Lil Halima talks new music, routines and watercolour therapy under quarantine
Text Elisheba Akalawu
Cover Image Universal Music/ Def Jam Norway
Nestled in the cosy mountain confines of northern Norway, Lil Halima knew home was the place to be when news of Covid-19 broke out, “I ran back home to northern Norway as soon as this whole thing happened. I ran back so fast! I’ve been home for almost a month and it’s gone by so quickly. For the first two weeks I had to be in quarantine, I couldn’t go anywhere and barely be with anybody in my family. I didn’t want to be that person to bring this disease to this side of the country so I stayed isolated,” and rightly so. Yet it’s not all doom and gloom for the young star, who is accustomed to a life of solitude – she grew up in the quiet town of Bardu which has a population of around 4,000 people, surrounded by her closest family and friends – and when we caught up was filled with energy, optimism and a positive outlook on how to spend her quarantine days. “I’m an introvert, as I’ve said a thousand times before, so I’m living life. I came home, I’m looking after all of my mum’s plants, I’m making baby plants out of her plants, saving the dead ones; I’m painting, I bought a bunch of clay so I’m trying to learn how to do that. I got a bunch of nail stuff so I’m going to try and do acrylic nails… I’m just thriving!”
When I first met the songstress back in September at the London date of her Lil Europe Tour, promoting her second EP Brown Girl Diary, I was captivated by her strong yet delicate vocals which communicated she had a secret to tell and that those of us in the intimate crowd were the lucky trustees – our ears were her diary. As part of a Colors Studios initiative to explore our connection with others through music during isolation, Lil had the unique opportunity to use her voice to reach others, which as a self-described perfectionist and introvert, she had her reservations about, “I think it’s so cool what we’re doing at the moment, like reforming social media. With the Colors live stream, it felt really nice, but I was quite hesitant because I’m a perfectionist and it was like, I don’t have anything here, I don’t have equipment, I can’t do anything here. You’re basically stripped naked because you’re just at home and you can’t hide anything when you’re in your habitat. It was nice though and I’m happy that I did it.”
The show comes as a gateway to her latest single ‘Glue’ which at a time like now feels extremely relevant, “so I don’t like when people are – and looking back I jinxed this big time, but are really attached to me,” she explains candidly. “People that want to do everything together, want to be around me all the time and who basically want to glue themselves to me. I wanted to write about it in a nicer way because it’s not negative and it’s not like I don’t like you just because I don’t want to be glued to you. I wanted to say that I need my space and there’s nobody in this world that’s going to change that. It doesn’t matter how much I love you, I will still need to be my own person.” And despite the message behind it, the lyrics still express a loving sentiment toward those important people in your life, “if you just wanted to listen to the chorus and be with your boyfriend or whatever, and have this nice feeling of being glued together, then you can feel that as well through the song,” which has a pretty uptempo beat and gives me a reminiscent vibe of a summer that we hope is yet to come.
With all the freedom to be, Lil is still connecting with her community via Instagram and has been sharing her watercolour artistry through her playful and pertinent illustrations of women and self-portraiture, which have an airy Bratz-eqsue quality to them. She’s a huge advocate for everyone to take up the art form as a type of therapy, “watercolouring is so much fun, and you don’t even need to be good at it. The aesthetic of it is just so nice; you can literally do three splashes of colour and it just looks amazing. It’s so therapeutic to wash the water and blend the colours together and watch them dry up in different patterns, I love it. I recommend people to try that.” Not only that, but in the near future we might even be able to use her illustrations as outlines, “so, my manager came up with this idea that we should make a colouring book – like a Bad Bitches colouring book – and I’m so here for it. I think it’s the right timing and I feel like colouring books are much needed right now!”
She’s also been utilising YouTube as a way to share parts of her daily life through vlogs and make-up tutorials and wants to extend this to her love for ASMR videos, “I watch so much ASMR and I naturally like to talk pretty calmly and low in volume. If I could choose, the whole world would be whispering. I watch a lot of journal writing and painting sounds – I’m like such an ASMR advocate,” she chuckles. “I really want to do painting ASMR videos, videos about plants and just a day in my life. I have so many filming ideas, I just need to do them. I’m waiting for my friend to send over my camera and I ordered a microphone because I’m going to record more music too.”
Other ways the star has been staying busy is creating routines for herself – which she in part gave credit to me (yeah, major fangirl moment) – “it’s actually funny, I figured I’m going to make an actual morning routine because I read your #SkypeBae article, and since my boyfriend lives in Sweden and the border is closed I was like ‘ah this is so smart, I really need this’. There was something about date night and I’ve never been big on afternoon or evening dates, but I’m so big on having a cup of tea. So, I told my boyfriend that at 10 am sharp he’s going to be ready with a cup of tea and now our new morning routine is at 10 am we have a cup of coffee or tea and we write our gratitude list and the plan of the day.” Lil also advises that now is not the time to be shy or hold ourselves back, “don’t be scared to try out new things. There are so many things that you can test out. I also know that for many people even getting out of bed is hard – I’ve been struggling a lot with that and I realised that the main reason I have a hard time is because my bed is not done. So now I have a rule that when I wake up I put a blanket over my bedsheets and I don’t go under my bedsheets until I’m going to bed.”
In the very uncertain and rocky times we’re in it’s important to not let our anxieties about the future get the better of us. Lil is very much inspired and connected to nature and shared the biggest lesson she’s learnt from her surroundings, “whenever I’m in Oslo or travelling around it feels like the decisions I make are super final and they decide a lot of the outcomes of my life. However, when I’m home, in the mountains, I realise that I am not the bigger picture. I am just a part of the bigger picture. All those worries I have aren’t so big and heavy anymore because nature will always be mightier than us.” A thought-provoking sentiment that rings volumes in relation to the global climate. Instead of seeing this as a time of enforced isolation, change the narrative for yourself; welcome it as a time of slowing down and becoming more intentional about your next steps once this period is over – because it will eventually be over. Thinking about the future, Lil mentioned what we can expect from her musically, “I’m releasing another single in June which will be very exciting – we’re lucky because we got to take a bunch of press photos before Coronavirus hit so we’ve got everything we need for that. It’s kind of the same vibe as ‘Glue’ but more disco-y which is nice. And then here at home, I’m practising producing music myself.”
Don’t forget to check out the lyric video below to Lil Halima’s latest single ‘Glue’, available to stream everywhere now – and get in touch with us via @nbga.mag to let us know your thoughts! We’re excited to see what she’s got coming out next.