“I definitely started praying,” says Suki Waterhouse. The 30-year-old Brit is no stranger to the limelight, having built a career in modeling and acting since she was a teenager — but performing her own songs onstage in front of a live audience is a whole different beast. One where a prayer for “nothing bad to happen” certainly doesn’t hurt.
“But it’s funny, actually,” Waterhouse continues, “I’ve kind of realized that you can’t really actually go that wrong live. Even if things do go wrong, it becomes part of your show. That’s what makes it exciting.”
Waterhouse is one of the most famous British models working right now, but she’s always hoped to pivot into music more seriously. With the release of her debut album “I Can’t Let Go” earlier this summer, she’s arrived, and the songs have lent themselves to many a summer playlist thus far.
The album has been in the works for years, and a dream for even longer. “It’s kind of an incredible feeling [now that it’s out],” she says. “The whole time that I was writing it, you’re spending a lot of years needling yourself and finding the words for the moments in your life that you were trying to express. And it’s very cool seeing all of them tangible, not just in songs, but in a whole album.”
Waterhouse has been writing “intensely” from the age of 15, counting acts like Cat Power, Lucinda Williams and Sharon Van Etten as influences. Ani DiFranco was a formative early listen as well, shaping the way Waterhouse approached songwriting.
“Listening to songs from a female that talk about things that were not really spoken of at home growing up,” she says. “And ways of talking about intimacy that I hadn’t really experienced in my own life.”
Now, she approaches songwriting as a way to work through things that otherwise don’t make sense in her life.
“I think songs usually come when I’m frustrated with myself…usually it’s when you can’t talk to your friends about something anymore because you’ve been talking about it. You know what I mean? It’s a feeling that hasn’t left you yet, and you’re frustrated by your inability to be able to move on, I suppose. The writing part comes when I’m trying to get some kind of perspective on something that I’m very much in the middle of, that I’m finding difficult to feel at peace with.”
Although she was working on music as a teenager, she is thankful in hindsight that the opportunities didn’t present themselves for her at that time.
“I wouldn’t have been ready when I was younger,” she says. “All the time that I got to have to myself, just by accident, to make a ton of mistakes and try to teach myself how to write, having that in private, it was great for me because it was the only thing that I got to do without it being a public thing for a long time.”
She’s been releasing singles since 2016, and had to overcome her own anxieties about committing to music more publicly in order to finally make a full album.
“Making music had always been this quite private thing that I did out of necessity of having to do it,” she says. “But I definitely was hesitant and had a bunch of anxieties about putting out any music. I finally put out one song and put out a couple more songs and I think it was a combination of getting more courage for myself, and also seeing a very small audience of people that are listening to it. I think I finally felt ready. I was quite hard on myself in a lot of ways. I had albums ready before, I’ve written so, so many songs. And most of the time all my friends would have been living with the songs for a couple of years. And so I was definitely hard on myself, making sure that I really felt as ready as I was ever going to feel. I never quite feel ready.”