One of Poppy’s earliest memories is yelling into a microphone. She was sitting comfortably on the floor in her dad’s home studio and “screaming” for the sake of “just making noise”. As the drummer in a local new wave band, her dad was the person who first made her enamoured with music. For a time, Poppy trained as a dancer, but with Debbie Harry of Blondie and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt on her radar, she always kept a tight focus on her singing.
At 13, after becoming victim to a bad spate of bullying, along with a desire to focus on creative pursuits, she was allowed to be home-schooled. Like her character, Poppy “was pretty much raised on the internet because my program was based online; all the usual classes you have to take. I just locked myself away and finished school two years early, at 16.”
In between all of this, she would stay in solitude to create art. “I’d write a lot in that room. I didn’t have anyone other than one or two people I’d see occasionally. I liked to lock myself away.” That was how she learned to do things like make beats and write lyrics. When she did leave the house, it was only to drive around Nashville, Tennessee in a truck she bought, and take notes of things she saw on her trips. “I was definitely a loner,” she says. “I had a lot of time in my own head, observing the world.”
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Poppy was, and remains, an introvert. She says she took the infamous Myers-Briggs personality test online and found out she was a INTJ-type – analytical problem-solvers with an eye for the opportunity to improve themselves or innovate things around them. They’re a very rare type, and the group comprises few women. “The last word stands for ‘judging’ and that’s definitely something I do,” Poppy admits. “I don’t know if I find myself having a lot of empathy for people.”
By the age of 18, her tenacious thinking led Poppy to a record deal. She’d left Tennessee behind to move to Los Angeles to work with Island Records, the home of money-making pop stars like the late Amy Winehouse, Ariana Grande, Post Malone and The Weeknd. “I was young, but old enough to do it by myself,” she says, headstrong. “It taught me a lot: the way business runs and how a lot of people are. I was in that scenario for quite a lot longer than I should have been, and I could’ve had better people around to help me navigate. I think if you can survive being signed [to a major label], you can survive a lot of things in life.”
Does she have any regrets about tying herself to a big pop machine so early in her career?
“In retrospect I wouldn’t change anything at all, because I learned so much,” she says, “even though it was the most frustrating thing, and it made me question myself, question everything I do and why I do it, and question my sanity.”
In those “innocent” days of the original Poppy character, her music was an upbeat strain of J-pop. Still, K! offers, it has a dark undertone to it that forebodes the heavier music to come.
“I think there’s real darkness in J-pop and K-pop,” she says, seemingly pleased with this observation. “A lot of those acts get signed really young and they’re forced to do things by people around them. Like the people who made me think that things were my idea that weren’t, just so they could get their way using manipulation. That’s very real. I think that’s reflected in the first version of the project.”