Holly Humberstone is breaking the small-town curse

Get a sneak peak of our cover story with Holly Humberstone, as she discusses her debut album and trading in the rural edges of Lincolnshire for global pop stardom.
  • PhotographerBaard Lunde
  • WriterChris Saunders

Have you ever heard of Grantham? Probably not. It’s a small town in the South Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, with a population of just over 44,898 (according to the 2021 census), perhaps most famous for its scenic countryside and being not just the home of the ginger biscuit but the birthplace of Margaret Thatcher (yikes). Given that description, you’ll be unsurprised to learn that only a select few have managed to propel themselves from their humble beginnings in the town into the entertainment industry – let alone tour the world thanks to their talents. Holly Humberstone, however, has managed to break that curse with some aplomb. The 24-year-old built a fanbase of millions from her bedroom during the pandemic, leading her to emerge from the cocoon of successive lockdowns and metamorphose into one of pop’s hottest properties. Her first two EPs – Falling Asleep at the Wheel and The Walls Are Way Too Thin – captured the hearts of critics and fans alike, and in 2022 she was presented with the Brit Rising Star award, following in the footsteps of Adele, Florence and the Machine and Sam Fender.

It was just a few months later, though, that Humberstone’s career reached even dizzier heights, albeit alongside personal lows: she toured with two of her idols, Olivia Rodrigo and Girl in Red. It was a bittersweet experience, leaving Humberstone with a profound sense of loneliness whenever the spotlight faded and she returned to the isolation of her hotel room. In those

moments of seclusion and invasive thoughts, songwriting became a remedy to heal the crippling homesickness, leading to the creation of her debut album, Paint My Bedroom Black, released last October. It was a project that presented Humberstone at her most vulnerable, painting vivid images of the toll that solitude, depression and anxiety would take.

The success of that album – followed by this year’s Work in Progress EP – has led to her very own US and Canadian headline tour. And it’s in the midst of that tour that she joins me over the phone, while en route to her Chicago show following one in Detroit the night prior. “Sorry about the signal,” she says, before, in true Brit- abroad fashion, going on to detail the unholy amount of smash burgers she has consumed while on the road.

Due to the incredibly intimate and candid nature of Humberstone’s music, I’m expecting to speak to someone more reserved and sheepish, but she answers each question with immense detail and excitement, at one point apologising for “yapping”. In an industry where mystique is held in high regard, Humberstone’s enthusiasm and openness is refreshing. I can see why her fans find her so relatable – she has remained that girl from Grantham, incredibly grateful for the position she finds herself in, soaking up their love but still longing for summer evenings in the pub with her mates and family. But before the time to return home comes, she’s ready to discuss life on the road, how she’s gained confidence as a songwriter and what it was like starting out in Grantham.

This excerpt was taken from HUNGER Issue 31: The Dreamers. Full story is available in stores worldwide now. 

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