Where are you currently based?
How did you first start playing music?
I got a guitar when I was 16 and worked my way through a Cat Stevens song book. Then started writing my own stuff.
How are you getting through Iso?
Haha it’s a bit loose at our place. I have a day job where I normally work from home, but now I also have a 5-year-old doing home learning and a husband who is trying to teach from home too. It is definately not what I thought the year would look like, but we are lucky to live in a lovely place, with lovely neighbours.
Your new album ‘Hiatus’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
‘Hiatus’ is a collection of songs that have been written over a few years. We spent a few months travelling, particularly in Italy and Bali, and most of the songs were started then. I’m a bit of a people watcher so I love telling those stories. And having a baby definitely influenced a couple. We have incorporated sound worlds from artists we love like James Vincent McMorrow, Iron and Wine, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Lisa Hannigan, Glen Hansard and Angus and Julia Stone.
How did you go about writing the music for Hiatus?
I really enjoy the craft of songwriting. I love telling stories that connect with people and make them think. The song ‘Our Lady of the Highway’ is a reflection of seeing highway prostitution in Italy and diving into news articles about who these women are. It ended up being two stories: hers, where she is doing what she needs to but won’t let it define her, and mine: we become what we drive past; we shouldn’t.
The song “This is forever” is a personal one. It tells the love story of a cousin and his widow. It’s about grief and love and good times and the worst of times. I was pretty happy with it but Pennay kept saying very annoying things like: “It’s great, I just don’t think it has a chorus.” After collecting my ego from the floor I wrote what I think is the best chorus I’ve written, so I guess he was right.
I wrote “Little eyelashes” as a lullaby for my son. It tries to capture what I hope for him. Thankfully he likes it.
It is amazing how songs written in a totally different context seem very relevant right now. “So, where does that leave me” is about the end of something significant. “This is not free” is a statement on how undervalued the arts are and what a bleak world we would live in without artists. I think that is particularly relevant now as the creative industries are in free-fall. “Heading home” and “Juniper trees” are about finding peace being at home.
A number of the songs were either finished or started while I was doing an online songwriting challenge with the I Heart Songwriting club. Having a weekly assignment really helped me keep the creative thoughts flowing.
Where and when did you record/produce and who with?
The only song we didn’t record at home was “Someday”, which was recorded as part of QUT’s Indie100 project with the wonderful producer Paul Pilsneniks.
All the rest was performed, engineered, produced, mixed and (in most cases) mastered by my husband/producer Andrew Pennay and I in our home studio.
How did you approach the recording sessions?
We approached recording this album differently to anything else we have done. I write on guitar. We would record the guitar and vocals as a guide to get the song structure, then essentially get rid of the guitar and build the song from scratch. There was a lot of trail and error to find the right sound for each song. We just focused on how we wanted each song to sound so that it captured the intent of the lyrics. We included elements from our travels like a (very effected) Balinese Gamelan recorded on a walk in rural Bali in “Heading home” or a car on gravel at the start of “Our Lady of the Highway”.
Most nights we put put the small person to bed and then head into our home studio and try different instruments and sounds. Most of the songs sound very different to when they were written.
What programs/instruments did you use?
We recorded it all at home so used ProTools and lots of plugins. Everything is just the two of us: all the instruments, production, engineering, videos. There are very few real drums on the album, mostly due to necessity rather than intention. I always thought we’d get real drums in the end, but we really liked the mix of electronic drums with organic snare, toms, home-made percussion. There’s a ring on a wine glass on one song. A honey jar filled with the right mix of rice and baking paper.
Pennay is a keyboard player so this album has a lot more keyboards, organs, synths etc. than our previous work. Often I would go to bed and Pennay would work into the night. When I’d listen to what he had done in the morning sometimes he’d put a string quartet on something, or a double drum kit! One morning he had added an analogue synth to the song “So, where does that leave me” and it blew me away. I loved the rawness it brought to the track and I can’t imagine the song without it now.
Towards the final stages of mixing we called in the big guns in a few music friends to get their advice on a few of the tracks, but no one had heard the entire album when it was released.
What did you find most challenging whilst creating Hiatus?
We recorded the whole album in the evenings after the small human went to bed, so the most challenging thing was probably finding time, energy and persistence to get it done. It took a year-and-a-half in the end.
You have a live show on May 8 at 8pm via the Live on Mars Facebook Page, how will you prepare for this show and what can we expect?
Firstly, we are watching a few livestream shows and talking to people who have done them to figure out the best sound. At this stage it will probably be a striped down version of a few songs. We can’t do full band with the two of us anyway, so it will be fun to reinterpret or pair back so tracks. The dog will also probably bark in the middle of it.
What do you like doing away from music?
Hanging out with my small human and dog. At the moment we are doing a lot of wandering around the neighbourhood, bush walking, putting on unrehearsed and unscripted shows in the lounge room and reading. I also really like good TV, so I have been watching way too much lately!
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’m watching a few great livestream concerts where the artists are either getting paid directly or raising money for great charities. Glen Hansard did a gorgeous solo show from his home to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Other than that, I’m really enjoying the new Laura Marling album, Thelma Plum, new Bon Iver and Calexico & Iron and Wine. Holy Holy, pretty much anything that Sarah Aarons has written, Grand Salvo, Darren Hanlon, Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell, Sufjan Stevens, Taylor, and the Teeny Tiny Stevies are all pretty much on high rotation in our house.
Your Bad Guy cover is out now, please tell us the story behind the track:
We love covering songs in unexpected ways. Pennay came up with a version of Bad Guy in a major key and we rolled with it. We wanted to do something fun using a mix of the instruments we used on ‘Hiatus’ so it’s a mix of folk and electro sounds. We call it folktronica. All instruments are by him, apart from my vocals. He has also made it into a game (on our website) where you can mix your own version and make it as folky or electro as you want.
How did the concept for the video come about and who did you work with during the filming/editing?
It was really Pennay’s idea. We just had to work with what we had available to us. We made the video at home on the first Saturday night we went into covid lock-down. We had one camera, a black background, a fan, a spinning chair and that was about it. I edited it (from the same room) the next day and we uploaded it that night. It’s meant to be fun. We didn’t want to overthink it.
What’s planned for 2020?
I guess we will see? If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that we need to expect the unexpected!
I will be promoting ‘Hiatus’ as much as possible. Connecting with friends and family online. Hopefully doing good work in my day job (raising money and sharing stories of those much less fortunate than us). Writing. Growing veggies. Spending time with my family.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Most weekends (in normal times) you can find us loitering around the West End or Northey Street Markets in Brisbane. At the moment, we are enjoying loitering outside our house in the afternoon and waiving at the neighbourhood going for their afternoon walk/ride.