“I have always felt confidence in what my music communicates, even if I have moments where I don’t feel confident in myself“
How’s isolation been for you?
It’s been up and down. I think when it first hit it was like “Okay 6 weeks here we go, I’m up for the challenge” – My life is usually pretty go-go-go, so I was happy to have more time to be creative. But I think second time around with lockdown you definitely start to feel the fatigue.
Yeah, it’s not as fun
It’s been a good chance for me to write, and I’ve been enjoying writing songs just for the sake of it. When you’re so busy and working at a lot of different things, that songwriting time can feel almost like another task, but it’s been nice to have more time for creativity and just enjoy the process of creating again.
Are you finding you’re writing as a way to centre yourself a little bit at a time like this?
Yeah, and I realised in the last few months that being able to express myself with singing on a regular basis is a really important part of my self-care. The days that I don’t sing, I can really feel it in my chest and it feels like I’ve been censored! Whether its writing, or singing a song I’ve already written, or someone else’s song, I’ve realised just how important it is for me, and it’s definitely something that has helped me get through this whole crazy process.
I’m glad that that’s something you can use as a tool to help you gain a bit of mental peace! There’s so much uncertainty, and even if we can’t go and do live gigs anymore, we can still write and sing which is lovely. It would be hard if my identity was soccer or something and I just can’t do that for 6 months!
I really feel for people whose passions are just inaccessible right now
Has your writing style changed much in isolation?
Yeah, I think it has! I’ve been exploring a bit of jazz lately actually; I just kind of made something up just for fun, but I think that that one songwriting session has influenced me a bit going forward. I’ve been playing around a lot more with rhythm. I come from a creative writing/poetry background so the lyric writing has always been really important for me. I’ve been trying to unlearn some habits with squishing sentiment and meaning into big words into lyrics and it might not fit into the melody, so I’m trying to strip back that and focus on the sounds, the beat, and the melody the song might actually need, and mould the lyrics around that. Jazz is a great genre to play with for those kinds of ideas.
There’s so many tools to use in jazz and RnB. You mentioned creative writing, what’s your journey with music and how did you end up where you are now?
Music has always been something I’ve been passionate about and interested in; when I was a really young kid I remember going out to the trampoline and making up random songs all the time. When I was in high school I had a friend who would write these amazing songs, and I asked her to teach me how to do it! Music and writing has been something I’ve been interested in from a young age, and I did a creative writing degree at Uni, and I found that the poetry and random pieces of work we would do were amazing for inspiration, especially the experimental writing that I might not have gone out of my way to discover. That experimental writing style has definitely continued to influence my writing.
Is Xirita your first songwriting or music project?
No, so the songs I started writing initially when I was in high school were way more in the indie-folk-country genre – performing on guitar at wineries and bars. I did that for a couple of years and really enjoyed it, but I knew my guitar skills weren’t at the level they needed to be to fully pursue that as a solo artist. It was around that time I realised I wanted to dip into a more electronic space, but I just had no idea as to where I could find these kinds of producers! I met someone at Uni coincidently who I got to work with on an assignment, and from there we created a project called ‘LouSkylar’ that we worked on for about two years. It was a really fun electronic-pop music experience and Nathan and I are still really good mates. About a year ago, I just felt a stirring for change and felt called to start a solo. Around that time, I got invited to go to a song-writing camp (off Instagram of all places.) I had no idea what to expect going into it but it literally ended up being the coolest weekend, such great vibes and people and now we’ve become this little community of creatives – really good friends and we all work and collaborate now which is great. This was just when I was figuring out how to launch this Xirita project, so it was such fortuitous timing to meet all of these incredible Melbourne musicians.
What a great opportunity! What are you hoping to communicate with this Xirita project that you maybe weren’t doing with the previous projects you’ve done?
I was thinking about this recently because Xirita is a brand and a person, it’s me! So what do I want to communicate and celebrate and share with people beyond my music? Thinking a bit more deliberately about that is important, and female empowerment is something that’s important to me. Self-care and prioritising mental health, and paying attention to where your joy resides, and creating a life for yourself that you’re really passionate about- these are things I want to share as Xirita, and I want to be open and honest about these things with my audience. If that openness can help someone else and resonate with them, that can be really powerful!
Those are such vital conversations we need to be having with each other, and it’s great that we can deliver that message through music and make it something people can enjoy. Do you have any hesitation before going to release something that’s a bit personal?
Something that I’ve learnt from watching the women and the creatives that I really admire, is that before you release something, it’s important that you’ve done the emotional work to be okay with it being out in the world. You need to have processed those emotions outside a public audience so that no matter what people say and how they interpret it, you’re comfortable with that. I’ve done a lot of personal growth in that space, and sometimes the lyrics I write feel so obvious but everyone interprets things differently anyway! But if you don’t do that internal processing, then it’s going to hurt when people poke at it. I’m not yet the person that I want to be, but I’m able to vulnerably put this work out there and be okay with that
That’s an important differentiation you need to make with music because you are putting your heart on your sleeve and being vulnerable, but you’re also running a business, and it’s something you need to be okay with distancing yourself from. For a lot of artists the time between writing something and releasing it can be so long that you might be a totally different person anyway! Do you find it’s hard being honest and genuine while also trying to be business savvy and making something that will be commercially successful?
No because when I think about my ‘brand’, I know what I’m making has the intention to create good in the world and start productive conversations. When I think about what commercial success looks like, for me it’s the ability to spread more positive change and good. It’s not about the goals and accolades, I just want to create a life for myself where I can do more of these creative things because I enjoy my life when I get the chance to do that. Hitting those goals is just part of creating those spaces. A lot of people want to say that investing time and money into marketing can make you a sell-out, and you should spend more time on the music, but if you believe in your music and you want it to go somewhere, you have to put the time into marketing and business. I believe in my music and I want to do what I can to get it in front of people!
Did it take a while for you to feel that confidence in yourself and your music? I know that in my experience it can be a real process to understand that what you create has value. How do you go from liking your music on an individual level, to knowing that it can be something that reaches success?
There are a lot of situations where I have imposter syndrome and feel self doubt, and it’s definitely apart of my experience to feel that I’m not good enough or not talented enough, but throughout the years I’ve always felt a strong sense that the songs that I’m writing have an important message. For me, it was less about wondering if my music was worth putting money and effort behind, and more about how to go about doing it- less of an ‘if’, more of a ‘how’
To stop second guessing yourself is an important step at the start of your career in music so you can move on to thinking about how you can get your music to reach people.
When was your song ‘Don’t Go’ released?
Back in Feb of this year! Wow
Back when life was so different
Feels like a life time ago
The chords in that song are so lovely, and it’s really well produced, I’d love for you to unpack that song a bit for me
That was such a fun process, and it was the first time I worked with Cropley who is now one of my best friends. ‘Don’t Go’ was apart of our first session together, and we were in the studio together figuring out what to do, and he started with these chords while I was writing lyrics. This was at this time in my life where I was stirring for change, and I was listening to a lot of Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle podcasts about making the life that you want to live, and learning to listen to your intuition. Elizabeth Gilbert has this great concept of having a love affair with your craft; don’t think about it as something you do begrudgingly, because if you’re having a love affair you find the time to sneak off and see your lover! I love that concept of treating your creative life as a love affair, and if you have 10 minutes to sneak off and play some guitar or sing a song you should just do it, and it really changed the way I relate to my creativity
That’s so true, it’s about creating a fresh perspective
So ‘Don’t Go’ became this song about how I just felt so lucky to be able to have creativity come and play with me. Sometimes it can really feel like a chore, and the words and the melody just won’t come to you, but sometimes you have half an hour where creativity comes and everything is flowing and working. Sometimes you can get interrupted by a phone call or someone coming in, but how amazing would it be if you can just stay in that space for a little longer, and how can I make more of that time for myself? ‘Don’t Go’ is about that concept
Save up the gratitude
I’ve got lot’s of that for you
That’s about my infinite gratitude for creativity, and this song can sound a lot like I’m talking to somebody, but it’s about wanting to stay in that moment with creativity for longer.
In some ways that kind of mindset has to be intentional, and just waiting around for motivation and inspiration makes it so much harder to turn those creative pursuits into tangible things. I think creativity is imbedded into our DNA, but it has to be a mindset that your switched on to. If you live your life in a way that leaves you open to experiencing the world as a playground of creativity, entering those moments of creation –with music, art or whatever it might be- you have a lot more to draw from. That mindset helps us live generally and goes so far beyond art making
It’s a habit! I’m a massive fan of creative productivity; you show up and the ideas will come. If you’re waiting for inspiration to show up, then it won’t happen
And switching that thinking off from it feeling like a chore because creativity is an endless thing, and all things have the capability of some sort of inspiration. What was the development process like for that song?
It was really fun actually! We wrote the majority of the song in that first 5 hour session, we were writing melodies and harmonies together and we had really great creative chemistry.
The song was basically finished and we were just missing a bridge, and we had a pretty short amount of time to finish the song before I was going overseas. We recorded all the vocal takes before we had any material for the bridge, and Cropley had to leave to go somewhere and I lived about an hour away, so I decided to hang around and try and figure out what to do because we had no choice but to finish it that day! I went to a friends house and wrote some bridge options, and went back to Cropleys house to show him. I sung the first bridge option straight into the mic, and he was like, ‘that’s it that’s the one!’, and that was the take we ended up using! I remember I was singing it and I was still not totally sure of how to do it, but that little bit of dainty uncertainty totally works with the track. The first time he heard it, and the first time I sang it properly, is the version in the track and I really love that. Cropley was really keen to get the song out, but I hadn’t even launched my Xirita project yet, so it was a good push to get this project running.
Yeah, I was going to ask what made that song feel right as the first release so was it mostly a time crunch thing? Did it feel like the right foot to start the project on?
A bit of both I’d say, and it was the first song to be finished. I figured that if this was going to be the first track to be out, I was really happy with the message it was putting into the world; playing and spending time with creativity.
And ‘Lost Nerve’ is the most recent release, tell me a bit about this track
‘Lost Nerve’ is a song that is very close to me, and quite an emotional song. What we were talking about before is really true here, how it was really important for me to process these emotions and feelings before putting the track out into the world so I feel ready to talk about it. The song is about being attentive to the things we need in a relationship, and clearly communicating that. It needs to be something we know within ourselves, as well as something we can share with another person. ‘Lost Nerve’ is all about the lessons I’ve learned around setting boundaries and having clear expectations and communicating when something is making you uncomfortable. The first verse is looking back on a past self who doesn’t feel confident to put boundaries in place:
You would never have the nerve to say
I want it like that
I want it that way
Your whispers are so soft
You linger on and on
It’s talking to myself. The rest of the song is talking to someone else and saying ‘this isn’t okay’ and it’s about reclaiming yourself from those painful moments. Although the song comes from quite a vulnerable place – I want that powerful strength to come through.
When people listen to this song, what do you want them to walk away with?
A sense of empowerment, and the comfort in knowing that it’s okay to speak your truth and set up boundaries for yourself. Being clear and unapologetic about what you want, and if people aren’t okay with that then see ya later!
Bye! So compared to the first release, this song is a lot darker sounding, is that more of the direction that this project is going to head into?
The two songs are definitely quite different, the first one is bright and poppy, and ‘Lost Nerve’ is a bit darker and sassier, and the next releases are a bit in the middle of those two vibes. I’m trying to not get too caught up in worrying about genres, and instead just enjoy whatever comes out! I think sassiness isn’t really what comes through in my personality, but it definitely does in my music and there’s more of that to come!
Writing and singing is usually a representation of our feelings, and our feelings are always changing. If you’re angry you might write a song that really encompasses anger, but it doesn’t mean you’re always that person! Now that you’ve done this really sweet song, and this really sassy song, everything to come will automatically be in-between!
Exactly, I’ve set the boundaries!
What would be your advice to any other emerging artists?
Spend time writing, but spend 50% of your time investing in promoting your music and getting it out there! Build your craft first, but I’ve found that some of the most amazing talent just isn’t getting recognised because there needs to be a lot of time and effort in the marketing and business side of things
It’s intimidating stuff! I hate social media and I hate that it’s integral to getting your music out there, but it’s something you can learn to use as a tool
If I didn’t have to have Instagram for music then I wouldn’t have it! Signing up for a life in music is signing up for this too sometimes.
What would be your dream collaboration?
I’d really love to work with Chet Faker/Nick Murphy, or watch Sudan Archives in her creative process, and learn from the way that she writes rhythms and melodies. She’s an amazing musician, and the music she makes is really cool
Similar sort of question, but what would be your dream performance environment?
I’m super keen to play a festival when they are back on because the festival vibes are just so good! The crowds want to hear new music and are willing to listen to emerging artists. People don’t care if they don’t know the words, they’re there to enjoy the moment and I love that kind of atmosphere.
There’s a real culture of discovery for new music
People actually watch and are interested! It’s not ‘impress me, let’s see how good you are’, it’s so much more laid back and inviting.
What would you like to stand for as a musician?
The first word that pops into my head Is ‘equality’, across ages, races, genders, diversities, that message resonates for me. Our society shuns people so quickly for just being different, and it’s something we are being more conscious about, but across the board it’s something that needs to be continued to be lifted. I normally feel like a pretty self-aware and tentative person, but this year has shown me a lot and I’ve learnt a lot. There’s so much growth to be had, and as artists we can continue to promote that and start conversations around that.
You can find Xirita’s music via the socials below