I caught Erin between her morning emails and her afternoon rock climbing, where we both enjoyed spiced Chai teas at the Paper Cup in Stanmore
So how was your gig in Melbourne?
It was amazing. Yeah it was pretty crazy the whole event, I didn’t realise how many people would be there until I got there
Do you think that was a good thing to not know?
Yes. Yep. I probably would have been too nervous otherwise, but we had like drivers?? Taking us everywhere?? Yeah and they flew us to Melbourne and there was a Limo at the pace. It was SO cool
Erin had been asked to perform at MTV Unplugged in Melbourne just before Amy Shark took the stage
MTV was searching for undiscovered artists over the age of 25, so they picked me which was cool! So they flew us down there to open the show for the bigger artists. I think it was really cool because MTV is so commercial but they wanted original music which I thought was a really good opportunity
Yeah for sure, how did you even hear about it?
I saw it on Facebook! Like a while back, I was just scrolling through my feed and there was this MTV thing searching for artists and I just sent them my stuff like ‘yeah whatever! Who knows!’ and then they called me when I was at work on a Tuesday and they were like ‘you got it!’
That is really cool, so you’ve got two songs on Spotify, when you’re doing a set like that, are the other songs unreleased, did you write a few for the show?
So I have about an EP’s worth of music. My plan is to just release a few more singles, and then I’ll put out an EP. For that actual show though they only wanted you to do two songs
Oh okay, so did you do the two that were on Spotify?
No I did a new unreleased one! I thought that that would be a cool sneaky way to release it.
Yeah it’s a great opportunity to do it that way
Yeah and the second song they wanted you to do a cover of any other artist from MTV Unplugged.
So who did you choose to cover?
I did Florence and the Machine, Dog Days
Love that song, and we were just electric guitar and vocals and we changed it a little bit
Why did you choose that song?
I don’t know, I’ve just always loved that song. I think it- to be honest, I think the reason I chose it was because it brought back memories, I used to listen to that song a lot with one of my sisters, and I like the artist. I think she really stands out in the industry, and I feel like she doesn’t sort of give in to the
I feel like she’s very very- she’s got a great voice, and it’s just so different to anything that’s generally on the radio, which kind of means that it’s hard for another artist to do the exact same thing because it’s so distinctively different
That’s why we kind of felt like we had to change it a little bit, like make it our own in a way
Yeah well I’d say your music is quite- jazzy is a little bit of a broad term- but obviously, Florence’s music is not really like that, so did that mean you brought in some of those jazz elements when you covered her?
I think a little bit we did, especially with the guitar, we changed it. We just changed the guitar pattern a little bit, and my voice- because she’s got that big deep voice, and my voice is not that deep. I think sometimes something can sound jazzy just from the tone of voice
Just like if its breathy or kind of husky it can sound jazzy
Have you always been into music?
Yes. Yeah, I’ve always sung, but I didn’t have music lessons or anything like that. I’m from a big family so we all sung- we sang together, a lot. I kind of started with jazz as well, that was what was around the house. And other stuff from the 70’s like Ricky Lee Jones, Fleetwood Mac. My parents loved that kind of folky stuff, so I think that’s where the folk influence comes from.
When did the singing turn into writing?
Um…that was a but later actually. I think I started writing in my late teens, but then I just did jazz gigs and session vocalist stuff for ages until I got really sick of it
And started writing. I kind of- I took a trip. I saved up and went to New York and Boston, and I just had lessons from artists that I loved from over there, and that’s where I really started writing, and that was in 2015. And then I wrote a whole EP and I didn’t release it. I mean I loved it, but I didn’t feel like it was me? Like when I finished it I was like ‘oh that’s not…what I sound like anymore or how I want people to hear me’. So I waited and then I made a proper release last year.
Where do you think your songs start?
I think I start with the chords? And it’s usually because I’ve heard something I really like and I’m playing around and figuring it out
Is this on piano or guitar?
Piano, I can’t play guitar, I wish I could! But I always imagine everything I write to be with guitar. Like, always. I don’t really know why but I can’t help it. That’s how I envision it to later sound. So I start with the chords and then sort of feel out a melody with my voice, and then often then I’ll even record it on my voice memos and go for a walk and just listen to the melody and just think about shit until I feel what I want to write about- what I want to say- and then I put the words to it. I guess everyone’s different, a lot of singers start with the words and then the melody.
Do you ever have something that you want to write about and then it’s kind of easy to write words about it, or does the melody inspire you?
I feel like the melody inspires me, yeah, I have like a lot of things that I want to write about but sometimes I don’t know how they should sound until I’ve played around with a melody first? But there was one time where I had the lyrics first- that was for my song I Wonder. My sister actually wrote those words- she’s a poet, and that was about something pretty specific and when she read it to me I just loved it so much and put music to it. So that’s how that one happened
Yeah I was going to talk about I Wonder, I felt like the beat in that song kind of ‘unfolds’ really unexpectedly, I really like that, but do you find that easy to write along with something like that, or do you write with a straight beat and then have something kind of weird happen later in the development of the track.
Yeah, that song was so interesting the way it all came together. My sister wrote the words, and then I wrote the melody and chords, and then we put this kind of lulling electric guitar pattern to it, but there’s this producer that I really love, and he’s done stuff for Nai Palm and Hiatus Kaiyote, and I just sent him like the raw vocal and guitar, like we literally recorded it in my bedroom with the aeroplanes flying over and stuff, and he didn’t want- he just liked it exactly how it was, so all those beats and production you hear is what he layered into it. It’s quite experimental, but I just loved it.
It’s a pretty genre-less son. But this song had a purpose, it was made to express something specific
You mentioned that you collaborate with your sisters often, do you find that you like collaborating?
I collaborate with my sister Olivia for lyrical ideas, but that’s kind of new. In pretty music do everything myself but collaborating is something I definitely want to do more of. Different producers and different musicians- definitely want to venture into that, I think it adds to what you doing, if you have the same interests- into the same sounds. I love to work with producers that are artistic and understand music.
Do you want to stay in the genre you write in or do you like the idea of collaborating outside of what you’re comfortable with?
Yes and no, you want the same vision. I feel like the way you sound is very connected to who you are so, I definitely would venture outside of it. I remember a producer wanted me to do a really poppy-belty song, and I actually couldn’t because I’m not a belty person. It just didn’t sound right, it would have sounded so much better with a singer that understood that sound. I’d definitely venture into the electronic world. Definitely.
Do you find its important to keep your integrity even if it shuts you out of opportunities?
I think sometimes. I think you should always try to be accessible, but without sacrificing authenticity if it’s possible. You have to kind of be familiar for people- sometimes it can seem like the biggest opportunity, but if it’s not right for you, it won’t even take off.
Yeah for sure, I’d say something great about the internet is that there’s bound to be someone who liked the weird stuff you do anyway, so if you keep doing what you like hopefully the right people will hear it.
Tell me about Come With Me, how did that song happen?
That song was written in the studio, I went in with my guitarist Shaun and the sound engineer. I wasn’t planning to release it or anything, I just wanted to express myself in a studio environment because I’d been hibernating for a while. That sound just kind of came out in the moment. We had bits and pieces of a drum kit, a snare and a kick drum, and an old cymbal hanging on the wall, and we just dragged it into this tiny little booth and just layered everything into the song right there. I loved it so I released it, very in the moment kind of thing
It’s definitely got a stronger sense of rhythm compared to I Wonder, was it easier to write with something more straight forward?
Yeah, probably. I Wonder was still easy because I didn’t do the production,
Come With Me definitely came together much more easily. It all happened in that one day- the lyrics and everything.
Both the songs are pretty instrumental, is that on purpose?
Yeah, I would say so. I’ve spent ages listening to these two American artists, Gretchen Parlato, Becca Stephens, Esperanza Spalding, I don’t understand fully what they’re doing but I just listen to it for so long. I like complexity in music, I feel like sometimes it just comes into my writing.
I think you definitely write what you listen to, if you listen to cheap music you’ll write cheap music, if you listen to layered music you’ll write layered music.
Have you been inspired by music outside of the genres you’re interested in?
Yeah, more vocally. I love Ariana Grande’s voice, it’s amazing. I also love Rihanna’s. I love her ton. I love interesting vocal tones, and I find them more in a lot of pop genres.
I think a lot of pop music is about the person as much as it is about the music, so if have a distinct voice that’s pretty important. You’ve got to hear them and know exactly who you’re listening to.
Can you write anywhere?
I think if there’s a piano then I could write something! Might not be a masterpiece… in 2015 I spent so much time just writing, even when I didn’t want to, even when I wasn’t feeling inspired. It’s like practicing something, it becomes a little bit easier to just sit down and do it. I have favourite chords and a favourite range, so if I just play around in that area then I think I can write something.
What direction are you heading for your music?
I just want to play original music more, I’d love to go overseas. Go to London, Germany, just try and build a little following in my style. Musically, I’d like to be a little more electro- more synths. My music is very sparse and stripped back, I’d like to like..
Beef it up a bit
I’d be happy to collaborate at this stage. It’s very hard to propel it when its just you. When you work with others you have a team and they’re all trying to make it happen, rather than just yourself.
Do you think you’re much of a self-critic?
Yeah. It’s a bit of a problem.
Do you feel like that’s what stops you from releasing more stuff?
Yeah probably. I’m getting better but I’m very critical of my voice. I can be critical because I know my music is very different. Sometimes I just want to write a normal song and it can come out so different! I get annoyed at myself for that, but I’m learning to love it and connect with it for what it is. Nobody cares about it like you do.
The worst case scenario is someone listens to it, doesn’t like it, so they don’t listen to it again, but for you it’s your whole life and whole identity!
Do you write in the midst of your emotional situations or do you try and get over how you feel before writing about it?
I feel like its afterwards for me, that’s when I have the energy to sit down and write about it. Like a reflection on how you feel. My next song is kind of like that- reflecting on the way I felt in a situation.
Do you stray towards the same topics when you write?
All the songs are pretty different, I kind of feel like once I’ve written about something, then that stories told and it’s time to tell another one.
I guess that would suggest that the writing process helps you put words to a situation so you don’t need to talk about it again?
Have you felt like there’s more to say, or do you try and get all the emotions out in one song?
I think there’s probably always more that I could say, but the song is reflecting on it from a certain perspective. I Wonder is kind of one part of a story with a lot of aspects.
What do you want to stand for as musician?
I don’t want to sound cliché haha but being true to yourself as an artist. It’s really hard. In this industry, especially as a girl, you get really pushed around. I feel like I have dealt with that, it can be anything from looking or sounding a certain way, or being more this or being more that. I have a lot of female musicians who feel the same. I like the idea that art in music has always been here to try and tell the truth, or try and reflect the times. And to do that in the way that is natural to you. I think for me that’s staying a bit genre-less- not fitting in fully. Not signing contracts that will force you to change who you are.
Sticking to your times. So you can reflect back on your music and think ‘oh yeah that’s who I was’
You can find Esmé on her socials below