Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, also known as the founding members of the U.K.’s ethereal indie-pop band Let’s Eat Grandma, appreciate the countryside. While they spend significant time in cities like London for promotion and in others around the world to perform while on tour, when they’re home and off the road, each enjoys the more pastoral surroundings and the serene landscapes. While many their age (both are in their twenties) might aim to reside in fast-paced bustling cities, Hollingworth and Walton stay in the countryside, using the space and slower pace to reflect, think, contemplate and experiment with their craft. This decision has proven healthy for both their work and their interpersonal creative relationship. Evidenced by their spacious new LP, Two Ribbons, which the duo is set to release on Friday (April 29).
“Being from Norwich,” Hollingworth tells American Songwriter, “Norwich is kind of out of the way. Nobody really goes there. I think it’s allowed us to make music that was maybe a bit more kind of weird. We didn’t have that kind of pressure in place.”
“I think it gave us the space to make music,” adds Walton. “London is so busy and chaotic. It’s difficult to find the headspace to be creative, I think. Whereas I feel like being surrounded by countryside and beaches and stuff, that’s more conducive to creativity.”
Spending significant time in the countryside allows them, Walton explains, to process their lives and careers, as well as their friendship and working relationship. The quietness is welcomed. Not only that, it’s beneficial, but it provides a tangible sense of freedom—a feeling that shows up not only in the music they make but in the aura in which they make it. For many, being a professional musician requires an unabashed sense of competition—a scratching your way to the top, so to speak. But the duo of Let’s Eat Grandma, which began formally in 2013, doesn’t give off this impression. They’re each able to separate their growing, expectant audience from the creative process. After the success of their 2018 LP, I’m All Ears, the duo didn’t rush to make a follow-up. They allowed for space.
“It’s important having time between records,” Walton says. “To be out of the public eye. To kind of detach a bit from that. I think it’s really important to write for ourselves as opposed to an audience.”
“It feels like too much pressure thinking about trying to please everyone,” Hollingworth says.
“You can’t,” Walton says. “There’s always going to be somebody that loves it and somebody that hates it.”
“It’s no way to live life,” Hollingworth adds.
Hollingworth and Walton are intellectually mature beyond their years. They have grounded perspective in a time when they could be racing for some fantastical goal. The two have been friends since four years old. Yet, they are realistic about this relationship, its ups, and downs, even taking to their songs to write about their at times-personal and creative tensions.
“I do think sometimes me and Rosa get under each other’s skin slightly,” Hollingworth says. “But that results in us pushing ourselves more.”
“I think there’s a natural point with close friendships,” Walton says, “where you can still be close but you’ve also got to be confident in yourself, as well.”
For Walton, music entered her life when she was about 8 years old, she says. It was then that she started taking piano lessons. She remembers a lot of friends at school at that time starting with lessons and she thought she was missing out. For Hollingworth, music didn’t come to her as early. In fact, she started to really appreciate it, she says, only after she and Walton had begun writing little songs. She’d started learning the saxophone around 11 years old but it didn’t stick. But when she and Walton began writing songs as teenagers, around the same time they were making little movies and undertaking other creative endeavors, that’s when she found herself really taking to music.
“We’d hang out every Saturday,” Walton says. “Just doing crazy shit you do when you’re a kid. Like, we’d make up stupid songs around the house.”
“We’re both creative people,” Hollingworth says, “and music was the one that made the most sense to me, I guess.”
Of course, practice (and play) makes perfect. Today, the two have enjoyed great success, including albums that have landed prominently on the U.K. charts and a coveted appearance at Coachella. Today, as their new album is set to hit shelves, the two are both grateful for their success and for the time they’ve allowed themselves to grow within it. For the new LP, the two didn’t sit down and set out to write a record. They just allowed themselves to work on one song and then another until, well, they had a completed record. And that they mined their own lives and relationship made it cohesive.
“When you’re writing a song, when you’re in the feeling of the song, it’s impossible to know what feeling you’re going to want to write about next,” Walton says.
“We don’t tend to really plan stuff out,” Hollingworth says.
Hollingworth adds that this album felt particularly cathartic. Prior to its release, her boyfriend passed away after a battle with cancer. Writing music was her coping mechanism. When you’re in a state of mourning, as she was, there’s no time to think about the audience. Instead, it’s about putting your emotions into a piece of music. Additionally, the duo helped their own dynamic by processing whatever frictions they may have with each other in the music.
“It’s just a very personal record,” Hollingworth says.
“It’s not creative differences,” Walton says. “That’s something we’ve always agreed on throughout. It’s more just changes in personalities. Growing up, I guess. Growing apart and not really understanding how each others’ brains work in the way that we used to.”
“That coupled with so much going on in our personal lives,” Walton continues. “Loss and other things about growing up. There’s a lot of pressure on our relationship.”
Yet, even with all this in mind, the two express excitement about heading out on tour, to play their new music for fans. The two have been rehearsing with a rhythm section and the songs are tight. They’ve come to life outside of their recordings and they’re ready to fill a room. After the pandemic, there is a greater appreciation for live performance and while Hollingworth and Walton didn’t make their new record with an audience in mind, per se, they’re ready for one to hear what they’ve been up to together. For the two, music is an important part of their lives. It fills the spaces between days and creates new ones to live in and find their futures.
“I love the way that it’s something that’s always there,” Walton says. “If you’re feeling sad or angry or whatever, there’s always a song to help you feel comforted. That applies to writing music, as well.”
“For me,” Hollingworth says, “it expresses experiences and emotions in life that you just cannot express through words.”
Photo by El Hardwick, courtesy Pitch Perfect PR