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  • Emma Egan + Emily Marshman

Nell Mescal on her inspirations, the Sunday scaries, crying in public, and her new EP, "Can I Miss It For a Minute?"

Credit: Sophie Scott

It’s easy to feel seen by Nell Mescal.

The newly-twenty-one-year-old Irish singer-songwriter has had a whirlwind of a last year or so, and it’s all culminating with the release of her first EP, Can I Miss It For a Minute?, out today on LAB Records. It feels, in part, like a long-awaited exhale, and earlier this week, Emily and Emma sat down to chat with her as she prepared for its release, about her inspirations, crying in public, and kinder eggs. Nell’s honesty in her storytelling has earned her a spot on many people’s ones to watch lists, as well as an inspiringly dedicated fanbase across the globe. There’s nowhere for her to go but up, and this is only the beginning.

While Can I Miss It For a Minute? is the first body of work being released that isn’t a single, Nell has been consistently putting out music since 2020. She’s always known what she wanted to say, but she’s recently really stepped into her own and found a way to say it that made sense to her, and she says she owes that in part to her contemporaries, as well as the artists she’s grown up loving. One of her inspirations is fellow artist Lucy Blue, whom Nell says is “just so fucking good.”

“We lived together for a little while and she was so inspiring. It pissed me off because I was like, why are you still working? Like, go to bed. And she’d be, like, producing. I’d be like, fuck, I have to do that. But she is just so talented.”

Can I Miss It For a Minute? truly was a long time coming for Nell: “It took up so much of my brain for, like, four years,” she said in our interview on Monday. “I only wrote about one topic for the whole time…it’s done now, and it’s wrapped up in a bow, and everyone can listen to it, and I can write about something different. I can look at it if I want to, and I can listen to it when I want to, but at its core, it doesn’t consume me anymore, and that’s for everyone else. I’m excited that it’s there and that people can listen to it, and I love it so much. So, yeah, it’s just all been very exciting. That’s been, like, my main word.”

She’d also spent quite some time gigging and playing festivals, laying the groundwork for a fanbase, before the release of this EP, and discovered that “touring is so weird. Nothing is normal, for weeks, nothing is normal, for days, nothing is normal. Your clothes fucking stink…Like, you find out that you snore, and it’s terrible. And everyone knows that you snore now. And you’re like, what the fuck? News to me.”

But playing gigs isn’t all stinky clothes and finding out you snore. Nell told us about a very sweet tradition she and her bandmates have initiated on recent tours: “Well, we ask for [the venue] to hide a kinder egg somewhere in the dressing room. And so we all fight to the death to see who will find the kinder egg first, and then we build the child. We call it our child and we put it in a box and they all stay on the stage with us. So that’s like the main thing that we do during the day. And some venues will, like, do proper, like, hunts. And there’ll be clues all around. Otherwise you just kind of search for them and they really get involved. It’s really cute. But then right before we go on stage, we kind of give each other a group hug. We all say something we’re grateful for. Then we say we’re grateful to be alive. And then we go on stage and it’s really cute and lovely.”

At its core, Can I Miss It For a Minute? is a body of work about growing up and away from who you were when you were young, and who you thought you’d be forever. Mescal’s openness across the EP seems effortless. A perfect encapsulation of the tearing feeling of permanent change, the sometimes-uncomfortable feeling of being known and learning to know yourself. She moved to London three years ago, and told us about how difficult it was for her at first, but that she eventually found her place: “[The] first year was awful. And then all of a sudden, like, two and a half years in, I was like, I’ve gotten it. Like, I figured out a way to make friends. I figured out why I’m actually here, because it took me a while to figure out if I had run from something or if I was escaping something or, like, actually wanting to be somewhere else or pushing myself to do something for the sake of, like, my career or whatever. And then it all just kind of came to me.” The EP would never have come to be, Nell says, if she hadn’t left home, because she was too close to what had hurt her, and what she had written about. It’s been a long journey for her, but release is finally here. And this past weekend, Nell spent her time preparing for it the way any twenty-one-year-old would want to – in London, with her friends and family, and with Adrianne Lenker.

Nell’s birthday was Sunday, she tells us, and in a happy coincidence, Lenker was playing a matinee show at the Barbican, in London. “Till the day I die, the best gig I will have ever gone to. I sobbed before she even got on stage. And then she got on stage and she sung ‘Orange.’ And then the next song she sung was ‘Angels,’ from b-sides. And I never thought I would hear that live, ever, in my life. And truly, I grabbed my brother’s hand and he goes, ‘This is ‘Angels.’’ And I went, ‘I know.’”

The title itself comes from the fourth track, “Electric Picnic,” although it wasn’t always going to be called Can I Miss It For a Minute?: “Everyone was like, it has to be done by 4:00 p.m. You need to send in the name of the EP. And I fully was like, the Yellow Dresser EP, all caps, blah, blah. And then, five minutes to go, I listened to “Electric Picnic,” and I heard “can I miss it for a minute?” And I was like, there’s a reason I had sung “can I miss it for a minute?” twice. And also, it encapsulates it. Like, it makes the whole thing make sense. It’s this part of my life. I don’t hate it. It shaped me in ways that I needed to be shaped or ways that were so hard, and they forced change in negative ways. But at the end of the day, [it’s] what brought me to where I am now. And I think it’s cool to miss…all the stuff that hurts so hard, because that’s just what shapes you. So I feel like Can I Miss It For a Minute? really brought it all together for me. And, like, as soon as I named it that, it started making sense to me because I named it before the songs were recorded. I named it from my bedroom at home in Ireland, and I was like, that’s it.”

We also spoke with Nell a bit about the unique, lovely relationship she’s managed to cultivate with her fans online: “They’re just so cool,” she said immediately, a huge smile on her face. “I started on Instagram, posting singing videos on there, and I loved it. People were so sweet to me and so nice – I would just go live and talk for hours. I had just moved to London and I had no friends, so I was like, I might as well; I’ll be embarrassed about it in a few years, but who cares? And then it went from, like, two people to, like, four people, six people, and then all of a sudden, it was like a community of people who would make group chats and be like, Nell’s live, and I joined them and talk to them, and, like, it’s important to remember that there has to be a boundary, and all these different things. And I think that I’ve been good at setting it, but I think that they’re so lovely, and they’re so full of empathy.

She loves them, and she loves that they love her music, and she really emphasized that this closeness comes from a place of familiarity: “We’re all the same, and we all listen and watch the same shit, and that’s so cool, and we get to talk about it. And so that’s where it really came from, was just, like, talking to them about my favorite movies, like, talking to them about Gilmore Girls and being like, oh, I also make music. And so, yeah, it’s, like, been such a pleasure to, like, get to know all these people, and I’m so excited to, like, meet more of them. And meeting them after shows is, like, my favorite thing…There’s no feeling like it than playing a show and seeing someone cry to your song and being like, holy shit, I couldn’t love this person more if I tried, because they’re crying for a song that you wrote because you needed to hear it. Like, I needed to hear this song, and it wasn’t on the radio, and I wrote it. Exactly my experience.”

The last song on the EP, “July,” feels like catharsis. It feels like a deep breath and a long scream, like finally getting to talk about something you’d bottled up for so long: “It’s coming up roses, it’s coming up roses, it’s coming up roses / I am calling out / It’s coming up roses, it’s finally over.” And when it finishes, and the EP loops back to “Warm Body” (because obviously I have it on repeat), I feel like I understand Nell Mescal that much more, the place from which these songs were written, and it informs my next listen. 

Making and consuming art isn't the catch and release people think it is. It's almost an inhale and then an exhale, another inhale again, the way it changes forms and becomes something new for everyone it passes through, and Nell believes this to be especially true about her music: “It becomes a cycle, but then it becomes something new to me…Like, I had ‘Homesick.’ I was like, yeah, I relate to this, and then I released it, and all of a sudden, now I relate to it in a different way. And it’s not about the song. It’s about how it makes me feel alive because of how the energy is brought from the crowd. Music just changes and changes, and it will keep going. Like, I’ll probably feel so different about it again in a few weeks or a few months, and so it’s really cool. Which is the beautiful thing about it.”

Credit: David Reiss


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