“Sometimes love can be painful in a relationship, and sometimes that relationship is with yourself”
Jade Alice is a versatile and astonishingly talented writer and singer who has been performing with her sweet sugary voice for many years. I have been wanting to talk about her music career for months, and I loved the opportunity to sit down with her and really dive into her music and the writing process. We talked about ABBA, collaboration, and how to be a gentleman
How has lockdown been for you?
That’s always the first question whenever I talk to anyone!
I feel like there’s been so many different stages of lockdown this year, but I think I found this last home stretch to be the hardest. I think I’ve given myself the time to be able to do things that maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise done had it not been for lockdown, but yeah, I think this last part has just been a bit mentally challenging and maybe I’ve not had the same motivation as I’ve had in earlier stages of this lockdown. I think it’s been about taking it one day at a time and trying to keep doing a lot of writing and music. Even just getting outside every day for those glorious two hours of outside time!
It’s been the strangest year, and it actually makes me feel a little sick that it’s slowly coming into Christmas time; I just can’t fathom that! It feels like this has just been the biggest waste of time of a year. It’s been great to get a bit of music happening, I’m sure you’ve enjoyed that too, but in other ways I feel like I’ve done nothing at all
Absolutely. I can’t believe it’s October.
I was going through your catalogue and you have a lot of music spanning over a number of years, and I think that that’s amazing. I feel like that creates such an evident progression of you as an artist and as a person. I’m so curious as how you got from ‘Kick Drum’ to ‘Oh! If I could only have you’
Wow what a throw back! I think that’s something that has played on my mind a bit, and you actually posted something about that debate between lots of releases, and a smaller amount of releases. I love seeing artists that have a really rich catalogue, and you can go see their backlog and see how far they’ve come, or how the music has changed and transformed. ‘Kick Drum’ was something I wrote when I was 14, and it didn’t come out until I was probably 18 or 19. It was released because I won this competition which allowed me to put the song out, and I think that even at the time I didn’t feel like it captured who I was; it captured me at 14 for sure! I think if you ever loved a song or was really proud of a piece of work at one time, then I think it’s worth having in the world and putting it out. I’m definitely becoming more conscious of wanting to make sure that what I’m putting out reflects how I’m feeling in that moment, and I do worry that I like too many styles and want to do too many different things; when you want to do a lot of different things with your music it become a little confusing for listeners, and I sometimes wonder is this confusing for people? I think people can hear the ‘Jade’ in everything I’m doing, and I become the linking factor. I think I’m very influenced by what kind of music I enjoyed at the time.
I love what you were saying about the ability to look at the backlog of all the different kinds of music one artist might create, because for me, that shows that this is a real person who has changed and evolved and will continue to change and evolve. I think it’s great to see someone’s progression in that way. I know what you mean about looking back at projects or releases that you were so proud of at the time, and allowing that song or work to be given its moment, because I think we can be tempted to erase that history in our selves because it doesn’t fully align with us right now, but it’s nice when it’s something that you really care about being represented, and wanting that to be visible for people.
I really like that sentiment because when I look at my older stuff, I’m like, oh God, I don’t know if I want people to listen to that, but it’s not really about that. Also, we always think that things are a lot worse in our mind!
Yes, we’re definitely our harshest critics! When I look back on ‘Kick Drum’ I do cringe a little bit, but at the time I wrote it, I was so proud of it and it was the first studio recording I had done! If Jade at that time was really proud of it, then I’m sure the song will find people that will like it and relate to it who were maybe at the same stage as I was when I wrote the song. I know I’m no longer in that place, but maybe it will find someone in that place.
Yeah, absolutely! Especially if you’re the kind of person whose interests and influenced are constantly changing. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve made in the past is ‘bad music’. It’s just not necessarily the kind of music you like anymore, but there are still people who might like that. I think that’s something I forget when someone says they like an old song of mine; people enjoy music at all different stages, and an album that I really liked five years ago that inspired a style of my writing, might be someone’s favourite album right now, and they might really enjoy this ‘old’ song of mine because of that! I think that’s a good thing to remember because people aren’t always going to be aligned in your music interests and they might be ahead or behind where you are right now. If you have a big catalogue of music, sometimes that can be good because it can reach a lot of different audiences.
I think it’s wonderful when someone can connect with what you might have written a long time ago
There’s a lot of pressure to be really business savvy, and it’s a big point of insecurity for me when I think about if my genre ‘brand’ is consistent, especially when that’s something I wish I didn’t have to care about!
You don’t want that to influence your work or be on your mind when you’re writing. It’s probably good to have that in the back of your mind; the big image of what you want to say. I think if worrying about that cohesion is to your detriment, and becomes this overhanging thing that actually stops your creativity, then I think it gets a little bit toxic to focus on.
It’s always good to remember that success is not the same for everybody, and maybe having this one consistent image with a couple of songs can get you some branch of success, but it might not be the kind of success that actually aligns with you or with what you want. How did you get started in music?
I was very much influenced by growing up in a musical family and having musical parents. My mom and dad are both musicians, as are my brother and sister, and my parents met when they started up this ABBA tribute band called BABBA! My mom’s friend had a crush on this guy who owned the Royal Derby Hotel, and he mentioned once that he would love to host an ABBA tribute band, and she was like ‘we’ll do it! We’ll put it together!’ So they started this band, and my mom’s friend said she knew someone who would play the perfect Benny; this person ended up becoming my dad! The band really grew, and now myself and my brother play in it as well! I think growing up with them and with that atmosphere was so much fun. I was going on tour with them when I was a kid, and to be young and watching your parents from side stage like that was just so awesome. I knew that that was what I wanted to do. My parents created this musical environment, and they would play a lot of music all the time; I think their old records really influenced my taste and my dad would always improvise on the piano with me before I could even really talk. There are all these old tapes of me just making up gibberish songs, and I definitely couldn’t sing, but you can tell that little Jade thought it was so good! I started getting into song writing when I was probably 10 or 11
How wild that you’ve been a part of that kind of musical experience from a young age! It’s amazing
I think I didn’t realise that it’s a bit of a rare thing! A lot of musicians probably don’t have the same sort of support from their family, and I’m really lucky that my family does get it; they get what I’m doing and they’re behind it, but on the flip side, they do like to get quite involved with everything which has it’s good’s and bad’s!
‘Jade let’s do a Dancing Queen collection for the next album!’
I’m good! No, but I think ABBA has the most cleverly constructed pop music, and I have such a strong love for Swedish and Scandinavian writers and artists. I don’t know what it is, they are just so great at writing pop music, and they write these melodies that feel so familiar even though I’ve never heard the songs before. It has such a nostalgic feeling
It’s amazing the way that different places around the world create pop music in such new and inspiring ways, and music from Scandinavian countries has this incredible approach to music making. There’s so much going on, and so many changes, the chords are always brilliant, and you can hear so much personality. It makes sense that that’s something that has really influenced you, because I think that your music has a lot of that sort of personality as well
It’s a totally different world, it’s hard not to be inspired by it!
I want to talk a little bit about your experience with collaborating because you’ve got quite a lot of music that is developed with other people. Is the writing process very different for you?
In all the collaborations I’ve done, I think I’ve been pretty heavily involved in the writing side, and my collaborations have been primarily with producers, but each collaboration is a little bit different. I just love to be so involved in every part of the process, and I think this the stories and the songwriting usually come from me, and then we flesh it out and enhance the story with production. With something like the project with 1-800-lost, we had a particular theme in mind; I wrote these acapella songs and then he brought the production together for them.
The 1-800-lost project is such a gorgeous collection of songs, and I was so blown away the first time I heard it. It’s clearly very different to a lot of the stuff that you’ve previously done, what was driving you to do something that was a little bit different?
Yeah, well the first song that I had written for the EP was ‘without a word’, and it was just this acapella piece I had written for a Uni assignment. I’ve always had this song in the back of my mind, and I don’t know what was stopping me from releasing it earlier! The Uni assignment was about writing an accapella song that had a dance element to it, and I thought about all of those old 40s and 50s acappella songs; these sort of ‘Disney-like’ songs. It felt like my chance to make a song like that, that could incorporate a waltz feel. I filmed my grandparents waltzing to it, and it had such a meaningful sense to it for me. I think it came from a really authentic place, and it reminded me of my childhood because I loved those old Disney movies so much. It had this nostalgic feeling that I loved, and I knew it was something I wanted to develop and expand on. I was reaching out to producers because I wanted to see how I could add a modern flavor to it, and I sent it to 1-800-lost because I had connected with him earlier over SoundCloud. I remember he heard them and was like, ‘oh my gosh, I love this, I might be jumping the gun here, but you want to do a whole EP in this style?’ I think I had never felt more strongly and more certain about wanting to do a project
It’s got such a distinct vibe, how did you approach it for the other songs?
I got so excited about the whole thing, and I was really deep diving into old films and songs from that era to get inspiration, and getting more and more submerged in it! More than anything else I had done before
The lyric style is so beautiful, I love the line in ‘without a word’,
Falling with style and drawing a smile
under the lights no words just glide
I think that your songwriting style in this particular project and collection feels so romantic and beautiful. It gives you such a warm feeling! Tell me a bit about ‘Honey’
I think ‘Honey’ was the one that got the biggest response from people; it felt like people were really connecting with it. That song is the only one from the EP that started with the production first, and I remember I heard the sounds and everything, and oh my goodness, I just felt like it melting all over me! I think I was improvising over the top of it, and I just kept saying these words like honey and sweet;these creamy kind of words, I think maybe I was verbalising the texture of the music,
I never favoured the savoury
I much prefer the sugary
I think these lyrics also reflect the romantic and wholesome moments in a relationship. The little sweet things that we do to show love to one another, because it doesn’t always have to be in these big material gifts or whatever. I love those small things that people do to show that they love you. Once I was walking on the footpath with my grandpa, he was on the path and I was on the nature strip and he said something like ‘you walk on the path, I’ll walk on the nature strip’; I think there’s just this old fashioned, gentlemanly way of doing things like moving a branch out of your way, or walking on the footpath closest to the traffic. I love those things so much more than just material things and big gestures- like I don’t want you to buy me a car anything, but I would love it if you picked up some chocolate on the way home!
I love that! I think love is something that’s an action more than a performative moment. It can almost be easier to do the big gesture because it’s obvious, and to take the time to see where the little moments matter, I think that represents when someone is paying attention; I think that’s real love. ‘Honey’ really captures that feeling
Love is so much about the little moments and little things you do for each other daily!
I want to talk about ‘that day’, which is also such a nice song. I got some St. Vincent vibes from the melodies in this song
Oh cool! I really love hearing what people are reminded of in my music, because maybe it’s a bit subconscious for me?
I think the way that she presents the concepts and the way she performs certain lines felt familiar to me with this song. I loved the lyric,
tend to heaven quietly
and all your kisses, linger on me
That’s my favourite part of the song! I didn’t have a lot of structure in mind when I was writing this song, and I had all these separate parts that came together as sections for the song. I wrote it quite linearly, and it didn’t really feel like I was following a particular verse/chorus structure. Like the others, this track has that overly romantic feeling that I love in old fashioned movies. I think the traditional way of speaking from the 40s and 50s is something we’ve definitely lost in modern songs. I love WAP and I think it’s a great song! but I do think what’s popular has lost a tone of chivalry in some ways
I know what you mean, and I think that ‘successful’ writing now has a real focus on the hook, which can often just be a repeating word for the chorus, which doesn’t necessarily leave a lot of room for the poetry of the writing process to shine through. I think that when you can make a really good pop song that has a lot of feeling in it where the lyrics are still very strong and something you can concentrate on, I think that’s special! I get turned off if I’m toplining, and the chorus need to be the same word repeated 15 times or something, because that kind of writing is really unnatural to me. A pop song with a lot of depth with a great chorus is a hard thing to create
It’s really hard to find that balance, and I don’t mean to keep talking about ABBA! But their music has such a sophistication and complexity, while still being so listenable. It’s special when a lyric can have longevity in people’s minds. I think you’re someone who really loves good lyrics, I know that’s your favourite part about writing
It definitely is! It blows my mind a bit when people just don’t care or don’t listen to lyrics when they listen to music
Yeah, it’s so strange, and I think that’s all about the environments you’re used to. I find with my writing that I generally write the melody first, and I try to make sure that there is feeling that exists even without and lyrics yet; I try to already create that emotion. From there I figure out what that emotion is and what I want to say with it
I want to look back to ‘Pretty Cool’, which is a pretty cool track! It feels very Broods to me, and it has such a fun vibe. I’d love to hear a little bit about that track and how it was developed
For sure! I think I realised that there’s this a culture in Australia to be quite self-deprecating. There’s this tall poppy syndrome where you don’t want to come across as big-headed. I’ve always thought that that was a bit sad because it’s become so normal to think like that. It’s a shame that you can’t say you’re good at something without feeling guilty about it! I wanted to make a song that was about self-empowerment, and being able to say good things about yourself, like, hey, I’m pretty cool and being unapologetic about it. I think we make ourselves feel small to appease other people. It was so much fun to make that track, and at first I produced it all myself, and someone else tried producing it, and then my dad helped me produce it; it really took on so many different forms before it actually came out. Brood’s were a huge influence for me when I was writing this song, and the production was definitely influenced by that Scandinavian synthy pop sound as well. I think the writing is pretty simplistic and poppy, but hopefully it’s the kind of thing where it has these key words that relate to people and help them be able to see themselves in the song.
I love the music video for this song
When you’re a kid you just don’t have those inhibitions or insecurities that come later, and you’re so confident in who you are, which is something I love! I’ve been teaching younger kids a bit, and I always think, please don’t ever lose that! They’re just so confident! I found this old video of myself with sunglasses on and I’m saying ‘cool man’, and I wanted to do a whole music video of just these old clips that really captured me at my most confident self! Way before I had any worries about looking cool.
I love that! I think that sentiment is great and it’s one of those things that we all just brush off so much about our culture; it’s not a good thing that our perception is to constantly think less of ourselves, and we don’t think about how that can actually really hurt us in the long run. How can we ever feel satisfied in our work and what we create if our culture says our natural state of being should be about thinking we’re not good enough?
It’s really hard to look at yourself and think, I’m actually good at this!
I think that it’s especially true for women in this industry to believe in their abilities and to even just call themselves producers
Exactly, and that’s something I’ve really had to work at as a woman in the industry as well. I just recently started to produce for other people, and I find I really hard to remind myself that I can do it. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, when you start producing music, you become a producer! There’s not a certain level you have to be at to earn that title. If you’re writing songs, whatever level that is, you are a songwriter! It can feel like you’re just faking it
I’m not really a producer!
But I do produce so I’m literally a producer! You have to own it
I love that that song captures that feeling of being like, no, I’m good! I’m great at this! Why is being proud of ourselves something that’s so hard for us to comprehend?
I wanted to talk a bit about ‘Heartbreak Club’
This track is a few years after your first release ‘Kick Drum’
That period of time between those releases was so formative for me because it was the three years that I was in Uni. I was doing a course in music composition, and we were very encouraged to try different things and be experimental. I think we may have all started the course with our own styles, but by the end we had either completely changed or maybe tried different things and come back to that original style we started with, but with a more refined and deeper understanding of it. ‘Heartbreak Club’ was something I wrote in my last year of that course, and at that time I was learning the ropes of being in BABBA- it’s funny because we have to sing and talk with a bit of an accent for the ABBA tribute band, and I really love that little Swedish flavor. I love hearing people sing with that accent, and I think I unintentionally brought a bit of that into this song! ‘Heartbreak Club’ has a similar theme to ‘Pretty Cool’ because it’s about self-love, and how you can find it a little bit hard to love yourself sometimes. Sometimes love can be painful in a relationship, and sometimes that relationship is with yourself
This song has a bit of a Vampire Weekend vibe to it, and I really liked the approach with the production; it’s quite different standing next to your other songs. I think it’s so true what you were saying about the experience of experimentation when you’re studying music. When you’re learning about music and figuring out what you like and where you want to go with music, you consume so much high quality music in all these different genres and styles. You released a song with Motaki called ‘Work This Out’ which is a bit of a pumping banger! How did this song come about?
Motaki and I found each other on some random music Facebook page, and we developed three songs for his album. I really loved the songs we wrote together, and I think it’s so great when you find someone that you click with and the writing just comes easily to you both, and it’s definitely like that with him. He was the first person I really collaborated with, and before that, I was actually terrified of collaborating! I think I had trust issues and I was a bit of a control freak, and I just had to do everything myself. Starting to collaborate can be a bit nerve wracking, but as soon as you find someone that you have a good experience working with, you can see how great collaboration can be- how beautiful it can be when you combine two people’s different strengths. I had a really good experience working with him, and we decided to do this single together which had this dark pop vibe to it. I remember I was at his house with his dog waffles, and we had millions of snacks, and we were going through his instrumentals. A lot of the tracks were up beat poppy songs, but we came across the bare bones of this one he made that was a little different to the others. I remember that when I heard it I just had all of these ideas for it straight away. I think darker kinds of pop music has this powerful vibe to it, and it really combines this dance and high energy feeling with a sense of strength
Your voice is so light, but it can really command your attention. This song is interesting in the way it combines your light and sweet tone with this brooding song. It’s got the intensity of the dark pop music, but not the intimidation of it; it’s got this real welcoming tone. This song in particular really reminds me of ‘Intoxicating’ which is a recent release, what was the process like for ‘Intoxicating’?
‘Intoxicating’ was written on a virtual writing camp; writing camps are such an interesting and different ballgame. This camp was five straight days of songwriting, and every day was with a different producer from nine to five. It was creatively exhausting, and this song was written on the last day of the camp when I was pretty burnt out! I think the personality and the fun Friendless brought to the session really woke me up and motivated me to make something fun. You can really hear his personality in his music, and again, he was someone I clicked with straight away. I had all these ideas and he was really encouraging to me which motivated me a lot- I love when there is a positive response to the ideas you bring to the table, and it makes you feel good about what you’re making. It feels like you’re on a roll with it and you don’t worry too much about whether it’s good or bad. The song is sort of sexy empowering and a bit cheeky, with this heavy club dance vibe. I never thought I could write to a club beat, but this track was so quirky and cool, and combining that with delicate light vocals was so fun. I really love doing that; combining floaty light vocals with a dark, heavy beat, it’s a cool contrast.
I think that contrast is so effective with your music especially. What’s next for your music?
Well I’ve had all of this time to figure that out! I think this period in time has been a bit of a gift in that way- a blessing and a curse. Me and 1-800-lost -his name is Anthony- we’ve done another EP! We just finished it and it’s going to come out soon. It’s a bit of a sister project to the ‘Oh! If I could only have you’ EP, and it’s got a focus on 60’s love songs combined with lo-fi summery beats. I think I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t for lockdown, so I’m glad I’ve had the chance to flesh out the concepts introduced in the first EP. It’s a chance for me to keep exploring this other passion of mine and I just love to blend old fashioned music with these new modern production elements; it feels really authentic to me. I was listening to a whole bunch of 60s love songs and I decided to write all of these ideas for titles of tracks, and then develop the song from the title. It was such an interesting process and I had never written in that way before. I’m so excited for it to be out in the world! It has this sweet nostalgic vibe to it, and- oh wow he’s going to kill me for saying this- on the last song we did together he told me that he was in a bar by himself and he just started crying as he listened to it! Weeping while he’s making the beat
That’s so sweet!
He’s like ‘you’re going to bring up this in interviews aren’t you’
I think it was because this song has this really warm feeling to it, like a nostalgia about it that is so clear and created a memory that you can’t touch anymore. Maybe that person is no longer with you, or that moment is gone. Music can instantly take you back to a place that you used to be in, and I really love to use it as a vehicle; this nostalgic time travel bus to take you to a place that you can’t reach anymore. That’s something that always gives me chills when I listen to music
That’s so beautiful, when music has this Disney or 60s love song style, I think it can bring people’s walls down a little bit because it’s unexpected. It’s at that point that the connection can feel so strong because you’re almost not expecting it, and you’re just washed with the beauty of what you’re hearing.
I was honestly so surprised when he had that response, but it means so much when people can respond so strongly to what you create. That’s one of the best things about music, and it’s why we do it! When you hear how people have responded to what you’ve written, and how it’s affected them, that’s the biggest gift, that’s the most rewarding part about it
Especially when music is so close to our hearts and so much about our personal journey, that when someone else can connect with that, it really feels like they understand you
It’s the most beautiful thing
What would be your dream performance environment
I love outdoor gigs and performing outside is just the best. I think that if technology allowed me to do a performance outside in the rain, that would be amazing. Something like an outdoor arena where they have gladiator fights where it’s all open at the top, with the rain coming down would be incredible!
Someone get the waterproof PA! Is there a particular thing you want to communicate overall with your music?
Being be easy on yourself and loving yourself. I hope that people can listen to my music and feel empowered in some way or see themselves in what I’m writing. When I was younger, I was very shy and I would kind of hide who I was, but music really helped me communicate my identity, and helped bring out an authentic sense of myself. If my music can be that for someone else, and if people feel encouraged to bring out the truth in themselves, that’s all I can really ask for
I think being yourself is one of the hardest things you have to learn. Existing is something you can’t ever really understand how to do, and it’s vital to be surrounded by things that can encourage you to understand yourself better. Writing music is a huge part of that, but listening and experiencing music is something that can also really help you figure out what speaks to you and what matters to you.
Exactly, and I would love to think that what I create could bring someone clarity in their own life and experiences
Do you have any advice for other emerging artists?
Don’t be afraid to experiment and just make whatever you want to! Don’t worry about making something that you think people will like or want to hear, just make things that you want to make and your vibe will attract your tribe; your people will find you so don’t overthink it too much
I think that that, again, is something we have to keep learning over and over when doing music, especially when the road to success is so convoluted and strange
Yeah, you have to really try not to compare yourself to others and their journeys. There’s no one direct path to success, and it’s so important not to get caught up in comparing yourself because your best is going to sound different to someone else’s best
You can find Jade Alice’s music from the socials below