The mesmerising baroque-pop singer-songwriter discusses ‘Dreamgirl’, poetry, and her desire to live in the moment.
Since the release of her ethereal single, ‘Aphrodite’, in 2019 (recently surpassing 2m listens on Spotify), Honey Gentry continues to grace us with her elegance, releasing back-to-back full-length albums in 2020 and 2021. Though her enchanting vocals and melancholic lyrics draw comparisons with Lana Del Rey’s seductive Hollywood sad-core, the London songwriter embraces her own artistic inspirations, offering a unique charm which allows her art to be both captivating, and heartbreaking.
Honey’s latest album ‘Dreamgirl’ saw her indulge in escapism, overcoming the difficulties independent artists faced throughout the pandemic, in order to craft a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece. Despite adhering to the minimalist approach which brings out the best of her hypnotic vocals, the production receives a polished edge, forging a spellbinding atmosphere which whisks you off to a whole other dimension.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the dream-pop sensation, discussing the inspiration behind her art, as well as her plans for 2022. Here’s how it went:
First and foremost, welcome to Cultural Reset – It’s a pleasure to have you here! How has 2022 treated you so far?
Thank you so much! I have a really good feeling about 2022 for some reason but so far I’ve mostly just been working and exploring some more creative outlets, like painting and making clay pots, and lots of reading!
Congratulations on the release of your elegant sophomore album, ‘Dreamgirl’, last Spring. Talk me through its development – how did the concept come about?
Thank you! It all started in the spring, I was highly inspired (even more than usual) by Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides – I think because of the sense of isolation and mysterious, secret inner world that she creates in that film. And it resonated with me in a different way than it usually had, pre-pandemic. So I started to explore those feelings and that’s how songs like “take me somewhere” and “flowers in paper” came about, and “Dreamgirl” (the song) was inspired by Coppola more generally and what her work imparts on me.
The production on ‘Dreamgirl’ is notably richer than that of your debut, ‘H.G.’. What inspired a more prominent use of bass and percussion on this occasion?
Jumping off the virgin suicides inspiration I was listening more closely to the soundtrack by Air, and from a production standpoint I could hear things in that album that I wanted to try and reinterpret my own way. I had also, earlier in the year, produced a cover of “travelling at the speed of light” by Joywave who are one of my favourite bands (and they just released a new album this month!), and I was really happy with how I had managed to produce it so that gave me a lot of ideas for my own work. I also knew that I wanted to step up from HG in a significant way as a producer and just explore more ideas with confidence.
2021 also saw you team up with New York hip-hop artist Okay(K) on the joint project, ‘Okay, Honey’. How did this collaboration come about, and what was it like to experiment with new genres?
I had been lending my vocals to Okay(K) songs for a couple of years (I think it came about via Twitter), and Okay Honey was a collection of the work we have done together since about 2017 I think. It was cool to see all the songs packaged in one release and the songs are a lot of fun. Collaboration doesn’t come super naturally to me but it’s a really good way to experiment with new genres and see how others work. Last year I also lent my vocals to two songs on the new Astral Gray album which came out in July and those songs have more of a folky ethereal feel – that was fun too.
The past 2 years have been extremely turbulent, and it’s no secret that independent artists have felt the force of the pandemic. On a personal note, you’ve released 2 incredible albums during this period. Do the circumstances in which these were written, recorded and released make you even prouder of these bodies of work?
Thank you so much! In personal terms I found the result of the pandemic was a good scenario for producing music, as strange as that might sound. I have always been someone that spends a lot of time alone and values alone time, and I really nurture my inner world as best I can as that’s where the music comes from. So to be able to spend all day in quiet working from home in my own space, then have no noisy hot hour long commute, just to jump right into recording music. I also had a lot more time to journal and work out all the complicated feelings that were coming up as a result of the isolation and the wider sense of confusion and fear. I can appreciate that I’ve been really lucky to have this experience of it as well – I don’t take it for granted.
Escapism has been a prevalent theme throughout your catalogue, with production on tracks like ‘Valentine’ embracing elements of nature. To what extent did this help you cope with the difficulties presented throughout the pandemic?
Escapism for me predates the pandemic by a good two decades, it has always been my default state of being to daydream or have my mind wander (sometimes to my detriment). But that’s the natural well of inspiration for me.
Your debut album ‘H.G.’ is packed with poetry references. Would you state this as your biggest inspiration when it comes to songwriting?
When I wrote “Aphrodite”, it had started as somewhat of a poem which was quite new to me. I started to open my mind after that point and realised a lot of my original understandings about poetry were rather narrow. I started to explore how I could broaden my writing by not thinking about songs all the time. I really fell in love with the work of Louise Glück in particular and I would say she is probably my biggest poetic influence. When I do write (bad) poetry myself it’s mostly ideas and images that I feel don’t serve a song at this point in time for some reason but want to be expressed. Rather than being connected to songwriting, poetry is more connected to journaling for me, which is something I’ve only recently come to realise. However I would still say that my biggest inspiration is actually film and the language of film, since that’s what I studied and originally set out to do and I suppose is the other half of my creative life. So generally with anything I write, I can generally find the visual storytelling and world building thread of film running through it and when I listen back to my songs even years later, they always still evoke the imagery that I first had in mind when I wrote them.
Now that restrictions are being lifted, can we expect more intimate performances such as the enthralling Pirate Live show from 2019?
I had such a fun time filming the pirate live stream – there’s nothing in the diary just yet but definitely watch this space!
Finally, what does 2022 hold for Honey Gentry?
I usually sow the seeds of new songs and ideas over winter ready to start enjoying them in the spring so that will be next on the horizon I think. Mostly this year I want to live more in the moment; each year I am reducing the pressure on myself and resolving to be more present. I have a couple of ideas for some mini projects whilst I work on my third album, but I’m still very happy with Dreamgirl having her time to shine for a moment whilst I work away quietly in the background. For me 2022 is already shaping up to be a year all about gratitude.