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Interview | Queer singer Delilah Montagu on sobriety and writing ‘savage’ songs about her girlfriend

The London-based singer-songwriter is a star on the rise.

By Thomas Stichbury

Words: Thomas Stichbury

Since her buzzy collaboration with David Guetta and Black Coffee, ‘Drive’, singer Delilah Montagu has been putting her foot on the gas – and we like the direction she is heading in.

Reared on a legend-rich musical diet of Carole King and Leonard Cohen, the rising queer star released her debut EP, In Gold, to great acclaim last year. After finding her rhythm during lockdown with her mum and girlfriend – “I took up dancing, not very well, but I realised how happy it made me” – 22-year-old Delilah returns with new single ‘Loud,’ about turning up the volume on your inner and outer confidence.

In a catch-up with Attitude, the London-based artist opens up about the confessional quality of her music, addressing her issues with addiction and writing about her relationship, the good, the bad and the ugly. Delilah assures us that her girlfriend is totally fine with it, hopefully not in a Ross-from-Friends-“I’m fine” way… 

Who are your biggest music influences?

Carole King and Leonard Cohen. All the classics – my parents have very good music taste. I love her melodies and his lyrics. I am also very in love with Nina Simone.

Can you remember the first single you bought?

It was McFly, ‘All About You.’ Still to this day one of my faves.

Tell us about your latest song, ‘Loud.’ What was the inspiration behind it?

Confidence. I wrote ‘Loud’ about being confident in myself and in all of my relationships – not just the romantic ones. It definitely symbolises a time of my life that I am in now of acceptance.

We assumed – we know, you should never assume – the song is about a girlfriend or a lover. When you write about a person, do you give them a head’s up first? What is their reaction like, typically?

I never give them a head’s up, but I’m lucky to have a partner who is also an artist and who is very supportive of my music, so the reaction is always full of love and support – even though some of the songs can be a bit savage sometimes!

Where do you like to write and why?

I write everywhere, at home, in LA, on the bus. For me, the experience of writing in itself makes me feel at home, not the place I do it.

Your music has a very confessional quality. How would you describe your sound?

That’s the million-dollar question. I don’t know how to describe my sound, other than my own? And honest. It’s honestly just me and my thoughts, so I guess I could describe it as very Delilah.

In what ways have you grown since the release of your acclaimed EP, In Gold?

I have grown in confidence a lot. I never really realised how honest I could be, but through some difficult personal experiences I have grown to realise that being unapologetically myself is the only way I’ll be able to be happy and fulfilled in my life and music.

What is it like to be so vulnerable in your song-writing? Is it scary, or more of a relief to be able to put it out there into the universe?

It’s the biggest relief. The fear is a good fear, a satisfying one that I know isn’t strong enough to hold me back but is strong enough to feel good when I ignore it.

Your new music also addresses your past issues with addiction. Can you talk about that particular period of your life and how you were able to move forward?

In a lot of the music to come, I speak very openly about addiction and my own personal struggles that I have been going through. I don’t want to spoil those songs by giving too much away now…

We’re seeing more and more LGBTQ+ artists stepping into the spotlight. How does it feel to be able to sing and write so openly and truthfully?

It’s never been a problem for me. If anything, it’s been a relief to be open about my sexuality and relationship and not be judged or thought of differently for it.

Who do you most admire in the industry and why?

Lizzo. She is telling the truth and fighting for what she believes in. She’s an incredible female role model. Taylor Swift also.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?

Carole King because she has been my childhood hero ever since I was tiny.

Did you ever have a Plan B? What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

I’ve never had a Plan B because everything with my music happened so quickly after leaving school. The worst job I’ve ever had [though] was probably when I was working for a gin company, while realising I might need to go sober. Not a great combo.

What has been the biggest learning of your career thus far?

That nothing will ever be enough. No amount of streams, views, followers, so all that matters is that I’m making music I love and believe in and that I’m surrounded by good people.

Delilah Montagu’s new single ‘Loud’ is out now. Check out the music video below: