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After her ‘exposing’ debut solo album, Romy is a true trailblazer

After releasing her debut solo album, Mid Air, Romy is rightly being celebrated as an LGBTQ+ icon and trailblazer in this year’s Film, TV, and Music category, supported by LA Tourism

By Alastair James

Romy leads the Attitude 101 Film, TV, and Music category
Romy leads the Film, TV, and Music category supported by LA Tourism for Attitude 101, empowered by Bentley (Image: Vic Lentaigne)

2023 was a good year for Romy Madley Croft, the guitarist and vocalist for award-winning indie band The xx. Branching out as a solo artist, Romy released her pop-focused debut album, Mid Air, to critical acclaim. Among the praise, Rolling Stone UK, Attitude’s sister publication, described the 34-year-old as “a singularly brilliant dance talent in her own right” and celebrated the album for its “intoxicating electro beats with such pensive lyrics”. The record also secured Romy a nomination for The Artist Award, in collaboration with Rémy Martin, at the Rolling Stone UK Awards 2023, an accolade eventually claimed by Jessie Ware. Mid Air was also included on the publication’s Albums of the Year, as well as Attitude’s LGBTQ+ albums of 2023

Among the gems on the record is the “emotionally exposing” track ‘Strong’. Nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Recording at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, the song is an example of just how raw and confessional Romy is prepared to be when exploring heavyweight topics like grief. 

Much like bandmate Oliver Sim’s first solo outing, Mid Air has also acted as a vehicle for Romy to speak more specifically about her LGBTQ+ experiences. In her lyrics, the singer-songwriter touches on close-to-home themes such as queer joy and love. 

“I’m so excited for the next part of Club Mid Air” – Romy

With all this in mind, we felt Romy was the perfect person to lead this year’s 101 Film, TV, and Music category, supported by LA Tourism in Attitude 101, empowered by Bentley. We caught up with Romy during her Club Mid Air tour to discuss being an LGBTQ+ trailblazer and icon, stepping out on her own, and the impact Mid Air has had.

How is the tour going?

It’s been an amazing experience. We just came back from Australia, Seoul, and Tokyo, and I met so many incredible people. For a long time, I was always on stage with Jamie and Oliver or behind the DJ booth, so stepping out from behind the booth to sing — and dance! — on my own has definitely been a new challenge for me. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful team on tour, including Francine who’s on stage with me and makes these shows feel like a club night whether it’s a Monday or a Friday. I’m so excited for the next part of Club Mid Air, which is going to be South America, and then I’m coming back to New York and LA. Can’t wait!  

How does it feel to be identified as a trailblazer and icon?

It’s very humbling to hear. I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me throughout the process of Mid Air. I’ve drawn so much inspiration from people I look up to who made the dance scene as diverse and free as it is now, making it possible for me to create Mid Air and the world around it. 

“I find it really hard to talk about grief in my personal life” – Romy

What was it like being able to be a bit more personal on Mid Air than with The xx?

Doing a solo project is more exposing. Writing music for other people and the process of writing music with The xx is so different to a solo project. I wanted to find a way to create songs that had a story and emotion behind them, but [which] you could also dance to as well. 

Did you ever hesitate about being so open?

Mid Air is about falling in love, happiness, and grief — all very personal aspects. I find it really hard to talk about grief in my personal life. It’s not something that is socially talked about very often, but I actually think talking about it can be so helpful and healing. 

What do you make of the positive reaction to Mid Air

It’s both incredible and scary to work on something so personal for so long and then put it out into the world. You have no idea if people are going to connect with it or not. Hearing people talk about their relationship to the music and how they interpret it is one of the most rewarding things there is. 

What have your xx bandmates said of Mid Air?

Oliver and Jamie xx have both been incredible throughout the process. Jamie encouraged me to try working with other people as well as him. He worked on the song ‘Enjoy Your Life’ and is a very big part of that song. 

“I think as ‘Strong’ is a song exploring grief, it feels very emotionally exposing to me” – Romy

What’s been the highlight of the Mid Air journey so far? 

The whole journey has been wonderful. It’s been amazing to work with my wife Vic [Lentaigne] so closely on the creative; she’s played a huge part in both the inspiration for the record but also the way it’s presented. Everything between Robyn taking me to see Beverly Glenn-Copeland perform in Stockholm, which inspired ‘Enjoy Your Life’, to performing to a roomful of people who know every single lyric! There are so many moments — it’s hard to pick one. The Coachella performance was the first time I performed any of the songs from Mid Air live, so that was definitely a big moment. It was equally joyful as it was scary! There have been so many moments like that but seeing and hearing people connecting with the music is incredible. 

Which song and lyric means the most to you on the album?

I think as ‘Strong’ is a song exploring grief, it feels very emotionally exposing to me. The song is an invitation to the listener and to myself to open up about difficult emotions and connect. It’s about vulnerability, and the lyric “You don’t have to be so strong” is about it being OK to be vulnerable. 

You’ve mentioned in the past that hearing a woman say “I love her” would have meant a lot to you as a teenager. How does it feel to give that to queer youth now?

Mid Air has been a space for me to be more open about my sexuality. When I was younger, I would always seek out lesbian love stories and queer representation in the media, but it was hard to find, especially in the world of dance music. I’ve never been ashamed of my sexuality, but I’m also aware of the feeling you can get as a queer person, having to assess whether you feel comfortable and safe enough to be visible. Navigating all of this can be exhausting, and I hope that putting my storyline into electronic music and telling lesbian love stories makes queerness feel a bit more represented and visible. 

How do you describe yourself as an artist now? And how has that changed from before Mid Air?

What Mid Air represents to me — the dancefloor, emotional music to dance to, queer love, grief — is something that has always been a part of my life but never in my public life. Stepping out of that and talking about it through my music is definitely different to the kind of artist I was before. 

Attitude 101, empowered by Bentley is our list of the year’s 101 most influential LGBTQ+ people.

Attitude 101
Attitude 101 returns in 2024 to celebrate 101 LGBTQ trailblazers (Image: Attitude)

The 10 categories, each featuring 10 individuals, are Media & Broadcast, Film, TV, and Music supported by LA Tourism, Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM), Third Sector & Community, Financial & Legal, Fashion, Art & Design, Sport, Travel, Business, and The Future supported by Clifford Chance.

The full Film, TV, and Music list, supported by LA Tourism of Attitude 101, empowered by Bentley

Attitude 101
The Film, TV, and Music list supported by LA Tourism of Attitude 101, empowered by Bentley (Image: Attitude)

Romy – Musician

Julien Baker – Musician

Iain Bell – Composer

Jonathan Bailey – Actor

Jordan Firstman – Actor and comedian

Troye Sivan – Musician and actor

Andrew Scott – Actor

Ncuti Gatwa – Actor

Mawaan Rizwan  – Actor and comedian

L Devine – Singer-songwriter

This feature appears in issue 357 of Attitude magazine, available to order online here, and alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357
Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357 (Image: Ramon Christian/Attitude)