I feel like since the dawn of time people have been writing love songs
Archer is an artist I’ve wanted to talk to for quite a while because she really openly supports so many musicians in her vicinity, and has always shown so much kindness to me. Her music is fun, honest, and able to help you forget your worries for a little while, much like being in her bubbly presence. It was such a joy to sit down with her at Willo, and though returning to social interactions has been a bit of a struggle for me post-lockdown, it was such an easy delight to sit with Emily and chat about all things music
I first started listening to your music after that wildlife fundraiser gig back in early 2020
That feels like so long ago! Though to be fair, 2020 didn’t actually happen
I totally agree, can’t remember any of it!
Well, congratulations on getting to one million streams on Spotify for Malibu!
That is a crazy number
I can’t even fathom it, I can’t conceptualise it at all. I always think of numbers like that in terms of football stadiums, like, not even the MCG is a million I don’t think?
No no no, a million is like a small country!
Maybe 1/20th of Australians have listened to my music! Though, I know that that is definitely not true
It’s funny when there’s this big number like that but you don’t necessarily consider it to be real people?
It feels like it’s just a number on a screen. It’s crazy to think that that many people have listened
You really have to remind yourself that it’s real people. It’s hard when the Australian scene is kind of insular, and you feel like if Australians aren’t listening then no one is listening. If your song is popping off in Germany thats still worth something! Is it strange to get so much support and traction from a song you released so long ago?
It is a little bit, I always hoped it would be a progression where the first one got no listeners, and the second gets a few more- but I haven’t really released enough to see a huge progression like that. ‘Malibu’ was my first song and I worked the hardest on it because it was my first release and I wanted to make a statement with it
It’s such a fun song, what did you want to communicate with it? What are you singing about?
Let me cast my mind back to 2017! I think I was in a really weird place of feeling lost, I had just come out of high school and started Uni, so that whole thing of trying to make a new group of friends- that was the headspace I was in when I was writing it. I had just come off this really toxic friendship, and it was one of those things where your friends around you see something going wrong, but you can’t see the problems. That was the situation I was in with that relationship/friendship. I don’t like to boil the song down to one specific reference though because it’s about a lot of different things that were happening for me at the time. I think my answer for this kind of question is always changing
Yeah, and I feel like when I look back on the situation more objectively then my answer is so different compared to when I was in those moments. If you had asked me this in 2018 then the answer would be so much more raw. I still relate to this song in ways- asking for help and not getting it, and viewing people and situations as better than they actually are. The song had so many weird inspirations as well- rose coloured glasses was inspired by ‘La Vie En Rose’, and I had just finished How I Met Your Mother when Christin Milioti plays that song on the Ukulele. I decided to learn the song in French, I’m not sure why, but it really inspired me for my music, and I reference it a bit in ‘Malibu’
It’s great when music is open to evolving over time, and writing is such an emotional experience and your feelings can change so much over time and songs can take on new meanings.
When you’re looking back on your feelings- when you’re outside of the bubble- you can really see what your song represents. Sometimes it feels so much clearer when you can look back on it
Do you feel like song writing is easy for you?
I used to find it really easy, but then again I would write about super mundane and boring things! Once I wrote a song about waiting at traffic lights- I was on my way to work and I was waiting at these lights and it just felt like the biggest waste of time, so one of the first songs I ever demo’d was about waiting in traffic! I find it hard to be super vulnerable and raw while being vague with the lyrics, and I like to write in a way that might not be referencing specific things. I want to be real and clear but I don’t want to upset anyone! I like when it all comes to me, but when I sit down and focus on writing things in a clever way, that’s something I really enjoy in the process
I don’t know about you, but in my recent experience I have had a lot of trouble writing in a vulnerable way. Maybe is the excess emotions of going through a global pandemic, but I kind of just don’t want to share all my deepest feelings right now, and just write about fun things!
It’s true! I think when you go deep then you can easily get lost, and sometimes what you’re saying can be a little too broad. Sometimes it stops being relatable to others because it’s kind of vague and lost in the emotions
The misconception is that if you’re broad then more people can relate, but I think songs become more relatable the more specific they are.
Even if its specific to you, it can be specific to other people too! Weird to think about it in that way
I think your music has a friendly and familiar tone- it’s about growing up, and it makes me feel like I’m watching a coming of age movie, do you think that was your intention or a bi-product of who you were when you were writing the songs?
I feel like it was a bit of both- that’s just who I was! I was fresh out of high school, I was really in the middle of those feelings. I didn’t mean for it to have a ‘coming of age’ feeling to it, it’s just what I was going through and figuring out.
There’s definitely a clear voice in your music- you were saying that ‘Malibu’ was just when you were coming out of high school, and it sounds like that. Your other songs don’t sound so much like ‘just finished high school’ tracks- I can really hear your progression as a person at the core of the voice leading the song. Let’s talk a bit about ‘Words Out’
That one is very pre-pandemic
Yes that one is in early 2019, I recorded it late December so it was a quick turn around
Tell me about this one, what is ‘Words Out’ about?
I had just entered a relationship- my first ever relationship- and I was navigating that weird territory of liking someone and trying to not be too vulnerable with them. Trying to not show them all your cards at once, but also kind of wanting to. This rock and a hard place feeling of wanting to give everything to this person but also not wanting to expose and hurt yourself- that was definitely where I was at when I wrote this track
I got the sense of needing to ask someone permission to open up to them, it’s the kind of situation where you almost want the other person to tell you that it’s okay to be vulnerable
Yes exactly! Tell me it’s okay to say that I like you! That you’re not going to run away!
I like the way the chorus is so direct,
Help me get my words out
You kind of want to shake them and say “just please ask me!”
“Let me be vulnerable and don’t hurt me!”
I’m sure it’s cathartic to write a song about feeling like you can’t express your emotions
It is! I feel like since the dawn of time people have been writing love songs- saying they love someone through a song instead of directly to them. I found this song so easy to write, I had so much to say and this song was so easy to get out. I think ‘Empty Space’ was easy for me to write too actually. All the songs I’ve released have felt easy to write because I had so much to say at the time
I think that can be the best time to write- when you have so much to say. Revisiting a song once the emotions have simmered; it can be hard to get back into the mindset. Those fresh emotions are so precious, and it’s so cool that as writers we can indulge in and commemorate those moments
I don’t know how people operate without having creative outlets! How do you get everything out? I’m so grateful that I can write, even if it’s something no one ever sees.
How do you decide what songs are ones you want to share and what songs are just for you?
How embarrassed I am by them!! I definitely have a few songs I have on private sound cloud links that I would love to share, but they are maybe too direct. They are songs that I love, but I think they are just reserved for friend and family. I have a song I’m working on now, and when I have a song that has the prospect of coming out and being on Spotify I work so hard on making every little element perfect. I want people to have the best listening experience they can possibly have, while also expressing everything I want to say. I think about the tracks I’ve released, and they feel like the only songs I’ve ever written, but I have so many tracks in the bank- but at the same time they don’t all feel like things that need to be shared at the moment. ‘Empty Space’ was a song I was sitting on forever before I released it, but it was one I knew I was going to put out- it was getting to the point where I was listening to the private link all the time – I think that’s a sign! It felt like one that people should hear but I don’t know how I exactly decide that sort of thing, it’s kind of subconscious
The production development and business side of the music industry kind of de-romanticises the music making process, so it some ways you have these precious songs and you think, “do I really want to go through all of that?” You kind of just want to show people!
There’s so many steps!
For a three minute experience!
I put in so much effort for this to be on your device, please just listen! I think people don’t really realise how many steps are involved. I used to just market a bit on Instagram and then drop the track, but now that I have a bit of experience in the industry I understand how much PR can make a difference and boost a tracks popularity. It takes a lot of time and effort just to release a song
I think PR is one of those things that’s really important, but can be really expensive and frustrating, because as an artist you want to just focus on the music but there’s so much that goes into success with music and in a release. You also have to know what success means to you, is it 100 devoted listeners or 10,000 streams?
It’s so true, and if you want to rely on your music financially then you do need to invest into it- high risk high reward. You need to put into it if you want to get out of it. Even emotionally, releasing music is so rewarding. Not every part of pursuing music is fun, there are things you just have to do to get where you want to be, and you have to look at it as positively as possible
Well let’s talk a bit about ‘Empty Space’, your most recent release, what are you communicating with this song?
I think the overall message is about trying to make something work- trying to close the gap between two people and make everything worth it. Making sure the effort that’s put in doesn’t end up being a waste of time or a waste of space in your personal timeline. I was going through a hard spot where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and if everything was worth it, and wondering if I would look back on things and feel good about it. It’s a little bit about love and a little bit existential. It’s one of my favourite tracks, I remember I wrote the chorus really quickly but the bridge took a bit of work- it wasn’t hitting the right place, but eventually it got there and I felt pretty happy with how it all came together. For the most part it all just flowed out
I felt like your vocal performance on this track was kind of emotional compared to the other two songs
I have people always telling me to use my voice more, like with ‘Malibu’ I was a little in between talking and singing. I’ve done so much singing training in my life, and people tell me to sing ‘more’. I listen to a lot of music that’s a bit of a rap-pop intersection, but I also love a song that you can belt out the chorus in the car, so I’m still trying to find my middle ground, and ‘Empty Space’ was like my middle ground. I’m trying to be more emotive and vulnerable in my singing
That came across! And I think the pop-rap intersection is definitely true for your music
And it’s so inspired by what I listen to, and I think the best thing to do is make music that you would listen to yourself! I generally try and find the middle ground between all the kinds of music that I like
What are some examples of who inspires your music?
I love Mallrat so much, when I first heard her music I went to three of her gigs within 6 months! I don’t listen to her music as much now, but I have a massive appreciation of her. ‘Uninvited’ is a song that really takes me back, she has real high school vibes in her music which I love. I can’t remember exactly what inspired me while I was writing ‘Empty Space’ and ‘Words Out’, but it was definitely listening to more band-focused music like Ocean Alley even if it’s hard to hear that kind of influence in the music! I think listening to a broader range of music has helped me draw from a lot of different places
I think it’s great how influenced you are by other Australian musicians!
It’s just so much of the landscape that I’m in, and it just relates to me so much more. I can’t relate to growing up in California or going to American high schools, so why would I listen to it? It’s fun music but I don’t find myself inspired by it
I think the last 5-10 years in Australian pop music has been so interesting in the way that its effected Australian culture. When I was growing up I didn’t know any Australian musicians, it wasn’t on my radar at all
Except Kylie Minogue!
True! But I think it’s great that Australia is really finding its own voice in the music scene and its great to see Australians doing so well in Australia and overseas. There’s so much that feels unrelatable when you consume imported American content and media, but when you’re an Australian hearing music or consuming content made here- it just feels so familiar!
I think Australian music has evolved too but there are definitely some leading players and I’d love to see the field open up a bit more. There’s so many amazing Aussie bands out there who don’t have the listener base yet. A lot of people haven’t been given the opportunity they need, but I think we are in a fresh period and I hope the floor opens up for more people for all the really diverse stuff happening. I think a lot more people are going out and supporting their local bands so I definitely think it’s possible!
I hope it happens because there is a negative side effect to living in a country that is just small! There just isn’t as many people to consume the music, but the commercial Aussie industry is still so obsessed with US and UK artists even though we have a surplus of talent here! My hope is that more of the commercial scene makes that effort to empower Aussie artists.
We should keep it all Australian!
How do you think your music has evolved or will evolve?
I think lyrically I’ve become more vulnerable- less laced in metaphors, and more accurate to how I’m feeling, and I think musically I’ve been wanting to use my voice a bit more. I think I haven’t really been thinking too much about the future, I don’t really have a 5-10 year plan for my music journey, I don’t really know where I go, and any progression is good progression I think! I think I’m in a really different headspace to when I was writing ‘Malibu’, so I think I have progressed from that style a bit. Unless you’re really trying to stay the same, you’re just bound to grow regardless.
The nature of being a musician means not knowing what the future holds and being open to being influenced by a lot of different things. I personally find it really hard to settle on a specific thing, which I think is because I like to consume so much different music! Everything I hear is something I want to do- it makes it hard to settle on a sound
There are some artists who when I look at them, it seems like their sound is pretty consistent, but there are definitely artists who are in this pop realm but their sounds change so significantly, and it feels stupid to pigeon hole an artists and assume that they aren’t going to change at all! I think a lot of people have this whole, ‘you gotta find your sound!’ thing, but I’m not going to be the same in 5 years time, so why would you expect me to make the same kind of music and make the same kind of sound? I think it’s awesome when artists can change and evolve as people and as artists
I think it’s a hard thing to do in music, because you release something like ‘Malibu’, get ONE MILLION STREAMS, and then wonder, “should I do Malibu 2.0, or the thing I want to do?” Do you find you have to deal with that kind of pressure?
I put a lot of pressure on myself! It’s always me and my own thoughts. I’m in a completely different place to where I was when I wrote ‘Malibu’, I was in this electronic-pop-clubbing scene, and I just don’t listen to that kind of music anymore. I put pressure on myself to hit that audience, but I also understand that that’s such a stupid pressure to have! Like its great that ‘Malibu’ did so well, but I hope that that’s an entry level place that gets people into the rest of my music. I like to see ‘Malibu’ as a stepping stone to the rest of my music
Making yourself happy is such an important part of the process too!
And you can’t change what people like, if you like it then that’s such a good thing. And then hopefully other people will like it too!
I think we also think that the small changes in our music are so much more drastic, but in the end people just like the music and don’t hear the subtle genre changes as much as we do
I think smaller artists have more room to grow and change their music too, there aren’t these big corporations investing millions into a specific sound they want!
It’s something that is important for musicians to remember because it’s such a precious place to be in your career. You have a lot of freedom to do what you want, there’s no label to tell you what you’re meant to do. You really have creative freedoms, even if it’s an uphill battle in a lot of other ways. It’s a special time- to have devoted people listening, without all these strings attached
And the grass is always greener! You have to be happy with what you have
It’s hard when you’re always looking at the next thing instead of enjoying where you are.
What do you feel like you listen out for when you’re listening to music?
I love listening to lyrics, I love hearing how people write what they’re trying to say. I’m really inspired by lyrics and clever structured rhymes. And as someone who has just started producing, I love to listen out for different layers and what people throw in to give the song something extra. I love when you can hear a kazoo or something a bit weird, and if you aren’t listening for it then you might not pick it up.
When you start to learn a little more about production and song writing it can really open your ears so much to what’s going on
And there’s so much that you don’t expect! When I was first learning beats I would listen to a song and notice just how intricate a percussion section might be! There’s so much going on and you don’t realise how much people think things through
It’s great when you’ve heard a song a million times, and then you notice something you’ve never noticed before
Like what!! It’s like a new song! You have this special relationship with a song you listen to a lot
Did you do much music growing up?
My parents would play a lot of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Kylie Minogue when I was growing up, and I did Australian girls choir when I was younger- I did that for a long time, and I loved learning about harmonies and vocal runs and how to control your voice. I did a lot of musical theatre too, so that storytelling and more theatrical element was a huge inspiration for me too. Even just what everyone else was listening to as school was important for my development – the top 100 and all those popular tracks. A combination of what I loved doing and what was super popular around me are what I drew from.
And how did you figure out that you wanted to do your own music?
I’m not sure what clicked, but I was probably reading an interview with some artist who said they were making beats on GarageBand, and realised I can do that! The first track I ever sent to people used this sample from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I did this lofi crackly thing, and it was so short but it showed me what I could do! I would look up tutorials and find ideas, and at the beginning I was writing these weird 7 minute songs that were kind of strangely structured. I don’t really remember that lightbulb moment, but I remember moments of being in my room, writing and really enjoying what I was doing
I think it’s great that we are living in a time where we have so much access to making music, like GarageBand is essentially free, and there’s so much help out there. Being a musician really didn’t look like this before, so we are so lucky to be able to ‘do’ music in this way
It’s so weird!!
So what’s next for your music?
Hopefully more of it! I want to produce my own track, and I hope my next track is one I do myself. I think that having every element thought out by myself will really enhance the song writing too. I also love collaborating, and now that I’m in Queensland I would love to branch out and find people in Brisbane and the Gold Coast and just make heaps of music! I had a bit of a break in 2020, so I would like to take it all a bit more seriously
It’s definitely the season for it, we’ve just come out of this year of lockdown
Yeah and such limited movement, so that’s the plan for me! Branch out, make more!