If I could describe being in the studio to anyone,” says L Devine, “it’s literally the back of a white man’s head.” Hailed “the motherf***ing future of pop” by Charli XCX​, the 22-year-old has made it her mission to disrupt the straight, white, male environment she came up in. “I don’t take any s***,” she says. “This is pretty savage, but if you want to get a cut on the record, then you have to f***ing listen to me.”

In a few weeks’ time, the country will be put into lockdown. But for now, the pop singer is in a deserted London piano bar, cross-legged on the sofa. Devine – who chose her moniker after realising she shares her name, Olivia Devine, with a porn star – makes witty electro-pop that’s at once universal and intrinsically personal. Her debut EP, 2017’s Growing Pains, chronicled those confusing final years of adolescence: parties, identity and first crushes. A follow-up a year later, Peer Pressure, took on even weightier themes. The yearning ballad “Daughter”, for example, recalls dealing with a bigoted parent while navigating her first same-sex relationship.

“It’s about my first girlfriend,” she says of that song. “Who you love is such a huge part of you, and a lot of people don’t realise that – because they’ve never had to hide it, or protect it. As soon as I found my first love and had it reciprocated, it was everything it should’ve been. What life should be.” But then her girlfriend’s mother, having found out about their relationship, made it her mission to keep them apart.

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“It was really hard – much harder for her than it was for me, obviously,” Devine says. “But that being my first experience of being in a relationship...” It must have been traumatising, I say. “Yeah,” she nods, “and you carry so much shame with your sexuality anyway. If I had a little crush on one of my friends when I was growing up, I felt like a creep. Then the actual first time I get in a relationship, I’m told, ‘That’s not OK.’ You carry that with you, and I think that’s still, even now, in the back of my head somehow.”

Still, Devine was determined not to hide her identity when it came to her music. Even before “Daughter”, she used female pronouns in songs – though she wonders if people “heard what they wanted to” and overlooked it. One producer was so oblivious that he asked whether a love song was about one of Devine’s friends: “I was like, ‘Nah mate, I’m gay,’” she says, laughing.

Last year, Devine gave Mark Ronson a run for his money with the catchy funk jam “Naked Alone”, written during a period of, well, frustration when she first moved to London. “I didn’t have any friends, no real way of meeting people,” she says of the move to the capital from her coastal hometown of Whitley Bay, near Newcastle. “And I’m pretty awkward and shy anyway.” Apps freak her out: “I think it’s scary that you can just hook up with a stranger within the hour.”

She was nervous at first about releasing such an explicitly sexual song. “I don’t know why I had this in my head, but I thought going from more serious subject matters to a light-hearted song all about sex may have been taking a step backwards,” she says. “When in fact, sex is just as real to me as everything else that I go through in my life. And I realised how important it was to be open about sex in my music and to be sex positive as a young queer woman.” She had the title tattooed on the inside of her lip.

Devine’s latest single, “Boring People”, was written while she was “quite literally bored of myself” and desperate to do something new. “When you do music for a living, you’ve got to leave that whole ‘wearing music as a badge of identity’ thing at the door,” she says. “I look at all my friends and they still listen to music in the same way they choose what clothes they wear.” The song’s tinny grunge riff pays tribute to the Pixies song “Where is My Mind”, and captures that same sense of moody teenage ennui.

She hopes people connect with it. Devine’s music does for fans what her favourite coming-of-age films – from Céline Sciamma’s Water Lilies to Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade – do for her. “Films that make you want to give your 13-year-old self a big hug are my favourite things.” She struggled with self-doubt herself growing up – and in more extreme cases, self-loathing. She still does, sometimes, but therapy sessions last summer helped. “When your life revolves around other people’s opinions, you lose sight of how much your own opinion matters.”

Now, she tries to take a no-nonsense approach – at least when it comes to the opinions of strangers. “I’m pretty comfortable with who I am now. Someone commented on a photo of me the other day being like, ‘You look like you lost loads of weight,’ and I replied, ‘Why the f*** do you care?’” She laughs, liberated. “Who f***ing cares?”

L Devine’s new single ‘Don’t Say It’ is out 6 May, pre-order here

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