Following a sold-out North American and European tour and the release of her new EP, why am i like this??, it’s pretty fair to say it’s a great time to be girli right now. The same can be said for those who are fans.

PHOTOGRAPHY Jack Alexander

MAKEUP Alex Reader using Nars Cosmetics

HAIR Sandra Hahnel using Ouai, Color Wow,
and GHD Hair

Born Milly Toomey, the British singer-songwriter from London has certainly put in the groundwork over the years and built herself a loyal legion of followers who connect, identify, and passionately adore her music. Debuting as a rowdy teen, girli has never shied away from making statements and speaking her mind. Early material, such as “Girls Get Angry Too” and “So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya,” showcased a diamond in the rough with promising potential that has seen her continue to evolve authentically.

During her journey to self-discovery as both a person and artist, girli has always served as one of the leaders for the quirky pop girls who aren’t afraid to be one-dimensional and refuse to be boxed in. 

Dress Nodress

As her back catalog has expanded, so has her audience, who she refers to as “pinkies.” Fast forward to 2023 and the now-25-year-old is ready to take over the world with her growing collection of thought-provoking songs. And with the recent announcement of another tour across the US, it appears that that mission is already in the works.

Following an artistic shoot in Kings Cross, London, girli sat down with Principle to discuss her recent shows, her new project, how she looks back on her early material, and the hurdles she’s had to overcome along the way.

You recently embarked on a tour across the US and Europe and just wrapped up in London. How was that experience for you, especially with so much touring experience?

It was amazing. I’ve never played shows in the US or Europe. Well, I’ve played festivals in Europe, but I’ve never played my own shows in those places. The response was amazing. It was my favorite tour I’ve ever done. The fans and their response and just how excited they were. It was really special. Really special.

That was going to be one of my questions because it was your first tour over in the States. How did the American crowds differ from the ones in the UK after building such a loyal fanbase over here?

Honestly, the American crowds were huge. We sold out to the American tour. I think something I realised is that I’ve been building my UK fan base for a long time, but my US fan base in terms of online, like those who follow me online and who listen to my music, all of the stats indicate that I have a bigger fan base in the US, so it was really amazing to be able to go over there and play shows to people who have been listening to my music since I started releasing, which is years ago. Some of those fans have been waiting for me to come play shows for that whole time. It was just so exciting for me and for them to be able to come to those shows and yeah, it was really special.

For some of those shows, you supported alt-J. How did their fans respond to your music?

They were actually really, really cool. Like, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I thought some of them might be a bit like, “What the hell is this?!” [laughs], but actually, the fans were so responsive. I think alt-J are an experimental, interesting band and they’ve really been pushing the boundaries for a long time. I think their fans are quite open-minded about music and discovering things. it was really amazing to have that opportunity and the fans were just all so amazing.

You’ve been releasing music for many years now and have released your latest EP, why am i like this?? How would you say your sound has evolved over the years?

For me, you know, with every project release, I’m trying something new. I think definitely the themes for my music are my songs are like diary entries and just me navigating and figuring out life through writing music. And so like sonically, I think I’ve definitely been kind of trying to etch a space in the pop world that feels different, new, and feels experimental and left field, but still pop, you know? And because I’m such a big pop fan, it’s been really exciting. I’ve been working with some really amazing people and yeah, it’s just been really fun. I’ve kind of been finding my own, I guess, girli pop.

You’re someone who has always made statements with your music. What message do you want to get across with the new material?

I think that this whole EP is about figuring out that you don’t know what you’re doing and being okay with that and trying to come to terms with the fact that growing up is painful and difficult and navigating that is confusing but to love and appreciate that process and be okay with it. I guess embracing that you’re not a finished product, you are a work in progress.

How do you look at your older material as a now more mature 25-year-old?

I think I have mixed feelings about my early material. I think I definitely look back on it with a certain fondness because I know that a lot of people are huge fans of that material and that’s how a lot of people discovered my music. It was a time when I was younger, I was like 17. And so those songs are definitely quite, I guess they’re quite like, they’re definitely very loud and opinionated and I think, you know, I love that about them because that’s who I was and that’s who I am still. But I don’t necessarily like a lot of the songs, I don’t really play alive anymore I guess. As a 25-year-old, I connect to them less. Yeah. Um, and there are a lot of fans who kind of get upset about that. But I think they also understand that as an artist and a person, I’m evolving. And also I’ve written so many and I’ve released like 35 songs and so I can’t play them all live anyway unless I wanna be there for like four hours [laughs]. I know the fans are also very understanding of that process.

Does that mean you are writing the new material from a different place now?

Yeah, for sure. I wrote those songs when I was like 17, 18 and now I’m 25. I mean it’s like you are a whole different person and I think I see the world differently, I think definitely. A lot more of my music is now about my experiences with mental health and my experiences with queerness. I think my view on a lot of those early songs was very feminist, but I think they were also from a bit more of a sort of two-dimensional place. I was looking at it in a very black-and-white way, and now I think my feminism is a lot more inclusive, a lot more developed. And so when I do write about it, it’s in a more mature way. But I’m still proud of those songs. I think like I was trying to get a message out and I’m still proud of myself. I was still like, I was doing something different and you know, it got me to where I am now.

What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome since starting out in this industry?

I think the biggest hurdle has been trying to balance I guess the very hostile culture kind of element of the music industry with protecting my mental health. I think also trying to navigate the fact that as much as I want to see and believe that everyone in the world is good and has the right intentions, a lot of people don’t. That’s been difficult I think, I definitely came into this industry very naive and very, but naive is the wrong word because that sounds negative, but I think I was just optimistic of like, “Oh, everyone is awesome!” You really have to find your people because a lot of people suck [laughs]. 

And lastly, what’s been the best piece of advice you’ve received that’s really stuck with you?

A friend of mine told me you have to wear those blinkers, like horses wear, where it’s like you just shut out all the noise and the distractions because if you’re just constantly looking around at what everyone else is doing, you’re gonna lose focus on your own path.

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