Almost exactly five years ago, Mimi Webb took off from her comfortable childhood home in Kent, travelling two hours to Brighton to attend its renowned music college – BIMM. This followed a youth of piano lessons, school choirs, talent shows, living-room performances and an unwavering dream of becoming an artist.
A little over a year ago, however, everything changed.
First, Webb downloaded TikTok, joining a wave of new acts changing how they release music. “Before I Go,” Mimi’s first cinematic ballad, sent ripples through the app, both through its nostalgic and impassioned lyrics and its ever-building piano. “It’s a song I wrote about my boyfriend who I had to leave when I left for Brighton,” she says matter-of-factly. Then, in an entirely unprecedented occurrence for a new British artist, TikTok’s biggest content creator used “Before I Go” as the music in two of her videos. After Charli D’Amelio’s worldwide promotion, exposing Webb to millions globally, Mimi has since gone on to release four stand-alone singles, each building upon her reputation as Britain’s next balladic-pop princess.
When I catch up with Mimi on a Friday morning, the start of May’s first bank holiday weekend, spirits are high. “Can you see me? I’m in the back on an Uber!” she tells me excitedly, panning the camera around and revealing the Uber’s characteristic dark grey back seats, “I feel really cool, I haven’t done an interview in the back on an Uber before.” It’s 10:30 and Webb is on her way to her first venue, kickstarting a month of rehearsals before her first live show at the start of June. “I’ve been a little bit unwell this week and so I’ve had to put a few things on pause,” she tells me, “but I’m feeling a lot better today and I’m super excited to get back into things.”
For Mimi, these past fourteen-or-so months have been quite the opposite to a lot of people’s; as many of our lives have slowed down, grinding to a near-halt, Webb has gone from strength to strength. In August she went on to release “I’ll Break My Heart Again,” the anticipated follow-up to her debut. January 2021 was the turn of “Reasons,” another impassioned ballad for both the broken-hearted and the slowly mending, which again swept through TikTok. “It’s been so surreal,” Mimi tells me, “we’ve been trapped in a pandemic and yet it’s crazy how music and the arts has still found its own life in spite of it all. I’ve been so grateful to have been able to take the time to work on the finer details, and so grateful to have seen everybody’s reaction. It’s been such a mad time; everyone has been fully attached to their emotions. For me, as a pop ballad artist, it was amazing to see that my music was working, and that people wanted to hear it. It’s really been the best time for this genre of music, and to be able to hone into who I am as an artist and who I want to become has been so beneficial. Rushing around from session to session, which is what I had been doing for the past three years, meant I didn’t have the time for this. Being at home with my family gave me time to focus and figure out what I wanted to say and how I was going to say it.”
“Good Without” is the latest addition to her collection of love-tinged tracks, a ballad that scrutinises failed relationships and explores the ways in which a person can change, moving away from a toxic past and opening up to a future of being happy alone. Writing the track over Zoom at the start of the year, “Good Without” is a total product of lockdown. Surrounded by a group of empowered women, the stylised video follows Webb from the bedroom to the closet as her post-breakup sorrow turns to energy. “We rented out this amazing dream-like house in London to film the video,” Mimi tells me. “But actually, the release of ‘Good Without’ was all pretty last-minute; I’d been teasing the track on my TikTok for a while and then suddenly we just thought let’s drop it, meaning the track dropped a while before the video. Everyone was really buzzed because no one really knew what was happening, the video came as a bit of a shock to people I think.”
“At the moment my favourite place to be creative has got to be my bedroom. I wrote ‘Good Without’ over Zoom from my bedroom at the start of the year and it’s ended up being my safe haven. I love recording my own vocals in my room, it’s been so nice to do that this year.”
But with every benefit of releasing music during lockdown, having time to work on your sound and releasing music into a world that’s ready to listen included, there will always be drawbacks. Mimi Webb hasn’t actually performed any of her music live yet. In June, Webb kicks off s string of gigs with a spot in Oslo, Hackney. “It’s all been virtual,” Mimi admits, “I haven’t been able to perform any of these tracks live yet. I am so excited; I can’t wait to get out there and perform these songs to real people. I’m nervous because it’s been so long since I performed in front of a live audience, but I’m mainly just excited to get there and meet people. I’m also excited to stage the show, get stuck into the visuals, and to have some proper creative impact. When you start to hear how things are sounding as a live band and how the stage is looking, that’s when you start to freak out. It’s going to be so good.”
“Performing live will be such an incredible moment and something we have waited so long to do, so that will be the next thing that really gets my dad,” Mimi admits through a laugh. Since Mimi started her TikTok account right back at the start of 2020, at least half of her content has featured her parents. Whether it’s revealing new songs to them for the first time, capturing their reaction when finding her in the paper they read daily, or surprising them with her track on Radio 1, their presence exudes pride. “They have always been my number one supporters. I moved away from home when I was 16 to go to music school which was quite a scary time for them; we had a few family members trying to tell them that I was a bit too young, but through it all they were always the most supportive people. They knew I needed to follow my dreams and did nothing to stop me. I’m so close with them both and it’s lovely to still be living with them.”
After just four singles, already it seems Webb has carved out her own niche of pop, packed with impassioned vocals and stirring instrumentals. As she stares down a year that will undoubtedly leave her on first-name terms with the public, you get the sense it is just the beginning for Mimi Webb.