"I'm not a pop star, but I follow a pop star’s schedule,” says Bella Latham aka Baby Queen. “I’m living the pop star life, just without the pop stardom!”
Latham laughs as she wrestles with the idea that she has turned her dual obsessions with words and music into a career. Since emerging earlier this year with single Internet Religion – an intro to the lyrical candour and melodic lightness that characterise her guitar-driven sound – Latham has, among other things, signed to Polydor, released a banging debut EP and felt the force of Jodie Comer’s fanbase when she wrote Want Me about her obsession with the Killing Eve star. It’s safe to say 2020 has been interesting for the 23-year-old, who moved from her native South Africa to London at 18 with a dream of making it in music.
“I haven’t had an experience of being an artist without a coronavirus, a global pandemic and a lockdown across the world,” she says. “So it’s not like I’m finding the industry to be strange, I literally signed my record deal over Zoom. I’m probably going to find it strange when coronavirus ends and I actually have to go out!”
Latham is speaking to Music Week from her room, where the walls are hung with guitars and a giant piñata model of the singer, which she smashed up in the video for Medicine, causing hundreds of placebo pills to fall out. She does a lot of thinking, talking and writing between these four walls, and started therapy as lockdown hit in March. The sessions have dovetailed with a busy press schedule and Latham finds benefits in both (“I guess it feels a bit narcissistic, but I like interesting conversations”). She puts a huge emphasis on honesty as the driving force behind her music.
“There’s so many things I talk about and so many things I think it’s important to talk about, but the main thing I stand for is honesty,” she says. “I push my honesty, that’s what’s really interesting about what I do, that’s what people connect to and that’s what the world needs. If I’m not being completely honest about what I’ve been through, then I’m not writing a Baby Queen song.”
Latham is enduring a tough week when we talk, our interview coming as Joe Biden inches towards victory in the US Election. “I can’t fucking stand Donald Trump, man,” she says. “I cannot abide him, I cannot understand his supporters. Being in music and in London, we’re in a liberal pocket of the world and we think it’s like this everywhere. It’s quite painful, you just realise what’s actually going on and who’s out there. You realise how many arseholes are in the world and it’s sad. And it’s not just arseholes, it’s actual, terrible people, racist, homophobic, bigoted, sexist arseholes. It makes me want to press a button and extinguish the entire human race.”
I push my honesty, that’s what’s really interesting about what I do
Biden’s win will keep Latham’s finger from the big red button for now, but such emotions are fuelling her new music.
“I’ve got music coming next year that is more intensely honest,” she says. “I feel scared about broaching that level of honesty, I don’t feel embarrassed or shy, I just don’t know how people will take it.”
Don’t let the humour and arch pop culture references fool you, Latham is deadly serious about her music, seeking to offer solace through her songs. This results in a fastidious process (“I don’t find it hard to go to those places, I just find it a fucking ballache, sometimes I feel like I’m rubbing my final two brain cells together”).
Latham’s love of lyric writing is jostling for attention with her other “obsessions” (the Election, her label, her pink Gibson guitar) but her biggest fixation is Baby Queen.
“I’m very obsessed with my career,” she finishes. “It’s a really, really unhealthy obsession. It never ends…”
PHOTO: Bella Howard