We’re kind of addicted to being unhappy and we don’t always realise it
Jamie is a writer who soaks in her environment and writes from the heart, and she doesn’t shy away from making music that has darkness and depth. I met up with Jamie at Poolhouse Coffee where we chatted about her new music, and how she’s changed as an artist
So the new video for ‘Hide In My Head’ is out! How was that process?
I worked with a team of artists in Melbourne and used Melbourne based director Jason Dobrowolski to shoot it. We then spent a week editing in the suburbs and pulled a week of all-nighters to bring it to life. I wanted to have every second of my brain infused in the process and used a lot of symbolism to reflect the storyline. We just released it on November 1st
Music videos are a huge job!
The team I work with are the most talented people- we were going for a kind of David Lynch vibe. This is my first music video that has a proper story line, every other music video I’ve made has been more ethereal and abstract, so I’m excited about this new angle
Do you have much of a hand in the story-telling aspect of the filming?
Totally, I love the creative directing side of everything. I love the visual elements of music, and I have a background in dance and drama. For me, a music video is how you can express your headspace to people visually
Sometimes what we want to communicate needs more than just the music, it needs all these extra elements
Colour palettes, costumes, the energy of a location- everything!
I’ve been living overseas for pretty much all of my twenties, and I came back for some heavy personal reasons and decided to be based more here and just go overseas to play shows. I think sometimes it can be hard to feel supported in the music industry, sometimes I feel like I’m more appreciated in San Diego than my hometown in the Gold Coast, but I’m finding I’m getting some more support here in Australia recently which has been really great
I think sometimes the Australian industry gives off this feeling like you haven’t made it if you haven’t been on Triple J, which I think is something that is slowly changing, especially with the support for Australian music from places like the US and the UK
This is the first year I’ve been setting up some foundations for myself, and becoming more prepared for more releases- I’ve already got my releases planned for the next six months, so it feels like just the beginning I hope!
So you’ve been in America for quite a while
Yeah, I moved to New York when I was 22, and I’m 30 now, so I actually feel pretty American
Those are pretty formative years
Absolutely, they are the most transformative years of your life. I moved with not a lot of money, and I went to a dance school. I really hustled, and that year kicked the shit out of me! I failed so many times, New York is really brutal and sometimes I don’t know why I persevered. I think going to a classical dance school really shaped my outlook- the discipline of dancing is like military training! My work ethic was really influenced by that, but I really failed a lot in that year, but I look back and I know what I learned
I guess it all happens so you can be where you are today, even if dancing isn’t the main thing you’re doing right now, the discipline made you the kind of musician that you are
I think it taught me that if you hustle, and you’re organised with some room to wing it a little bit, things will work out. You have to allow yourself to go through death, rebirth, ego, dying phases
And you need confidence to pick yourself up, even the hustling mindset takes a lot of courage and bravery. The willingness to be flexible, while having the strength to be organised
I think I struggle now to relax and do normal things, I don’t need to be in this survival mode all the time. I still have this New-Yorker hustling side in me
Do you think that mindset sabotages your ability to relax?
Yes! Definitely, but I had the opportunity to live in Mexico for a while, and I was surrounded by these amazing Mexican and Jewish women who were all about eating and talking for hours, and that really balanced me out
Tell me a little more about ‘Hide In My Head’, it had some Cranberries vibes for me. If this song was going to inspire someone to do something, what would it be?
Leave a toxic co-dependent relationship! Leave it instantly! I was in a pretty bad relationship where I wasted a lot of time, and I wondered why I tolerated being treated poorly for so long. If I could leave a message with someone through this song it would be to encourage them to stop wasting time with the wrong people, and focus on yourself more
I think it can be a lot of fear that drives you into unhappiness, it’s almost like being unhappy feels safer than trying to change things in your life
It sometimes easier to stay unhappy in a toxic relationship because you’re kind of numb to it. I think when you start setting boundaries and people aren’t used to that, people react and try and bring you down with them. You have to rise above it and keep your eyes on the prize!
How do you find you combat people trying to drag you down?
You have to cut out a lot of people, to be honest. Learning how to be assertive and setting boundaries for yourself. I’m trying to be the better version of myself. I think even the simple things like noticing when people don’t have your best interest at heart or don’t wonder how you are when you’re in clear pain. I’m trying to be more loyal to my career and myself
And no one is going to do that for you, you have to decide that for yourself. I think that’s where music can become so powerful because it can speak to you in that way, it can go past your barriers. I think fiction has the same ability to do that, they tell you the things you’re kind of blind to when it’s just a regular context
One of my dance teachers told me that people pay to see performers experience emotions they didn’t know they had. It’s your job to make them think of things they didn’t know they were thinking. That really resonated with me
Reveal things in you that you may have been ignoring, or you didn’t realise they were important to you. Sometimes it can be hard to come to terms with your own unhappiness, and realising you’re unhappy means that things need to change which can be scary, so you ignore it
It’s like this big void. This song has a lot to do with escapism because instead of dealing with the void of unhappiness and toxic co-dependency, you go into fantasy land and you distract yourself with whatever it might be- drugs, alcohol, sex, partying, social media, everyone has a distraction
Do you think the process of writing has taught you things about yourself?
I think that’s why I’m not a push over. Writing and writing and writing, it’s almost like psychotherapy. I’ve changed so much as a person since writing, and I’ve found my voice. I’ve really fallen in love with the process of song writing, and it’s a process that’s becoming more natural to me
I think when the songs come naturally that’s when you know they’re saying what you want them to say. Sometimes if you’re forcing something to happen it’s probably because you don’t really believe in it
You released a number of tracks in 2016 and went on a hiatus for a few years, do you feel like much changed in the way that you wrote songs?
My first album was on the back of some really crazy emotional problems I was experiencing, and once I had started taking medication for it I felt more structure in my life. I hadn’t really written songs before, and this first album was kind of dark and really influenced by New York, and dancing. I started to learn how to write more pop-structured songs but in some ways it felt a little forced for me. When I was living in Mexico I felt like my writing was more open and honest, and I spent a lot of time in the desert alone writing, and it’s been building and building in me. I think I’m starting to believe that I’m born to be a story teller which has taken a long time. I feel like I’m in a good space of not caring anymore about what other people think
It’s important to get to that place, and it can be hard when you want music to support you financially- you need to balance the feeling of needing to make something that might make money, and also making something that you don’t care if it makes money
You almost have to connect to something that’s high than yourself, and above all that anxiety for it to be authentic. I think if you have a lot of energy for something it can almost be destructive if it’s not aligned with a healthy headspace. You need to channel that energy and be productive with your time
‘Waste Of Time’ was your first release after you had a break, tell me a bit about that song
I wrote ‘Waste Of Time’ about the idea of regretting things at the end of your life and letting fear get in the way of making decisions to move forward. I’ve recently gone through grief and loss from losing the closest people to me and being on a death bed too early in someone’s life, and going through the pain of that, and so this song has a deeper meaning to me now, and I am viewing my own life differently from the experience. Essentially the song was about the idea of being on your death bed at the end of your life.
Lay your head down, regret fills your eyes
I wrote this song for some labels in Europe, and went through about four versions of the song and I still wasn’t feeling like it was right because I was writing for other people it felt forced. I almost gave up on the idea and then after a week off after burning myself out in a 40 hour recording studio bender, some friends called me asking for advice, and I was in my apartment in jersey city, and I reworked some chords with some major chords and rewrote the chorus and melody and lyrics and then recorded it in the California desert and released it myself without the labels
The piano opening feels so strong. This song, and the EP from 2016 both had this Game Of Thrones epic vastness to it which was really cool
Writing music for film would be my ideal job
Good soundtracks can make a film iconic. ‘Waste Of Time’ feels really wide
Yeah, there’s no drums or anything in that song
It lets you focus on things and hear what’s really going on rather than having a lot of tracks in your face
I wanted it to feel pretty light and dreamy because that was the headspace that I was in at the time
You’re only happy when you’re sad
That lyric really resonated with me
We’re kind of addicted to being unhappy and we don’t always realise it. You’re only fulfilled when you’re miserable
We’re kind of conditioned to feel like that as well, the culture we live in is constantly telling us that we need to buy this thing to be happy, and that we aren’t good enough. We’re kind of expected to be unfulfilled by ourselves all the time, and that something else will fulfil us- a relationship, a product, a holiday, a job
It’s important to have foresight in how your decisions will affect you in 10-20 year’s time. We’re constantly being marketed to, and sometimes it feels like everything is one big illusion, and we shouldn’t buy into it. We need to dig deeper, and break these solid unconscious cycles in society
It’s important to question why we just let things happen or stay the way that they are, why are we okay with being advertised to every second of the day? I think we tend to ignore the consequence of it and just accept it as our normal
So your first EP is wild and very dark! I really like all the tempo changes in a lot of the songs, it feels very free
That was definitely inspired by my time in New York- in my ballet class we would often dance to a piano, and tempos in classical music are so wild and all over the place, and even in contemporary music the themes are so emotional and free. Having the music mixed with all these elements of the performing arts really influenced how I was writing. I’m a big fan of Cat Power and Nick Cave, and darker kinds of music. The classical violins and pianos, and then these droney, deserty, swampy music underneath it all. I was gravitating more and more to music and the ability to talk about things through music, and being opinionated in your art. I did a lot of writing in the desert with a piano, and I had a really clear vision of where I wanted to go with it all
It feels pretty unapologetic. It’s dark and unconventional and it feels really honest
I really felt a lot of the sexism in the industry after that release. A lot of people asked me to happy dance music, and people aren’t saying that to the men in the industry. I was in such a mental mess at the time and I wanted it to reflect those things in my head, my music became the introverted side of my personality. ‘Hide In My Head’ is still melancholic but it has a pop undertone, and this new release is darker emotionally but sounds a little lighter
Women have always had dark thoughts and dark emotions, just as everyone else does. It’s exciting to be alive in a time where you can independently do that creatively, even if you don’t have industry support you can still release it by yourself. Even women in the past who wanted to write dark gothic books generally had to do it under a man’s name to be taken seriously
Girls can be dimensional creatures! I’m sick of people telling me I can’t do something. I want what I make to be truthful and authentic
Do you feel like the direction of your music has changed or is changing?
The next album I’m putting out has this sad melancholy in it but it’s presented really light and pretty, and it has a lot of Mexican influences in it. It has an Americana folk feeling to it, and the melancholy is a lot more subtle. It sums up my headspace
What do you feel like would be your ideal performance space?
Probably a large theatre of some sort, a big beautiful space like that would be amazing. Somewhere that you can be really raw and emotional
What feeling do you want people to leave with after they hear your music?
If it can make them think about something that’s on their mind that they don’t want to address, it’s all up to interpretation, but I’d like to write something that lets people think about life from different angles and hopefully leaves them better for it- Influencing people for the better
Creating a safe space for people to open up to themselves. Do you feel like when you perform live that it’s the same sort of feeling you get across?
I never used to perform live, and this year I’ve really thrown myself into the deep end with it all. The tour I did earlier this year really changed the way I was as an artist, and I felt like such an introvert on stage. I realised that all the energy I have could be challenged into stillness, and it’s still powerful. I kind of feel like I’m at that awkward hair growth stage where you have a half fringe- there are things I still need to figure out but it’s been a good journey. I’m learning how to be emotional, raw, and grounded
Do you find songwriting easy?
I do now- now that I’ve connected to my internal world and dealt with the layers of my bullshit, I feel like I’m constantly writing! I’m closing the gaps between writing and releasing, I’ve already got the next next album sorted out!
Sometimes we can go through stages of not writing anything and it can be a mystery as to why that is, but maybe we were blocked up emotionally, and discovering more about yourself and dealing with those things can help you be creative in that way again
I think writing on tour can be a great influence too. The stuff I’ve been writing at the moment sounds like it’s in transition, and I feel like this longing feeling comes across with it too
It definitely adds a flavour to the writing compared to when you’re stationary in your room. Do you think that element comes across for the listener as well?
I do actually, I feel like as a writer you can really absorb your surroundings and it’s essence
Is there something you stand for as a musician in this landscape?
I’ve been curating this festival for women and woman’s rights, and it’s really important to me. Climate change and sustainability, and being an activist is the main reason why I do what I do. I want to cause a reaction and wake people up! I want to create things for the greater good- it’s not about me as a performer or an artist, it’s about influencing good in the world and being political and honest. Everyone needs to wake the fuck up and do what needs to be done
We all have a role in making the world better
You can find Jamie-Lee’s music on her socials below: