There’s something pleasantly disarming about Lola Young’s honesty. In her music, and in conversation, you get the sense that everything she says is perfectly authentic, as if you’re having an off-the-cuff chat with a friend. In a moment when attempts to suss out industry plants and manufactured hype are the norm, Young’s candidness is a breath of fresh air.

The 23-year-old singer-songwriter first landed in the spotlight at 13, when she won the prestigious Open Mic UK competition. While training at the star-making BRIT School, she met future managers Nick Shymansky and Nick Huggett. The former managed Amy Winehouse and came out of retirement to work with Young, while the latter signed Adele to XL in 2006—promising co-signs on Young being England’s next global phenom.

Gigging around her native London, Young honed her powerhouse vocals and signed to Island Records in 2019 when she was just 18. In the years since the soulful singer’s career has blossomed: her 2023 debut project My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely served up an irresistible medley of R&B-tinged alt-pop, traversing topics of heartbreak and hope. More recently, singles such as the raw track “Wish You Were Dead” have further fanned the flames of her popularity. It’s a good time to be a Lola Young fan, knowing that the already impressive artist is just getting started.

V MAGAZINE: Who were your earliest musical influences?

LOLA YOUNG: I listened to a lot of early hip-hop, and a lot of Eminem, growing up. Avril Lavigne was massive. Bon Iver. I was split between that singer-songwriter-type stuff and then loads of hip-hop. As I got older, it was people like Prince and Michael Jackson, and all that good stuff. So [my taste] was quite broad, growing up.

V: You’ve been touring recently. Do you have a favorite song to perform live?

LY: “Wish You Were Dead” and “Conceited” are the two that I feel really excited about, because they’re the two songs, when I’m performing live, that are the biggest and that go down the best. But it always depends on the gig and what the crowd are loving at that point in their lives. I love performing live. It’s one of my favorite bits of what I get to do, especially when there’s a new, fresh song that I’ve never played live before. It’s always really fun.

V: Your next show is in New York. How are you feeling about performing there?

LY: I love New York. I did a performance there before at Elsewhere [in Brooklyn]. It’s kind of like London, so playing there felt like an extension of where I had to perform a lot. But I’m excited for that show. Obviously, I’m doing a massive set this time, so it’s going to be pretty busy and intense.

V: What can you share about your upcoming album and the new music you’ve been working on?

LY: This album is a really love-based piece of work. All the tracks revolve around love, apart from one or two. It’s an album that talks a lot about my past relationship, getting over that, and having a whirlwind of emotions with a new person. It’s a very introspective piece of work—but I also think that it’s very relatable in many ways. There’s a bunch of songs that feel like more of what I’ve been wanting to make for a very long time. It feels like a debut album, I basically went out to LA last year and made this album in a couple of weeks. It feels really cool, it feels really me, it feels like the right time. And I’m excited to release it, for sure.

V: In 2022, you revealed you’d been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and in your recent track, “Intrusive Thoughts,” you addressed that aspect of the condition. What was the songwriting process for “Intrusive Thoughts?” And what does it mean for you to be candid about your mental health in your music?

LY: It’s probably the most important thing to me in terms of what I want to speak about. Obviously, there are a lot of other things that are way more important going on in the world. But I think it’s important because if you don’t have your mental health straight, then nothing else can be straight. “Intrusive Thoughts” was a gateway into me being able to address [my diagnosis] and talk about it again. A lot of my fanbase, and a lot of people who listen to sad, deep, intense music, are finding a way of relating to something that they’re already feeling through music. My diagnosis changed my life, but it also really affected my music, because whenever I’m in a certain state, I tend to write more music. It’s very complex. But, I would love to use my platform to be able to talk about these things. I think it’s really important to have someone who has quite an intense or acute diagnosis talk about their experiences with mental health disorders, and I think I can be that for people. Hopefully, I’m able to do that in the future and continue to do that in my journey.

This story appears in the pages of V149: hitting newsstands beginning July 10!

Photography Eliza Jouin

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