I met Glüme Harlow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, by the pool, on the terrace. The old Hollywood ambiance suited the artist well, as if she were meant to be there. Lounging in a bikini, fur jacket, red lipstick and black heels, I’m greeted with a warm smile. Her husband Ryan is by her side, along with her friend and music video director Geoge Baron. Baron directed her newest video which will be released on October 14 at 9 PM PST.
Laila Alamiri: I’m super happy to meet you! New fan here. Your debut album Internet is a synth-pop masterpiece. I’ve been listening nonstop. Your next album, Main Character will be released on Valentine’s Day. Is there a significance to this release date?
Glüme Harlow: There’s not really a significance to Valentine’s Day. The album is about my upbringing as a child actor and how that translated into adulthood. I started working on the album when I was doing a lot of self-work – reflecting on my childhood, and lack of a childhood. I didn’t process that until recent years. I really opened up to myself.
Growing up and working in Los Angeles at a young age – there’s trauma tied to that all. I perhaps should have named the album Mommy Issues.
Growing up, I was never the main character. My mom was the main character. She directed my every move and wanted me to book all the leading roles. That ended up with me being the supporting character in my own life.
Laila Alamiri: Your family…are they artists as well?
Glüme Harlow: My mom wanted to be a performer. She grew up on a farm. Anything my mom does that is erratic, weird or scary, she blames it on living on the farm. She wanted me to be a star. She told anyone that would listen that I was a star. Instead of having a childhood, I was living my mom’s dream. Performing seemed like a responsibility. I did it to take care of and please my family.
With that being said, I ended up liking performing. I’ve grown. Now I make sure what I do is my own vision, for my own dream.
Laila Alamiri: I know you were an actor/dancer at a young age. What brought you to music?
Glüme Harlow: I was homeschooled so I could focus on acting & performing. I was oblivious to how the industry worked. I thought that MGM contracts came easily to those that worked hard like me. At my house, we watched classics, like Turner Classic movies. We watched shows like I Love Lucy. I looked up to people like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland & Lana Turner. Their lives reflected my own plan, but that’s not the way the industry works now. My last audition was for a role on Hannah Montana. At 19 I quit acting to focus on music. I wanted to create my own world – one that works for me. I did music to carve a path for myself.
Laila Alamiri: As a child, did you ever resonate with conventional things that children typically enjoy? Toys? Kids programs?
Glüme Harlow: The other kids I knew were actors. There wasn’t time to play. School work, learn my lines, take care of the house, learn my lines, make sure mom approved, get up at 3 AM, drive to LA, auditions at 5 AM. That was my life. I got toys on Christmas but didn’t use that bike much.
Laila Alamiri: I recently saw the new Bowie documentary, Moonage Daydream. Bowie was filmed saying that he never cared for things for children, even as a child. I see similarities in you and Bowie, your performance styles…the way you build characters through music…
Glüme Harlow: Well, Bowie and I have the same blood type. RH negative. A nurse told me this is “alien blood.” That made me laugh but also makes sense. Maralyn Monroe has the same blood type as well. There are similarities for sure.
Laila Alamiri: Like Bowie and Marilyn, your talents are multi-faceted. Dancing, singing, acting, makeup artistry….you do it all. Do you have a medium that you identify with most?
Glüme Harlow: I’m a storyteller.
Laila Alamiri: Do you consider yourself a visual artist as well as a performance artist?
Glüme Harlow: I am a visual artist, but not in the traditional sense. As a kid, I would paint & draw. I was good at it. But I stopped that to focus on acting. I still get scared to have hobbies. I feel like they aren’t responsible. That isn’t true, but it’s how I feel. I don’t do things recreationally. I don’t feel like I’m allowed to take a break.
Laila Alamiri: I see now why you connect with Marilyn Monroe so much.
Glüme Harlow: As a teenager, I realized then that I didn’t have a female role model. In acting, from ages 10-14 they would bind my breasts. I was expected to play the little girl. Developing any curves, anything sexual…it freaked me out. When I was up for teen roles, I was unaware of how to be comfortable with my body. That’s when my therapist gave me Marilyn’s biography. She didn’t have a mom either. I latched onto that. I was into Judy Garland before that. Much of the pressure when I was young was because my family wasn’t doing well financially. I wanted to save them. That’s what Judy Garland did. She got her family a home and set them up. I was following that blueprint. Obviously, those stories don’t turn out great. It was just what I had to work with at the time. I knew I’d be fine.
Laila Alamiri: On that note, one thing many don’t realize about Marilyn was that she was a poet. I found the writing in your music to be super sophisticated. Do you consider yourself a poet?
Glüme Harlow: I start everything with a poem. Then I take it to song form and decide if it’s worth the melody. I loved poetry growing up. I still have books of poems from when I was a kid. Some of them are actually good. When my parents moved recently I was horrified to find old journals. Reading them was a good thing, however. I was a cool 5th grader. I also found a philosophy journal from when I was 8. That made me smile. I have zero memory of that.
Laila Alamiri: How do you feel your philosophy on life has changed in the past few years? You’ve struggled with health issues, specifically heart disease. That’s part of your story. Surely that’s changed your outlook on everything.
Glüme Harlow: I used to have more anxiety. I don’t have anxiety now. I feel like it shocked it out of me when I had to face my greatest fears.
As a child actor, an eating disorder was basically encouraged. I was always seeing agents, being measured, being weighed to fit this ideal image. At one point I was dangerously thin. I had a nurse tell me that if I didn’t eat, my heart would stop. That freaked me out so I started gaining a bit of weight. For the rest of my teens and twenties, I worried about my heart. Did I screw up? The irony is that the medications and things I took as a kid annihilated my immune system. That’s what accelerated the heart-related problems, not the eating disorder.
I remember being in the ICU and staring at an outside palm tree. My goals before that point were grandiose…take over the world. After that moment, I just wanted to see that palm tree from outside the hospital. It was definitely a tree-hugger moment.
My body was ragged after that. Before the ICU visit, I’d get stressed, and somewhat hysterical about symptoms. Now I can talk myself through it all and stay calm. I know to splash water on my face, put ice on my neck, and chill the fuck out. There are limitations on how medical professionals can keep us alive. We are all just human beings. The mind/body connection can be powerful with focus. This calm condition was different from how I was before the ICU. Adrenaline and cortisol make things worse. I don’t want to die. I can’t get freaked out anymore. Fight or flight is not great for the heart. Now I’m never the scared one. People ask if I get scared when I perform. After the ICU, the stage is easy.
Laila Alamiri: I resonate with your track ‘Nervous Breakdown.’ I sense that one reflects on dealing with health issues…
Glüme Harlow: Absolutely. In the beginning, no one knew what was going on with me. I was told I was having a nervous breakdown. I was like cool, having a nervous breakdown. It felt more like a vascular problem, but let’s go with a nervous breakdown. I was definitely interested in the nervous breakdown – seemed better than heart disease. I wanted the doctor that was gaslighting me to be right, but she wasn’t.
Laila Alamiri: Wow…what a journey. On a happier note, tell us about the film you just worked on.
Glüme Harlow: Oh! Yes. I just worked on The Blue Rose with George. It’s set in a surrealist ’50s environment. Two detectives are trying to solve a murder. I’m one of the suspects, an escort singer named Catherine Christensen. I get to drive a great car, which I love. The film will be out next year. We’re so excited. George also directed my Blossom video and Do me a Favor, which will be released on October 13.
Laila Alamiri: How do you find inspiration for your videos? George, since you’re here, maybe you can chime in too.
Glüme Harlow: I think of the videos as I write the songs. Sometimes though I’ll have a completely different idea afterward. When I wrote Do Me a Favor I had one idea. Now it’s a spaghetti western – totally different concept, but I love it. It’s like Brokeback Mountain, but with girls.
Geoge Baron: How did it turn into a western again?
Glüme Harlow: We had gone out one night, downtown. The entire night we were talent scouting for cowboys. We decided we should feature girl cowboys instead.
Laila Alamiri: One of your recent Instagram posts states that “I’m tired of simple men trying to understand brilliant and complicated women.” That is a powerful statement. I’m curious about what inspired that post. What does being a feminist mean to you?
Glüme Harlow: Many times in this industry, men will project the way that they feel onto us. We are wired very differently, men & women. A recent film I saw, felt one-dimensional. It was about a powerful woman but directed by a man. I see these things all the time. I can always tell when a Gen X man writes a song that a woman sings. I’ve been in those writing sessions. It’s not cool. Men impose their views on us to fit their narratives and their fantasies. It doesn’t represent us. It doesn’t represent our strength.
As for feminism, for me, it’s about being soft. I’m hyper femme. There can be strength in that. Dressing like a man and being tough like a man doesn’t represent feminism to me. I can wear red lipstick, have heels on, express my emotions and be fucking strong. I am a woman and that is my strong point. I have nothing to prove to men.
Laila Alamiri: The image you present in your videos and onstage is uber glamorous, somewhat alternative. Would you say this is your authentic self or a performance persona?
Glüme Harlow: (Laughing): After 15 years of therapy I cannot give you a straight answer.
Laila Alamiri: One of your first releases was a cover of Britney Spear’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. That cover was brilliant!
Glüme Harlow: Oh yeah! I made a Tik Tok of that cover. I built up all these layers with harmonies. My label loved it and wanted to release it.
Laila Alamiri: Were you a fan of Britney during her era?
Glüme Harlow: It’s a funny story. I was sheltered and didn’t know about Brittany. I was working on a production of Annie. I was going through a drive-through at Mcdonald’s and got a toy that played ‘Stronger’ by Britney Spears. I was living for it! I had never heard music like that. At my house, we played oldies. I also didn’t know who the Spice Girls were. I was in love with Britney’s crazy synth and screaming. The next day I wanted to shop at Limited Too and get all the sparkly tube tops and cheer shorts. It was an ordeal, but so exciting.
Laila Alamiri: So Britney was one of your first style icons?
Glüme Harlow: Kinda, yeah! I was 12 and thought she was so cool. My dad is super artsy and wasn’t excited about this influence. It was my first rebellion.
Laila Alamiri: Who are your modern style icons?
Glüme Harlow: I gravitate toward classic influences like Lana Turner, but also love Grimes. I love the boldness that Grimes has. I also love Susan Sarandon.
Laila Alamiri: There are references in your songs that suggest you experience synesthesia. Do you associate color with experiences and things?
Glüme Harlow: Yes, absolutely!
Laila Alamiri: What color do you consider your album Internet?
Glüme Harlow: Well, everything is always red, but Internet is also blue. Like the color of the pool here. The color of the Beverly Hills Hotel Pool, that’s what the album is.
Laila Alamiri: And what about Main Character? Do you have a color/vibe in mind?
Glüme Harlow: Main Character is red & ivory.
Laila Alamiri: So cool! You have a European tour coming up. Are you thrilled?
Glüme Harlow: Yes, I’m touring with my label. We’re leaving in about a month. We’ll be gone for a couple of weeks. I’ve never been out of the country. This is a very nice first exit. I get a day off in Paris, London & Amsterdam. Packing has been an ordeal. It’s going to be cold and I have to respect Paris with a great outfit. I didn’t think I’d be getting on a plane and leaving the country after being diagnosed with heart disease, but here I am.
Follow Glüme Harlow’s journey @babyglume
Photography: Alexander Thompson
Stylist: Huntington Filson
Interviewew: Laila Alamiri