BIMM x DIY: Fenne Lily by Sami van Hasselt

3rd August 2021


Earlier this year, we announced our latest partnership with DIY magazine to celebrate our #MusicMadeUs campaign. As part of this new partnership, students from across our colleges interviewed artists and industry professionals in collaboration with DIY and through the lens of Music Made Us. They also received guidance and mentorship sessions before the interview with DIY’s journalism and editorial team.

Here BIMM Berlin’s Sami van Hasselt interviews folk singer-songwriter Fenne Lily about passion intertwining with music, avoiding wealth and fame, and embracing integrity and originality. 

Fenne Lily is a rare breed of musician: a musician who is content. The 24-year-old folk singer-songwriter from Dorset (but based in Bristol) found herself a part of the music industry after she earned worldwide recognition in 2018, around her debut album ‘On Hold’.

“It’s nice to have a job from something I would be doing anyway”

This, of course, is the dream for many a musician, but for Fenne, who “just wanted to write songs”, the singer believes she was merely lucky her album caught on the way it did –
“It’s nice to have a job from something I would be doing anyway”.

After making a name for herself she began working on her second album, ‘BREACH’, which was released in 2020. Ironically enough, the album is about self-isolation (before it became obligatory) and the ability to be alone without being lonely.

Unsurprisingly, due to Covid and the cancellation of entertainment, Fenne was not able to properly tour for the release of ‘BREACH’ which interrupted her usual cycle of writing, recording and touring. It was then she struggled with immediately having to write and be creative again but instead of submitting to Covid’s consequences, Fenne started her ‘Bathtime Show’, a series of chats with other artists about a variety of topics. Soon she was asked by Islington Radio to take over the role as a radio host which she has been doing every Tuesday since, and while Fenne describes how this opportunity brought out a long-lost side of her – one that’s passionate about finding new music – it’s with a sad undertone she mentions how the more music has become her job and an obligation, the more her passion for it got lost. And Fenne is an individual to whom passion means everything.

Upon talking future plans she explained her five-year agenda in which she intends on taking a two-year hiatus from writing songs and temporarily abandoning her position as highly regarded artist to explore other opportunities. Her motivation behind this is to potentially discover a hidden passion for something she might not have realised since all her life she has not been doing anything other than writing and performing her songs; her only dreams being starring as a guest character in the Simpsons and witnessing a fan attend one of her gigs with a flag showing her face.

So, whatever Fenne may end up doing – whether it be directing music videos, going back on tour or becoming a solo guitarist – one thing is for certain: she will do it with passion.
And that is the precise reason why she does not wish to be a popstar.

Fenne’s whole world revolves around music. From the time she used to sit alone in her room writing songs, to touring multiple countries, or working as a radio host in a time live music was impossible, if there’s one thing she will never give up, it is her music. But in order to become a popstar, the music you are making has to be built around a rock-solid business and adapted to current trends – which for Fenne would mean giving up her passion for it.

Fenne further reasons her desire of avoiding wealth and fame. For one, she states how she simply does not need the support of 20 million fans (which tends to be necessary for a star like Dua Lipa). For the other, she is a big enthusiast of self-efficiency, writing all her songs by herself which, looking at modern day stars, is a rarity. Inspecting tracks such as Ariana Grande’s ‘God is a woman’, or Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’, which all feature at least five songwriters, it becomes clear how futile the attempt seems of being at such a level without losing your independence.

In short, Fenne is not ready to commercialise herself to be exploited by a major label, disregarding the fact that she intends to uphold her raw originality in her songs.
Fenne’s self-estimation further dictates that she is not an eligible candidate to be a popstar due to her fragility and self-consciousness – “[even] when there’s a language barrier and what I’m saying isn’t being received, I get embarrassed”, she explains. Fenne also comments on the downside of social media and the fact that everyone is reachable: “I can get a DM saying ‘you f*cking suck’ and that would throw me off for a week”. So, the dream of becoming a popstar is just not made for everyone, but does it have to be?

Fenne’s will for upholding her integrity and originality as well as her sense of self-worth are something admirable. It is a matter of simple principles and an unbreakable soul, something a lot of us can learn from.

Our Music Made Us campaign is told through the students, graduates, journalists, experts and passionate people who have been shaped by this creative outlet. Discover their stories here.

Photo by Nicole Loucaides