“Look!” Caity Baser exclaims to NME, pointing at her arm while discussing the realisation of the popstar dream of having her fans belt the words to her own songs back at her. “I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. See that: goosebumps!”
It’s a sensation that Baser ought to get used to. The 20-year-old has two sold-out dates at London‘s XOYO lined up next month (tickets for which were snapped up in a matter of hours), following on from her sold-out debut headline UK tour and a packed-out pair of performances at Reading & Leeds that we hailed as “a display of pop brilliance by a force of charisma”. “[Reading] was actually crazy, because I didn’t know if anyone was going to turn up and I didn’t really know what to expect,” she reminisces. “Before I came out [on stage] the whole crowd was going, ‘Caity, Caity, Caity!’”
The road to Reading & Leeds began in earnest back in August 2020 when Baser shared ‘Average Student’ – a chirpy ode to feeling lost in life and “just kind of winging it” – on TikTok. After the clip racked up over a million views overnight, the Southampton-born artist then received a DM from a management agency and was invited to a London studio – with her lawyer brother in tow – to meet producers Future Cut (best known for their work with Lily Allen).
This unexpected development put paid to Baser’s newly-acquired job at her local Co-op, which she had initially been excited about as a means to save money for studio sessions. “My second shift [I] cried the whole time,” she recalls. “I went in for my third shift and said I’m quitting… how can I get a little taste of what I want, and then go back to normal shit? I couldn’t.”
The risk has paid off: Baser has since gone on to charm her eager and ever-growing fanbase with her personality-packed pop tunes. Tracks like ‘Friendly Sex’ (a tongue-in-cheek take on sacking off your friend-with-benefits because you’ve started to catch feelings) and ‘X&Y’ (a doo-wop banger that boasts pithy couplets like: “I invested in you like crypto / But I think it’s time to trade”) have racked up millions of streams, soundtracked countless TikTok videos and are now yelled back at Baser whenever she appears on-stage.
Part ‘Alright, Still’-era Lily Allen (“I love her, she’s iconic. She speaks about things that women typically don’t talk about”) and part-Mike Skinner, Baser’s no-fucks-given belters have helped the Brighton-based artist carve out a much-needed space in the sometimes-sterile pop landscape. Ahead of her sold-out XOYO shows, NME caught up with Baser to discuss how she found her confidence, being recognised on the street and making music to empower others.
NME: Your songs are so open and honest. How did you find the confidence to put that forward in your music?
“Well, here’s a plot twist: I never used to be confident with my music and myself, ever. In school, I used to hate singing in front of people. I would never really sing, post videos or anything like that because people would be like: ‘That’s cringy. Why are you doing music? Oh my God, you’re never gonna make a career out of that’. With lockdown, everything just stopped and I was like, ‘Nothing matters [any more]’. That’s why I started posting music, and then that’s how I got discovered. Throughout the weeks and months [afterwards] I was just like, ‘Nothing’s real’. Like, why do I give a fuck about anybody’s opinion?”
Your lyrics are very specific about past situations you’ve been in. Do the people you write about know that your songs are about them?
“I’ll give you facts, receipts, times, what I was wearing! I’m so honest [that] it’s hard for the person to not know it’s about them. I’m still really good friends with some of the people [the songs are] about. One of the boys was at one of my shows and I literally told the story of what happened: I name-dropped him, saying, ‘I think we’ve all had a [she censors out their name today with an “mm-mm”] in our lives’. And then I was like, ‘Fuck you!’ and everyone said it. Then I was like, ‘Point at him and say fuck you!’ It was amazing, and he was just there [looking exasperated]. It’s sick, though: I want to empower girls to be like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool to tell people to fuck off!’”
A lot of women are really identifying with your music. How empowering is that feeling?
“It’s happening again, the goosebumps! I’m getting shivers thinking about it. Yeah, of course it is [empowering]. Growing up I was never sure of anything, and I was quite quiet about my opinions. But now I want to teach people, especially young girls, that it’s so OK to be angry at another person because they’ve done something wrong. You don’t have to go, ‘Oh sorry’. [You can say] ‘No, fuck you. Give me a minute, I’m angry at you, leave me alone.’”
Both ‘Friendly Sex’ and ‘X&Y’ have racked up millions of streams. Have those numbers put pressure on your future releases?
“I feel like no, because I love making music. Obviously I want every song to be better [than the last], but so far that’s what’s happened: I’ve gone from 500,000 streams to one million streams, and so on. All of the [songs] that have done well [so far] I’ve had a weird feeling about every time: I’d be in the studio and I’d go, ‘Shit, this feels good!’ And I’ve had that about a few of my songs that are lined up next. I’ve got a few singles lined up that are so good, they’re so much fun.”
“I want to empower girls to be like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool to tell people to fuck off!’”
What was it like performing your songs live for the first time post-lockdown?
“It’s weird. Since being accepted as Caity Baser – because I never was growing up, it was like, ‘You wear weird things, and why are you singing?’ – now I’m just being me. I never get nervous, as I’m like, ‘These are my people, you make me feel so welcome’. When I go out on-stage it’s not like a gig, it’s like a house party and everyone’s there. I just suddenly get up and am like, ‘Oi! Here’s a load of songs, do you want to hear it?’ I just feel like I’m in a big room with all my friends.”
Are you getting recognised more in public now?
“Yeah! I love it, I think it’s so cool. For so long I’ve never been accepted for being me, and now people like me and they want to come and say hi to me. I was out in Guildford on a Saturday night with my friend [recently], and [the next morning] I was walking, hungover, in a tracksuit, and these girls go, ‘That looks like Caity Baser. Shit, it is Caity Baser!’ And I went, ‘Hey girls, how you doing? I have a massive headache’. [Getting recognised] happens quite a lot now, it’s so exciting.”
Caity Baser will perform at XOYO in London from November 2-3