Mimi Webb is mid-sentence when she suddenly pauses to answer the doorbell. “There’s a courier picking up this outfit ... where is it?! Oh, there,” she says, sighing apologetically. “I keep getting people turning up to my door when I’m doing interviews.”
The life of a burgeoning pop star clearly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Answering your own doorbell? Returning packages? No minion on hand to deal with such trivialities. On the other hand, Webb is living her best life, as her Gen Z cohorts might put it. Today she’s at home in London, having arrived in “very late” last night after a gig in Norwich. Tonight, she says gleefully, there is a belated launch party for her recently released debut album Amelia, its title a reference to her birth name. “I’ll be off tomorrow, at least,” she chuckles. “No, I haven’t bought myself anything to celebrate the album, because I just want to make memories – that’s a big thing for me. I want to enjoy myself. I had a few friends around [the day it was released], we had a few drinks – but tonight is the big one.”
The 22-year-old Canterbury-born singer, whose grandmother hails from Cork, may not be at the “blue M&M’s” stage of her career just yet, but like any young pop artist worth their salt, she has already put the hard graft in via her social media channels.
“There’s so much to it as an artist now,” she says. “It’s not just go out, you release the album, you do the promo, you do the shows, you do the writing; it’s all the content you have to factor in as well. With TikTok, it can be a lot.”
There is a reason why Webb specifically mentions TikTok. In 2020, her debut single Before I Go was shared by American influencer Charlie D’Amelio, clocking up 85 million views and piling a healthy dose of rocket fuel on to her already ascending star. She is not bothered if people see her success as the product of something going viral.
“I am incredibly grateful for TikTok,” she admits. “Being an artist who released as soon as the pandemic dropped, I really don’t think I would be here without it. It was my saving grace, it was there for me at the perfect time and that’s what I really needed. So I’m grateful for what it’s done.” TikTok has become a different entity now, she says, even three years on. “It’s more ... I dunno. Maybe it’s starting to grow out a bit?” she muses. “It’s a very, very clever app and it just gets harder and harder. I was doing it around the time that no one really was, and it worked so well for me. So I’m very grateful for the timing and the luck around that, for sure.”
Although she had signed to Epic Records when she was 18, Webb says she was initially shocked when things happened so quickly once Before I Go had established her name. Transferring her success online to the real world was “the really crazy one”. Although she has had three top 10 hits under her belt, Webb admits that there was a concern that her online stardom wouldn’t translate to real-world success.
I haven’t actually been over to Ireland much. But now it’s nice that I can go on my own, with my own job, and also see my Irish family when they come along
She needn’t have worried. Not only was she recently nominated for a best new artist Brit Award (losing out to Wet Leg), but Amelia entered the UK charts at number four and Irish charts at number five upon its release. She has sold out multiple dates on the accompanying tour (including two nights at Dublin’s 3Olympia Theatre), at which she says her Irish family, who run a chip shop in Cork, will be there to cheer her on.
“I haven’t actually been over [to Ireland] much,” she says. “It’s definitely been more around the shows over the last few years. But now it’s nice that I can go on my own, with my own job, and also see my Irish family when they come along.”
Music, she says, has always been a potent force in her life. As a teenager, she dabbled in acting and had a small role in EastEnders. It is something she would consider pursuing again in the future, “but for me, acting was just a stepping stone to becoming an artist and getting into the music world”, she says.
“I grew up with dyslexia, so trying to communicate in school was really tough. I always felt like I didn’t fit in and like I wasn’t really meant to be there, because I struggled so much. So to be able to communicate how I was feeling through music was a lifesaver. It was my way of expressing myself. That’s probably the reason I went into it so enthusiastically and passionately.”
She laughs as she recalls the first song she wrote when she was 13. One Life, One Dream sounds like an Andrew Lloyd Webber song (incidentally, whom she would later cross paths with at last year’s Platinum Party at the Palace concert, celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee).
“It was very cheesy and very cringe,” she says. “It was this theatrical, dramatic song about crushes and ‘This is my dream!’ But I was always saying to my mum, ‘When I have my album, I want it to be called One Life, One Dream’.” She nods. “I always wanted to do something important, because I always felt kind of lost as a kid. So when I wrote that song, it felt like there was something for me to hold on to and to strive for. That’s what songwriting meant to me.”
Although its tracklist is laden with bangers such as zippy synth-pop number The Other Side, the punchy Red Flags and the uber-catchy Freezing, Amelia is also laced with heartbreak – most of the songs were written after the end of her first long-term relationship. She has already resolved to go a “different route” for her next record. “I was going through a really tough break-up last year and I thought, ‘This is the right thing for my story; it’s the right thing to write, to get it out of my system’,” she says.
Relationships do suffer, because you are your own brand; there’s a lot of ‘me, me, me’ around it, which can be really tough
“It’s hard to relive those songs, though, because you don’t forget things as quickly as you’d maybe like to. But it’s all a part of my growth.” She shrugs, resolute. “There are always things that you’re going to miss about someone, but the reason it didn’t work was that I was so unhappy. I really was. I wasn’t the person I am now; it made me very insecure and low, and I was really struggling. So I look back now and I kind of celebrate, in a strange way, when I sing those songs, because I think, ‘Right, I’m out of that situation and I’m a better person’.”
She says that the album is called Amelia because it signifies both sides of her personality: Amelia is the “country girl” from Canterbury and Mimi the emergent pop star who wants the world at her feet. The question is, is being a pop star everything she imagined it would be?
“Yeah, it is,” she says, grinning. “Well, I always knew it was going to be ‘go to this place, go to that place’, jet-setting to this show or that show. But there’s a lot more of an emotional side to it too. There’s a quote that I love and that I live by now: ‘To be a star, you have to burn.’ It’s something that really helped me throughout the album, because you do have to sacrifice a lot. You’re not there for those really important moments with your family and your friends. And your relationships do suffer, because you are your own brand; there’s a lot of ‘me, me, me’ around it, which can be really tough.”
I’m just going to live every day as it comes and whatever comes my way, I’ll see where I end up
There is certainly a sense, both in conversation and in her music, that Mimi Webb is still learning the ropes and forming her opinions on the world, like any other 22 year old. At one point, I ask her if there is anything that she is never asked in interviews that she’d like to talk about, but she politely declines – perhaps with one eye on going back to bed, or on tonight’s party.
That doesn’t mean she’s not ambitious, though. It’s a safe bet that you will be hearing more of Mimi Webb in years to come. Still, she is reluctant to look too far ahead, given the perennially shifting sands that the music business is based upon. A 10-year plan? No chance.
“After seeing how much can change in a year, I really don’t know,” she says, half-apologetically. “I’m just kind of in this new world; I’m just going to live every day as it comes and whatever comes my way, I’ll see where I end up. I’m sure I’ll have some sort of change at some point, especially considering how much has changed in the last year for me.” She smiles again, already wise to the fickle music world. “You can never guarantee anything.”
Mimi Webb plays the 3Olympia Theatre on April 7th and 8th. Amelia is out now