Nobody ever breaks up/We just break down, Suki Waterhouse sings on her new single “Melrose Meltdown,” a trenchant depiction of a relationship imploding in agonizingly slow motion. As she told American Songwriter in a recent interview, she had gone through something similar not too long before she formulated the idea for the song.
“Nobody is letting go,” she remembers about the experience. “You keep smashing into each other. For me, it was like you’re fully broken up but you’re still going out places together. Somehow, we ended up doing things that had been planned for a long time because there were so many people relying on us doing these things together. You can’t quite fully bring yourself to announce it.”
The song also evokes a kind of Old Hollywood decadence amidst the romantic turmoil. Waterhouse, a native Londoner, observed details in her time in Southern California that residents might have taken for granted. “I always had this outsider view of the West Coast and California,” she explains. “Everything about it will always be somewhat alien to me, not knowing how you’re placed within it. I always think there are these unwritten rules about Los Angeles, the etiquette that you don’t ever realize. It’s not always the easiest thing to blend into.”
Waterhouse fleshed out the scenery and emotions in the song, but an impromptu trip with a new friend to Bhutan a few years ago provided the initial inspiration. “We were on the flight home and she was showing me some messages from a guy she was breaking up with,” she says. “There was a line in there, and I can’t remember what the context was, but it was like ‘We’re having a Melrose meltdown.’ I just loved that line.
“I wanted to write a song that had the essence of her breakup, and it also crafted itself into the breakup I’d had in LA. I love that the song represents a part of our friendship that’s still very valuable to me. It memorializes that moment in both of our lives.”
Waterhouse is accustomed to being in the public eye as an in-demand model and actress. But she doesn’t like giving too much of her private side away, except in her songwriting. “I never really want to discuss things unless it’s being able to talk about it in something that I’ve made that can last, and something that can be shared as well,” she says. “So that it’s not just mine. There’s something about putting it out and sharing it that does help ease the pain.”
Over the last several years, Waterhouse has self-released a slew of singles. But “Melrose Meltdown” will be a part of her debut album, coming this spring courtesy of Sub Pop. “I was testing my courage for a few years,” she explains of her music’s progression to a full-length release. “It’s something that was quite private and quite personal. I was more known for these others things. I definitely had a ton of worry and anxiety and fearfulness and shame around putting anything out at first, because will it be accepted at all? Putting a few songs out every year was my way of getting myself slowly ready. In the back of my head, it was always very important to me to put out a complete album. It’s nice putting out a song here and there, but it’s not like a completed thought.”
Now, awaiting the album’s release and getting positive feedback from those who have heard it, Waterhouse is experiencing a range of emotions. “I’ve been really sweetly humbled,” she says. “I’ve been met with more kindness than I expected. I’m still at the beginning of the long, uphill journey. There’s still so much that I don’t know. And I’m still nervous about putting out the whole thing, about whether or not it will connect. There’s that, and there’s also the feeling of ‘Well I did it.’ So there’s also a peace, that what needed to be expressed was expressed.”