Meet Honey Gentry: Lana Del Rey's success gave me confidence to write low-key, thoughtful music

Photo: Joshua Atkins

"I try and give myself permission to not be 100% perfect, but to be 100% authentic and present instead."

Honey Gentry was named as one of NME's essential new artists for 2019, and she has certainly made a mark with new single, 'Daydream Baby', released today (14.06.19).

The dreamy London-born singer makes you want to cry and dance at the same time with her spellbinding, soul-stirring vocals.

Here, Honey - who will release her new EP 'Dreamlover' next month - tells us about Lana Del Rey's success giving her the "confidence" to make emotive and "low-key" style music as someone who is "introverted", her "kinship" for 60s' Tennessee trailblazer Bobbie Gentry, the importance of being "100% authentic and present" on stage , and how we should all start paying more attention to what our dreams are telling us...

'Daydream Baby' is intense lyrically but you also want to get up and dance to it.

People like Mark Ronson on 'Late Night Feelings' and Dua Lipa have really mastered that. What inspired you with this song?

Very early into writing 'Daydream Baby' I realised I was dealing with a heartbreak song; it’s new territory for me lyrically, to write so directly about heartbreak.

I was inspired by pop songs of the 50s and 60s, which sometimes involved the narrator of the song clinging desperately to the person who had broken their hearts, or begging to be broken free which actually I don’t think we see as much in modern pop any more.

I think it’s seen by some as a bit old fashioned and not very empowering.

I think that’s a good thing. I love songs like 'New Rules'.

But also, personally I think that it’s okay to acknowledge that heartbreak, like all emotion, is complex.

You can wrap love and hate up very tightly at times. That’s often what makes it so confusing. The stage before you say “forget you, I’m moving on, I’m worth more” most of us go through a state of disbelief, betrayal, vulnerability, abandonment - those experiences were what I was interested in exploring with this song.

How does it feel to be compared to Lana Del Rey. Is she an inspiration to you?

I always take it as a compliment. 'Honeymoon' is my favourite album of hers.

She is an artist who seems to have been consistently guided by something internal and true, which is something I really respect about her and find very inspiring.

Her success gave me the confidence to go ahead and write music like mine that suited a more low-key, thoughtful singing and performing style, and maybe by someone who is a bit aloof and introverted; and to know there was still an audience for it on that level.

You have noted Bobbie Gentry as an influence. Although she is not your real mother, do you feel you have a spiritual connection to her?

My own mother was born on 3 June so the fact Bobbie opens her most famous song naming that date, I find somewhat cosmic.

I feel a kinship with her mostly by the way she shook off her whole life, skipped town and vanished. Even at the height of quite significant fame. That’s always appealed to me.

Tell us about your love for Marilyn Monroe and Hollywood?

I think like most people it goes back to childhood.

Despite her position as an icon, a sex symbol, one of the the most famous women to have ever lived, the actual person “Marilyn” was remains somewhat a mystery to most; her real personality, fears, dreams lost to time except for cryptic diary entries, fractured rumours and stories about her life.

You almost feel like you know her but you never can.

I think that mystery and the sadness of it, is a thread that runs through most of the lives of the icons of that time and even now.

If you could collaborate with an artist dead or alive who would it be?

Trent Reznor

Do your songs start as poems?

Usually I have an image in mind (either an image I see, a memory, a dream, a movie scene…) and I’ll start to construct a story around the image, and write simple music as I go.

'Aphrodite' was the only song I’ve written so far that started off entirely as a poem and the music came after.

How did being named in NME’s 100 Essential Artists for 2019 feel?

It was a delightful surprise to me. It gave me a real confidence boost and a sense that I must be doing something right so I should keep going. I hope to prove them right.

What can fans expect from your upcoming EP?

More variation than 'Moonlight', both stylistically and lyrically; very much still taking place within the “Honey Gentry” world though.

Do you get anxious before releasing new music?

Music is the probably the one thing in life that doesn’t make me anxious! I’m more excited than anxious before a song comes out.

Earlier in life I was rarely one for seeing a project through from beginning to end (and being happy with it) so that’s something incredibly satisfying about putting music out by yourself. That feeling alone counteracts any negativity, anxiety or pressure.

I’m just happy to have finished something I’m proud of and I enjoy sharing.

You struggled with stage nerves. Do you have any remedies that you have picked up along the way?

Rehearsal, preparation, and a collaborator I can trust.

I like to think that the charm of a live performance is the rawness of the emotion in the moment, and the human connection - so I try and give myself permission to not be 100% perfect, but to be 100% authentic and present instead.

As you write about unattainable dreams, do you keep a notebook by your bed in case you have a dream worth writing about/

I journal quite obsessively and have done through most of my life - so I do usually write down my more vivid dreams if they strike me as symbolic.

I see dreams the same way I see songwriting (and poetry); that there’s something trying to break through into your conscious from much deeper than you first may realise - so we should pay attention to our dreams and listen back to our own words to learn more about ourselves.

More than ever music needs to be a place of escape with the way the world is.

Is music an escape for you?

Music has certainly always been an escape for me; I think that’s why I have always enjoyed writing about abstract things.

Hopefully without coming across as pretentious, surface level reality and routine has rarely been that interesting to me, especially as a writer - and at times has been downright unbearable - I have to delve deep into something deeper, darker, hidden, abstract, before I find anything I want to write about.

You are a very visual and cinematic writer. Tell us about your lyric video for 'Daydream Baby' and how you pieced together the visual?

Thank you. It’s always a compliment to be described as cinematic.

A career in cinema was the first thing I tried to pursue; I went to film school and thought I would grow up to be a screenwriter, editor or documentarian.

Since those days I’ve always worked with archive footage.

It’s a great resource for artists because it’s free to use and you can construct a narrative in video using images and footage you couldn’t easily recreate yourself if you have a low budget.

Every person who works with the same footage will have a different interpretation for it too.

What I wanted to convey with this one was a breakdown of the “dream”, starting off with all these images of perfect relationships … and then around the second chorus we see a breakdown and literal reversal of these images, going into the final chorus which has this character utterly in despair, no romance or dreams whatsoever; I thought it was a cool way to try and express some extra layers to the song through the visuals.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I hope in five years I’m a better songwriter, and I hope I’m happy, whatever I’m doing.

'Daydream Baby' is out now.