girls, girls, girls
Holly Humberstone and Girl in Red Share Their On-Tour Survival Guide
Holly Humberstone is one to watch. In 2021, the British singer-songwriter took home the Rising Star Prize, an honor awarded to the likes of Adele, Florence + The Machine, and Sam Fender at the dawn of their careers. Humberstone, who hails from rural Lincolnshire on England’s east coast, first found an audience after she submitted a self-recorded song to a local radio station in 2019—a performance which captivated the Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi. With just one single under her belt, Humberstone joined Capaldi on his European tour, before returning home to release her debut EP— 2020’s Falling Asleep At The Wheel—just before the first pandemic lockdowns. The alt-pop EP has amassed over 65 million streams on Spotify since its release, so it came as no surprise that Olivia Rodrigo, Gen Z’s patron saint, tapped Humberstone to join her upcoming Sour tour this summer. But before she hits the road with Rodrigo, the 22-year-old artist is teaming up with yet another breakout star, the Norwegian bedroom pop musician Marie Ulven Ringheim—also known as Girl in Red—for a North American tour. After the release of her new single “London is Lonely,” and two sold out shows in New York City with Girl In Red, Humberstone called up her tour mate for a conversation about surviving on the road, Phoebe Bridgers, and being somebody’s first (concert, that is).—ERNESTO MACIAS
GIRL IN RED: I thought we were going to be together for this, so I was like waiting for you at the venue—
HUMBERSTONE: Yeah, me too. I’m in a car park—we’ve got everything we need here. A TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Walmart, so I’m actually quite happy with where I am. Where are you?
GIRL IN RED: I’m in the little back garden at the venue. Okay, so I have a list of questions for you. My first one is, what did you have for breakfast?
HUMBERSTONE: I haven’t had breakfast yet. I got up really late, because my bunk is so comfy—I been loving it. Now that I’m up, I think I’m going to have a Sweet Green after we finish talking. I don’t understand why we don’t have it in the UK—it’s delicious. What did you have?
GIRL IN RED: Well, first off. I like how you said “I sleep really late,” and late is 10…that’s not even late.
HUMBERSTONE: Well I’d usually sleep until like 6 p.m… but I had to get somebody to wake me up.
GIRL IN RED: I’m having oatmeal and a triple shot iced latte.
HUMBERSTONE: Oh, my god, triple shot. You’re gonna be off your nut in a minute.
GIRL IN RED: This is just to make me normal. Do you drink a lot of coffee?
HUMBERSTONE: I secretly judge people for being like coffee—what’s the word?
GIRL IN RED: Snobs?
HUMBERSTONE: Snobs, that’s the word. I don’t taste the difference between a shitty one from McDonald’s and a really fancy barista coffee. I do like a coffee, but sometimes it really sends me and makes me nauseous. So, I have to pick my moments. My order of choice is an iced caramel latte.
GIRL IN RED: So you don’t have those moments on tour when you need that extra kick?
HUMBERSTONE: Sometimes I do. I’m getting a lot of sleep this time, which I’m pleasantly surprised by. I didn’t realize I’d be so well-rested.
GIRL IN RED: I’m not able to get sleep when the bus is moving, I can only sleep at the bus stops. I love that you’re like, “Yeah I’m getting so much great sleep in this fucking bunk.” No one on our bus sleeps that well, so I’m very surprised. Do you have those noise cancelling headphones?
HUMBERSTONE: No, and I sleep next to the water machine—the generator or whatever, so it’s really loud. But by the time I get into bed I’m so exhausted that I just pass out.
GIRL IN RED: I find it really hard to wind down after a show because—oh, is that kombucha?
HUMBERSTONE: So nice. I’ve got a mango lime.
GIRL IN RED: Your accent is so amazing. Where in England are you from?
HUMBERSTONE: I’m from Nottingham. It’s the midlands—there’s nothing there. Every time I am trying to explain it to somebody, I just say it’s like Robin Hood—with all the forests. It’s where Robin Hood is from. Which is fun and interesting. So, I grew up in this little village thats full of old people and dogs. It’s just really nice. I live in London now, but I’d rather live in a little cottage like a granny forever.
GIRL IN RED: You feel like London is just too much?
HUMBERSTONE: Yeah, it’s so intense. Maybe people who grew up in a big city are used to it, but I’m exhausted just from walking down the street. It is sensory overload for me in London. I would rather live in the countryside.
GIRL IN RED: It’s becoming more popular to move out of the city.
HUMBERSTONE: I’m gonna do it as soon as I can. I feel like I have to be in London right now, but I’d really rather be at home with my parents and my cats. Are you from a big city or are you a country girl?
GIRL IN RED: I wouldn’t say I’m a country girl, but I definitely grew up in a smaller city — it’s an hour away from Oslo in Norway. It’s cold and it has like 25,000 people in it. It’s not a big place, but it has everything a city would have. That became really boring for me when I was younger, I felt like I needed more. I was really about moving to a bigger place. Oslo is just a more beautiful city, in my opinion. I don’t think I’m going to move back home for a while.
HUMBERSTONE: I’ve never been to like that part of the world before. I went to Copenhagen once, for one night, and I was shocked. It’s full of elite humans. Everyone was, like, really hot.
GIRL IN RED: I know. Everyone looks so good there.
HUMBERSTONE: Everyone seems to have their shit together. Even the shops are well organized, clean, and spacious—it was startling. The 7/11 was an amazing retail experience.
GIRL IN RED: I mean, that’s Europe right there. Which stop on tour has been the weirdest?
HUMBERSTONE: The weirdest but the best stop was Baltimore. I really liked it. Maybe because I’m from like a bit of—I don’t want to shit on Baltimore—but I’m from a crap kind of town and, I think, crap towns are the best ones. I was so pleasantly surprised by the crowd and everyone was so nice. Everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. When you’re a supporting act in the UK, people don’t give a shit—people are so rude. The Baltimore crowd was so rowdy and riled up. What has been your favorite?
GIRL IN RED: I think my favorite was last night in New York, the second night at Brooklyn Steele. The first night was a bit of a shit show, because there was so much happening in the crowd that I couldn’t control, and I just tried to save it. I’m probably being too hard on myself. What you mentioned about being the supporting act, by the way, that’s a real thing. If you play support in Norway, people might not even show up. I’ve been getting tagged on stuff where people are posting about you, too. People are saying so many positive things, so I’m really happy that you’re having a good experience.
HUMBERSTONE: Such a good experience. I feel like maybe it’s some people’s first concert, which could be because of COVID—
GIRL IN RED: That’s so insane to think about. Literally, you could have been someone’s first concert.
HUMBERSTONE: So crazy, and people are just gassed to be there. Your fans are so nice. The first New York show was so fun to watch, even though you might have thought it was stressful. It was chaotic in a good way. People left that show completely buzzing. I saw the girl that fainted actually, when I went to the toilet. She was totally fine.
GIRL IN RED: It was really chaotic. I felt like a failure after that show, I cried after it.
HUMBERSTONE: That’s always helpful. No, but it was sick. I was talking to somebody, and then I looked at the stage and there was someone new that I’d never seen up there before. You had a fan up there! It was so wholesome and lovely.
GIRL IN RED: That was cute.
HUMBERSTONE: How did they know what they were doing? I was so confused, like “How is this person really, really good?”
GIRL IN RED: She didn’t have in-ears or anything, so she was kind of just playing off the drums—I’ve seen a bunch of videos of artists bringing people on stage, and they always fucking kill it. It was really cool to be that artist for someone. If you could have been brought on stage by your favorite artist to play a song, which artist and what song would that be?
HUMBERSTONE: Oh that’s such a good question. I feel like 11 year old me would have been so gassed about Celine Dion. She used to be my number one. She’s such a legend, “My Heart Will Go On,” was my fucking tune. That would have been a dream for me, and it also would have been so funny. I learned to play that song on the violin, and it was shit.
GIRL IN RED: The violin?
HUMBERSTONE: Oh my god, I’m such a loser.
GIRL IN RED: No that’s fucking cool, what are you talking about.
HUMBERSTONE: How about you?
GIRL IN RED: My dream would have been Justin Bieber’s “One Less Lonely Girl.”
HUMBERSTONE: Oh, my god. Yeah, definitely.
GIRL IN RED: I just wanted to be sitting in that chair on stage, and get those flowers, and have him walking around singing to me. That was my biggest wish when I was a kid.
GIRL IN RED: Are you very self-aware about how people perceive you?
HUMBERSTONE: I definitely am. I wish I could give less of a shit about that sort of thing, but I definitely do. Our jobs are so intense—everything we’re doing is being judged by every single person that sees it, so how can we not be hyper-aware of everything, all the time? I wish I could give less of a shit, and just be.
GIRL IN RED: I’m trying now to give less of shit. Trying to care less about those things, especially about being on social media and having people forming their own opinions about you, even though they don’t know the whole story. I’ve definitely pulled away from social media the past year, because it scares me.
HUMBERSTONE: I go through periods when I’m releasing music where I can be myself on it and feel comfortable on it. Then I go to the other extreme, when I’m not releasing music and I judge my self-worth on it, and I feel shitty about myself and think my whole career is over. But we’re doing our best, aren’t we?
GIRL IN RED: I feel like I have low social media self-esteem—that’s a term I’ve been using the past year.
HUMBERSTONE: I feel that. You didn’t used to have to be an influencer as well as a musician—you could just make your music and people found you through your lyrics and your sound. Now, it’s just a given that you have to be an influencer as well, and it’s kind of fucked. I can’t complain because we’re really lucky to be able to do this, but sometimes it feels like a lot of responsibility that I didn’t sign up for.
GIRL IN RED: Sometimes I feel guilty for having complaints about my dream job. Just like you’re saying, “I can’t complain.” I do feel bad for being upset by certain things—there are so many horrible things happening in the world, and I’m like, “Oh, I hate social media.” But a person can have several thoughts in their head at the same time, and it’s ok to complain about this aspect of our culture.
HUMBERSTONE: I do feel like it is, in some small way, is kind of important what we do. There’s obviously way more important work to do, but we’re not completely useless. We do give people some kind of escape.
GIRL IN RED: I’ve kind of been undermining my own importance as a musician. I felt out of place for a very long time because I’ve never really seen myself as an artist, but suddenly I am an artist—I’m playing shows, making records. I definitely agree that musicians are so important. When Taylor [Swift] put out Folklore during the pandemic, I was like “I fucking needed this album.” I’ve listened to it so many times, and it’s still one of my comfort albums.
HUMBERSTONE: That was me with Phoebe Bridgers—I talk about her all the time, it’s really embarrassing. That album carried me through the whole summer when we were just stuck inside.
GIRL IN RED: What was it about that album that helped you during the pandemic?
HUMBERSTONE: I connect with her lyrics. She shares so much of herself and her lyrics are so intense and brutally honest—
GIRL IN RED: —Specific.
HUMBERSTONE: She doesn’t try to filter herself in any way. I’ve never met her, but I feel like she gave me some kind of human connection when I wasn’t even able to see my friends.
GIRL IN RED: Phoebe stans.
HUMBERSTONE: I’m so shameless. What are you gonna do after the tour is over?
GIRL IN RED: I’m going to be home for four days, hang out with my dog, then I’m going to go back on tour again.
HUMBERSTONE: Oh, my gosh. Four days is not enough.
GIRL IN RED: But you’re on this tour then you’re you’re going straight to Olivia Rodrigo’s tour so…
HUMBERSTONE: Yeah, it will be fun. I’ve never really toured like this before, so I’m trying to figure out how to look after myself properly, so that I can survive playing shows every night for three months. It’s so far from normal—being in a van, on the road with no consistency whatsoever.
GIRL IN RED: The only thing you know for sure is that you’re gonna play a show at the end of the day, which is so strange.
HUMBERSTONE: How do you look after yourself? Obviously, quite an intense question.
GIRL IN RED: I’m asking for more help now than I did on my early tours. I have an assistant now, her name is Katie and she’s very lovely. She’s right here. Asking for more help and knowing when something isn’t good enough for me—without being a diva of course, I’ve always been really scared of being a diva. I think you’re going to do great. Like I told you that time during soundcheck, you’re always welcome to come into our green room if you want to hang out with someone.
HUMBERSTONE: I love being on tour with you, it’s so fun and inspiring for me.