meet the songwriter behind the internet-breaking ‘Little Life’

Cordelia’s breakout single ‘Little Life’ is on its way to becoming a bonafide internet phenomenon. This lilting cut of folk-flecked indie-pop has soundtracked over 800,000 TikTok clips and been parodied so many times that it’s even become the source of online think pieces. From the original trend – which saw people using the uplifting chorus to accompany videos of their own lives – to videos of A-listers like Ayo Edebiri quoting the lyrics at the Critics Choice Awards, the track has taken on a not-so-little life of its own.

‘Little Life’ was written during lockdown, when the 27-year-old – born Cordelia O’Driscoll but known by her mononym – was working at a café in east London’s Victoria Park. Having previously tried time and time again to break into the industry, the track was penned as an ode to how she started focusing on living in the moment instead.

Following the release of her strident debut EP ‘Caramel’ last October, the song has continued to soar. The TikTok trend that accompanies ‘Little Life’, however, has even been subject to critique, after influencers began to use it to accompany lavish videos set in mansions or luxury stores – and completely missing the meaning behind the song itself.

Speaking to NME in a quiet north London coffee shop, Cordelia reflects on the past few months: “Things have happened very quickly. You’re stepping up and you may feel a bit stressed, but it’s insane how quickly you can get used to new situations, all of which I’d never expected to be in six months ago.”

Cordelia has been gigging since she was a teenager, inspired by artists like Joni Mitchell, D’Angelo, and Lauryn Hill. Growing up in Stroud, she would go on to produce theatre productions while at university, even taking one of her shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. Having spent “enough time” on her other creative endeavours, in January 2023 she decided to focus on her musical aspirations, leading to ‘Caramel’ and more new material, which is set to drop later this spring. In her first-ever interview, she discusses her big plans for the future.

NME: It’s been a bit of a whirlwind recently with ‘Little Life’ blowing up. What is the wildest video you’ve seen using the song? 

“There’s over like…one and a half million now? Across all social media. Early on, I remember seeing such a funny one that was an American healthcare brand running a competition to win a full body MRI scan…I showed some of my friends, and they were like ‘she was in Twilight!’, so it was one of the actors from Twilight trying to sell an MRI scan to people on Instagram, [and I was thinking]: ‘This is so dystopian and weird’. Also just famous people who I know who they are, seeing them use a song on a video, that’s quite jarring.”

And then there was the Critics Choice Awards video, which saw actors on the red carpet quoting the lyrics…

“That was mental. As it’s racing through so many famous people saying it one after another. I remember watching that and thinking, ‘Wow, that is surreal for sure’.”

The trend that accompanies the song, however, has been subject to discourse online. What’s that been like?

“I think as soon as it started to go viral, I almost felt completely separate from the song. That [discourse] started happening without me fully realising that was going on, but then when I started to see the articles about ‘explaining what’s going on with [Little Life]’, it’s like, ‘Wait this is my song’.

“The main thing was about nepo babies and rich people having ‘little lives’, and people getting annoyed. That was strange. That’s why this whole thing has been so weird, as it’s had so many lives that are obviously associated with me, but are nothing to do with me. I think so much of the propulsion of the song has not come from anything I’ve really done, apart from point zero.”

Credit: Harvey Pearson

Joni Mitchell has a massive impact on you. What does she mean to you?

“I watched a documentary about Joni Mitchell’s life with my parents, and she said something about writer’s block, how you can never run out of material if you’re being honest with yourself and your own feelings and how you feel about things… I’ve butchered that, but in so many words that’s what it’s about.

“It really struck a chord with me, and from there I was like, ‘I’m going to write a song about how I actually feel about something’. From then on all my music has been autobiographical.

“Her music is so interesting to go through chronologically, because she changes so much. As a teenager her early folky stuff I was really interested in and found really inspiring at the time; but then her later music like the ‘Hejira’ album is one of my favourite albums ever.”

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you and your music?

“I don’t know! It’s been such a short amount of time… I guess it’d probably come from the ‘viral-ness’ of the song, maybe that I’m an industry plant? I’ve seen that quite a few times and that’s really made me laugh. As soon as you get attached to a viral label, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re going for. This artist is looking for that virality’, or you’re expected to write songs with hooks deliberately to get viral success. So maybe it’d be that?

And ‘Little Life’ is my only optimistic song, so maybe it will be an unhappy misconception that people realise a lot of my new music is not quite so life affirming…”

Credit: Harvey Pearson

How do you want people to feel when they hear your new songs?

“When I listen to music I love, it really jumps out at me and it takes me into a world that that person is trying to create. If people could have a similar reaction to my music where  it’s relatable or it’s taking them somewhere from their own life, that would be amazing.”

Cordelia’s ‘Caramel’ EP is out now via Tone Death Records. She is set to release new music later this spring

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