It honestly feels like it wouldn’t matter if I had all the money in the world because I would be so unhappy if I couldn’t do music
Anieszka is a person who has an infectious kindness about her, and her music has a way of deeply connecting with your emotions. Her migrative upbringing has made her a musician who draws on a myriad of life experiences, and I sat with her over zoom to discuss her influences, inspirations, and the universal worry of being sued by Disney
You’ve been releasing music over the last five years, that’s ages!
It is a while!
I was looking back on your first release ‘Fall Into You’ in 2016, what’s the evolution process been like for you?
‘Fall Into You’ was probably the first proper song that reflected the start of my journey and getting to know my musical self. Prior to that I did a house song in 2014, and at the time I felt like I was pretty young and maybe had a bit of a musical innocence about me; I didn’t really know how to express myself. It is so much to do with meeting the right producers and right people, and ‘Fall Into You’ came about really spontaneously with this producer finding me on Soundcloud, and me feeling like I could communicate what I actually wanted to do. It’s still one of my favourite songs when I listen back to it, but at the same time it’s so not who I am today! It’s got a flirty-ness and youthfulness to it, and it stands as this beautiful memory for me, but I have a much stronger sense of who I am now. When people listen to ‘Energy’ they can get a great sense of who I am and what I’m about. I think that’s the biggest evolution over my career- me feeling 100% authentic in myself
Having releases from a number of years ago is pretty special because you can see this progression with an artist and their project, and it makes them feel like more of a real person. I love looking back on the discography of an artist and seeing how they’ve changed and evolved. It’s great that the first song you released is something you still love and are proud of, because you can see the value it has and remember who you were at that time
We change a lot over time, and it’s great that in some ways our music can represent that. What artists and people influence your music, and how did you settle on your sound?
Growing up it was a lot of Alicia Keys- she’s still my number one and always will be. She has been the biggest inspiration musically and as a person. I had a big Reggae influence growing up and Mauritian as well as being born in Papua New Guinea. A big part of me finding my sound was taking those island roots and coming to embrace them. On a personal level I felt like I embraced my culture and roots, but I never knew how to bring it to life in my music. When I started the journey with ‘Fall Into You’ it was a little RnB and Soul, with a little pop, but I think I’m honestly still moulding this sound that I’m trying to create for myself. I often feel like I don’t belong in the industry with my sound, and I’m trying to carve a space for myself. I think I used to think ‘how do I fit in?’ and having artists come about like H.E.R and Alina Baraz and Snoh Aalegra who had this interesting and dynamic sound- Sabrina Claudio as well, was a huge influence. I felt like artists like that opened a door for me to start feeling like I could express myself in those softer RnB tones. When I sing live, I throw in a bit of Alicia Keys and I belt it out, and it feels like a whole different voice and style to what I release. I love that artists like Tori Kelly can belt out a song, but then have these softer intimate moments- I think that really opened up the doors and helped me feel like I could do that too
It’s like representation for your sound! When I was growing up hearing artists like Christina and Whitney belting out their songs it felt like that was the only option for women in pop music, and it wasn’t until I heard someone sing in a quieter, feminine, high-register tone that I realised there might be an audience for what I do too! We can put ourselves in a box of what we should do, and it makes it hard to figure out what we are capable of being. You were saying that those feelings made you unsure of what it meant to be what the industry ‘wants’ and what you want
It’s been a huge challenge for me, I think particularly in the Australian industry. I was putting out music and people were responding to it but it wasn’t really breaking any ground at all. People might say ‘this should be big’, ‘this should be playlisted’, but as an artist you can’t really control that. When I went over to the UK a few years ago I felt a really different vibe there, and people seemed a lot more open and receptive to my sound. When I came back to Australia I realised that I really want to bring that environment here and figure out how to create that space for myself no matter how challenging it might be. This is my home and this is who I am, and I don’t want to feel like I have to jet off to another country in order to succeed! It’s still a challenge, and some days I wonder if I can really do this, but I love those little reminders- like someone messaging you to say that your song was stuck in their head. Those reminders are like the universe saying ‘keep going! There are people who believe in you!’
Absolutely, and we can get so caught up in what success means, that we can forget that there are individual people with their own lives who are listening and enjoying our music. Seeing one single stream can feel like nothing, but if that same person messages you to say that they like your songs and it’s stuck in their head all day- that can mean everything. We’re so obsessed with social media and numbers and goals that nothing feels that satisfying, and I wonder if any artist is ever really happy when they are looking at the numbers. When people reach out and say that your music has connected with them- it’s kind of the whole point!
Exactly! And it’s so important to ground yourself because the climate of this industry and social media makes it feel like all of the importance is on playlisting and streams. It’s so hard to not compare yourself and instead just trust your own journey. The truth is that there is a path for all of us, and I really believe that there is space for all of us in this industry
I love that. It’s a hard thing to try and tell yourself because people aren’t always upfront about what’s happening behind the scenes. Listeners won’t always understand the hustle that’s behind the music, and the money and people you need to know in order to break through. It’s something that can really take over in your mind, when music is supposed to be about expression and connection.
It’s a tough career path, and you can only really make it happen if you really love it. If you don’t have that passion, that drive within you, it’s not some easy-to-follow career path; it doesn’t always feel like a secure job. Doing music is so much about love, and it’s also about sacrifice in a way too. Even little things like having a specific diet, not drinking/smoking, looking after your mind and body so you can sound your best when you sing are all part of it.
It’s the kind of journey where you always wonder if you’d be happier doing something more secure, but I think that there isn’t any version of me that’s happy where I’m not doing music
I competely agree
People tell you why getting an office job or getting a job with a secure income is important, but they don’t tell you what you lose by giving up what you love. I think the feeling of trying and failing is better than the feeling I would get from not trying at all.
Exactly, and that’s something I’ve thought about. When I was younger I felt like I had so much time to do everything, and as I get older I sometimes feel like I expected myself to be further along than where I am at the moment. Those are the moments where I think about the idea of doing something else, but I just feel so unhappy thinking about it! It honestly feels like it wouldn’t matter if I had all the money in the world because I would be so unhappy if I couldn’t do music. Writing, and recording, and connecting with people is all I want to do in life, and I think that’s how I know that it’s my path
How did you get started in music, did you grow up in a very musical family?
My dad used to sing all the time, and my older brother was really musical when we were growing up. We always had music playing in the house, and being Mauritian we always had music called Sega playing in the house. When I went to Mauritius, I noticed that live music existed everywhere, and it always has this infectious beat. I feel like it’s something that’s in my blood. I probably started singing when I was two, but it was when I was around eight years old that I started to communicate that it was something that I wanted to do. When I was 14 or 15, I released my first single in Sydney. My brother produced it and it did really well! It played on the radio, and it set a precedent for me to know what I can do. I knew that people might actually listen to my stuff. I spent a number of years figuring myself out, and trying to find what I wanted. I released an EP when I was 15, and it wasn’t really the right time for me because I a big part of me wanted to focus on being a teenager and living my life, but I was so concerned with recording and doing things that I think I didn’t really want to be doing at that time. About four years ago it felt like the right time to be doing it again
It’s great that you were able to visit Mauritius and be around a culture that really values music as a part of the identity of the people. What was it like to be around that culture compared to coming back to, and visiting Australia?
I definitely didn’t have a normal upbringing; I was born in Papua New Guinea, came to Australia for preschool, then went back to PNG and lived there until I was 11. I used to visit Australia twice a year to see my brother and sister, so Australia didn’t feel foreign to me. I think the amazing thing about growing up in PNG was that it was so cultural. I went to an international school and I was surrounded by so much culture. I was also very much rooted in my Mauritian culture. Moving to Sydney was a huge difference though. I felt like I didn’t belong for a long time which was something I had to learn to process. I think the open mindedness in terms of being culturally aware was really hard for me, but I adjusted and tried to never lose my sense of identity as a person. I learnt that I could embrace my Mauritian culture- I could bring that here even though it wasn’t around me. It was something I could teach people about, and now I’m so lucky to be surrounded by a few more people in my life and even in the industry who can relate to me. It’s such a small island so it’s harder to make ourselves known- I’ll say I’m from Mauritius and people are like “what is that, a spice??” I think when I was young I didn’t really understand how to navigate those kinds of conversations, how do I explain that I’m from a country that people don’t know exist? But I’ve always been so grateful to be Mauritian and Australian, and I went to Mauritius in 2014 and had a lot of fun releasing a house track and going on the radio and TV and magazines. I’ve always stayed true to my Mauritian side, and I’ve brought my Australian side too and learned to not push away who I am
I think that takes courage because the industry doesn’t necessarily create spaces for diverse experiences and backgrounds to flourish. It takes bravery to stick to your identity
I’ve really tried to never change or steer away from what is definitively ‘me’, and maybe that’s the difference between me being successful or not in some cases, but it’s definitely made me happier to be myself
It’s important to make a stand and communicate what’s important to you, because I think it’s something that could have easily been lost. Your identity won’t be something you struggle to reclaim years later in life because you’ve chosen to make it so much a part of what you’re doing
That’s so true, and I feel like because I was persistent in making my identity a real part of my music, people can see that and connect to it. People are seeing me for me, and it’s not something I will ever have to try and reclaim, it’s me right now. I’m glad my journey has unfolded this way
How about we talk a little bit about your EP from 2018 ‘Elixir’. I really like the overall song writing and melody writing in this work, and it has such a beautiful feeling to it. It has quite a different flavour to your more recent dancier music. I especially love the song ‘Grow’ which is such a beautiful single from this EP. Is there something that you wanted to communicate overall with this EP?
‘Elixir’ was a source of healing for me when I was writing the songs, so I wanted it to be a source of healing for people when they listened. I wanted to write something that really came from the soul, and all the songs came together really organically. A lot of the tracks were poems or notes I had written in my phone without any melodies, because I would constantly write down my ideas and feelings into my notes app. ‘Grow’ is probably one of my all time favourite songs I’ve ever written, and it’s a huge reminder for me to stay true to myself. I wanted listeners to feel like they mattered and that the universe is always looking after them. The song has a bit of that African flavour to bring in my roots which I love.
‘Fluid Gold’ is another track on there that stands out for me. I think the first time I ever heard the beat, I cried because it really transported me. That’s why I wrote about galaxies and connecting with someone on this cosmic level, and I feel like I’m still yet to come across that kind of connection.
‘Fly’ is probably the most personal song I’ve written to date, and recording it was really hard for me. My recording engineer was emotional when I was recording this song which was a beautiful surprise. I had never seen him cry before. I wrote it when I was suffering with depression and I didn’t know how to find a way out of it. I originally called the song Peter Pan because of the concept of thinking happy thoughts; you can only fly if you feel happy and have happy thoughts. I was worried I was going to get sued by Disney so I changed the name to ‘Fly’!
For me, ‘Elixir’ truly started my journey of self-awareness, and I felt born again through that EP
How awesome! It’s beautiful that you can have this moment in your life, this musical project that you can always look back on and be reminded of who you were and how you changed and evolved as a person through the process of making it. I think that’s really beautiful. I love the diversity in the songs, where tracks like ‘Loving You’ have more of a Reggae vibe and bigger production compared to some of the more minimalist songs. You’re expressing a lot of different emotions in this EP. Did you feel at all hesitant before releasing something so personal like ‘Fly’?
I feel like throughout the whole process of putting ‘Elixir’ together, I felt like I was in a dream. I wasn’t even thinking about myself in the whole process of putting it together. With ‘Fly’, I was like, this is for anyone who’s gone through depression, which I know a lot of people have, and I wanted them to know that they can get out of it. You don’t have to stay in that place. It’s hard when you’re in it and you feel like there’s no way out. I just hoped this song could reach people, and crazily enough, people reached out to me about that song and it made me so emotional! If someone connects with my songs or someone tells me that my music helped them in some way, it hits hard in the best of ways. I was suffering alone, and ‘Fly’ really gave me the courage and support I needed, and the fact that people connected with it- I was just blown away. I didn’t even know people would listen to it! I’m so happy I put it out there. When I listen back to it, it’s not the best vocal delivery I’ve ever done, but it’s got so much emotion in it that I didn’t even care at the time
You can revisit that song and remind yourself that you got through something hard and that you can get through the next thing in your way. It’s great that you put all this feeling and emotion into a song that was able to encourage you personally, and to feel the support from people who were also encouraged by that song. How nice is it when people reach out and say that they like your music?
It’s literally overwhelming! I’m generally a pretty grateful person, but when a stranger reaches out to tell me they like my music, my gratitude is on overload! It’s a whole different feeling. I want to tell them that it’s all for them! It’s all yours, take it, embrace it, express with it, whatever you need to do.
I wonder if we’re a little bit starved of that sort of interaction with people because we are so focused on showing the best of ourselves or acting like we’re constantly succeeding and achieving things. I think encouraging each other and encouraging the musicians you look up to makes a huge difference at such little effort! Especially with our peers. We don’t need to act like we are in competition with each other
Exactly, and I think we can often not reach out because there is a sense of needing to compete sometimes or some sort of anxiety or insecurity. But once you get over that, and you can come from a place of love, you realize that the more love you give, the more love surrounds you. I love sharing everyone’s work on my stories and uplifting people around me because I think these simple acts of love and support are so important. Sometimes, one thing we say or do could be the thing that helps someone get over the barriers that they place for themselves.
I want to talk about some of your more recent releases because you’ve worked with a couple of producers. Do you find you enjoy the collaboration process?
I do! When I went to the UK two years ago I met ‘Dat Gruvee’ who I’ve worked with on ‘Energy’ and ‘When Will This Begin’, and that was a beautiful process for me. I’m very grateful to share such a strong connection with him on a personal level, and we clicked straight away. When we got to the studio and I wrote ‘When Will This Begin’ the writing process only took me 10 minutes which was pretty crazy. ‘Energy’ was all done through distance and it was hard for Dat Gruvee and I to not be in the same room together but it all came together so beautifully in the end. When you can connect with someone and you want to work together often, it’s a rare find.
It’s so great when you can also share the burden of releasing something with another person, and you can feel like there’s someone else with you watching the streams tick by, or get play listed, or having the song be noticed- that can be a really special experience, and it’s so nice when you can share all of that with someone else.
Exactly, and I’m really lucky Dat Gruvee has been such a close friend to me, we pick up the phone and call each other and stay in contact. I think the hardest part about working long distance is that you don’t get to share and celebrate together in that way- you miss that human connection. I’m so grateful I can work with someone on the other side of the world, but it makes me miss spending time with them in real life!
I think it’s amazing when we can make stuff with people who literally live thousands of kilometres away. Blows my mind!
It’s such a blessing.
I would love to talk a little bit about ‘Energy’. What are you communicating with this song?
I use the word ‘energy’ constantly in my day to day life, and everyone who is in my life knows that about me! When I was figuring out what to write about, the word energy just kept coming to me. I had to figure out what it is that I was going to write about, like what kind of energy? What am I trying to say? I wanted it to feel like experiencing the energy of what’s around you and the people you encounter, no matter what’s going on with you. I felt that with people I’ve met along my travels who I still remember to this day, I can still feel their energy, it feels like they are still here with me. It feels like there’s this undeniable energy that draws us together, and even if your relationships change, if the person feels positive to you, then you will always want that person in your life. I think that’s something important to pay attention to- your feelings around certain people. If you don’t feel good around someone, and you aren’t connecting with their energy, then you don’t need to be around them! It’s good to pay attention to who makes you feel good, and keep those people around you
I love the idea of making that effort to pay attention to how people feel around you, because it can be easy to not notice how different things are affecting your mood and affecting your spirit. It seems simple but if you notice you feel anxious around someone all the time, then try and limit your time with them. It’s easy to compromise and overlook your feelings in order to be polite. You need to surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself because otherwise what’s the point?
Literally! And that’s what I wanted to communicate with ‘Energy’. I knew the word energy would stick in people’s minds when they listen to it and that’s why I’ve repeated it so much throughout the song. I think it’s a good thing to put the things that are important to you into your songs, and feeling peoples’ energy and their effect on me is something important to me. For me, energy isn’t just about the people you spend time with, it’s what you watch, what you listen to, who you interact with, what you feel like in your job, how you feel after eating certain foods. I think it’s important to notice these things and hopefully make changes in your life because otherwise they will deeply effect you. You give yourself so much more space to flourish and make space for goodness to enter your life when you get rid of what’s making you unhappy. We have a lot of things around us that are blocking good energy, and I want everyone to feel good, be happy and ‘live their best life’!
I love that. I’ve found I’ve had to make a better effort to really switch on when consuming things around me, and to listen more closely to music or a movie, or even the food I eat. You have to notice things around you and make the choice to feel deeply. It makes us human to experience and feel things
Exactly, and I think that everything that was happening last year made it so easy to want to switch off and not feel anything. I felt like I wasn’t wanting to be close to the people around me, and that’s not what living is about. It’s part of being human to live and love and get hurt and pick yourself up. It’s important to feel things.
I think that’s great, and I think your passion for what you’re communicating in your music is something that people can really connect with
I always write from my experiences or from something very personal because it’s authentic to me. I never want to write about something that’s not real just because it’ll make a ‘cool song’. Whenever I try and write casually or write something that is only supposed to be catchy and have no depth, I struggle! I really respect people who can because they can make for good songs too, I think I personally connect so much more with music that has depth and rawness to it.
I’ve loved listening to your newest track with Chelsea Warner! Tell me a bit about what ‘Presence ’ is communicating
Thank you! Being present is something I really value in my life- no phones, no distractions. During lockdown last year I realised how much I valued that exchange of energy between people. I’ve always loved talking about meditation and clearing your mind to focus, and when Chelsea and I first started chatting we realised it was something we both really cared about. I think a lot of people have really suffered in this last year, and I wrote this song when I really needed a moment to realise that everything is okay- in this present moment I’m alive, I’m healthy, and I’m okay. Focusing on that in the present moment can bring a lot of solace, and I hope people feel that when they listen to this song.
I think that sentiment is life-saving at times like this. The nature of being in a lockdown experience is all encompassing and it’s so hard to break away from it and take a moment to be present and not be so consumed by everything going on. I love that this song is a breath, and allows you to have a break. It’s such a beautiful world you and Chelsea have created, and I love the intimacy of your vocal performance- so similar to the artists you were saying you’re inspired by. What was the writing process like with Chelsea?
It was a lot of fun! Chelsea and I have become really good friends throughout the whole process, and it felt really effortless. The first session was so- I can’t even explain it, it was so beautiful. She’s so open to listening and offering her gifts, and it really felt like I had space to bring my gifts forward too. I said to her that I really wanted an African fusion in there somewhere and she put this beautiful African vocal sample in the track. She was just so good at developing these little ideas I had, and I think we really meshed well together. She suggested that I do some low register vocals, which isn’t something I’ve shown a lot of in my music thus far, and it was really cool for me to explore that when coming up with the vocal melody. It’s truly special when you create with someone and they bring out these hidden parts of you because you feel safe to do so.
It’s a huge display of mutual respect to feel comfortable to experiment and try new thing with your creative process. It really feels like you gel well together, and this song definitely feels like both of you in a lot of ways! Chelsea still has such a strong voice in this track, and it blends so well with your style
It’s a blessing when it feels effortless to create with someone, and you feel like part of your soul is a part of what you make together
To have a connection that goes beyond the music is so beautiful! They become lifelong friends. Chelsea is such an expert at bringing your ideas forward while also encouraging something new and out of the box.
It takes real genuine talent to do that! I feel like that with each release, I’m becoming more ‘me’ and less afraid to say what I want to say
Why do you think it feels or has felt hard to do that sometimes?
I think sometimes it feels like the industry here demands you to write or sound a certain way in order to get the playlisting, or the radio airplay. For a long time I battled with that concept, for me music is a complete flow and I realised being able to express and create based on the actual art rather than the technicalities is what it’s all about for me. I hope ‘Presence’ can reach high heights of success, but I also know that the right people will hear it and having that belief in my art is essential for me. For ‘Presence’, I wanted to talk about a topic that probably isn’t deemed too popular lyrically, but it means something to me and I know that for a lot of people it’ll resonate. I think believing in that instinctual feeling to make this a single and that it has a power to it is incredibly important. It doesn’t fit the mould, but that’s completely okay because it’ll do what it needs to do. And I love it!
And going into a song writing session with ‘okay it has to be 3 minutes, has to be 120 bpm, has to be in a key for people to easily sing along to, simple hook, simple lyrics’- it can make the process seem so formulaic and inexpressive, and can stop you from creating what you want. I think the Australian music industry celebrates a particular kind of sound, and there isn’t a lot of allowances for anything outside of that. I love your sentiment that the right people will find it and appreciate it
Exactly, and when I created ‘Presence’ with Chelsea, the process was so much about discussing what we wanted from the song- what was the output? What was the purpose? What are we trying to say? We didn’t have these predetermined boundaries, I had these lyrics and we wanted to encompass this grounding feeling. Sometimes you can be so happy with a piece of work, and when it comes to the politics of it all it can be really hard! But we didn’t have any of that for ‘Presence’ and it led to a special song. I’m really in this manifestation mindset, thinking positively, and believing that it will reach the right people. It doesn’t need to be anything more than what it is for it to feel successful to me. Wherever it reaches- I’m happy.
I think that’s the right mindset to have with music, you can easily break your own heart when you only strive for the very top of success. You can have these small wins and be blind to them if you’re only focusing on the festival slot, or the radio rotation, or the award nomination- whatever it is.
Those things take time!
What would be your dream collaboration?
I’m going to say I’d love to write with Alicia Keys, or sing on a beat produced by KAYTRANADA. That would be such a dream!
Such legends! What do you think it is about those artists in particular that draws you to them?
Alicia Keys speaks a lot of truth in her music. Her music is light, and you feel every single word she expresses. She has such beautiful melodies, and her lyrics have depth to them. I think I connect with her on many levels. KAYTRANADA is just- I’m blown away by anything he releases! He mixes a plethora of sounds, and most of his releases are on repeat for me. They’re both very inspiring and I know one day I’ll work with at least one of them! Imagine that? I would be ecstatic!
Peak of existence! What would be the dream performance environment for your music?
Wow, that’s a good question. It definitely wouldn’t be a stadium. I don’t know, I don’t feel like I’m that kind of artist? I think when I was younger I thought I wanted to be that, but I think I would just love to perform in a space where people could can connect. I want to connect with as many people as I can, but keep it intimate at the same time. I’d set it up with specific colours and have an acoustic vibe to my set, and really take people on a journey. Maybe lots of greenery and plants and create a space where people can vibe, and everyone feels a strong connection to me and the music; I think that’s the most important thing to me. Also, great acoustics, where my voice surrounds the place, that would be amazing.
It’s nice when you can have a live performance and genuinely feel like you’re connecting with the people around you. It can be really intimidating to be on stage and feel open enough to actually have that connection with people. I think that takes a lot of confidence
Those performances where you have that strong connection are the ones that really stand out! When I did my launch night for ‘Elixir’, it was like a fraction of what I just described to you, but it was so beautiful. Everyone was pretty much in tears by the end of it because it was so intimate and it was me completely baring my soul! That was a big moment for me, and I’d love to always feel that kind of energy.
Do you have any bits of advice for other emerging artists?
Always stay true to yourself and what you feel your sound is. If I was told that years ago it would have really helped me on my journey. Always take the time to get to know yourself, and to get to know how you want to express yourself and what you want to say. When you do that, you’ll be proud of the things you create. And don’t put so much pressure on yourself! That something I’m still trying to remember. If you need five months to write one song, then that’s fine! Don’t blind yourself with other people’s expectations all the time, but strive to improve, to work better and to learn without being afraid to fail. Just keep on doing, learning and growing.
I love that. I think that’s the kind of advice that you really need to accept as a truth for yourself, because it seems so simple, but it’s actually really hard to live out
You have to remind yourself that this is your purpose! That’s been a huge driving force for me to keep going
When people listen to your music, what do you want them to walk away feeling?
Inspired. I’d love for them to feel lighter, a sense of healing and like my music is a moment of openness for them.
Do you feel like that’s what you want to stand for as a musician as well?
Definitely. Not being afraid to be who I am, and connecting with people through my music is the biggest thing! I want to connect and go through journeys and be human and not be entirely focused on just being an ‘artist’, or a certain kind of image. That’s not me. I’m human and I am myself in my own right, but I’m also similar to many of the people who listen to my music. Sharing those similarities and not being afraid to connect on those levels is really important to me. I want people to feel like I see them, like really see them. They matter to me and music is me communicating with them.
Everyone we interact with is another human being with their own lives, and they can connect with our music, but they have their own identity. I know that’s something I rarely think about
And music can be whatever you want it to be to you personally. I want my music to be like a friend to people- like an entity that someone can turn to and they can heal through. Someone they can connect with and reminisce with. That’s what I want it to be.
You can check out Anieszka’s music from the links below