Lizzy McAlpine | “It hurts my heart when people say I started on TikTok’’

Between appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen, we speak to rising American star, Lizzy McAlpine, about her new album, writing songs in London, and releasing the music she wants to release.

Lizzy McAlpine

Lizzy McAlpine all my ghosts

“There’s been so many articles calling me a TikTok-er,” says Lizzy McAlpine, “and it’s just not true. It hurts my heart a little bit when people say I started on TikTok. No I didn’t. I’ve been working so hard to get to this point, and TikTok was just one part of it.”

Last week, her new single ‘all my ghosts’ – the third and final track ahead of her upcoming album, ‘five seconds flat’ – arrived. The day after our meeting, she’s the musical guest on Ellen. Late last year, she made her television debut on Jimmy Kimmel. ‘This point’ – the one McAlpine’s been working so hard to get to – is already one of tremendous popularity. It’s also right on the verge of huge, mainstream success.

Not that you’d know it, speaking to her. There is none of the affectation one would, at least in part, expect when interviewing someone rising through the ranks so quickly. It’s almost jarring how grounded, genuine and forthcoming she is. Seemingly a dead-normal 22 year old girl, who just happens to be off to sing in front of this Ellen DeGeneres lady tomorrow night.

McAlpine’s meteoric rise is a most contemporary of tales, quite inconceivable at any other point in time. “I started to grow on Instagram during the pandemic,” she explains, “and then that’s really when it all started happening.” At a time where live music was met with an insurmountable, pandemic sized obstacle, McAlpine’s career soared. She began covering songs and sharing them online, hoping the original artists would see her covers. Soon enough, they did. “They would follow me, and then they reposted it and shared it and that was kind of how I started building.”


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Also instrumental in her rise was a TikTok video, released on June 24 2020, of McAlpine sitting on the bathroom floor, guitar in hand, singing softly about an ex who ruined her favourite band – the 1975. The 32-second clip went viral. Bathroom acoustics, a catchy melody, and soft, sombre lyrics, proved a successful recipe, now liked by 1.9 million people and viewed by millions and millions more.

Do you think that I make music for that reason?

But McAlpine wasn’t convinced. “Everyone was saying, ‘You have to release it. Please release it.’ I was like no. It’s not really who I am as an artist. It doesn’t really sound like me. I was just doing it for fun. And I don’t want to release it, ever, because I want to actually release things that I’m passionate about.

“A lot of people didn’t like that, which I didn’t really understand. Obviously I want to make my fans happy with the stuff that I’m putting out, but I also want to make myself happy. Still, all the comments are like, I’ll never forgive her for not releasing this and if she if she had released this she’d have made so much money and be so famous and she’s not getting famous with the things she’s releasing now. Do you think that I make music for that reason?”

It was during the same summer that McAlpine released You Ruined the 1975’ that she also dropped out of the Berklee College of Music, the well-known music school in Boston, Massachusetts. Having completed her second year in the spring, she decided to leave the studies behind and pursue music full time, focusing solely on writing the songs she wanted to release.

Lizzy McAlpine All My Ghosts

“I think [Berklee] did shape my music, but not because of the classes. The main thing I got out of Berklee was the people that I met, and the people I surrounded myself with who definitely influenced my music. I don’t think you need to necessarily understand music theory to be a good musician. If you have a good ear, you don’t need to know all the harmonies to write a good song.”

McAlpine’s had plenty of practice in song-writing, since leaving Berklee and Boston behind. In August 2020, her project Give Me A Minute arrived – a 13-track, folk and bedroom-pop inspired record that cemented the success she’d achieved over the initial lockdown months in monetised streams. Because the project was a hit – it still dominates her most popular songs across the major streaming sites, and catapulted her to the forefront of the next generation of young American song-writers.

In the same month that Give Me A Minute arrived, McAlpine came to London. She spent three months in the British capital, working with UK-based artists including Jamie Collier and Jordan Rakei. It was this trio who co-wrote the song ‘erase me’ together, with Collier featuring on the track off McAlpine’s upcoming album.

“Being [in London] really influenced ‘five seconds flat’, I didn’t really have a goal in mind. I wasn’t really focused on the next album quite yet, but I was starting to build up the track lists and I did a bunch of sessions with people that made it onto the album.”

Set to arrive on April 8th, it is McAlpine’s first record of such breadth, as she moves away from the bedroom and bathroom setting that shaped her early career. “The last album was very much in that singer song-writer, indie folk world. And I wanted to stay away from that as much as possible. I didn’t really want to get stuck in that, because I want to do more things. So we pushed it with this album, and I think it’s really cool. I really love it.”

Next month, before the album arrives, McAlpine’s off on her first ever tour. Heading all over the US, equipped with new and unheard music, she doesn’t seem remotely nervous. “I know myself very well, so I’m just excited to like figure out how I like to tour.”

After her tour of America is complete, McAlpine is set to head back to the UK, with dates on this side of the Atlantic soon to be announced.

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