress and insomnia, and the message behind her much-anticipated album, which is expected to be released later this year. The Buckinghamshire-raised singer/songwriter has just finished her studies for the year, and she tells us that she is looking forward to spending the summer in London working on music and performing throughout the city. Ladybyrd's love for music is more profound than one may assume as we explore her childhood and the role music played throughout her upbringing, recalling early memories of sitting on her dad's lap whilst he would sing and play the piano.

As the interview unfolds, Ladybyrd explores a conflict between her lifelong passion and the difficulties she’s come across in the music industry, reflecting on her wins and losses.

L: I was born in London, but my parents immediately moved out. So, I grew up in Oxford and Buckinghamshire. My dad moved around a bit because he's a vicar; you go where the church takes you. It was great growing up in the church community. It was quite a unique experience because it's a community with people from all walks of life. There are some downsides to growing up in a religious setting, but overall, I got to meet so many new people.

A: I love that! We grew up in a Christian household, I guess, but when my grandma passed away when I was 11, I think that's when my faith disappeared. Years ago, a friend took me to one of the London churches, and it was like a rock concert. I remember being at the front and crying. I thought this was such a magical experience. I'm not religious, but I envy the whole community spirit, having people to talk to and having such strong faith.

L: Everything's so individualistic nowadays, and as a society, we have forgotten our tribal roots and how we're designed to be in communities where everyone knows each other. That's what the church provides to people. You can get it from sport or music, but churches are really important for so many people. As you mentioned, churches feel like rock concerts; that's the scene I grew up in, which has probably inspired my music.

A: Has your dad always worked in churches?

L: He wasn't a vicar all his life. He was in the army. But then, he had a family tragedy, and it turned him towards God, which is usually for people, often the other way around, as you were saying, with your grandmother. But for him, it was the opposite way around. He felt a calling to lead a church and is a good community leader.

mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg
mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

A: How did music become so integral to your being?

L: It's always been there; I can't imagine when it started. I've had a musical household because my dad used to play the piano. When I was a baby, I would sit on his lap whilst he was playing the piano; who knows if that helped with my musical ability later in life, but it just blossomed into something that I couldn't live without and not something that was just part of the family or part of what we do. It was a way to connect with my sister, being able to sing together and harmonising together. My dad encouraged me to write my songs when I was 10/11. I wrote some cringy songs, and then, as I got older, I went through more situations that you almost need the emotional lapse found in music. That was where it became essential. The music became extremely potent when I went through challenging situations in my life. I would turn to artists to listen to them because I resonated with the lyrics. I wanted to write music so other people could relate and share in those emotions. I couldn't stop writing during COVID. It's just so much fun. It is a community thing like singing hymns. It's a way to unite everyone.

A: What feels like your goal when you write and perform?

L: Any artist's goal, as well as just being able to bring a lot of joy through the song, is to bring a good listening experience. Lyrics are so important. It annoys me when you meet people who admit they don't listen to song lyrics. There's a whole world to be explored if you do.

A: What music did you grow up on that inspired your genre?

L: I grew up predominantly in my household listening to Christian music. But then I found Mumford and Sons, which is a great band. Its non-Christian music was a good segue between the two because many of their lyrics were very theologically inspired. I remember thinking that their music felt inspiring when it came to the lyrics; they were so cleverly put together. A turning point was probably Taylor Swift. As an active listener, I found it to be more good pop music in the charts; then she released Folklore and Evermore, and the lyrics were incredible. It was healing to me in some ways that she had written songs that I felt impacted by. They can be applied to anything, whether you're burnt out, whether you're going through trauma or a different event/health issue. They are powerful both melodically and lyrically.

mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg
mattyvogel_lead-press-photo .jpeg

A: We live in a world where recognition is so important to our souls, and in whatever way or form it comes, it comes from reading things positively and listening to how people engage and interpret them. How has it felt?

L: If anyone listens to my music, I'm like, oh, my gosh. You see streams, but it's wonderful to gain recognition when it comes to the press and people analysing it. At times, I've been quiet about some of the songs and the things I've been through because I am a private person. I don't need to be fostering what's happening in my life. But when you release a song like diary entry lyricism, it's like, okay, people will understand this. When people say nice things about it, it's beautiful, but you still don't believe it sometimes. Or at least I struggle with it. Sometimes, you get less favourable comments and people who comment less positively. I overthink everything. Even when you get positive press, you still doubt yourself. It's a constant struggle in some ways when you love music, and you love putting music out there. I've reached the point though, where I cannot wait to release my album and share something I'm just super proud of. I don't care what anyone says. It's mine.

A: It's interesting because our industry can be so dog-eat-dog. I also know it's hard when you can read ten beautiful comments, but all it takes is one negative one that stays in your head and rolls over and over.

L: I've had some of that recently because my videos across social media have been blowing up. I put out videos of me singing my own songs and covers. I was listening to a song called Illicit Affairs by Taylor Swift, which is such a powerful song. I wanted to write the other person's perspective on it. So I did and had it in my drafts for ages before posting it. It did well, my posts have gone viral. But as a result, I've received loads of hate and negative comments on Twitter. I never comment anything mean about anyone online, especially where it's for everyone to read. It was just a bit of fun. It was a way for me to connect with people. But on the hate side, all it takes is just a few comments. I've got people-pleasing tendencies, that's for sure.

A: If I've learned anything, it is that you can never win. The best way forward is to do what you're doing and stick to what is integral to you and your being.

L: Since November 2020, I started not to sleep. It was strange as I usually sleep well. That's when my battle with insomnia started. I realised later that it was just this underlying anxiety and stress that was keeping me up. I had teachers come up to me saying I looked awful. Mental health struggles have very physical repercussions. I still don't know exactly why it happened. But every week, it was a battle. I've been on sleeping courses, and I've been on different medications, but we found it only got a lot better after finishing my A Levels. Funnily enough, it comes back in waves.

A: It's tough to find that balance, and you're right. Stressing about the ramifications of something you can't control can be quite isolating and, at times, lonely.

L: All my friends know about it now because I've been going about it for so long. Still, it's one of those struggles where it's not taken that seriously because although I have a specific issue, I don't have a particular illness. I just genuinely cannot sleep. People think we're all tired when it is devaluing for those where it's a real problem, and I've not slept in weeks; there's such a physical and mental aftermath from it.

A: Hormones have a more significant effect than most people ever want to acknowledge.

L: I’ve sought help and if you’re struggling with anything, it’s important to talk to people who can help. My mum always helped me during those days. I'm glad to be talking about it, its a start.

‘Kissing Undercover’ by Ladybyrd, is out now

Words Alice Gee & Oscar Nathwani-Hall
Photographer Betty Oxlade-Martin
Styling Phoebe Brannick
Hair & MUA Chess Thorton

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