“I should open up Tinder on here,” Holly Lapsley Fletcher, better known as the 19-year-old singer-songwriter-producer Låpsley, remarks as she steps foot on the High Line for the first time.
It’s a gorgeous spring afternoon, and Låpsley is in the middle of hundreds of people on what used to be a railroad line in Manhattan, and is now a converted linear park hunched over the West Side. There are young women in ponytails power-walking, and graying gentleman in suits slurping on ice cream cones. In the middle of the commotion is a hairless man standing totally still and wearing nothing but a leather diaper; people are gawking at what appears to be some sort of performance art.
As we gaze at the motionless man, I point out to Låpsley that, if she did open Tinder on the High Line, she could have ended up with someone like the Diaper Guy. She pauses, grimly nods, and we keep walking.
It’s mid-May, and Låpsley is finishing up the first major North American tour of her career, a headlining trek across the continent that included two Coachella performances and finished with two nights at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, following a U.S. television debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The live run is in support of Long Way Home, her prodding, delicately unfolding pop debut, self-produced and released on the prestigious XL Recordings in March.
The British 19-year-old is just getting used to existing in the spotlight, two years after her debut performance at Glastonbury; for a young pop artist, that platform means fielding questions about her love life, which Long Way Home meditates upon heavily. The album focuses on a dissolved relationship, but Låpsley (understandably) doesn’t enjoy getting into the gory details with reporters, and probably never will.
“It’s funny in radio interviews: ‘So, how’s your ex-boyfriend feel about this?’ I’m like, imagine if I turned around to you and said, ‘How’s your ex-boyfriend feel about what you’re doing?’” she says. “I already gave away my privacy when I wrote a fucking album about a person, so what can I expect? But it’s very strange. I’m 19—it’s not like I’m in my late twenties and have been through a bunch of relationships. These relationships are the only ones I’ve ever had. These difficult times that I’ve had to go through, I’m doing it for the first time. I don’t know the answers to a lot of questions, because I haven’t figured out shit myself.”
Låpsley says that she’s slowly accepted the fact that, as her music drifts into the mainstream, she’s going to get “mainstream questions” about her personal life. But she also points out that those questions are jarring for someone who never dreamt of pop stardom. The Yorkshire native studied English literature and figured her obsession with biology and chemistry to lead to a career as a doctor. Then she started dabbling in songwriting in between courses, some of her rough cuts wormed their ways online, and the collective reaction placed medical school on the back burner.
“I was very academic and all my family is, and [a music career] was almost like, a waste of knowledge,” Låpsley explains. “I never did music except for my lessons, and I was shit at my lessons. I was the shittest person in the orchestra. … And then yeah, suddenly, my parents were like, ‘Why are we getting messages from labels?’ And I was like, ‘Fuck me, I don’t know! I just made four songs on GarageBand and put them on the internet.’
“It’s the perfect way to get into the industry,” she continues as we reach a bend in the High Line. “A fucking accident.”
Long Way Home, which was recorded over the course of a year and follows a pair of EPs, doesn’t feel like an accident—Låpsley’s production sounds spacious and remarkably sophisticated, often relying on layered vocals so that the lyrics double back on themselves.
Songs like “Hurt Me” and “Love Is Blind” serve as anthems with emotional heft, but the bewitching “Station” is Låpsley’s favorite to perform live. Its pitched vocals form a conversation, and its jagged memories (“Back down the roads and the streets and pavements / Stamping your ground, and the rules that shaped us”) push under the songwriter’s skin.
“I have so much in it, and it’s so simple,” Låpsley says of the song’s straightforward longing. “Sometimes I think I’ll reveal slightly too much about myself, and then I think, ‘Shit.’ But in a way, maybe it’s nice to experience honesty.”
In between discussions about Coachella (she didn’t enjoy the celebrity-obsessed vibe) and female pop stars (she loves Beyoncé’s Lemonade, but wishes it hadn’t been cowritten with a bunch of dudes), Låpsley talks about New York City and its similarities to her beloved London. Låpsley wants to work on the follow-up to Long Way Home here; she reckons she’ll get started on the next album sometime after Christmas, and has no idea what she’ll focus her writing on for her sophomore LP. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think if you say what you’re gonna write next, then it’s like the whole thing is hypothetical,” she says. “I need to live a bit before I write, because the reason I started writing in the first place is to try and get over life. I’m not gonna write for the sake of writing—I’m gonna write when I feel like I have something to write about.”
Photos by Jatnna Nuñez