She was born into rock royalty, so finding her own voice hasn’t been easy for singer LOLA LENNOX. Though having her mum as her number one fan does have its advantages
Any child choosing the same profession as a successful parent will naturally be starting on the back foot. When that parent happens to be Annie Lennox – lead singer of the Eurythmics and solo star in her own right – it may be fairer to say that they couldn’t have picked a more difficult path.
But if pursuing a singing career like her mother – one of the UK’s most successful female artists of all time – fazes Lola Lennox, it doesn’t show.
It’s clear that not only did Lola inherit her mum’s striking good looks and incredible voice but also her determination to succeed. ‘Initially, I was shy. I did feel insecure because the comparison is quite intense. But she has also given me drive and commitment.’
She’s speaking over Zoom from the home she shares in Los Angeles with her boyfriend, model and producer Braeden Wright. She flips the camera to show me her studio – a small corner of the room from where she has been working flat out on her music. When I say I’m slightly surprised that she can create a powerful sound in such a small space, she reminds me, ‘Billie Eilish did an entire album in her brother’s room, and she’s one of the top artists of the time.’
After spending years songwriting and grinding away at building an audience, Lola’s work is finally paying off. This past year the 30-year-old released four singles – one of which, the soul-infused ‘La La Love Me’, entered the top ten in the UK radio airplay charts and became the most played song on Radio 2.
Another single, the infinitely catchy ‘Back At Wrong’, about the highs and lows of a toxic relationship, just happened to be co-produced by her mother. ‘We worked on it just before [the first] lockdown hit, so it was probably our last time in a room together and we had so much fun,’ says Lola. ‘After we finished the song, we were dancing around the room. But it’s been such a fantastic new portion of our lives where we can create together.’
This isn’t the only time the two have worked together. In April last year, Annie chose the Eurythmics’ classic ‘There Must Be an Angel (Playing With My Heart)’ as the song the pair would perform for an audience of 270 million for Lady Gaga’s One World: Together at Home concert. ‘Mum picked the song but it’s right up my street,’ she says.
Mums tend to know best but, even so, Annie and Lola had just a few days to rehearse their duet which, due to Covid restrictions, meant that they practised from their separate homes ten minutes from each other in LA. ‘We did the whole thing on FaceTime, which has a delay on it,’ says Lola. ‘We’d each hear the other sing about three seconds later, but we figured it out.’
If you haven’t seen their duet it’s worth searching for on YouTube – not only for Lola’s searing vocals, but also for the sight of her mum beaming away at the piano, utterly incapable of concealing her pride. ‘A lot of people noticed my mum couldn’t stop smiling,’ laughs Lola, ‘and I think it’s indicative of how proud and supportive she is.’
In the early stages of the pandemic Annie, 66, spoke honestly about the challenges of living in isolation and at one point admitted: ‘The other day I had a real cry because I understood the scale of this thing is just simply enormous’. But she also found that recording new work during lockdown had lifted her spirits. ‘Mum’s been really good, but we all have these moments,’ says Lola. ‘With Mum, though, the word “bored” doesn’t exist. She’s been making a lot of music that she’s been filming and posting on Instagram and I think that’s giving her a lot of joy. She’s had to keep it simple and fun and that’s been great for her.’
Lola’s parents split up when she was nine (her father is Israeli producer Uri Fruchtmann) and her mum subsequently married third husband Dr Mitch Besser, with the couple spending lockdown together in LA. But while Lola lives close by, visits have been few and far between. ‘If I did see them, we’d wear masks and be outside,’ she says. ‘We’ve been very, very careful and cautious, but Mum had her second vaccine about three weeks ago which means I can soon hug her – that’s lovely,’ says Lola. ‘She told me she went to the supermarket the other day after months of having home deliveries and thought, “Oh my God, this is amazing!”’
Lola’s childhood was spent in London with her sister Tali – now 28, a model and artist living in New York – and it was an upbringing tinged with moments of stardust. Not every six-year-old, for example, can claim to have visited the set of the Spice Girls movie Spice World (Lola’s dad was a producer on the film), ‘and I got to meet them, which was fun’. Nor do many see their mother awarded an OBE for services to charity. (Footage of the ceremony shows Annie and the Queen nattering away quite merrily, and as both Lola’s great-grandparents worked at Balmoral – he a gamekeeper and she a dairy maid – Lola can’t help but wonder if that’s what they were talking about.)
‘I think Mum found a really great balance between being a mum and working,’ says Lola. ‘She was there for us as kids and when she worked, it was at a very specific time of the year so it never made me or my sister feel like she’d been gone too long. Also, the fact that she did work– as a woman – was incredibly inspiring to us and a fantastic example that Tali and I have carried through into our adult lives.’
Rather sweetly, Annie once remarked that in trying to find a balance between motherhood and music, ‘there were times I was thinking: “What am I doing?” Was I a good mother? I’m insecure about it.’ But, insists Lola, ‘She is an amazing mum and I do tell her that a lot. I think all mums must worry about that, and if you’re a good mum, you’re probably constantly checking yourself.’
As well as meeting the world’s biggest girl group, having Annie Lennox as her mum also meant Lola got the chance to travel the world. Between the ages of eight and 12 she toured Australia and the US with Annie, although when Lola looks back, ‘I have a really childish perspective on it and I remember all the American candy, the theme parks and diners,’ she laughs. ‘Also, being on the tour bus and driving through the night on these little bunk beds, coming to a different city every day or two. It was a cool experience.’ Her friends must have been so jealous… ‘I don’t even think I told them,’ says Lola. ‘I think for me it was just “normal”, and my mum has never made me feel this is special or different. She’s very low-key.’ However, the music bug had bitten her and by age seven she had taken up the piano. By eight she was having singing lessons. ‘My school also had a great music department and it gave me a fantastic foundation,’ says Lola.
All of which led to her earning a place at London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Music to study classical vocals. ‘It was a huge compliment to be accepted and Mum was proud of me, but it was a two-sided coin because I knew it wasn’t the path I wanted to go down.’ Lola decided to leave the course after a few months and, in doing so, inadvertently emulated her mother, who had also dropped out of the Royal Academy in the 1970s.
She briefly modelled for Topshop and Teen Vogue but, while it was fun, ‘I knew it wasn’t my path,’ she explains. So she focused on creating her own music – something she had been doing in secret as a young kid, sneaking into her parents’ basement to work on songs when they weren’t around. ‘I wrote teenagery songs which were a bit cringey and sweet – but if you want to write a good song, you have to write a lot of mediocre ones first. I was a little secretive about it because I’d been around such high-level music all my life.’
Was her mum slightly concerned when Lola came to her at 17 and admitted that she wanted to pursue a career in the music industry – an industry Annie herself said could ‘eat you up and spit you out’? ‘Well, there were hesitations,’ Lola admits. ‘Every mother is protective of her child but she saw how dedicated I was and how happy it makes me.’
Lola has finally found her own voice and Mum, naturally, couldn’t be more pleased. ‘She knows how passionate I am and how hard I’ve worked to make this happen and she’s so supportive. No one gets it more than her. She is,’ says Lola simply, ‘my number-one champion.’
Lola’s new single ‘Wherever You Go’ is out now
Interview by Lina Das