"It’s hard to get my head around it,” says Holly Låpsley Fletcher. “Around the fact it’s not about what grades you’ve got. I worry ‘What if I have a test on this, and I fail, because I’ve not earned my stripes?’”
If the speed of Lapsley’s ascent seems remarkable — at 19 years old, the past year has seen her move from sixth form college student to recording Long Way Home, her debut album for XL — it is testament to her talent, her musical and emotional maturity, as well as to the fact that she is that exceedingly rare thing: a young artist who knows her own mind about her music, her production, herself.
Although she played piano, classical guitar, drums and oboe, Låpsley did not have a particularly creative upbringing; she was an academic all-rounder, her life equal parts schoolwork, classical music, a growing interest in a career in science. “But I was a creative person being suppressed,” she says. “And I think what drove me to music was a fascination with this whole world that I didn’t know. It excited me. And if I hadn’t had this conservative upbringing I wouldn’t have been so drawn to it.”
In her early teens she discovered electronic music, began going to raves near her home in Merseyside, joined a band. “I was really into ambient music, and the space, and the beauty of it – it kind of reminded me of some of the classical pieces I knew,” she says. Though she had already written songs on guitar, now she began to experiment with their production. “I enjoyed shaping them into a song that was sonically exactly how I wanted it to be,” she explains. “Over the past few years, I’ve come to know how to make the soundscapes in my head.”
She asked her parents for a cheap keyboard for Christmas, acquainted herself with Garage Band and bought a £90 microphone. “And somehow,” she says, “I messed around and created ‘Station’.” More songs soon followed. “I kind of got addicted. It was like an art project. I could be a creative person for the first time in my life.”
Her parents told her to stop making music until after her exams. Låpsley rebelled, and continued to write in secret. “Every night I’d wake up at two in the morning and go downstairs,” she says. “So all those songs were made at night, which is probably why it all sounds really sad and moody.”
She was still studying for her A-levels when she posted her first EP on Soundcloud. Soon afterwards she followed it with the track ‘Painter’. They were songs that revealed an artist who was sonically adventurous, but also gifted with an exceptional voice — rich, soulful, but also capable of a stunning falsetto. “And then blogs started picking it up,” she recalls, incredulous. “I didn’t even know what a music blog was. I printed out every single one and showed my mum. But then it just got out of hand. ”
Long Way Home documents a turbulent time in Låpsley’s life — a period in which she reveled in her new-found music career as it took her from Liverpool to London to Los Angeles and back again.
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