You’re covered in these layers of expectations that you’re born into and they aren’t allowing you to shine and be who you really are
Human DNA is imbedded with a deep sensitivity to the power of music. GLVES has mastered the ability to harness that power, and use it as a tool to communicate a message of authenticity and truth, which are key elements in her two releases. I sat down with GLVES over zoom and we chatted about why music has this deep effect on us
Congrats on the release of ‘Heal Me’, is this a song you wrote a while ago?
I wrote this song last year, but it’s still very relevant to me and my journey right now which is cool. The process of getting it through production and marketing is quite time consuming and intense, so I’m just so happy that it’s out there in the world so that I can move onto the next thing!
It’s such a good relief to put something out into the world too
There’s a sense of relief, there’s also a sense of just wanting to have a drink and cheers the moment!
How did you get started with music?
I’ve always been into music and I was in choirs growing up, but I didn’t study it because I thought it was always too complicated for my head. I thought I would never be able to get my head around learning an instrument, and I just really enjoyed singing. In 2010 I finally got myself in the position to study music fulltime, and I was determined to learn theory and get some confidence to sing on my own. I had this electronic music project in my head that I was working towards, so I went back as a mature aged student and was around all these young people like, hi I’m older! After a year of the degree, the Brisbane floods happened and my house was flooded. I had to stop my degree and deal with that which really took me off the path for a while; financial stability and facing bankruptcy are more important than your little music dream. I gave up on it for a while like, oh Michelle you’re too old to do it now, and I would kind of just pretend I wasn’t into music anymore. I had a little health scare at the end of 2018 and it scared me enough to make me go ‘what do I really want to do with my life? What’s the thing that makes me really excited about life?’; for me, that’s music even though it’s really scary. I started working with a musician called Emma Dean who was offering some lessons, and I asked her to help me gain a little more confidence with my original music. She was such an amazing mentor and gave me the confidence to write and develop my songs; the two songs that I’ve released were written in those sessions with her. The thing that pushed me to the next level was this opportunity to be a part of Kate Miller-Heidke’s Eurovision filming. Emma Dean told me that she gave my number to Kate because they wanted someone with Indigenous heritage to be represented. I drove down to the Gold Coast and had all this makeup on for the filming, and when it came to the unveiling for Australia Decides, there was my head, 20 foot tall behind her! That experience was so surreal, and my 20 foot face was all over national TV after she won it. Seeing my face like that allowed me to realise, hey, you can do this even though it’s really scary. It was such a bizarre experience, but it gave me this feeling that I should pursue music a little more seriously and throw my social media/marketing skills into the mix too.
So much to do with doing music is just about throwing yourself in and taking the opportunities as they come. Confidence also plays such a huge role in getting yourself started and out there in the world
Exactly, and the thing that I’ve had to learn the most is just to back myself because I was never really taught that growing up. I always thought music was this frivolous dream, and if I had a patron or really wealthy parents then sure I can have a go! But because I didn’t come from that background, my dream felt a little nuts, especially when you feel like you aren’t going to be earning any money from it. But I had that cliché moment of realising ‘you only live once’, and I knew I just had to give it a shot.
Those ‘cliché’ sayings we see written on Facebook walls and Kmart artworks are things we can see hundreds of times in our lives and it just doesn’t sink in, but at some point it might speak to you on this deeper level and you realise that it can really be life changing advice. These simple pieces of advice can really sit with you and propel you into the direction you should be heading
It hits at the right spot even if you’ve heard it so many times. I feel like that as well when you meet the right person because there’s no way to explain your feelings without using a billion clichés. He’s the one, they’re my soul mate! You can’t explain it without sounding like a cliché
The human experience is so universal, and the majority of us have had these moments where we are trying to describe how we’re feeling, and it can sound cliché but that’s only because many people have felt like this before and are also trying to put it into words! I think that’s why music is so special because it can be so unique and genuine, and can say something a hundred other people have said and felt, but in a new way. I think that’s why people connect so much with music
For me, music has the ability to speak directly to your heart, as opposed to just speaking verbally; the whole sonic experience can just dive so deep, and that’s why it’s so important! I love music and I listen to so many genres and artists; I consume music voraciously! I’m always trying to find music that represents how I feel.
I think that’s something music does so beautifully and well, because it can speak to you on such an intrinsic level, which is why music has been a part of our identity since the first humans were around!
I believe it! and back to the confidence thing, for a long time I didn’t really feel like my story was worth telling; like my perspective was not worth being interested in, which is just what I had been telling myself internally. I felt like I could sing other people’s music, but it’s important to realise your own story is valuable too. It’s scary putting yourself out there, and I think most artists freak out because it’s an intense and scary thing to share yourself in that way. But you have to decide to do it anyway and be ready to see what happens.
It’s a bit of a thrill to release music! And it’s a nice way to commemorate your emotions and memories, and it blows my mind that people could potentially connect with it years down the line
I have a daughter, and I would love for her to listen to my music at some point in her life and think, oh wow mum thought all these things! That would be really cool for me!
So cool! And hopefully not too embarrassing!
I’m pretty sure she’s going to be embarrassed about me at different points in her life, but that’s just what happens when you’re a mum!
Your music has this electronicy, ambient, acousticy, dark/light dynamic feeling to it. How did you arrive at the sound your music has now?
I have a really particular taste in music, and I really love a melancholy tone. I have artists that I’ll just listen to on repeat and I’m very influenced by them, my biggest influence probably being Bjork. For me, she’s just such an avant-garde legend, and back in the 90’s her music was so sparse and electronic and I just loved her creativity with sound. I think electronic music allows you to create these dynamic soundscapes in that way. At the moment I’m really influenced by percussion that produces a powerful tribal sound because I feel like connects me to my heritage. When I see Aboriginal or Polynesian mob perform, I get so overwhelmed emotionally because it really hits me right in the heart! It’s amazing to see ancient cultures be so proud and continue to communicate orally and visually their teachings and beliefs, and pass on that experience, especially in this consumer driven world. I want to give that kind of feeling to my music – evoke a sense of power and timelessness.
I think that’s definitely communicated in your music, especially with your first release ‘Abyss’, what’s that song about?
‘Abyss’ sums up for me what it’s like to feel lost, and to feel like there’s no stability in your life. As human beings, when we feel sad or lost or alone, we have these crutches that we lean on to make us feel better about things; maybe food, coffee, drugs, whatever it could be. We use all these different labels to define who we are so we can feel like we ‘are’ something. ‘Abyss’ is about me realising and comprehending that those things don’t really mean anything, and the things that really did matter were things I didn’t have- a sense of belonging, which is something that stems from this feeling of disconnected from my culture, a sense of place.
I love the sound scape you created with this song, and I loved what you were saying before about being inspired by really rich landscapes of sound. Your newest release ‘Heal Me’ is a really big and bold track, and I really loved the lyrics
I summon the power
To make my life flower
I think that’s got real power behind it, I’d love for you to talk about the song a bit
So I go camping a lot with my family, and I wrote this song when I was on Bundjalung country in northern New South Wales at a place called Blackrock, which for me feels like a very mystical place- a very ancient place, and it’s not necessarily the kind of place where you feel welcome. It’s on the coast and it’s breathtakingly beautiful with this white sand and these big black rocks and caves on the beaches. I felt like it was so beautiful to be there, but at the same time it had this eerie vibe to it. I started writing this song when I was there, and the song is kind of about knowing that there’s this sense of unease in your life, and that you need to figure out what it is
I think when a song is called ‘Heal Me’ it has this sense that it could be a cry of desperation and humility, but the sound of this song has so much power behind it
It’s like an anthem for myself to remember that the only person that can really heal me is myself. You have to look inside yourself and realise you have your own power to do that by just radically loving yourself for however you are. We have all these systems around us built to tell us that we aren’t enough, because that’s the consumerist world we live in; you need this and you need that! Inside yourself you know that you don’t need any of that shit, you just don’t! You can love yourself for who you are right now.
That’s tough to do; to radically love ourselves in a society that is constantly telling us that we can’t possibly be able to do that. I find that true with art making especially because it’s nice to think that creativity and creating things is something we can all just enjoy, but we’re living in a landscape where its seen as a waste of time if it’s not making you money. To decide to just create anyway, to radically love yourself despite the messages you’re told, is hard!
It’s incredibly hard! It’s difficult to do, and this song is myself telling myself to do that because it’s something I’m trying to practice! The song is saying, hey remember, you don’t have to participate in these structures and these systems, you can love yourself the way you are!
Coming back to what we were saying about seeing something a hundred times telling us to ‘love yourself’ or ‘seize the day’ or whatever it might be, it can be so meaningless until it really speaks to you. There’s so much messaging at the moment about self-love and self-care, but it’s really something you need to come to a conclusion for yourself for you to really understand that you have value beyond what you contribute to society or whatever!
Totally, and there’s a great movement at the moment- it’s definitely ‘trending’ to talk about that kind of messaging, but for you to really feel that, man you have to peel back so many layers of conditioning! I use a lot of symbolism in my imagery about that; you’re covered in these layers of expectations that you’re born into and they aren’t allowing you to shine and be who you really are. I want listeners to understand that they aren’t all of these labels and conditions, you’re just awesome the way that you are! Your spirit is valid.
So is that the message you hope to communicate holistically with your music?
Absolutely! That’s pretty much the key message, it’s about authenticity. If you feel shit and sad, then be shit and sad. If you feel empowered, then don’t be shy about it. If you want to shine, then just shine! For me, I’m trying to encapsulate in 3 or 4 minutes that feeling of acceptance for wherever you’re at.
I love that! What would be your dream collaboration?
Bjork would be my number one! That we be a dream to meet and collaborate with her, I love Icelandic and Nordic artists. Aroura and Grimes would be awesome too. There are a lot of artists that are just so epic and cool.
Especially with those artists in particular, they have so much strength and power but it isn’t compromising their femininity in any way, which is not a message we are often shown. We aren’t told that we can take up all this space and be this loud, big, beautiful thing but still be wholly a womxn in that space
They’re just embodying their spirit, and allowing it to be whatever it is! I really dig that and I aspire to do that with my music
What would be your dream performance environment for your music?
It would have to be at night on a stage like the River Stage so it can be outdoors- as long as it isn’t raining! And I’d love big audio visuals, I’m such a big fan of creating a big story and using visuals for that. I’m imagining some live Polynesian drumming, that whole woodblock vibe, with clap stick and crazy huge bass. I have these massive dreams, I guess I’d just like to create a super powerful experience.
Something that allows listeners to do more than just sit and quietly watch and enjoy
I would definitely want people to move and dance and express themselves.
What emotions do you think drive your writing the most?
I think that’s something that changes, but at the moment the phase I’m in is a very sad and melancholy sound, I think because I’m allowing a subconscious to come through. In my daily life, I think I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky, get stuff done sort of person, and I think when I song write it allows a different part of myself be heard. I’ve written probably 18 really sad songs at this point, and I’m ready for it to change if it wants, but if not, I’m happy with writing sad/melancholy songs!
Do you have any advice for other emerging artists in Australia?
Back yourself and just do it! It helps having a bit of marketing understanding, but the generation now really gets it because of social media, and everyone is a bit of an influencer/entrepreneur! That marketing/social media stuff is important, but the other part of me likes to kind of rebel against that and feel like tapping out, but it is a way for your music to be heard and seen.
That’s true, we’re all moguls! What do you want to stand for in this industry?
I want to stand for being a woman of colour who tells the truth. Not to say other people aren’t, but that’s what I want to be. Someone who is authentic. I don’t want to shy away from telling some hard stories.
You can find GLVES on the links below