But why stand pat, with more trapped feelings and unwrapped gifts to open, including the one album she's “been dreaming up” for years, as she says. Waterhouse’s artistic move as an alternative pop singer-songwriter isn’t new to her, but she recently found the confidence to share the work of a deep-thinking musician with others.
“Music was always my original plan,” a spirited Waterhouse said on a Zoom phone call from London during Christmas week. “I got a little bit deterred. … Maybe I have some kind of identity crisis, which drew me in different directions. But the beauty with everything in life is being able to do parts and act [which] have always led me to writing music as well. I don’t really see it all as that separate.”
The output from 2022 included two albums for Sub Pop Records (her full-length debut I Can’t Let Go in May, plus a six-track EP in November called Milk Teeth), several singles and music videos, and numerous live shows in North America and across the pond. All these events gave Waterhouse enough moxie to start 2023 as a headlining act launching the Coolest Place in the World tour, named after a song she wrote that felt “like a lightning bolt.” Among her Coolest Places (at least during midwinter) is the Echo Lounge & Music Hall in Dallas on Feb. 6. Blondshell (a.k.a. Sabrina Teitelbaum) will open.
When Waterhouse stopped in Texas last August as the supporting act for Father John Misty, there was nothing cool about the weather in Dallas or Austin.
“Oh, my goodness,” she says. “It was baking. I was like, ‘This is nuts!’ I went to a couple of vintage stores and walked around and ate really good food … But it was so hot. You’re running inside everywhere for shelter.”
Waterhouse laughs and says she's excited about playing Dallas. She particularly loves Austin, where she often stays at a friend’s lake house.
“There’s just nowhere like that!” she says. “That’s so absolutely beautiful to take a boat down that lake. I would love to live in Austin one day on the lake.”
Waterhouse might want to double-check this summer’s tour itinerary, however. The singer is performing Feb. 7 at Austin’s Scoot Inn. Her previous show in Austin, outdoors on Aug. 12 at Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park, is “where the computer [for her opening set] exploded from the heat," she says before adding, "It’ll be a slightly different flavor this time around,”
A busy festival schedule will follow, currently set for three Lollapalooza gigs (Argentina, Chile and Brazil) in March, May’s Shaky Knees in Atlanta and June’s Governors Ball in New York, then Bonnaroo.
"That was a new thing that started [in 2022]," she says with a laugh. "I’m praying that I’ll be able to have a connection with people.”
So far in 2023, Waterhouse’s prayers have been answered, with many sold-out venues as a heavenly bonus. Learning the ropes last year prepared her for the best, and worst, of times.
“You go on tour for a couple of months, all kinds of things happen,” she says. “That’s the best thing about going on tour, everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong, then you figure out … you’ll survive those things.”
Waterhouse reunited with last year's backing band members: guitarist Jane. (period included), previously known as Raj Jain and Jane Holiday; bassist Myqle “Motorcycle” Sanford; and drummer Emilia Paige, who teamed up with her sister Sydney Paige to form band Stereo Jane. The star’s setlist is filled with personal numbers from I Can’t Let Go (“Bullshit on the Internet,” “Devil I Know”) and Milk Teeth (“Good Looking,” “Johanna”) as mainstays. Covers include Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You” (enhancing those haunting Hope Sandoval vocal vibes) and Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.”
She also promises to perform brand-new songs, having returned to the studio “pretty much all the time” since the European tour ended in late November. Waterhouse plans to release more original material “in the next couple of months,” though a 2023 album might be too ambitious. Then again, she'll make the time.
“There’s an urgency that I feel now to just be writing and recording all the time,” she says. “Which is different [from] the first record because I never really thought that I would ever finish it or make it. You have to make as much as you can when you’re in the moment.”
From Movies to MusicHer family household’s one and only musician, Alice Suki Waterhouse was born on Jan. 5, 1992, in Hammersmith, London, to father Norman, a plastic surgeon, and mother Elizabeth, a nurse. Suki has two younger sisters, both models — Imogen, 28 (nicknamed Immy), who also acts; and Madeleine, 23 (Maddi to friends and her 102K Instagram followers). Their brother Charlie is a designer who founded London-based T-shirt company ChWoody with Will Woodhouse. She spent Christmas with family at her parents’ home in the countryside, enjoying being an aunt for the first time after one of her unnamed siblings had a baby.
Suki has been devoting attention to making songs for the past 10 years, though for a long time, she kept those songs private. “I had quite a lot of anxiety, I guess," she says. "I thought that I would be laughed at. I felt like people would be quite unwilling to want to listen.”
Asked why she felt that way, Waterhouse, whose slick fashion sense has landed her on covers of Vogue, Allure, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair and more, adds with a laugh, “Because if you’ve been a model before, people will think that you’re dead inside.”
She kept her four-year relationship with actor Robert Pattinson under wraps in the past, but publicity was heightened when they walked the red carpet for the first time as a couple at the Dior fall 2023 menswear show Dec. 3 in Giza, Egypt.
Soon afterward, though, Waterhouse got back to business. She now realizes her patient approach to music is finally paying off.
“I’m really glad that it took a long time,” says the musician, who plays guitar and piano. “Sometimes, you can be making things for such a long time and just the right path of how to put it out into the world hasn’t shown itself yet. I’d just been self-releasing things and decided, ‘Yeah, time is running out.’”
Her first single — “Brutally,” in 2016 — created a “little spark” as a songwriter that turned into a bonfire.
“Things will come to you months later and you can put together a song which explains something intangible that you can try to make sound tangible,” says Waterhouse, whose 2017’s “Good Looking” was followed by 2018’s “Valentine” and 2019’s “Coolest Place in the World” and “Johanna,” all of which landed on Milk Teeth. “Then performing it, having that moment with other people where it’s done something to them ... music has this long-lasting legacy that becomes part of people’s lives in a way that nothing else does.”
Before the pandemic hit in 2020, Waterhouse had made more than a dozen feature films, showing versatility with bigger roles in smaller movies. There was the 2014 rom-com Love, Rosie, with Lily Collins; 2016’s hilarious horror romp Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with Lily James and Matt Smith; Venice Film Festival Golden Lion candidate The Bad Batch, in which she starred as an amputated undesirable along with Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves; and 2018’s ultra-violent Assassination Nation, a chaotic black comedy about a fearsome female foursome directed by Euphoria’s Sam Levinson.
Yet it wasn’t until after she shined as Iris Evans in 2019’s underrated Bittersweet Symphony — as a fictional up-and-coming musician who composes her first soundtrack for a Hollywood film — that Waterhouse’s own dream project was fulfilled.
“That movie was interesting because it was all improvised,” Waterhouse says of the film that included Jennifer Grey and Griffin Dunne. “When I first got to the set, I knew it was improvised but I didn’t realize that the music would also be improvised. I remember being like [to director-writer Jamie Adams], ‘What the ... you’re kidding me.’ I didn’t want to put my own songs [into the movie] that I knew one day I would want to put on a record.
“So that was kind of incredible. Having to make stuff up the night before and play a thing in a movie. It was great to work with someone that was so, I guess, trusting of his actors to be able to pull that kind of thing off.”
Maybe improvisation has led to bigger and better things for Waterhouse — as an actor and musician.
Art Imitating LifeWhen she met the guitarist from TV on the Radio, Dave Sitek, in Los Angeles several years ago, Waterhouse found not only a human sounding board but a musician who “became very much a mentor to me,” she says. “He just drilled into my head to follow the instincts of my taste. And be incredibly dogged about not wavering from a vision that I have for the music that I was making.”
About three years ago, they worked for a couple of weeks at Sonic Ranch studios near El Paso and, says Waterhouse, “he put in a good word for me” when she reached out to Grammy nominee Brad Cook to produce her album I Can’t Let Go.
“He’s a similar kind of figure to Dave, where they’re just incredibly good, good people. Brad has definitely been on this path with me,” Waterhouse says of Cook, a former member of Sharon Van Etten’s band who has produced artists such as Hiss Golden Messenger, Snail Mail and Waxahatchee.
With comparisons to Lana Del Rey to Joni Mitchell on I Can’t Let Go noted in the media, Waterhouse’s gentle, lilting voice helps the mood swing and sway. Sometimes meditative, often melancholic, the songs can be seductive (“Moves”), bittersweet (such as the album closer “Blessed,” a touching testament to “the delicacy of family”), snide (“Bullshit on the Internet”), nostalgically sad (“Wild Side”), cheeky (“Put Me Through It”) and smoldering (“Melrose Meltdown”).
“I just made exactly the record that I wanted to make with Brad,” Waterhouse says of her experience working in Cook's Durham, North Carolina, studio while trying to dodge the pandemic. With Cook (guitar, bass and keys on all 10 tracks) among “some incredible musicians,” other session players included Jeremy Iylvasker (guitar), Alex Farrar (guitar, keys), and both Matt McCaughan and engineer Jon Ashley on drums/percussion.
“Then everything that happened after that, like getting signed to Sub Pop and starting to do shows … was an incredible addition; I was already so fulfilled in a really pure way,” she says about her “really joyful, fun ride.”
Waterhouse’s next acting role seems like the next step toward establishing herself as a major player whose art imitates real life.
She’ll appear in Amazon Prime’s streaming series Daisy Jones & the Six, which launches March 3. As keyboardist Karen Sirko, she’s part of a 1970s Los Angeles-based rock band led by a singer played by Riley Keough.
With six months of preparation and three hours of daily piano lessons, she relished rehearsing at Sound City Studios in L.A., playing next door to music heavyweights Tony Berg and Blake Mills.
“They were working on legends’ albums right next to us. It kind of made me really jealous,” Waterhouse says. “That’s around the same time where the role and my own life were intertwining. I was playing a character in a band trying to make music, and it subconsciously pushed me into making my record.”
While the drama is likely to continue for Daisy Jones & the Six in the limited series’ 10 episodes, don’t fret. For the real show, just sit back and feel welcome inside Suki Waterhouse’s dream world.
“I remember when the audition came around, I was going, especially to my agent’s office, ‘You have to help me get this. We have to make this happen,’” Waterhouse recalls. “There was obviously this very big connection to wanting to play a role that requires so much music, so much time spent in studios. I was in heaven.”