Like much of the world, PinkPantheress drew inspiration from watching Paramore perform. Once you dig into her music, or look at her Instagram, it becomes easier to spot her alternative influences. In fact, she wears them proudly.

In the cover story, the artist recalls witnessing her hard work bear fruit during 2021’s Reading Festival. Standing backstage, PinkPantheress saw the crowd sing along to her own lyrics during Central Cee’s remix of “Obsessed With You,” which samples her viral hit “Just for me.” The moment was especially full circle because those festival grounds are the exact place where she learned she could make music her career, she reveals. During Reading 2015, PinkPantheress was mesmerized by the way Paramore handled themselves onstage, particularly Hayley Williams. By realizing how much fun she was having (while collecting a paycheck), she became determined to do the same one day.

Read more: PinkPantheress went from running fan pages as a teen to becoming the subject of them

Read an excerpt from AP #406’s cover story, written by Natty Kasambala, below.

The 20-year-old’s ascension to fame over the past 18 months has captivated industry and music fans alike. With a comfortable 6 million monthly Spotify listeners and a debut mixtape that charted in the U.K.’s Top 20, she’s far exceeded the benchmarks of even the most ambitious emerging artist. In the past, she has spoken about how the growth has felt separate from her, feeling very much confined to a digital space. Accumulating hundreds of thousands of fans during a time when we couldn’t leave our houses meant that the reality of her impact lived within her phone, making it easy for her to literally turn it on and off as she pleased. It’s helped her to form healthier boundaries with her burgeoning fame, but also made it harder for this new chapter to hit home.

“Because it started in lockdown, it was really difficult for a time to know where I stood music-wise. And not that I care about numbers, but to get an idea how many people are actually listening properly,” she says. “There’s so much content on [TikTok] that a lot of it just kind of remains on the app; it doesn’t exceed it.” With TikTok’s cultural presence catapulting to behemoth status in the pandemic years right alongside her, careers stemming from it are still pretty much uncharted territory.

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“There’d be times where I was anxious, and I’d be like, ‘I really hope I’m not just another one of these artists that stay on the app and people only know me from that.’ And because I couldn’t see anyone in real life, it just really felt like a ‘cyberspace’ only. The only way I could really gauge it was likes, comments and general interaction. But I’d also at the same time need to care about my mental health, so I don’t wanna go on there and read the comments and watch how many likes [things are] gaining. In the end, I was like, ‘I really just have to sit this one out, cross my fingers and hope for the best.’”

Read more: PinkPantheress wins BBC Music’s Sound Of 2022 Poll

Needless to say, the momentum was extremely real. As live music and regular scheduled programming returned, PinkPantheress began witnessing the fruits of her labor IRL. “I think the first indicator that I was actually having success off of the app was when I was at Reading Festival, after Central Cee did the remix ‘Obsessed With You’ [which samples PinkPantheress’ ‘Just for me’]. I remember being backstage at his set, and the crowd were singing my bit, and I was like, ‘Whoa!’” 

The moment was especially full circle for someone who grew up going to the festival, and had one of her most pivotal musical memories there. “At Reading in 2015, during Paramore’s set, I saw Hayley [Williams] dancing up there and the crowd singing back and just how much fun she was having,” she recalls. “I’ll never forget the thought I had: ‘She’s having so much fun, and she’s getting paid.’ Money is never a factor, but I realized you can really make a living off of this. It’s more than just dancing and being onstage, obviously, but it just looked so appealing to me right then. I was like, ‘In any imaginary world where I can do this, this is what I want.’”

You can read the full cover story in issue #406, available here or above.