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Culture, Music, Interviews

Genre-Bending Nell Mescal

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Nell Mescal pwj9ug

For the uninitiated, Nell Mescal (yes, sister of actor Paul) is an Irish singer-songwriter who hit the festival circuit hard last summer, playing (amongst others) The Great Escape, BST Hyde Park, Boardmasters and Live at Leeds. This year, she’s headed to Oxfordshire and Alex James’ Big Feastival for August bank holiday weekend. Eloise Lonsdale caught up with her to find out more about her musical style and her recently launched EP, Can I Miss it For a Minute.

We’re talking ahead of your appearance at Big Feastival but ahead of then you've got the release of your EP. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind it and like what fans can expect.

The EP was written about a friendship fall-out and how I processed it, so I go back into a little bit. Like, where my first experiences with friendship would have come from. I talk a lot about me being younger and then trying to imagine how the friendship fell apart. It’s kind of like a concept of this one thing, but I’m trying to go back and forward in time to see how I’d still react.

I think if fans have been to a live show they can expect more of the songs that they love. Yellow Dresser just came out and that was a song that had been on the set for a really long time. It’s just me being very honest; a part of me was quite scared to write the lyrics and I had to be convinced to keep them because it was a scary thing to be writing about something so personal.

I was going to ask if you feel vulnerable when you put out such raw emotion?

Definitely, but I feel really safe with the community that’s around me. I guess because I’ve been online since I was 16, posting videos of myself on the internet for people to see, and creating relationships with people – albeit by social media – it feels like just sharing it with friends and that’s a really exciting thing.

Have you found the music industry quite welcoming?

I think I’ve been quite welcomed. I’m Irish and I live in London, and I never really experienced the Irish scene, but I was immediately welcomed into the UK scene. Most of my friends are from New Zealand, which is really bizarre, but I think if you’re open to it, you'll find these pockets of music community that are just so welcoming and so lovely, and I feel like I’ve really found that for me.

Do your Irish roots have a significant role in your music and how do you incorporate that into your songs?

Loads of people ask me this and I never really know what the right answer is. I don’t sing in Irish often – I have some songs that are written in Irish – but I think just me being inherently Irish and very proud of where I come from comes across in my writing. I miss home all the time, and I love it and I love my family and so I think just me being Irish is enough. Do you know what I mean? It would be strange for me to think that someone thought I was from anywhere else when they've listened to the music and then maybe looked at my profile.

When I left it wasn't because I was running away from home and I didn’t like Ireland, or it felt too small; I just wanted something different.

Image credit: Sophie Scott

We’re very excited for Feastival – how are you feeling about the show?

I’m so excited, I can’t wait. It’s going be a really good one.

It's such a nice festival.

I’ve never been, so I’m buzzing. 

Your live performances have been praised for their energy and your connection to the audience. How do you prepare for a live show?

By getting really nervous and freaking out. No, its weird because the last shows I played were in January now and I have a show coming up soon and I’m looking at old videos of me performing and I’m like, ‘who is that, how did she do that, that’s crazy – I couldn't do that now’. I don’t know, I guess a little bit of rehearsal is nice sometimes, but I think the best way to prepare is to just go and do it. 

I’ve got a really wonderful band so, just being on stage with a group of your friends; I feel nothing can go too wrong.

Your music has been described as energetic, alt pop. How do you feel about others defining a genre for you?

I find genres really weird. When someone says, oh that’s a pop song, I just kind of go ok because I don’t know…When it comes to my own voice I can never tell what it is or what it isn’t.

I guess if you’re not aiming for a genre, then it’s just ‘it came out like that’.

Exactly, and on this EP there’s this song that I’m like 1000% would call a country song and maybe if I had more of a Nashville accent it would be a country song, but because we tried to tone it back a little it sounds more folk alt indie pop.

I would say it’s a load of things because I couldn't really just put it down to one, but that’s what growing and figuring it all out is like. When I started I only wanted to do pop because I didn’t know how to do anything else. I wanted to do pop ballads because I was only writing on the piano, and now that I have guitar I only want to write folk music, but then when I get into a room to record it always ends up being folk alt because I love alt production. I find genre and genre-bending really exciting because I never planned to be one thing: I guess I’m going with what happens.

Your music is changing with you.

Yeah, exactly. 

Who are you listening to right now?

I’m listening to a lot of Adrianne Lenker, I think her new album is incredible. I’m also weirdly listening to the Monster soundtrack. It’s a Japanese film and the soundtrack is just actually incredible. I walk around London, and it has no words but I’ve been listening to this one song on repeat [Monster 1] and it makes me so sad. I just feel like it’s the perfect thing for being a little bit dramatic. 

Nell Mescal Can I Miss it For a Minute is out now and available to stream.

The Big Feastival takes place between 23 – 25 August 2024. For tickets, visit thebigfeastival.com

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