Shygirl approached her debut full album, “Nymph,” with intention. When her label asked what she was hoping to achieve with the music, Shygirl, née Blane Muise, says she answered honestly: “I really want to make something critically acclaimed.
“When I started making music, I was reaching out in the dark,” she adds. “I wanted to prove to myself that I’d not just done something that felt creative and accessed emotion, but that I was technically a bit better than what I put out previously.”
The 29-year-old South London musician will release “Nymph” on Sept. 30. She spent the summer touring, playing at international festivals and venues including Glastonbury Festival, Ladyland Festival in New York, and Berghain in Berlin, with more tour dates slated for the fall. Her music has been described as experimental, the intersection of multiple genres — grime, jungle — born out of London’s underground club scene; she describes it as genre-less. Her vocals are often distorted over a surging electronic beat, produced by collaborators including Arca, Sega Bodega, and Mura Masa. The album also features new collaborators like BloodPop and Noah Goldstein.
The lead-up to “Nymph” was preceded by several singles and accompanying videos, including “Coochie (a bedtime story)” and “Come For Me.” Thematically, the lyrical content on the album is sensual and evocative, although less explicitly sexual than some of her earlier songs.
“I know that I was putting out music that people may not have expected from me slightly,” she says of the singles that have dropped over the last few months. “I’m quite a precocious person, so as soon as I think someone expects something of me, I’m always like, ‘no.’ I know I can make music. But I also wanted space to be able to see what else I can do.”
Critical response aside, she’s already received affirmation from the fashion industry. Last year the singer was tapped by designer Riccardo Tisci to appear in a campaign for Burberry’s Olympia bag and opened the brand’s fall 2021 presentation with an ode to nature. “He’s been so genuine and allowed me so much space and a platform,” she says of Tisci. “It made such a difference to be given that space at that time.”
Shygirl brings the theme of nature into “Nymph,” an album she describes as being more vulnerable than her two previous EPs. As a musician, her identity is tightly linked to South London, but “Nymph” was an opportunity to explore the dichotomy of her experience outside of the city scene. She was drawn to the concept of the nymph — a figure from Greek mythology associated with nature and beauty — as an amalgamation of stories, and wanted to add her voice to the canon of work that has fed into audience perception of what a nymph looks like.
“I don’t think it was obvious to see someone who looked like me, the themes I’d embodied already, or how people perceive me, and people might not have immediately been like, oh, that’s ‘nymph.’ I wanted to position myself in that story and see myself there more visually,” she says.
Shygirl grew up spending summers with family in Wales, and often spends time in the Caribbean, where her grandmother now lives. The video for her single “Follow Me” is a sweeping aerial flight through a Wales forest; Shygirl is only revealed within the landscape toward the end of the video. One of two videos accompanying “Firefly” places her at the Beachy Head Cliffs.
“They [the media, etc.] talk about me being a Southeast Londoner, entrenching me into what that means,” she says. “And I feel like it negates some of my experience and identity in the countryside. And that often happens with people who look like me. It’s hard to find that assimilation in the story of what it means to grow up in the British countryside; it’s kind of read as more white. It was important on some level to add to the image of that.”
At the same time, she relates the theme to her earlier, more overt tracks. On Instagram recently, teasing her upcoming album, she wrote “FYI In the Shygirl dictionary Nymph also means sexxx.”
Growing up, Shygirl appreciated music but wasn’t drawn to creating songs like some of her peers. Sega Bodega, a friend and cofounder of music label Nuxxe, which is releasing “Nymph,” invited her into the studio without explicit expectation of what shape her voice would take on the track.
“He asked me to speak; he didn’t ask me to sing or rap,” she says, adding that the experience allowed her the opportunity to experiment. “When I found my voice and found how I could contribute uniquely to something, I started to enjoy it,” she adds. “I’ve always liked to communicate with people and talk — I’m a big talker and over-sharer. It just all started to make sense.”
As a young adult, Shygirl worked as an assistant to a photographer and in casting, and that interest in producing visual stories is apparent in her videos. Fashion plays a role in bringing the characters within her music to life and amplifying emotion. In the video for “Coochie,” she wears a bonnet of pillows as she rides within a horse-drawn carriage.
“Sometimes I become a caricature, but that’s fine. Sometimes I slip into being more myself, or I wanna lose myself. I think clothes and fashion are a tool I use to do that,” she says.
In addition to Tisci, Shygirl notes that many designers have reached out to share that her music has resonated with them.
“There’s this synergy there; what I’m making has been played in the rooms when they’re designing clothes, but also I’ve been using clothes to help finish off the world of [my songs],” she says. “I feel incredibly lucky that my music has been heard in the spaces that have also inspired me.”
As new audiences discover her music, Shygirl is embracing new opportunities. Earlier this year, she sat front row at Nigo’s debut show for Kenzo at Paris Fashion Week. She’s been finding herself in the same rooms as iconic creatives like Naomi Campbell and Bjork.
“I’m acclimatizing to some of the changes that making music has made in my life, and I’m enjoying them but also sometimes struggling,” she says of the growing attention. “Ultimately, I enjoy the choice to make music and share and be public. It’s nice to know that life can change and you can still grow. It’s always nice to know that it’s not going to be the same and there’s gonna be some surprises.”