I’ve had a couple of Ms. D’s tracks on my playlists over the last few months, and have really loved the chill flavour she has injected into her music. I sat down with her and we chatted all about her 2020 releases, music history, and inspirations
‘Dusty’ has been out for a little while now, It’s such a chill vibe, how was it developed?
So Dusty was written during my last relationship, and at the time it just felt like I needed more- like the relationship was okay but it wasn’t really what I wanted. It’s hard when you’re with someone who is really nice and you have fun with who just isn’t really ‘emotionally’ right for you. We went out for almost two years, and saying goodbye to him was difficult for me, so I started writing this song. I was actually doing my make up in front of a mirror that used to sit on my window. And that’s where I got the lyric,
dusty shades of eye shape size
I was trying to do a smoky eye or something, and just thought ‘I can’t do this!’, and I thought about how it’s funny how we try and mimic nature in everything that we do. After that the lyrics and chords just sort of came together
Do you find that your writing process is pretty organic like that, or do you have to really fight songs to get finished?
It’s always organic like that, and I can’t do anything if I’m not in the mood for it. Sometimes I find I need to get away from my room and find inspiration somewhere else, like there was a time where I jumped on a train to Wollongong and walked around Wollongong for like six hours- I got ridiculously sunburned, but I came back with a lot of lyrics and ideas! That kind of thing really helps me feel refreshed
That’s so cool- beside the burning alive part- how does your lyric writing help you process your own emotions?
It really feels like the final excretion of what you need to get out
It’s nice when you can organize those thoughts into a pretty song as well. Monetize your pain!
Yeah and sometimes it’s not pretty! I’ll read back over something that I’ve written and I’m like, what the hell is that?!
Yeah, or you write something really dramatic and then you read it later like, get over it
Exactly! Drama queen
How did you get started with music?
I got my first guitar when I was seven, and I never really thought about learning an instrument before. I was like, this is cool, I can play smoke on the water. I had a really cool guitar teacher, and from there I just kind of fell in love with it. I’ve met a lot of really cool people, and I was involved in this thing called School of Rock, where you get into groups of people and just write songs together. I moved to Newtown and that’s when things kicked off for me. I was in a band with my drummer Max who’s my best friend, and that was really the beginning of music for me. I think performing live with friends and knowing everybody in the audience- that’s such an unreal feeling
When did it feel right for you to do your own project?
Yeah, well the band ended, which is fair enough, and it was a good time to call it quits. I had quite a lot of songs that I’d written by myself, but I’ve never really fiished them or knew what to do with them. I did this course and started learning how to use Ableton and actually record my things that weren’t just voice memos on my phone. Then I met Dan Natoli at Kilm Studios, and we just clicked from the get go. I’ve never met somebody as nice and as knowledgeable as him. He’s one of those people where you’re like- what’s the catch here? Why are you so nice! Everything’s just been so easy from there, we made Puppy and then we worked on Dusty. I’m doing some stuff with the band and I just feel so settled and happy with how music is now. I’m not trying to push for anything, but I feel like I’m on the path that I want to be on.
I think like a big part of doing music is about following your instincts wherever they take you, and balancing what you want to do with what might be a smart business move- that constant struggle.
And getting to the point where you can quit your day job!
What made what made ‘Puppy’ feel like a good first release for this project?
I wrote ‘Puppy’ about my best friend, and I related him and myself to my dog who has separation anxiety issues. I look at my dog and I’m like, I feel that! I relate to you! The song was really easy to write, it just all came out one day and I sat down and wrote it all until it was done. When I was developing it with Dan it just sounded so pretty with all the harmonies. It was a song that just felt so right- like there was nothing I wanted to change. I’ve never really had that level of contentedness with my music before, it’s always felt like something could have been better, but with Puppy I was just completely happy with it.
Did you feel like it took a while to figure out what sound you wanted?
It was easy for me to know what I wanted, it’s more difficult defining it. People like, ‘hey, what genre are you? Like singer-songwriter? ’ That can be a hard question to answer sometimes.
Whatever suits your playlist! I feel like a lot of the genre names that we have to define ourselves as can be pretty unhelpful. I’m electronic-pop-indie-RnB, can we just invent a new word please?
An acronym maybe! An emoji!
What kind of bands have influenced your sound and your writing?
Daughter was a huge one for me, and I did a lot of covers by her back in high school. Someone like Amy Winehouse too and Hiatus Kaiyote- absolutely love them
I think it’s musician law to love them!
They’re all just so talented and Nai Palm just creates the most amazing music with her band. It’s so cool.
What was it abut Daughter that really inspired you when you were in high school?
The pain, all of her pain. Yeah, I was just so screwed up back then and I needed an outlet. Everything that she was saying, it was just exactly what I was feeling. I listened to heaps of Radiohead as well. I love Radiohead so much. Growing up, there was so much that I needed to express that I just couldn’t get out. I felt like I choked with words, and I couldn’t play guitar very well- I felt so stuck and those bands really helped me get it all out of me. Even if the music was simple or only a few words, it just helped me express so much of what was inside.
I think those developmental years in high school, when you’re 14, 15, music is so important in that time of your life- it completely helps you figure out what you’re feeling. It’s wild that we can make music and have it maybe be important in someone else’s life- someone we may never meet.
Yeah, I can’t think about that! It’s overwhelming to think about how my music might affect the world. When somebody says your lyrics back at you, it’s like I start malfunctioning! I just don’t know what to do
It’s so surreal. We’re all the same world and we all have such similar specific experiences, especially around relationships. It’s amazing how much someone can directly relate to your experiences. Why do you feel like honesty is so important when it comes to songwriting?
I value trust so much, and my trust has been broken so many times. I feel like you just have to be honest- you have to be honest with yourself and you have to be honest with everybody, because what’s the point of faking it? Being genuine is important
It takes courage to write something that is truly an honest representation of your feelings, have you struggled with that?
I used to get scared about singing my songs, and I wanted to change some of the words because I was too ashamed to sing something that might be depressing! But I could never change them, you write them a certain way for a reason.
It’s funny because you can write these really honest songs that feel so pointed, and a lot of people just don’t notice them anyway! I put my heart and soul into this, you should ask me if I’m okay!
My drummer really listens to the words because he uses them as vocal cues for where he’s meant to do something, and he’ll be like, ‘these lyrics man, you should be kept inside padded walls’
Do you feel like your songs take on much of an evolution when you bring him to your band mates, and over the process of performing?
Yes and no. Working with Dan and my band, they really get it, they know me so well and they understand what I want. They can add the right amount of flavor, and they can play things exactly how I planned it
Do you feel like you have a pretty clear vision for what you want everything to sound like, or do you rely on other people being creative in certain spaces?
I’m lucky enough to have really talented people to work with, and they fill the spaces that need filling. For the most part, I know what I want and when something needs a little space. Max is such a talented drummer, and he is the only drummer that I ever wanted to drum with. I gotta hold onto him while it lasts! When you find someone you love working with, their style is all you here and want, like whenever I play my songs, I always hear how he would drum.
It’s great when you have a team around you that support because it makes it so much more fun, and it’s great to share that enjoyment
And have people play your music and actually like it! That’s the thing, anyone can play along to something or do their part, but when they enjoy it, and when they’re really getting into it, it just takes it to a whole new level.
Do you feel like you have to navigate many feelings of self-doubt when it comes to music?
Who doesn’t? If they don’t, they’re lying. How do you know if anyone likes what you do? Everything that you do is open to somebody else’s interpretation. You have no idea how they’re going to take it
I feel like we really benefit off people being generally polite, because if someone told me they hated my music, I really don’t know what I’d do!
I know I always doubt myself and if people like what I’m doing our putting out there
In the end, I suppose we just have to give it a go and not care about peoples opinions
It’s like our parents, they have no idea how to be parents, nobody gives them a book. There’s no right or wrong way to parent, you’re just a product of your environment. They were taught by their parents, and at the end of the day, your parents teach you the basics of life, and then from there you have to figure it out on your own. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I had to come to a point where I could accept them and realize I did my absolute best. I think that’s all you really can do you know? You can only do the best that you can do
I feel like we’re so not willing to be honest with each other about how hard it is to exist, and how hard it is to even do music. The behind the scenes isn’t usually shown.
You put your heart and soul into something, and then somebody lets you down or pulls the rug out from underneath you, and then you lose all sense of yourself. You don’t want to be naïve, but you want to hope people have your best interest, but they often wont
No one owes you anything which is hard to realise
A lot of people just want your money. Like, Hey, ‘I really love your page, you can pay me $1200, And I’ll put your stuff on a Spotify playlist’
It’s such a tough thing to navigate
You just got to keep making mistakes until you find the right way. You just got to keep learning, and screwing up
Who do you think would be your dream collaboration?
Probably Jaala or Nai Palm
What is it about them that draws you in?
Jaala is so cool, I saw her live at Newtown social club before it closed.
Rest in peace
It was a good last gig for that venue for me. She’s just- she’s insane. She’s so good at what she does. And she’s so honest on stage. Nai Palm is like that too- so raw and honest and genuine, and her voice is so calming.
I love the way that Nai Palm approaches her melodies. She always does the unexpected thing, but it still feels so right. It just sounds like she has so much fun when she’s singing.
When she plays it’s like her voice and her guitar are both complementing each other but doing completely different things.
They’re both amazing musicians, I can tell that you’re influenced by them, especially with ‘Dusty’. Do you feel like you get much industry pressure to do something that’s going to be successful in a certain way, or do you feel really set in doing what makes you happy?
I feel there’s a lot of people in the industry that post lots of sexy pictures, and they’ll get heaps of likes from it, and it stops becoming about the music. I feel some kind of pressure to take a nice photo of myself and just put it online. But I can’t do that, I don’t take selfies or anything like that, I’m not going to prance around in a bikini and post it and say listen to my new track. I’m actually working on a little social experiment for my next one with the band, it’s called soaked and bound. And I’m going to get myself tied up in shabari. And, have be like all roar and sexy or whatever, and see how that goes. And then post the insights and how they’ve drastically gone up, because you’ve just shown a little bit of skin and it’s sexy are out there. So just a photo of the sunset with the word dusty on it.
I think something that I had a lot of personal insecurity with going into music was that everyone I was saying he was successful, was also so hot and thin, and like, models, like, they do their music, but then they would also have a campaign with some fashion company or makeup company or something. And I was just like, I like doing music, but I can’t do that.
You’re super hot, and you’re talented. What am I meant to do?
Yeah, it’s tough, I think especially for women in industry, that’s like the baseline. I guess. You can’t just be good at music. There’s pressure, that you’re good at music and you’re also really photogenic and beautiful. And all of these extra boxes, which I don’t think men have to take, because I don’t think men have this pressure to look a certain way to be successful in music. Like it helps if a guy’s like hot or whatever, but it’s not actually made or break. Whereas for someone who isn’t unconventionally attractive, that’s like, a part of the image of this of brave, or whatever.
It’s just silly. That’s why I think it’s so hard for women because you got to be everything. You got to be something more. You can’t just make cool music. Because when somebody listen to you, you’re not hot or you have underarm hair, your beard.
It’s all these extra hoops that you have to jump through just so people can afford you the same time that they would afford a man for no reason.
They can just post a photo or something. And people will be like, Oh, that’s a really cool photo of a sculpture with no arms. But then you see the person who makes the beats and you’re like, he’s not attractive. But look, he’s doing so well.
That’s frustrating. Do you Feel like you allow yourself to say you’re a producer?
I just don’t feel like I could put a label on what I do because I’m not that great. Like I’m winging it a fair bit. I’ll be honest. I did guitar lessons for probably like, two years, learn how to play smoke on the water. And then the rest. I taught myself on the internet. Same with Ableton, I did an Ableton music course. And I was in a class with amazing people. I had sticky fingers in my class. But I didn’t really try because I felt so disheartened because it was so cool. So, then I had to just teach it all to myself. I wouldn’t call myself a producer, but I am because I produce my own music, but then I do take it to an audio engineer.
What do you feel like you want to communicate overall, with your music and with what you’re writing?
Just give some kind of clarity to myself, and to anybody else who’s listening. Just put it out there and just make somebody feel good. It just feels so good to put something out there, and it makes me feel like I’m not alone. It makes me feel like I’ll be okay, that it doesn’t matter if you hate yourself, or if your life is complicated, music can just help you feel and understand yourself
I don’t really know how I would understand myself if I didn’t have music to help me figure that out.
I don’t think it’d be alive if I didn’t have music, to put it plainly. I honestly don’t think I would be. It’s like somebody else is just saying everything that you need to say. It’s perfect.
I think there’s so much visceral connection you can have when you hear a song that is saying everything that you’re feeling. That’s something that can make you feel so much less alone. There’s something about a stranger singing the things that you’re feeling that makes you feel like so much less alone in the world
Because it’s just completely a third party. They don’t know you; you don’t know them. But they figure it out for you, or they make you feel how you’re meant to feel. And it feels great.
Do you have any advice for other emerging artists?
Surround yourself with good people. Be naïve, but don’t trust anybody to the full extent. You know, just do your best!