Lindsay Munroe

Lindsay Munroe

Cameron Stewart

Lindsay Munroe’s newest EP, Softest Edge, began with a perspective-shifting solo trip to the Lake District. “I remember getting there early, parking in this random spot, and wandering aimlessly through the trees, and it just opened up. Going from my tiny little house to this expanse, I just started crying,” remembers the Manchester artist.

Munroe describes that moment as a microcosm of the last few years of her life. Since her departure from an oppressive church and the end of a long-term relationship — plus undertaking an MA in feminist theology — she’s been on a journey of learning exactly who she is when she’s totally free. It’s encapsulated in Softest Edge, an ode to exploring beyond all constricting boundaries, whether musical or personal.

London-born Munroe began life as a folk artist, playing open mics and small gigs around her adopted hometown of Manchester. Yet it eventually became clear that her ambitions were higher than that. “It felt like I was on this treadmill, and I was bored of that. I was like, if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do it. I committed, in a [new] way.” Her songwriting grew more self-assured, with an indie rock sound that was truer to Munroe’s self.

Since the age of 15, Munroe had been entangled in evangelical Christianity, something which had given her a sense of belonging as an “emotionally malleable” teen. “I have always been a pretty committed person, whatever I choose to put my mind to. And the evangelical church really asks for a lot of commitment. So symbiotically, it was a bad combination,” she explains. “Then I went to university when I was 19, and I studied Religions & Theology. And I remember learning, even in my first semester, some things about like, archaeology, that made me realise there are things I’ve been told to believe that didn’t seem they could be true.”

It took Munroe years to make the difficult decision to break from the church, even as her awareness grew that it was in misalignment with all of her values. When she finally did, and at the same time went through a breakup, her identity was shaken to its core. On her debut EP, 2020’s Our Heaviness, she explored the pain and turbulence that came with the departure. The EP garnered praise from BBC Introducing, DIY and The Line of Best Fit, and even an Instagram shoutout from one of Munroe’s heroes Sharon Van Etten.

Yet once past the initial shock that ruled those songs, Munroe saw an opportunity for growth. “My life was pretty much an open road,” she says. “I was asking questions about gender, sexuality, who am I, what did I want? I think it’s a lot of the same questions that most people are asking in their 20s. But I kind of lost a life in order to ask them.”

She continues, “My music became a place for me to ask those questions, but much more confidently than I was in real life.” This was the beginning of Softest Edge. Instead of writing with the pure catharsis of Our Heaviness, Munroe applied her new sense of endless possibilities to her songwriting, exploring the depths of genre and production while lyrically drawing from a wider pool of experiences. “I can’t just be reliant on having really overwhelming emotions all the time to write from. [I heard] a quote that said something along the lines of, you’re not giving credence to your talent if you think you have to be in pain to create. I remember hearing that and being like, I feel like this just changed my life.”

Written almost entirely on that week-long Lake District trip, Munroe worked with producer Steph Marziano — known for work with Hayley Williams and Denai Moore — to bring Softest Edge, plus standalone singles “Weekend Love” and “Hornets”, to life. With these songs, Munroe establishes herself as a powerful songwriting force. The EP’s moody title track “Softest Edge” came from Munroe’s desire to write one definitive breakup song, rather than letting it dominate her writing. She crafted the song’s structure to mimic the waves of grief, ending in a definitive crash where she realises: “You broke something in me that needed to be broken.”

The glitchy acoustic number “Andrew” recounts the last night of a relationship, allowing Munroe to flex her muscles in vulnerable, poignant storytelling. Meanwhile, “Need A Ride” is a celebration of sexual independence, and the EP’s most commanding rock song. “What I was saying about writing this more confident version of myself — “Need A Ride” was definitely that,” says Munroe.

The EP’s final track, “Parallel”, is its standout. It’s a platonic love song to Munroe’s best friend, a COVID ICU nurse at the time, through the medium of Robyn-esque electro-pop. “Because our friendship has always given me a lot of joy, it never made sense to me that that song was gonna be anything other than a big pop song,” says Munroe. “So I took it to Steph, and Steph was great, because she was like, ‘I’m not doing an ‘indie girl does a pop song’. We’re doing a real pop song.’” The result was a moving and yet euphoric take on the genre, proving that Munroe’s talents shine through in every context. She adds with a laugh, “It was only in like, 2019, 2020, that I started listening to pop music. I’d always been super judgemental of it. Now I’m two years running in Taylor Swift’s top 1% of listeners.”

Now, after two well-received headline shows at the end of 2021, Munroe plans to take her music on the road more than ever, while continuing to expand her limits creatively. “I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf music-wise, and the plan for this year is to do a lot more co-writing with other people, and [continue to] explore genre. More and more artists are doing the whole genreless approach, and I feel like it really lends itself to the vast array of experiences. Like, that whole thing of building a life back up from the foundations. You can’t do it all in a sad folk song.”