Nell Mescal: It’s frustrating when people say, ‘You’re here because of your brother’ 

Nell Mescal: It’s frustrating when people say, ‘You’re here because of your brother’ 

Three years ago, when she was 16 and still living with her parents in Maynooth, Nell Mescal watched her brother become famous overnight. “It was just the craziest time. It’s a weird experience seeing something like that happen. But not seeing it happen physically [because of the lockdown]. It was very strange. I was at home with mum and dad.” 

Her brother is Paul Mescal – star of Normal People and an Oscar nominee for father-daughter weepy Aftersun. Nell, his junior by eight years, watched his rise from a distance whilst also navigating her own career as a singer-songwriter.

It’s been a rapid ascent for Nell, who dropped out of school at the start of sixth year and signed a deal with Q-Prime – the talent managers whose clients include Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Snow Patrol.

The collaboration is already bearing fruit with recent singles ‘Graduating’ and ‘Homesick’ – confessional pocket-epics that locate her in the “bedroom pop” genre and adjacent to artists such as Clairo, Girl In Red and Beabadoobee. This is followed by an Irish tour that includes a date at Cork’s Cyprus Avenue on Friday, March 3.

“It was such a strange thing,” she says of quitting school at the beginning of her final year. “I hadn’t seen anyone else do it. It was rare. I loved school. I didn’t have anyone I could look to and say, ‘they did it and that was fine’. And no one in my family had done it. So it was very daunting. But I think it was the best decision I could have made.” 

 Mescal is chatty and frank as she dials in over Zoom for London. She is just as forthright in her songwriting: on the recent ‘Homesick’, for instance, she lays bare the anxieties she experiences when moving abroad as a teenager. She is upfront, too, about her brother’s fame helping introduce listeners to her songwriting.

“It’s natural. If people find me through Paul, I can only hope that they stay because they like the music,” she says. “And that has been true in a lot of cases.”

 Inevitably, on social media, some people have accused her, quite incorrectly, of riding on his coattails. She shrugs: what can you do?

“It comes down to having a thick skin because it can be quite frustrating when people say, ‘oh, you’re only here because of your brother’. I was going to be doing it anyway. It come down to trusting what you’re doing. You have to do what you’re doing because you want to and you love it – and not let anyone else’s opinions really deter you.” 

She grew up in the suburbs of Maynooth, her father a teacher, her mother a garda. Paul is the oldest of three children, followed by Donnacha, who works in HR and lives in New York. It’s been a bittersweet several months for Nell and her family. Nell’s career is taking off; Paul is conquering Hollywood. However, on the day he was nominated for an Oscar, she tweeted that her mother was starting chemotherapy.

“I had 2,000 followers. None of my tweets got any traction. I didn’t think too hard about it. My mum is open about it on her social media: it wasn’t this huge secret. It was something I would have said anyway. When I said it and it gained traction, I was like, ‘oh…this is scary’. Because you have other people putting in their

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