- 29 Aug 23
It’s been a whirlwind 2023 thus far for Nell Mescal,having supported Dermot Kennedy, P!Nk and Florence + the Machine, not to mention releasing a string of stellar pop singles. And there’s plenty more to come…
“I am running so behind!” Nell Mescal tells me from her London apartment. An action-packed weekend lies ahead of her. “I’m playing in Birmingham tonight. I have to clean my house before I go. I’ve got a day off before Latitude festival, and then I’m supporting Will Young in Warwick Castle on Sunday. Plus I’m going to see Oppenheimer and Barbie at some point in between – Barbie is the main event, though.”
So Nell is balancing the average weekend of a 20-year-old with that of a burgeoning pop star with ease, then. Shows with The Last Dinner Party are scheduled before she and her band head back on tour for her headline run across the UK & Ireland this autumn. Indeed, Mescal’s rise has been formidable, with her songs drawing on subjects like childhood, relationships and family. With recent single ‘Punchline’ enjoying plenty of streaming action, the singer’s Electric Picnic debut will conclude her festival run in style.
“I’m so excited!” she beams. “I was on the bill a few years ago and then Covid happened. This year will be my first time going at all. The year Billie Eilish was there, all I wanted was tickets. I cried my eyes out the night she was performing because I wasn’t at it! I don’t think I’ve ever had FOMO as big as I did for Electric Picnic 2019.”
Speaking of the Grammy winner, Mescal’s cover of ‘What Was I Made For’, Eilish’s deeply personal Barbie single, is as enthralling as her previous take on Billie’s 2017 track ‘Watch’.
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“I went two nights in a row to her London O2 shows and cried just as much both times,” Nell recalls. “I didn’t even realise I was such a big fan until I sat down and looked up at the screen. I had only just started being friends with Lucy Blue and it was one of our first friend dates. I was crying into her arms by the end.”
Can she imagine headlining a festival, being the age Eilish was when she did Coachella?
“I don’t know what goes through artists’ minds when they step onto a stage like that,” Mescal offers. “The stakes are so high. I watched every single video of Dermot Kennedy headlining Electric Picnic because it just looked so incredible. Especially when it’s an Irish person headlining that festival, like Hozier, it just looks unbeatable. Everyone knows all of those songs, and they’re there to see another Irish person do something amazing.
“After a support slot, I tend to leave the stage and for the first hour, I’m so happy. Then I go very existential. It’s really difficult to be on stage, trying to remember the words to every song in the set, and then also trying to make sure everyone is engaged at all times – which is just impossible. People won’t be paying attention for that long, because they’re not there to see you. Your main job as a support act is to get people excited for the main person. I’m at the very beginning, but it’s such an exciting journey to be on.
“I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to support artists who I’m obsessed with and love. I see how they interact with their fans. Imposter Syndrome is very real and that never goes away, but everyone I’ve supported who I’ve met has been so lovely with their time. Florence Welch gave me advice. It’s nice to be able to say that they’re all sweet, and actually mean it!”
There’s still one or two artists Mescal dreams of warming up for.
“Taylor Swift is an obvious one, but also Billie Eilish is a huge inspiration of mine. She’s incredible. I don’t even know if I could be in the same room as some of the people I listen to because I’d freak out. Taylor especially, so that’s probably not a good idea! My friend surprised me with Eras Tour tickets. I freaked out. I’m going to Wembley, and my friends are going to pick Eras out of a hat and dress in that theme.
“Lana Del Rey last week at Hyde Park changed my life. My friend Lucy is a huge fan of hers, she quotes Lana in her own songs. I was wrecked after doing a few shows. I will fully remember that gig forever! I was a fan going in, but now I’m obsessed. I want to dive into every one of her songs and read all the lore. It was incredible. ”
It must be strange getting an insight into passionate fan bases from inside the bubble.
“When the rumours about Matty Healy and Taylor Swift were going around on social media, you get consumed,” Mescal nods. “All my friends were talking about it, but you need to take a step and realise that you’re talking about two people that are adults! Everyone needs to go offline, not just if you’re in the public eye. We all need to take a big break.
“I used to not really think that I’d compare myself to other people or go so deep into that area but you do. Every single swipe causes that. It’s not good for anyone. It’s a huge part of my job, especially when I’m not playing shows, because I have to go online and remind people that I still exist. It’s so taxing. I’m not good at taking breaks.”
Happily, Nell seems to be staying grounded, which returning to Irish soil will presumably nurture.
“I can’t wait to be home, playing those shows to friends and family,” she grins. “Out of all the festivals, I’m the most excited about Electric Picnic. It’s the last show we’re doing on the festival circuit, but it’s the ultimate one. We’ve got a really nice slot, which I’m very grateful for. I’m really excited to see Fred Again.. That audience is going to be so sick. A load of my friends are playing, so I’m buzzing. I’m hoping to stay down for the whole weekend.
• ‘Punchline’ is out now. Nell Mescal plays the 3 Music Stage at Electric Picnic on Saturday at 5.30pm
Read the full, extensive Electric Picnic special feature in the current issue of Hot Press: