TikTok sensation Abby Roberts is reeling from the release last month of her debut single, Paramaniac. An alt-pop gem chock full of dreamy synths and diaristic lyrics, it’s Roberts’ first foray into music after building her brand as one of the platform’s biggest beauty creators, with a staggering 17.4 million followers under her belt.
To sceptics, the 21-year-old Brit’s pivot from influencing to music might feel like a familiar social media trick. But Roberts has put serious graft into a six-track EP, out later this year, promising to blow them all out of the water.
After all, she’s already flagged her ambition, not to mention an awareness of the limitations of her “day job”. “I wish strangers liked me more /Social media’s a bore /Might be best if I just quit /Does that make me a hypocrite?” she sings softly on the playful Paramaniac, a soul-searching effort to come to terms with the pitfalls of online fame.
“It’s been a real learning curve, especially not coming from a musical background at all,” Roberts says. “My dad was in a brass band and that’s as close as I got. Music is something I decided to pursue on my own – I had to dedicate hours and hours of practice to get to a point of being good at it.”
The Yorkshire native compares this process to learning all about make-up which, although it may seem hard to believe, she claims to have been terrible at in the beginning – “but I believed in myself,” she adds. Then, having mastered her craft, over the last two years, as the world came to a standstill, Roberts hit a wall with make-up, the appeal of constantly creating new looks becoming a bit of a slog.
Instead, she threw herself into making music full-time, learning to play the guitar in lockdown and getting down to business with songwriting. “The first six months to a year of writing, I scrapped everything. In the beginning, you have to write a lot of bad stuff to get it out of the way. Finding your style is a process that doesn’t happen overnight – there’s a lot of trial and error.”
While we wait with bated breath for her as-yet-unnamed EP (on which self-reflection and heartbreak are major themes), get your 100% fill on Abby Roberts below.
10% Where were you born, where were you raised and where are you now based?
I was born and raised in Leeds. I’ve lived in the same house my whole life, but also feel like I was raised on the internet. My [sense of] culture and references come from there. I’m now based between Leeds and London.
20% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Heartbreak is a big one… I’ve had a few distressing relationships. Self-reflection. Then not so much guilt, but admitting my own flaws and faults. In Paramaniac, I speak a lot about the bad stuff that’s going on in my mind, my body confidence issues, my anxiety. Mental health is a big one for me, too.
30% If you’re cooking food to impress someone, what will you make?
Ramen! Ramen is my speciality. Japanese food of any kind, I absolutely love.
40% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
I think a lot of my dad’s advice. He’s always been really adamant that I pursue anything I wanted that makes me happy, career-wise. I was never forced to do anything academic by my parents and that’s what led me to discover all these artistic abilities.
50% If you were born pre-internet, what do you think you’d have ended up doing?
I think about this all the time. I have so much admiration for seamstresses and people who can sew. One of my best friends is a fashion designer – I’d love to learn that if I had the time, but not in this life. So maybe in a previous one!
60% Name something you love, something you like, and something you hate.
I love sushi, I like TikTok – I don’t love it because those comments can be mean sometimes, man! And I hate cheese! People always say that’s weird, but it’s the one food I will not touch. I don’t like the smell of it. It’s horrible. Mozzarella slides by, but that’s all.
70% You rule the world for a day. What went down?
I’d make it a really nice place and get rid of all the horrible laws, especially the ones in America surrounding women’s bodies.
80% If you could take five people, dead or alive, to an escape room, who would they be?
Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, Amy Winehouse, Freddie Mercury, and I’d have to take my sister as well, just so she could experience it.
90% What’s the strangest DM you’ve received?
I feel like I can’t repeat these words! Some men get really weird in my Instagram story replies, talking about my feet and stuff. Sometimes I reply just to mess with them a bit, because they don’t think I will. That’s the thing with comment sections as well, especially on TikTok: people say the most brutal shit and it’s like, you do know I read all this? The biggest thing I’ve learned is to stop looking at them.
100% What can artists do to help save the world?
Create music that makes a difference, write about topics they’re passionate about and that will connect with people. Just speak from an honest place.