The Second Life of Self Esteem: An Interview with Rebecca Lucy Taylor
By Georgia Mitchell
The Second Life of Self Esteem: An Interview with Rebecca Lucy Taylor
The name Self Esteem appears to denote a project with clear intentions - about empowerment, perhaps, and self-knowledge, definitely - but pop artist Rebecca Lucy Taylor tells Georgia Mitchell that when she came up with the moniker, it was just ‘a great band name.’ Rebecca’s music under ‘Self Esteem’ demands introspection, not only from its listeners, but from the artist herself. Georgia talks to Rebecca about going solo from band Slow Club, and how the name Self Esteem became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of growing confidence and surety in life’s messiness.
"I am always asking myself, ‘am I doing this for everyone else to tell me I’m talented?’ If they do, then what?"
Georgia: Hi Rebecca! So, Self Esteem started as an Instagram account comprised largely of your iPhone note musings on relationships, aloneness, togetherness, and also some enshrining of the mundane (which I love). Did you have a specific intention when first posting, did you see it as something that could be useful for an audience; or did it perform more of a personal function when you first started posting?
Rebecca: Thank you! I didn’t think about the Instagram account at all really…Being in the band and on the road and being so frustrated creatively, I realised I had a right to create anywhere really. I just kept feeling like I shouldn’t. The Instagram was a very soft and gentle way to explore saying anything at all, totally alone. I should have thought it through more, but I’m rather lazy. I think of the screen grabs as poems, or lyrics I never made into songs. I think it low-key helps me too; sometimes I feel things or notice things about my life that I just need to document, it makes me feel less like I’m going crazy? The way some people respond to the account made me realise I’m not completely alone in my bowling-ball-rolling down-a-hill lifestyle, which is a comfort.
"A lot of the way Self Esteem has slowly built is all out of the uncertainty of whether or not I should do it, could do it, and would anyone give a shit if I did."
G: Most of the publicity surrounding Self Esteem is focussed on how you left Slow Club and started making work completely on your own terms, and without compromise; and a lot of articles tap into how this is a great model for female success and business independence, which of course it is. I think however that making this art under a moniker, rather than your own name, makes the project more inclusive of an audience; rather than purely representing yourself. Was this a part of your thought process in choosing Self Esteem?
R: Great question! Possibly; I think I was extremely wary of ‘going solo’ and those are words I still am uncomfortable using. A lot of the way Self Esteem has slowly built is all out of the uncertainty of whether or not I should do it, could do it, and would anyone give a shit if I did. I often wonder if I should have put it out under my name, but I have found such joy and mental clarity in making a new project and almost getting a second life. I think it’s pretty cool to still have the Rebecca Lucy Taylor album one day. I 100% believe it will be show songs and me in a gown draped on a piano with hairy legs at this point, but let’s see when we get there.
G: Is it more important to you then to centralise Self Esteem and all of its connotations than to market yourself?
R: The name Self Esteem was never meant to be some huge statement- sadly it was only ever a great band name to me. It has however become strangely self-fulfilling; when I thought of the name around 10 years ago I did not know how little self-esteem I had. Now the name has kind of caught back up with me in this very full circle kind of way. 3am in your kitchen and I’ll tell you some wildly profound version of this and how it was all meant to be. Right now, idk it’s just a great name.
"Relationship agony feels further away and less huge to me when I’m respected creatively and listened to. I guess I need to look into that?"
G: To go back to the iPhone notes, which are such a beautiful record of feelings and emotional reflection over a given period, there seems to be a bit of a trend, in that notes from about a year ago are a bit sadder; they mention other people, exes etc, more often; and the more recent ones are happier, more resolute, and are statements of independence more than anything. I wondered whether you want to say anything about how these notes and the moments of reflection they represent have helped you; and whether you intend the Self Esteem project to be an example of getting better, at thinking through happiness.
R: WOW I did not know this. But that would make sense. I think I am still hurt over many relationships- I have a terrible memory but I can describe to you in detail how it felt when I found out that he indeed WAS seeing the girl who worked at my then record label yknow… that’s an absolute curse- but also where I feel most fruitful creatively. There was this one where I had written ‘everyone is somebody’s crazy ex, and it goes on and on until when’ and I guess that’s the most on-the-nose one when it comes to my music. Relationships, romantic and otherwise, are always a way to see how I am reflected in others. I’m constantly surprised, hurt, bored shitless or wildly passionate - a sweetheart or a complete dick - and people are that back to me. It goes on and on until WHEN? I don’t know, but I’ll keep writing about it. Finally being able to create by myself, with no compromises and true integrity has changed my shit up a bit - I do feel more powerful and free for the first time in my life. Relationship agony feels further away and less huge to me when I’m respected creatively and listened to. I guess I need to look into that? Can’t be sure if its healthy or not, but it’s definitely way more fun.
G: I also wonder whether you consider how the personal notes may have to be tempered and made more palatable as Self Esteem gets more publicity; or whether you want to stay honest, stay messy. Your first album, Compliments Please, is going to be released in March. I love the name; is it purposefully ironic? And does this link to a further irony in the name Self Esteem?
R: It’s ironic, yes - I’ve still not got the most eloquent answer for it, but basically, I felt the whole album is this cluster of a need for love, attention, affirmation and compliments but I also feel pulled at and overwhelmed, and as a woman, picked at constantly. I am always asking myself, ‘am I doing this for everyone else to tell me I’m talented?’ If they do, then what? But like, with phones and all that shit I’m just constantly wondering who it’s all for - I can get pretty nihilistic-twat-at-the party if I ruminate too long, so I just try and remember its really fucking funny to do a load of work and lay it out for people and demand compliments. I *think* I’ve maybe been doing a version of that my whole life.
Direction by Mia Maxwell
Photography by Briony Mitchell (@bmitchy)
Styling by Mia Maxwell
Hair and Makeup by Goodie May-Johnson @goodiemaykup
Props by Kariss Young @karriss_young
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