Australian-based Wergaia/Wemba Wemba woman Alice Skye crafts beautiful, hopeful and shimmery, introspectively themed yet relatable pop songs. She wears her heart on her sleeve as she explores identity, family and personal growth, reflective in latest singles ‘I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good’ and ‘Grand Ideas’ taken from her forthcoming album. Gimmie spoke to Alice about ‘Grand Ideas’ just before it dropped, she also gave us a little insight on what’s to come.
How’s your day been?
ALICE SKYE: Pretty nice, it’s really good weather where I am. This morning I’ve just been doing some songwriting sessions with a couple of young people, which is not something that I usually do. It’s been a pretty good day, a productive one! What about you?
I’ve been doing other interviews. I spend most of my days listening to new music and researching.
AS: It sounds pretty good.
I wanted to start by asking you; why is music important to you?
AS: I feel like I should know the answer straight away to this… as a kid it was a way that I figured out you can express feelings through it, that’s why I find it soooo important. I guess sometimes it’s hard to do that communicating… or it helps you identity a feeling you’re having by listening to a song like, aww yeah, I feel those things! Also, it can be the opposite thing and be an escape and you can listen to something that takes you out of your mind or you can listen to something that puts you in your mind, which are two great things to be able to do just by listening to something.
Totally. I understand that a little while back you were going through a phase of listening to ‘90s music from No Doubt, The Breeders, Garbage…
AS: Aww yeah. I always return there every so often, seasonally. Being in isolation and spending a lot more time on my computer, I’ve just been going down rabbit holes like that again and listening to heaps of early Silverchair. I love that time in music, I think a lot of people do, especially because I was born in the mid-90s, it was in my sphere.
I grew up listening to that stuff as well.
AS: Yeah, pretty formative years.
What is it that you love most about singing?
AS: It’s a weird thing. I have a pretty up and down relationship with it. Sometimes I love it and sometimes I don’t want to do it, it’s like anything I guess. I feel most happy when it’s using it as a cathartic thing… I’m not really a thrill seeker or anything but, singing gives me that release I guess people get from other things, that’s why I love it.
You’re set to release new single ‘Grand Ideas’. What I’ve got from it is that thematically it’s an escape from one’s self and the ideas we build to break from our thoughts within; what led you to this idea?
AS: It’s really nice when a song comes together all at once, it was one of those moments where the lyrics and the chorus: everything I have is too heavy to hold / everything I do feels out of my control… it was like, saying that and feeling that. Feeling really overwhelmed by things and ideas, hopes, different things we carry with us a lot from childhood or now, pressures you put on yourself. I was feeling a bit crazy and I just wanted to write about it. I feel lucky I can use that to get through those feelings.
You’ve said that songs from your last album Friends With Feelings was you trying to work out your identity; what’s your forthcoming album about?
AS: I’m hoping that it will show growth since I wrote my first one, maybe a bit more of an idea of who I am and what I want to say. I think a lot about identify still, it’s just something that I’m going to gradually get to know more and that’s constantly changing, there’s still themes of that in the next album. More of an up-to-date version of it because they’re more recent and feel more relevant to me. There’s a lot of different things on there but all from the same year. They feel like they belong together.
In relation to your identity; what are the things that you’re dealing with?
AS: There’s themes of that in ‘Grand Ideas’ because I wrote it when I was on my way home from seeing a new therapist and like… I’m going to work on myself and do the things that people do, and then people can put labels or give those diagnoses and things that you’re not too sure if it fits you. Learning more things about yourself and having other people pitch in on that and trying to grapple with that and like; how do I see myself as compared to how other people see myself. Sorry that’s such a strange answer.
Nah. I see a therapist myself… I think a lot of people do. I think it’s good to talk about these things and normalise them a bit more. Getting help is a good thing!
AS: Yeah, absolutely. It feels weird to talk about it but its fine, honestly it’s great! A lot of my friends and I talk about it. I wrote that song around that time because I’d just seen one of those therapists that you don’t necessarily get along with too well and you think, actually that’s not me… also, though trying to take in some of the advice.
I know that for me finding my identity – my family is Indigenous as well and I’m mixed-race – I’m dealing with sometimes not being black enough for the black kids or white enough for the white kids, you’re in that weird in between place…
AS: Yeah, totally! For First Nations People in this country, and the world, it’s hard enough figuring out who you are as a person but also having an identity where people publicly question, whether in the news or politicians or whatever, that’s a whole other thing to navigate that can be really hard and really confusing. In my first album I was really beginning to understand that and talking about it more, now I feel a lot more confident in who I am as an Indigenous Person. It’s hard when people are discussing it that don’t even know you.
Absolutely! Was there anything that helped you develop that confidence?
AS: Talking about it. Having songs out there and having to talk about the songs got me to do that more. Growing up in a small predominately white town, it wasn’t something that I talked about outside of my family really because I felt I couldn’t or I didn’t have ownership over that. It’s really different now that I’m having conversations about it a lot more. The more you say it the more you feel it and now it’s not such a big unknown in my life, I guess.
Is there a core theme to the new album?
AS: I don’t know. I feel like it’s something that I sometimes wish I had going into recording but I really just write from what’s happening at the time. It’s the last year and a half for me and what’s been going on. There’s a lot of different things in there.
Were there any particular moods or emotions you were writing from?
AS: Lots! Sometimes frustration, sometimes sadness, but sometimes comfort and content as well. Even at the moment with everything going on with Covid-19, I think I’ve been feeling better and worse at the same time about not being able to do things… feelings like that—things being better but worse! [laughs].
Previously you’ve commented that with writing this album you’ve been thinking about music differently; in what ways?
AS: I recorded this one with my band that I’ve been touring with for the last four or five years. I didn’t do the first one with them, I did that alone. It was a different approach to the recording having people with me and being able to bounce ideas off each other… also, I think because how I naturally approach songwriting, it’s usually quite stripped back and sparse and moody, it was fun to play with different options; to play with different elements of different genres rather than sticking to just one.
Nice! Do you write most of your music on guitar or piano?
AS: Mostly on piano. I play with a guitarist and a drummer so sometimes they’ll help me in how to figure something out if I don’t play that instrument.
Is there a song on the new album that has a special significance for you?
AS: Quite a lot of them [laughs]. There are quite a few about my family and relationships with family. Those songs are quite important to me because family are great and also a tricky thing. It’s nice to be able to write through those things. There’s a few songs on there about my family, I wrote them down in the Grampians where I am now. Those ones feel quite special, the ones that were written at home.
That’s where you grew up?
AS: Yeah, yeah.
You’ve won so many awards already including, the Emerging Artist Award at the 2019 Australian Women in Music Awards and the inaugural First Peoples Emerging Artist Award; what award has meant the most to you?
AS: It always feels nice to get the support and recognition from different people and different things whatever it is. A few years ago, the International Women’s Day Award got me a lot of opportunities, with Bakehouse Studios in Melbourne and that’s still a relationship that I have now, it essentially introduced me to the label that I’m on now. A lot of things came from that, I feel really grateful to have kept that relationship.
It’s awesome that you’re on the Bad Apples Music label now!
AS: Yep, I feel very well looked after!
What do you like to do outside of music?
AS: At the moment, because I haven’t been travelling around much, which has been kind of nice, I’ve just been indulging in that extra spare time. Trying to pick up things I used to do, making some clothes and printmaking at my mum’s place; not super successfully but it feels nice to tap into old hobbies again.
The art for your album was done by artist Aretha Brown; how did you feel when you first saw the large piece she did for you?
AS: Aww so special! I was so grateful that she said “yes” when I asked. She took a lot of care to ask me what I hoped for it. I love it! I can’t wait to release the next portion of it. The one that’s out so far is a quarter of it… there’s a whole other image around it. I can’t wait for the whole thing to be out, it’s beautiful!
You’re releasing a bit at a time with each single, right?
AS: Yeah. She’s so talented. Very grateful.
[The title of the first single ‘I Feel Better But I Don’t Feel Good’] That’s probably the main theme [of the album] really.
When you’re not feeling so great is there anything that you do to lift your mood?
AS: Yeah, different things work for different days. I love… it’s probably terrible, I wish I was someone that meditated but I don’t, I just throw myself into being distracted, that’s either playing music or watching shitty TV or doing something outside—sometimes good, sometimes not so good.
What’s something you’ve seen lately that’s been really beautiful?
AS: A lot of my friends have really shown up and done amazing things during this time. I have friends that have a restaurant in Melbourne and they’ve been doing meals for free for people that need it or making boxes of groceries and donating them to people and delivering them to those that can’t get out or can’t work. It’s nice when you see people from your community doing things, it makes you feel like we’ll be ok, even if things or the government aren’t looking after us. We have good community around us!