Interview: Suki Waterhouse on Tanning Lotion, Breaking Hearts and Being ‘English as Hell’

Images by Dana Trippe

She’s been the cover girl for multiple issues of Vogue around the world. She’s modeled for many of the top fashion brands since being discovered at age 16. She’s walked the runway for Burberry, Alexander Wang, and Balenciaga, and is a familiar face during Fashion Week in Milan, Paris and New York. 

Perchance you’ve seen Suki Waterhouse on the red carpet at the Oscars, or caught her performances in recent films like Billionaire Boys Club or the critically acclaimed The Girl Who Invented Kissing. Maybe you’ve seen her photography at some of Europe’s leading art galleries. Or possibly you got hooked on either of the first two singles – ‘Moves’ and ‘My Mind’ – from her debut album I Can’t Let Go, which is scheduled to drop on April 22 via Sub Pop. 

But at the moment, we can’t stop streaming her current single ‘Melrose Meltdown,’ a deeply visceral confessional, with haunting atmospherics and raw, heartbreaking lyrics.

“Welcome to my Melrose meltdown
Nobody ever breaks up, we just break down
We really fucked it up in diamonds and drug stores
That’s what we came for
And when you get it, you got what you need”

The extraordinary accompanying video, directed by frequent Vogue photographer Sofia Malamute, alternates between soft focus, ethereal/dreamlike visuals and sharper focus on Suki’s striking features, wardrobe details and sparkling accessories. The imagery is in perfect sync thematically with the song’s tempo and mood, revealing an accomplished artist who has yet only just launched this new musical phase of her career.

By any measure, Suki Waterhouse is a superstar. 

Before the mayhem of New York Fashion Week (February 11-16) would take over her life for a week, we caught up with the recently turned 30-year-old for an exclusive chat.

Hi Suki, thank you for taking the time to speak to BlackBook first thing in the morning. Where are you right now? 

Well, I’m (laughs) in LA and I’m actually in bed because I don’t seem to be able to do any kind of anything. That’s not required, face fronting all happens from the bed. I’m doing a TV show at the moment and I’m required to be tanned, so the whole bed is covered in tanning lotion. I’m in this very strange smelling hub right now.

We currently have ‘Melrose Meltdown’ on repeat. The lyrics “no one ever breaks up, we just break down” hit deep inside the soul, we can relate to those words. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the song and video?

Well, I didn’t want to shy away from how dramatic a breakup feels. And I was incredibly inspired by being in California. Obviously, I’m English as hell, but it has this kind of fictional West Coast cinematic feel to it. I was also inspired by the movie that I was playing in my head of my life at the time. I was very interested in trying to create a sound that was powerful, but also kind of gentle. I had these fluid, gentle pushes of movement that felt transformative – I could transform myself through the experience. I wanted to show the fluidity of broken expectations, of how you finally find less within, after searching for what’s real or what’s not.

We can share in that sentiment, and feel that the music video that you shot with Sofia Malamute for the single is the absolute essence of what you described. 

We had a lot of movie references, such as A Woman Under the Influence and Breakfast at Tiffany’s; but the one that we were really attracted to was To Die For, directed by Gus Van Sant. I always loved that movie because it explores American ideals, which I’m very fascinated by. We started with a few very tiny pieces of set design and a fancy dress. And then I wanted to have the escape in the back of the truck and going down Melrose, which was very illegal and quite scary!

You began your career modeling for fashion houses such as Burberry and Balenciaga, and then there was the acting – what finally brought you to music?

I’ve actually always been fond of making music, I put out my first song in 2016. It’s been quite sporadic, but I have been working on it for years. Until now, it was a private thing that I would do. I spent a lot of time alone as well, writing while traveling in a lot of airports. There was always this confessional journal – almost like reportage of my own life that I would take with me. And I would put that into songs.

You’re planning to get back to live performances soon. Which songs from I Can’t Let Go are you most looking forward to playing?

I just started performing live a couple of months ago, I did Shaky Knees, I did BottleRock, and I did a show in LA and one in London. This year’s going to be so exciting because there’s a lot of live events going on and some really exciting stuff coming up. It’s been really incredible to just have the songs and go out on stage. I didn’t really know how I was going to feel performing, really, but I love it so much. Which songs? I actually always love doing ‘Melrose Meltdown’, and I really like a song called ‘The Devil I Know‘.

Will we be seeing you in New York?

Yes, I will be in Brooklyn in May.

Is there a song by any other artist that never gets old for you?

There’s a song called It’s All Part of the Story by Arthur Godfrey, it’s not very well-known. In the song, I think he’s talking about an abuse that happened to him in church. That’s my interpretation of it; but it’s the most beautiful, heart-wrenching song that I could listen to every day.

Why do you think that people who are in love or are looking for love, turn to music to find a deeper meaning? 

I think there are so many words that go unspoken, and music can express what you sometimes can’t. I think we all need that dramatization.

What do you want people to take away from listening to I Can’t Let Go?

I’m so grateful that people like my music, it was actually really difficult. I was nervous about how it would be received. I want to be able to connect with people and have that release of all the stuff that’s been inside of me. I think I want it to relate to girls who have loved hard and broken lots of hearts, too.

Latest in Arts & Culture

Arts & Culture

Santigold is Back! Fierce New Single ‘High Priestess’ is ‘Taking No Drama’

Arts & Culture

Philadelphia’s Fitler Club Launches Art Partnership w/ New York’s Pace Gallery

Arts & Culture

Trailer: ‘The Story Won’t Die’ Documents the Defiance of the War-Besieged Syrian Art Community

Arts & Culture

Three New Tracks You Need To be Listening To: Claptone, The Living Strange and Tuomo & Markus

Arts & Culture

Jesse Jo Stark is Being…’so bad’

Arts & Culture

Sotheby’s to Launch Contemporary Art Auction to Raise Funds For Ukraine Relief

Arts & Culture

Claire Danes, Tom Hiddleston Hunt a Mythical Sea Monster in ‘The Essex Serpent’

Arts & Culture

Madonna’s ‘Finally Enough Love’ Celebrates Her 50 Dance Club Number Ones