Where are you currently based?
I’m currently living in a tiny rural town called Bowen Mountain, on the outskirts of the Greater Sydney area near the Blue Mountains. However, in the time before COVID, I was barely here! I was pretty much constantly on the road, touring both within Australia and internationally.
How did you first start playing music?
Music was always a part of my upbringing as my father has played in bands and written songs his whole life. I grew up thinking that being a songwriter was as normal a career path as being a doctor or a lawyer; it was just what I was exposed to from early on. Having a musical father meant that there were always instruments lying around and my parents didn’t mind my brother and I playing them. I started classical singing lessons at the age of eight but soon discovered, when I turned twelve and picked up a guitar for the first time, that contemporary music and writing my own songs was what I wanted to do with my life.
What’s been happening recently?
I’ve been focused lately on releasing my first new music in two years! I announced an upcoming new EP and put out the first single Found Me on May 1, and the second single My Own Worst Enemy on June 12. It’s been so wonderful to introduce fans to a new part of me through this music, and this EP feels like the first time I’ve made music with no boundaries.
Your new single ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ was written with Alex Lahey, how did you come to work with Alex?
Alex and I met last year in Nashville after I watched her play an incredible gig with her band at the Exit / In. After the show, we met up at Dino’s – Nashville’s greattest dive bar – for a greasy burger and a couple of months later, we got together in Melbourne to write. I’ve always been such a fan of Alex’s music and I was so grateful that she was keen to write together.
What influenced the sound and songwriting?
For me, Alex’s music was a big influence on this song, and I really love the way her DNA is infused into the track since she plays a bunch of guitars and synths on the final version. When we got together to write, we had a bit of a geek out about Phoebe Bridgers and Taylor Swift’s 1989 record, and both those artists ended up being influences on the song too.
Please tell us how the single was written:
Alex and I sat down in a Native Tongue writing room in Melbourne, cups of coffee in hand, and somehow, amidst the random lyric ideas and complaints about the history of my love life pouring out of me, we ended up talking about the feeling of being gaslit in a relationship. It’s awful when someone makes you feel like you’re crazy or paranoid for feeling a certain way, and I know so many people have experienced this disqualification of their feelings from someone they care about.
The idea of being called “your own worst enemy” because you’re supposedly overreacting is something that can lead a lot of people to feel worthless and helpless in a relationship. So I liked the idea of writing this defiant, confident reply saying “you can’t turn me out”, which is a reference to gaslighting and the origin of the expression being from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, where a husband tries to manipulate his wife into questioning her own sanity and perception by, among other things, dimming the house’s gas lights and telling her continually that she is mistaken in thinking it’s getting darker.
Where and when did you record and who with?
We recorded this song and the whole upcoming EP in LA this past January with a great crew, at the core of which was producer Mike Bloom, engineer Will Golden, my manager Jeremy Dylan and myself. We also had some incredible musicians come in to play on the record, including Rock N Roll Hall of Famers, Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello and the Attractions) and Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). We ended up keeping a bunch of the initial guitars and synths that Alex had laid down on the demo version of the song, because we really loved what she had done and wanted to keep her flavour as an artist on the track.
How did you approach the recording process?
We had such a fulfilling time in the studio recording this track, and the entire EP. For My Own Worst Enemy in particular, my favourite memory of the recording process was having Pete Thomas come in and lay down the drums. This was the song we started with on the day he came in, and hearing Pete count in and then start playing this thunderous beat to one of my songs was a true joy and one of the most beautiful, surreal experiences I’ve had in my career so far.
What does this song mean to you?
To me, this song means standing up for yourself when you’re being undermined in some way. We’ve all been there, whether it’s with a lover, family member, friend or work colleague. It’s important to back yourself and your own gut feelings and know when you’re being manipulated.
How has the feedback been from your recently released single ‘Found Me’?
The feedback for Found Me has been overwhelmingly beautiful. It is certainly the introduction to a new era and a new sound for me, so to see people welcoming the song into their lives with so much love was truly thrilling. I also absolutely loved hearing from people who explained that the song gave them confidence to believe in themselves again after a difficult break up which had made them doubt themselves.
Please tell us about the making of the EP which will be released on August 21, also available for Pre Order now:
Recording this EP, The Making of Me, was one of the most joyous and liberating experiences of my life. Working with Mike, Will and Jeremy brought out a confidence in me I had always sought to capture in the studio. The team’s willingness to embrace a multitude of musical inspirations meant that we felt we were making music that sounded like nothing I’d ever recorded before, but somehow felt more me than anything I’d ever made.
We were referencing wildly different artists, from Prince to Maggie Rogers to Weyes Blood, and I loved the fact that no one ever asked “What genre of music are we making?”
We also got into a great groove during the recording process. I was staying in LA for a few weeks and I’d get up every day, go for a run around Silver Lake, get some coffee and head to the studio, where we’d work all day, call it at a decent hour and sometimes go out for dinner and a drink or two before calling it a night. It was a very civilised and healthy way to record, and I felt like we were all working at full capacity for that reason. Everyone on the team was a huge pleasure to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for better folks to make a record with.
How has your ‘Found Me’ virtual tour been as an experience, what have you found most rewarding and challenging?
I have absolutely loved bringing people these new songs via such an intimate set of shows, where each show has a different theme/instrument. Although I’d love to be playing for crowds in person, this is literally the next best possible opportunity we’ve had to share music with one another lately.
We felt it was important for the shows to be ticketed (even in the pay-what-you-can model) and to make the production quality way higher than just me on my iPhone, so we’ve had Dan Hartley-Allen, who has shot most of my music videos, making it look and sound amazing, to try and give people the feeling they’d have if they were actually in the front row of one of my in-person shows.
It has been incredibly rewarding sharing all the songs from the new EP, most of which are currently unreleased, and seeing people’s reactions to this new material. All the shows so far have been sold out, which is really special. It’s been challenging to play a full show without the give and take of an in-person audience, but I’m grateful that we live in a time where this sort of online connection is even possible.
What do you like to do away from music?
This question always scares me because music takes up pretty much my entire life, but in the small gaps in between, I like to hang out with my dog Socks (a rescue mutt with about 7 breeds in her – she’s cute as hell!) and keep fit with my fantastic personal trainer Manal Garcia. I’m also very into acting, although I don’t get a chance to do it a lot.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment, I’m really digging Kira Puru’s latest single ‘Idiot’ and Briggs’ ‘Extra Extra’ and I’m obsessively listening to a few albums front to back: Lennon Stella’s ‘Three. Two. One.’, Ruston Kelly’s ‘Dying Star’, Christian Lee Hutson’s ‘Beginners’, and Maggie Rogers’ ‘Heard It In A Past Life’.
What’s planned for the rest of 2020?
I’ll be working hard on releasing my EP in August and as soon as it’s safe to get out there touring again, I will! Until that is possible, I’ll be doing my best to find ways of getting this new music out there and celebrating its release, and also working on some skill-based learning to make sure I’m not completely rusty when I do get back out on the road.
Favourite food and place to hang out?
My two favourite foods are sushi and pizza (not simultaneously), and I love to hang out at Low 302, my favourite venue in Sydney.