Not so long ago, there was a time that Nell Mescal was too anxious to post her own music on social media. Instead, she made TikToks about Gilmore Girls. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Kildare, Ireland, has watched the series from start to finish so many times, she can recite entire scenes of dialogue. Fortunately, she’s recently gotten over her aversion to self-promotion—but she’ll forever think Dean is a twat.
Mescal has had quite the start to 2023. Her newest single, “Homesick,” has been heaped with praise, she’s eagerly anticipating a series of live shows between May and July, and recently, Mescal has welcomed a much broader audience online due in part to her posting of a certain screenshot of her brother reacting to the news that he was nominated for an Academy Award. That’s right: Nell is the sister of noted heartthrob and Oscar nominee, Paul Mescal. Never mind that, though.
“I feel like this year is just going to be filled with a lot of music, which is truthful this time, because I feel like before I’ve been like, ‘yeah...music at some point,’ but now, I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s coming up,’” Mescal told Jezebel via Zoom. “I’m excited about it. That’s all I can say really at the moment.”
The younger Mescal sibling has been singing her whole life and writing her own lyrics since she was 13. On “Homesick,” her delightfully relatable indie pop track, she takes listeners through the stages of missing the comforts of where you came from, starting with a specific kind of insecurity inspired by her move from an Irish town of 8,000 people to London: “Sat in a hotel lobby/Rich kids with all the trimmings/Their outfits hurt my feelings.”
“I remember when I moved to London, I felt like I was competing with everyone because everyone was like, dressed really cool and I was like in the same outfit every day,” she recalls. “That made me feel like I just wanted to go home.”
Mescal cites Birdie as one of her earliest inspirations; but lately, she’s been listening a lot to Ethel Cain. It shows. She’s developed a certain knack for making life’s prosaic experiences a little more poignant. Her debut single, “Graduating,” captures the all-too-familiar feelings of finishing high school. There’s relief, for certain—but more than anything, there’s melancholia in moving on, even if you couldn’t be more ready to. In Mescal’s case, she dropped out early after some “tough times” and had been wondering whether she did the right thing. It’s those universal aches and pains that most inspire her when it comes to her music.
“I really try not to write about something that I don’t know about,” she says. “I tend to write a lot about friendships and stuff like that, because that’s been what’s been true to me.”
Mescal has already toured twice, but she’s still something of a novice when it comes to managing nerves before a performance—especially as a headliner. “For my Irish tour, I was so nervous I wouldn’t talk to my band 10 minutes before, and was like, ‘ I can’t do it,’ because there was such a pressure,” she tells me. “It’s like, ‘oh, everyone’s there for you.’”
Even still, she’s looking forward to getting back out on the road. Her favorite part? Meeting people and hopefully, making an impact. “I’ve had such great experiences with people after the shows and with people that didn’t know me before,” Mescal says. “My shows are comprised of like, mostly unreleased stuff, so it’s been kind of exciting to hear what people are loving listening to, and seeing which songs people are obsessed with and which songs...aren’t getting as much of a clap.”
Twitter, too, has become an effective testing ground for her work. Of course, some of Mescal’s new followers—with one Paul post, she spiked to nearly 14k on Twitter—were first fans of her brother. But feedback, she says, has been abundant and (mostly) kind.
“I know Twitter can be a scary place, but I’ve been very lucky,” she says. “It won’t stop me from just talking about Gilmore Girls and all my favorite TV shows, unfortunately.” Lately, one of those favorites is The Last of Us. And yes, she, too, was wrecked by the series’ third episode.
Of course, Mescal is well aware the internet has a certain fascination with her older brother, but there’s also an admiration for the closeness of her entire family. Of the most keen reactions to the screenshot of the Mescals celebrating Paul’s Oscar nomination from fans: “Wait, your family is so feckin’ cute.” It’s true: Take this video of her parents’ emotional reaction to her performance on The Late Late Show. Their excitement for each other is, well, pretty feckin’ cute. All the better, though, is their advice on managing the more foreign aspects of fame—namely, Paul’s.
“It’s weird because I feel like when everything was happening with Paul, it was like we were trying to give him advice for something that we had no idea about because it was all so new to everyone,” Mescal says. “In some ways, it feels like we’ve all just been going through and at the same time being like, ‘Oh my god, how do you deal with this?’”
“But the biggest advice he has given me is ‘don’t be an asshole,’” she continued. “I think it’s so important in this industry to just be nice to people, and it will take you somewhere.