That realisation that my feelings will change like the weather was important for me, knowing it’s going to be fine eventually
Azura makes the kind of music that soundtracks your best and worst relationship moments, and a landscape to ground you within that turmoil. I was interested in hearing about her lyrical prowess and discovering more about the heart behind the honesty. We met up at Collective Espresso to dissect and reflect
What’s your philosophy on songwriting?
The way I approach songwriting and storytelling is evolving – I want it to be really clear what the point is. I want it to be poetic and truthful and original
Have it clear and well communicated
When I first started writing, it was pure poetry, kind of creating a feeling or an atmosphere, not necessarily communicating a direct revelation, and there are definitely some amazing songs that can do that but sometimes we can use that as a way of not being fully vulnerable. I heard this song called ‘Alone’ by Daughter that changed everything for me. It has the lyric
I hate being alone
And I was like that’s not allowed! It’s so direct and to the point, she didn’t mess around. It changed the way that I wrote lyrics. To get to something that direct you have to think deeply about the truth of how you feel. You have to do three pages of journaling to get to the point of what you’re feeling – and that’s super therapeutic and what I think makes a great chorus.
Sometimes you don’t get the chance to really understand what you’re thinking unless you articulate it, and journaling and songwriting can be the vessel for that. You have to say it out loud instead of letting it stay abstract in your mind. Lyrics that are direct and honest can sometimes be the hardest songs to write and release, do you hesitate before releasing something that’s a little too on the nose?
The thing about the delay in the music business is that by the time the song is written, recorded and released, so much has happened and the season is usually expired once the song comes out. You want to be as vulnerable as possible so that the song has a timelessness to it – and it’s usually a good indication that the song should be released if it remains relevant for months
Musicianship is necessarily terrifying though – you write the things you wouldn’t want to tell anyone, and then suddenly you’re singing them in front of your parents and friends and the person that the song is about
I really like the production on the Mars Violet EP, a lot of acoustic/nostalgic vibes
Production becomes pretty personal for me, I’ve never had a producer that didn’t become one of my best friends, you go through so much together!
11 hours in a studio will do that to you!
Yeah, and the song will suck if the dynamic in the room sucks
Do you feel like you’re much of a perfectionist with your music?
I’m a perfectionist when it comes to lyrics, I’ll write three lines and know the fourth one needs to convey this meaning, and needs to have a specific goal, and I won’t settle for anything less than that
Is that process ever frustrating?
Yeah it can be, but it’s also such a magical moment when you finally find the word that fits and what it was always meant to be. Lyrics are the most important part to me
Is that what you listen for in other people’s music too?
Yeah definitely, good lyricism requires a lot of self-awareness and a deep understanding of emotions
It’s weird to me that some people don’t listen to lyrics in music
I guess people just listen to different parts, I’m really thankful for my producers who might not think as much about lyrics, but they can think about drum and synth sounds in a way that just isn’t my thing
It’s important to have people around you who can elevate those elements of a song to bring it all up in quality
Yeah you need to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, and find people who are most passionate about the parts of song-making that you find dull
Do you feel like you’re good at communicating your vision for a song to another person, or does it end up evolving in different ways?
It definitely evolves, but the vision, in terms of feeling and the concepts-I generally write all the lyrics before going into the studio, so I have an idea on what it’s about and where it’s going, and the scene I want to soundtrack
What was the underlying theme on Mars Violet, does the message stay consistent or change from song to song?
There wasn’t a main theme for the EP, the songs on the EP were written over four years. I wanted extreme honesty, and because they were written over such a long time they are all from such different seasons and contexts
What drives you to release a song you wrote a while ago?
You write a song and it’s either good or it’s bad, but then sometimes you get this feeling where it just needs to exist. It feels significant for some reason. Until that song is released it’s kind of always in your head. I write constantly, and it’s really special to have a ‘this needs to exist’ kind of moment, and from there it’s just an exercise in patience, which I think a lot of musicians struggle with
It’s hard when there’s just so much music out there, and you just want to shove your stuff out into the world, but sometimes it needs that time to breathe and settle
Particularly if you involve a lot of people in the process, there are lots of bits and pieces that need to fall into place for a song to come out
Do you feel like you write for yourself or for other people?
Both! I write a lot for myself, but I only release what I think will be significant for other people. There are things I write that I know are just for me, and others that feel like a song to share. If I get too caught up in this is for other people what do they want to hear-
It’s hard to be honest and genuine when you’re not focusing on what you actually feel
Yeah, and it’s super personal! I’m telling the story of what happened in my life!
Do you have a song on Mars Violet that’s your favourite?
I think ‘Colour Dream’ is probably my favourite, it was such a revelation when I wrote it, the line,
I want you more than my dreams
I still think about that sometimes! How do you decide between the person and the dream, and I still go back and forth between thinking maybe you can have both! Since that song’s been released I’ve listened to it and thought differently about it. I think when I wrote that lyric I thought it was this big romantic thing- humans are the most important thing, and I’m willing to give up what I want just to see this person and make this happen! And that can still be true to an extent, but when that relationship ended I realised you shouldn’t have to give up your dreams for someone. But you go through it all again with the next person.
It’s hard to learn sometimes!
That song felt like an important one, and it’s really fun to play
It had a lot of Lorde vibes, the synths are so nice. It feels like it’s written in sections, and it doesn’t follow one lyric structure which leads me to believe that there was a lot you wanted to say and a lot of different ways you wanted to say things
I tend to do that! I think sometimes with writing you have to choose between serving the melody, and serving what you want to say. When I wrote Mars Violet, if I had a line that I really wanted to sing and it didn’t fit with the melody I would just do whatever I needed to to make it fit. My mentality was lyrics > melody. It’s probably a staple of my music to kind of stray away from what you think might happen melodically, for the sake of lyrical content. Now, I’m learning to say everything I want to say but still make it work with the melody. I’ve learnt that melodic predictability can be super important sometimes
You don’t want to release it and wish you had included a part, you want to feel like you said everything you wanted to say, and that you captured the whole emotion rather than just what would fit in the melody
‘Colour Dream’ has a lot of different sections, and the demo had even more ideas! I think I was thinking of pop-structure but not in terms of verse-chorus-verse-chorus, it more just had section after section and it was following what felt good to me. There’s this song by the Killers, ‘The Rut’, and they were talking about how structurally they should have gone back to the chorus at one point, but they were building and it felt like it needed to go somewhere new! I think the emotional journey of a song is so much more important than following a structure
Do you find it an easy balance to make something be palatable but also communicate what you want it to say?
I really like the structural element of pop music, and I think it’s what makes pop trickier than experimental music, I like the challenge
Have you done much experimental stuff?
The Mars Violet EP was on the back of some really weird stuff I made after high school. I think a lot of songwriters go and sit in a room for a year and make weird stuff, and it’s not for anyone, it’s kind of about learning how to use the tools. You have to experiment to learn
And you figure out what you like when you give yourself the opportunity to experiment and try new things, and what weird things can be brought into a pop world
I want to contribute something personal and new into existence. I don’t want to make replicas of what I hear. I want to make something new, so experimentation is necessary
And when you do that it can become something you’re really proud of for those details, whether its production details or the meticulous lyric editing
I want to be able to write out all of the lyrics to my EP like an essay or a really long extended poem, and know it’s solid
Tell me a little bit about ‘Seasons’
I wrote ‘Seasons’ when I was 16 or 17 in my room in Brisbane, I recorded it on Garageband on my iPad. I don’t remember too much about writing it, and when I think back I have no idea what I was going through at the time, but I remember I wanted to write a song basically to calm myself down. It was a song that was purely for me, and I had the demo for years. I considered getting it produced, but I was so attached to the way that I had done it back then and at that time. It was such a special song, and it’s been interesting that that has been the song that had kind of changed my career a bit. It wasn’t like I wrote it and thought this is gonna be a thing! I don’t think I even showed it around to my friends or anything! It wasn’t a matter of feeling like it was going to do well, I just liked it and thought maybe it should just exist to other people too. It’s been so cool when people message me and tell me how it has helped them through some rough times, that’s what it’s all about.
How special that you can use art for yourself, to help you calm down, and somehow other people have that too and it’s because you created that thing for them
Yeah, and it’s trusting your gut with what you think should exist
It’s a really comforting song, kind of a late-night driving home song
There’s no purpose in being afraid
That’s something that sometimes we need to keep telling ourselves
There’s no purpose in being afraid
With a heart as stable as the weather
I think sometimes I write a song, and the song is legitimately a revelation I’ve had about my life. The revelation that I had was this feeling will change which is not what you want to think about when you’re in the thick of panicking about something, you don’t think oh this is temporary! Because that’s a rational thing to think, and you’re emotionally gone. I think that realisation that my feelings will change like the weather was important for me, knowing it’s going to be fine eventually
Sometimes you need a song that’s going to cut through the noise a little bit, and remind you in a gentle way. It’s no help when someone just says you’re gonna get over it it’s fine! But when there’s a song that reminds you gently, that can be the thing that really changes your perspective when you’re panicking
I really like ‘Yours’
I want to be your first thought when you see the storm
Pretty powerful! Tell me a bit about that song
I think you get to this point when you’re hanging out with someone and you like them, and you just know that it’s not one-sided, you know you’re both holding back that feeling. Eventually you have to have an honest conversation. That song was an exercise in extreme honesty, and figuring out what I would say to him if I let go of all my filters
Where does Azura come from?
One of my friends from school had a tumblr called Azura and I always thought it was a cool word. I wanted something that didn’t mean anything so I could create meaning
Your music becomes the meaning rather than necessarily instigating a thought before anyone listens. What made you not want to use your own name?
Azura is a business and a platform to release music, it’s not who I am, if that makes sense, I think using my own name could blur those lines more than I’d like. I also want the freedom if I got a band on board to have it represent that
Do you feel like you have evolved much from your first releases?
Definitely, both as a human, but also sonically and lyrically. I feel like I know more about what I want. It’s like any craft, the more you do it the more you understand.
What are you most excited about for this next EP?
One of the songs I’m working on at the moment which captures a concept I’ve had for a really long time, so I’ve been holding onto it for a long time and I’m excited that it exists! It’s not done yet, but just having something that you’ve been thinking about for years, and finally putting it out there. Concepts and lines I wrote in a journal years ago becoming tangible, it’s like a dream come true in some sense.
When you think about your previous releases and the person you were at that time, what do you think about her?
I think my goal of trying to be as honest as possible has always been the same, so I respect my past self for being that. The version of me from back then probably didn’t know as much about songwriting- I definitely didn’t know as much about business or industry. I think I’ve always been pretty ambitious, and my past self is the reason I’m here- I have a lot of respect for her! Because of her hard work, I don’t feel like I’m starting from scratch now– because of her perseverance, and her wanting it so bad and not giving up, when I feel like I want to throw in the towel I remember that I persevered before and that I can do it again.
What do you want to stand for as a musician?
Honestly and vulnerability, and being really upfront about how you feel and why you feel it. I think that people can sometimes feel the need to shy away from ugly feelings, or embarrassing emotions. I hope that by being as honest as possible I can encourage people, in their real lives and in their real relationships, to be as honest as possible. Music has always done that for me- you hear a song and you realise you feel the same way and it actually affects how you exist! It affects the way you speak and act – because you take that line and you think about it – music is so powerful in that way.
You can find Azura on her socials below