Q: Your song explores complex emotions upon realizing it’s an ex-boyfriend’s birthday. It’s a relatable situation that stirs up strange feelings. Throughout the song, you are incredibly self-reflective of both of your actions in the relationship. How did you become comfortable exploring difficult emotions in songwriting? How does songwriting help you process?
PRESLEY: To me, songwriting is truly therapeutic. I tend to feel very intense emotions, whether it’s extreme joy or extreme sadness or anything in between, so it can be hard to sort through. I need to “talk it out” and that relates to my songwriting. For me, it really became a necessity during quarantine, as I was feeling a bit desperate to create and needed an avenue to express my emotions. I spent a lot of time with my guitar and piano, and I seemed like I found a new song flowing out of me every single day. It’s an interesting process because I really feel like the song writes itself, and I look back after, and I’m just like, “Oh, I guess that’s really how I felt about that. I must’ve needed to get that out” My songwriting helps me reflect.
Q: After the initial inspiration, how did this song come together?
PRESLEY: The day of my ex-boyfriend’s birthday, I was really struggling with what to do! We were such a big part of each other’s lives and had so many memories together, it felt wrong to not say anything and pretend to be a stranger. So, then I considered posting some fun pictures on my Instagram story of us just as I would do with all my other friends – but that felt fake and shallow communicating on social media like that after not talking for almost a year. So, I pulled out my phone to send him a text. But then, I felt like that would seem like I was trying to hide that I was reaching out and that I was too embarrassed to wish him a happy birthday in public, therefore looking shady. Obviously, I am an over-thinker. I was sitting at my keyboard the whole time I was doing this dance on my phone, so I put it down, and then instantly started playing exactly what I was feeling.
Q: You have been singing since a very young age. What ignited this passion? Where does your inspiration come from?
PRESLEY: I always say that everything I do is because of my sister, and for my sister. When I was younger, my sister passed away from a heart defect and my immediate reaction to cope was to sing. Since I couldn’t hold her in the hospital, I intuitively sang to try and comfort her. I made up songs to sing on the way to her funeral. I was almost four, and it was my natural instinct. Ever since, music has been there for me. My parents used to take me to see live music all the time growing up to find musical entertainment for fundraisers we had to raise money for heart defect research. As far as inspiration goes, I have always looked up to really strong female artists – some of my favorites being Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, and Lady Gaga.
Q: The last lyric of the song is “I can pretend we didn’t end poorly,” before a very strong and engaging outro. Was this intentional? What inspired that twist?
PRESLEY: While I love the idea of a twist, I actually repeat that “I can’t pretend we didn’t end poorly,” as a way of really putting the nail in the coffin. One of my favorite parts of this song is the outro because of the energy, and I think it signifies the release in being okay with letting go of that relationship. I said what I needed to say, I got it off my chest, and now I’m free!
Q: How would you define your sound? “Happy 22!” has a very different sound and vibe compared to your first single “Passenger Seat.” This diversity of sound is really impressive, especially considering you are a young artist. As you continue to release music, do you think you’ll continue to play with different sounds?
PRESLEY: I find it hard to really define my sound because I love blending genres and am really enjoying dabbling in everything. If I were to describe it, I would say overall the umbrella is indie-pop, but it can have twists of punk-rock or folk! I find it’s really important to service the story and really listen to what the song wants to be. I let each song have a life of their own, and I think by not putting a box around my music of what genre it should be, there is so much more freedom to express authentically. Sometimes my mood feels like an angsty teen in the 2000’s, and sometimes my mood feels more introspective and folk-inspired, reminiscent of the 70’s, but both are an equal part of me, so why shouldn’t my music reflect that?
Q: What are your plans for new music, live shows, or both?
PRESLEY: I have a few more singles lined up to be released that I am super excited to share, that also plays around with genre-bending and shows different sides of me as well! Now that live music is slowly coming back, I am so ready to start performing again! I have been singing for ages, and played gigs with my acoustic guitar, but I’ve never played my original songs live before! I just know I am going to be super emotional when that day comes! Hopefully soon! Be on the lookout for new singles or show dates coming soon! I am super active on my Instagram, but feel free to follow me wherever!
Interviewed by Kat Rendon