After releasing her introspective debut EP last year, the 21-year-old emerged from lockdown with millions of listeners and a major label deal. Can she protect the intimacy behind her success?

Perched on a wall outside a cafe in Haggerston, east London, Holly Humberstone looks like a harried off-duty waitress. She leans on her knees and stares at the pavement as she smokes. It is only when she looks up, revealing racoon-sized orbs of copper eyeshadow at odds with her well-loved brown hoodie, that her identity becomes clear.

She is, in fact, a harried, very briefly off-duty pop star. The makeup is from a photoshoot that had her holding uncomfortable poses in the street while van drivers yelled abuse. After returning from her first US tour two days ago, the 21-year-old songwriter from Lincolnshire found that the London flat she shares with her older sister had been burgled. Work has left little time for her friends back home, relationships she is trying to hold fast to because “everything else is so alien to me,” she says of life now, sounding shellshocked. “It’s a weird job.”

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