If you stumble upon her music online, you may think that North Carolina artist Hemlocke Springs, real name Isimeme Udu, is a seasoned artist, possessed as she is with a wholly unique artistry and bubbly persona.
But just midway through last year, Udu was a student at Dartmouth College who had never really taken music seriously. Now, she’s a touring artist with millions of streams. Such is the insane rise to the top viral success can provide in music today.
Hemlocke Springs already has multiple viral hits to her name, with “girlfriend” in particular popping off on TikTok, being hailed as the ultimate “awkward Black girl anthem” by some. Sounding like an intoxicating cross between Charli XCX and Marina and the Diamonds, the track was tailor-made to be embraced by Gen Z music fans.
When “girlfriend” initially blew up, Udu was undergoing a Masters degree in medical informatics, while she also had a job at the library. She was considering a future PhD, but that plan has quickly been replaced by budding music stardom.
As Hemlocke Springs, Udu has truly seized her chance, and Australia and New Zealand will get to see what all the fuss is about when she performs at Laneway 2024 alongside superstars such as Stormzy, Dominic Fike, AJ Tracey, Cordae, d4vd, and Steve Lacy. “I think I’ve definitely grown more and more to accept the fact that I’m just very confused with what’s going on,” she says fairly.
Now with a debut EP, going…going…GONE!, to her name, Udu is the first to admit that she’s shocked by her sudden thrust into stardom. “It still feels like a trial, I don’t think it’ll ever hit,” she adds.
going…going…GONE! includes elements of pop, hip hop, EDM, and K-Pop, Udu showing herself capable of incorporating several styles from a slightly unconventional approach. It’s a vibrant six-track collection that seems to hint at a bright and sustainable future.
With EPs and shows to promote, Udu has found many ways to spread the word about Hemlocke Springs (a name she found using a random name generator), including going live on YouTube to answer fan questions (something that slightly postponed our interview, but needs must), but she’s also aware that taking time for herself is now a big priority.
Udu’s way of coping is still sticking to as normal a schedule as possible, trying to treat her time as Hemlocke Springs as close to a regular job as she can to maintain a positive work-life balance.
“It hasn’t been a 9-5, but I treat it as a 9-5 sometimes where I’m like, ‘Okay, it’s 4:50, it’s almost time to go and Hemlocke Springs LLC is about to shut down,” she reveals in all seriousness. “After this time, I’m not answering any of it, it’s over, as it should be like for other people too.
“Sometimes my managers text me and it can be pressing, but sometimes we can just do this tomorrow. You just need to close that computer, or open Netflix instead.”
Understandably, that switch off is important to her—life as a Masters student just last year couldn’t be more different from the life of an international touring artist. After supporting Ashnikko in the UK, Udu will bring the Hemlocke Springs LLC to Australia and New Zealand in February.
“I’m afraid to say I’m not a big fan of snakes and spiders, they’re not my forte. But that’s okay, I’ll roll with it,” she laughs. Despite her fears, Udu would still hold a snake “if it was the right moment.”
She’s never been to Australia before, but is clearly ready to indulge in whatever it throws her way when she touches down in February. Since it’s her first time, Udu wants to use her experience at Laneway to learn more about the local music scene. “I’m gonna be in the crowd. I’m going to plan it out, I’m just waiting for the itinerary”, she exclaims.
And if all of this was somehow to end just as suddenly as it started, Udu would be none the wiser. “When I’m looking back and I’m an old woman with a bunch of cats in a nursing home, I still don’t think I’ll know what this was. I’m very confused with what’s going on as opposed to before – I genuinely got no clue fam. I’m lost, you know!”