"I need this to feel unbelievable," says solo artist Self Esteem on returning to Sheffield to live the ‘Leadmill main room dream’
Sheffield solo artist Self Esteem opens up on the ‘uncertainty’ of the pandemic, her childhood dream of playing the main room of The Leadmill, and why coming back to her hometown always ‘feels good’.
Rebecca Lucy Taylor, known as Self Esteem, grew up in Rotherham and has performed in bands since the age of 18.
Formerly one half of Sheffield band Slow Club, Taylor released her first track under the nom de plume Self Esteem in 2017, going on to release her debut album, ‘Compliments Please’ in 2019.
Now, with her follow up out in summer, we catch up with her to find out why it was ‘good to stop’ because of the pandemic.
Speaking from the South East in a NHS sweatshirt, Taylor says: “Not to make “global terror” work for me, but it was good to stop for the first time since I was 18, and I went to Rotherham and stayed with my parents for the whole thing.
"I had written most of the songs for the album before it started, but there was this period of time that I could work hard on what the album as going to be. Between the two lockdowns I recorded it, and then I listened to it non-stop in the third one, and realised what I needed mix-wise so it was a really amazing way to make an album, full of consideration. Enforced by a global pandemic,” she adds, laughing.
"I don’t know what that says about me but it has been alright.”
For most artists, the closure of venues and cancellation of festivals has meant a drastic fall in revenues – and despite the lockdowns giving Rebecca time to work on the album, the need for her to tour the music is clear.
As well as financial uncertainty, the pandemic has led questions over the viability of the industry as a career, but that led to room to find other outlets for creativity, such as painting, and writing a play to be performed at Soho Theatre, which features songs form her latest record.
"Obviously now I need to play live or I am screwed for money.
"I have got a tour in November, and this festival in Sheffield in August but who knows, I am trying to be glass half full about it but the uncertainty has done something to me as an artist, like ‘what if this isn’t possible anymore?’ Because I’ve been in a band since I was 18 and its all I have wanted to do and devoted my life to it, and to be in a situation where it might end, what else would I would do? But I have no answers.
"To have that sobering reality was weirdly good for the work because its focused me in other disciplines – other disciplines that I cant make any money out of,” she jokes. "Like painting. What the f*** am I doing?”
Despite being written pre-pandemic, the first single from the album, ‘I Do This All The Time’, was released to critical acclaim at the end of April, and has since had a huge amount of support and national radio play, as well as leading to an influx of new followers on social media.
Now in her mid-thirties, Taylor says the subject matter of the track; references to growing older, having children, or not; one line says, “getting married isn't the biggest day of your life”, has resonated not only with her peers and those that have not been married or have children, but also those that have.
As well as this, the introspective nature of the lyrics has brought herself and listeners together, with insecurities laid bare.
"I believe people are really relating to it, but it is my deeper inner secrets about how much I don’t know what I think about anything and how conflicted I am the whole time, and how uncomfortable I am all the time, and how alone I feel,” explains Taylor.
“Now everyone has gone, ‘me too!’ It’s like we have all been bluffing to each other, and it is sort of beautiful that everyone is hearing it and feeling better for hearing someone else being miserable.
"As a woman born in ‘86 I feel like there has been some sort of finish line for my whole life, but hasn’t naturally been something that seems it will happen to me – and is it what I would want anyway?
"I’m always trying to question that, and I am worried people that have (had children and been married) will get offended, but it has been incredible people that are saying, ‘yes, thank you for saying’, it’s amazing.”
Now based in London and Margate down ‘that-there-South’, Taylor regularly visits South Yorkshire, and says her “long game is to come back to Sheffield” as it is puts her at ease: “I feel good in Sheffield, there’s a slowness and relaxedness when I am up there.”
Self Esteem will also return to headline Get Together Festival at the Foundry on Sunday, August 8 – but it is the childhood dream of solo headlining the main room of The Leadmill that Taylor is most looking forward to.
"I have been queuing up to get in that place since I was 15, it is my dream to play that main room,” she says, expanding that she would want it sold out, and not “empty at the back.”
"My old band played the main room once, but we had loads of tech issues and I was always way more emotional about how it feels and how much of a big deal it was, but it ended up being an “alright gig”, which wasn’t good enough for me.
"I need this to feel unbelievable, ‘16-year-old Becky’ living this dream. It didn’t last time, so this is the time to get that Leadmill main room dream I have always had.”
Self Esteem’s second album is out in August.