She’s in the driver’s seat on her debut album, I Can’t Let Go.
Suki Waterhouse is booked and busy. On a Friday morning in mid-March, she rushes to the phone and kindly prefaces our conversation by admitting she’s in the middle of something else: filming her upcoming Amazon Prime series, Daisy Jones & The Six, in New Orleans. Yes, it’s the series adaptation of that beloved book by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
“It’s a bit mad,” Waterhouse tells Elite Daily, somewhat out of breath. “I’ve got to get in a van to work in like half an hour.” Although Waterhouse is about to be transported into the 1970s as Daisy Jones’ rock keyboardist Karen, for the next 25 minutes on the phone with me, she’s enmeshed in 2022’s indie-rock scene.
Waterhouse released her debut single, "Brutally," in 2016. Six years later, she’ll release her debut album, I Can't Let Go, next Friday, on May 6. The full-length project is an opportunity for Waterhouse to publicly reintroduce herself, this time — and perhaps for the first time — on her terms.
To some, Waterhouse’s dating life has often eclipsed her multi-hyphenate career. She’s been linked to widely famous men: Bradley Cooper (whom she dated from 2013 to 2015) and Robert Pattinson (whom she’s reportedly been dating since 2018). With I Can’t Let Go, Waterhouse may ironically be asking the public to let go of their perception of her as just a cover girl or famous girlfriend. She’s a singer, songwriter, and actor — and damn good at all three.
To perfect her haunting alt-rock sensibility, Waterhouse collaborated with hit indie producer Brad Cook, who has worked with Snail Mail, Bon Iver, and Sharon Van Etten. I Can’t Let Go shimmers with Waterhouse’s lyrical poignance. Her music is gritty and cinematic, and it’s finding its audience. Five of the album’s 10 songs, which were released as singles, have collectively garnered nearly 3 million Spotify streams in the last seven months. This summer, she’ll tour North America with Father John Misty.
Waterhouse’s croon and identifiable storytelling, as evidenced on the standout tracks “Melrose Meltdown” and “Moves,” are her signatures on the album. I Can’t Let Go is the ideal soundtrack for embracing all the feels, which Waterhouse knows plenty about. “When you’re sharing something that's very important and exposes you and makes you vulnerable, I think that's the most exciting part,” she says of releasing an album.
Waterhouse has spent years in the limelight dealing with unwanted exposure. In the Gossip Girl reboot, mean girl Luna tells newcomer Zoya, “He’s R-Patz, and you’re Suki nobody.” In January 2022, she also made headlines after posting a now-deleted TikTok that seemingly teased Cooper while promoting her song “Melrose Meltdown.” (The track was playing in the background of the TikTok, Page Six reported.) The internet has been a “huge source of pain,” Waterhouse says, a feeling she sings about on the LP’s sixth track, “Bullsh*t on the Internet.” But she finds a way to put that discomfort aside, and still logs on. “I live for the tea,” she says. “I don't think I'll ever be able to not be sensitive to it, but I can also laugh at it. I don’t know if I’m the kind of girl that wants to go and live in the mountains.”
She also has mixed feelings about how she’s perceived by certain industry insiders. In her early days as a burgeoning actor, Waterhouse says an agent told her she could only land girl-next-door-type roles. The comments stuck with her. “You get told, ‘This is what you are, [and] this is who you’re going to be,’” Waterhouse says. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Though she doesn't "really blame" the industry for typecasting her, she's let the success of her projects speak for itself. Her first leading role was the 2017 thriller The Bad Batch, co-starring Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves. Though the film received mixed reviews, it made a splash on the film festival circuit. “It’s like, ‘F*ck you, we're at Venice Film Festival,’” she says with a laugh. Since then, Waterhouse has appeared in films like Pokémon Detective Pikachu and director Sam Levinson’s pre-Euphoria film, Assassination Nation.
With her rising status in Hollywood, it’s kismet that Waterhouse is embarking on her biggest musical endeavor while simultaneously shooting what may be her most anticipated acting gig. Having worked on Daisy Jones since September 2021, Waterhouse has found similarities between herself and her character, Karen, who is determined to not derail her music career by starting a family. Waterhouse says she understands Karen’s struggle to balance “ambition” with “personal fulfillment.”
While researching for her role, she watched interviews of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. Her exploration into the lives of female musicians who came before her became introspective. “They're a big source of inspiration for us with [the show], and both of those women didn't have children,” she says. “They always very openly said they'd have to make a choice and all the men got to go and have kids.”
Waterhouse says she’d like to embark on a “family life” eventually, but right now she’s prioritizing launching and overseeing her music career. “It’s a control that I’m really not used to,” she says. “It’s taken me a second to be like, ‘No, this is your video shoot now. You get to make decisions.’”
She wasn’t forced to rush her album, which allowed her to approach songwriting authentically and with consideration. “I would capture little parts of the song and then actually get to revisit it constantly,” she says, calling songwriting a mosaic. “I've never been able to take my time in anything else before; [it probably took] like 10 years to really feel like I had an offering that came from a very true place in myself.”
Waterhouse feels in charge of her own career, and she sure isn’t letting up the reins anytime soon. Perhaps that’s the true meaning of her album title, I Can’t Let Go. As Waterhouse says, “I want [listeners] to go home with some little glimmer into who I am.”