TikTok might have helped her break through, but Mimi Webb spent years learning her craft, and now she’s reaping the rewards.
For Canterbury singer Mimi Webb the pandemic has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she’s used the time to cultivate a dedicated following on TikTok that’s translated into streams and radio spins. While on the other, she’s living her success through the lens of Zoom.
“Because people are at home, they’re playing more music, they’re chilling out more. So you know, it’s just so easy to connect with them,” she smiles from her bedroom, across yet another video call. “I think with my music being quite emotional as well, everyone really had that time to look at themselves and hone in on that emotion. I think people wanted to be real with themselves, because when you’re working Monday to Friday, you haven’t always got time to actually care about how you’re feeling and listen to music that gets you in that place.”
The 21-year-old Webb was raised in Kent, falling in love with singers like Adele and Emeli Sandé from a young age. “I grew up listening to all these incredible artists that give that goosebumps kind of big feeling,” she says. “I’ve always just grown up loving that kind of emotional impact.”
Although her family weren’t particularly musical, they nurtured Webb’s passion, enrolling her on a part-time course at the BRIT school and supporting her performances in school choirs, band nights and variety shows.
At sixteen she had a choice between going full-time at BRIT or moving to Brighton to attend BIMM. She chose the seaside music college, as it offered songwriting courses, as well as performance-based modules. Webb left home and moved in with a host family. “For those two years I really evolved and grew off of my own back,” she explains. “You’re out there in the world on your own. You’re living and breathing the kind of atmosphere of music and the environment, so you’re really driven.”
Through BIMM and the opportunities her attendance created she met management company Best Friends – the same people behind Billie Eilish, Finneas and Ashe – and signed with Epic Records at eighteen. As they were readying her first single, she took a trip to New York for meetings where she was introduced to Charli D’Amelio. The two went for dinner and showed TikTok to Webb: “I was like, I don’t know what I could do on it!” she laughs. “So we did a video together and I just sang one of my songs that I’d written a few months before. It kind of just went crazy from there, like the reaction it had. And I just thought, this is crazy that this app does that. Can actually connect to that many people.”
What Webb fails to mention is that in the clips (she also covered Adele) she’s singing acapella and acoustic in a busy restaurant, perfectly in key and with a tone that’s velvety and sonorous. It’s a striking performance and one that puts pay to her years of tuition and hard work.
Last spring, Webb was gearing up for a writing trip to LA and the release of her debut single “Before I Go” when the pandemic struck. As reality began to set in, she wasted no time. “I remember three days before they put the national lockdown in, I quickly went and bought myself a new laptop because I knew I needed storage for Logic, a new MIDI, a new mic. I was just preparing for the worst,” she explains. “I said to my team, right guys, I’m not having this. I’ve waited two years to release music. I’ve been in and out of the studio. Let’s just go and do it. Drop these songs, video or no video, artwork or no artwork. I was like, we’ve got to go, it’s go time.”
Webb resolutely released “Before I Go” in April of that year. An expansive piano ballad with a strident vocal delivery, it left no doubt to her natural talent. A run of singles followed, each more confident and striking than the last. Recent release “Good Without You” went silver after spending ten weeks in the UK Top Twenty. An honest and impactful piece of pop storytelling, it’s instant and relatable in the same breath, its chorus a euphoric lift of self-affirmation. While on new single “Dumb Love”, Webb weaves a familar story with a fresh dynamism, her impressive range close to take off.
But Webb’s success isn’t simply down to the music, it’s also the intelligence, creativity and sheer drive that she brings to the project. Only twenty-one, in conversation she’s articulate and engaged, with a developed understanding of the industry she’s entered. “Every single week, every single day, I was in my little studio. I was in there every day recording, doing Zoom sessions, TikToks, covers, anything just to feel like I’m actually doing something, like moving it along,” she says of the past fifteen months. “My introduction to the industry was just full on Zoom in your room.”
Webb did have some trepidation about investing too much in TikTok, but with care and thought she successfully navigated the app. “There’s so many different slots that you can be put into when it comes to using TikTok for your music,” she explains. “For me, it was very much like, right, let’s do these videos, make it really organic with my family, be ourselves just to tease the songs. It’s so nice to see it work the way I really wanted it to, and be able to resonate through the app, but also off the app. I think that was something I was nervous about, just in case it didn’t go like that. But I was really happy with the way that it’s translated. I think it depends on the content and making sure you’re really sticking to your brand and the way you want to be viewed.”
And now as the world begins to slowly open again and we look up from our screens, Webb’s looking forward to experiencing her success in real life. “I’m excited just to actually, like, do more shows and meet more people and see the outcome of everything, compared to watching it all on my phone,” she smiles.