London Grammar's Hannah Reid on burnout, misogyny in music biz

·3-min read
The three-piece British band have been through the grinder since the rapid success of their electropop debut "If You Wait" in 2013 launched them into a breakneck schedule of writing, releasing and touring.

With Britain slowly emerging from lockdown, it's a fitting moment for an upbeat new album from London Grammar, with singer Hannah Reid charting her own journey out of a dark period in her life.

The three-piece British band have been through the grinder since the rapid success of their electropop debut "If You Wait" in 2013 launched them into a breakneck schedule of writing, releasing and touring.

"We were made to believe this was normal and what you're supposed to do," Reid told AFP on a video call from London.

"But it's not one size fits all. Some people can tour endlessly and really enjoy it and get loads of energy from it, and some artists have to balance that with time at home to protect their creative process."

It was more than her creativity that suffered, however.

Reid's health deteriorated rapidly at the end of the world tour to promote their second album "Truth Is A Beautiful Thing", leading to a chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia.

The relentless pace had been compounded by relentless misogyny.

It was endless, she recently told NME: nothing but short skirts and crop tops at photo shoots, lectured by a technician when she asked him to alter the levels, denied entry to her own gig by a doorman who couldn't believe she was the singer -- problems her male bandmates, Dot Major and Dan Rothman never faced.

"Often I was the only woman in the room and it's not a healthy balance of energy in any scenario, and it does make you feel lonely," she told AFP.

- 'Upfront, upbeat' -

But if third album "Californian Soil" still carries some of the band's well-known sensitivity, the American Dream references point to its sense of joyous rebirth.

"Because I lost my health, I felt that I lost everything and had to rebuild my life from scratch," she said.

"I think I show two sides of myself on this album: the vulnerability of the first one and another side -- the upfront, upbeat side -- that needed to come out."

Reid credits a new diet, meditation and therapy for her improved health.

A new frankness and greater control of her career are also visible on the cover of the new album: a woman alone on an island, under a menacing sky, staring at her reflection in the water.

"There's loneliness and vulnerability... but also something strong in that image, and I think I have been strong," she told AFP.

As for the misogyny, she is cautiously optimistic that wider discussions triggered by #MeToo are having an impact.

"I've definitely noticed a shift, a change in the way people speak to me. I feel more respected now," she said, but she added that the music industry had not yet had "its reckoning" in the same way as Hollywood.

Nor should this be only about the treatment of women, she said.

"When there's so much money involved, it's a bit of a cowboy industry and whether you're a woman or not, young men and women are often exploited.

"The music industry is about to have a reckoning with that kind of thing, too."

But there is positivity in the air as Britain's vaccine programme raises hopes of an imminent return to normal, and London Grammar are looking forward to getting back on the road this autumn and hopefully overseas soon.

"I've become grateful for this year we've had at home. It's probably the most prolific I've ever been. That really is a gift.

"We're in our prime at the moment!"