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You’re in Melbourne right now – what are you
doing over there?
Well, I just landed and I’m currently in my partner’s
kitchen, waiting to be fed. I’ve had a small sip of wine,
and I’m about to do an interview. But in general, I’m
in Melbourne for writing, developing concepts for my
next videos, and, just because I can, a few regional
shows to keep myself sharp.
You’re from the regions yourself, in Bunbury. What’s
it like when you play there?
I was born in Perth but I grew up in Bunbury, so it definitely
feels like going back to my childhood home when I go there.
I really enjoy watching the city developing into this vibrant
cultural hotspot. There’s a lot of great art, a lot of great kids.
You’ve had a bit of a change with your music lately,
from real rock ’n’ roll to a more electro sound. What
was behind that?
My favourite artists are all fairly mercurial in the way they
deliver their messages. For me, I thoroughly enjoy rock ’n’
roll and I still play a number of songs from that era in my
set, but I’m a constantly evolving person – to make the
same music over and over again would be like a filmmaker
making the same film over and over. Currently, I’m working
on something even more different than the last one, with
R&B vocals. I think if you live as an artist, which is what I’ve
been doing for almost ten years now, you want be constantly
evolving. Otherwise, what are you doing? I can’t imagine
getting any catharsis from it.
Is catharsis an important part of making music?
I’ve used music to release some demons, it’s a form of
therapy. When I first started, I wrote a lot of Johnny Cash/
Patsy Cline music with a bit of grunge to it, which helped
me heal after the death of my grandma. Basically, it’s spend
40 grand on psychoanalysis or 40 grand on making the
album; I’d rather make the album. It stops me from being
really fatally depressed and unhappy.
Which songs do you tur n to for inspiration or when you
want to heal?
Currently I’m a bit obsessed with a band called Dead Can
Dance and in particular their album Anastasis. I listen to it by
myself on repeat constantly – I just really feel like those artists
get what music is about. It’s about connecting people, not
about the dudes in the suits behind the desks at the labels.
I became kind of disillusioned with the music industry
because I felt it was geared around selling women as sex
objects, rather than being respected in their own right.
Did you ever feel the pressure to conform to a certain
idea of sexiness?
I’ve never, ever thought I was particularly appealing or sexy
or anything like that. It’s not on the agenda at all, but if
people find me sexy, it’s flattering. I’m not a very serious
person in real life, I love to make jokes and I love laughing,
but when it comes to music, I am very serious about it. It
You did a Facebook status last night saying you were
I do have a lot of that. It’s something that came to the
forefront when I had a seizure about eighteen months ago,
after the ARIAs. I had a really successful album release and
I was frantically running everything. But my health really
suffered. I ended up with an almost post-trauma level of
anxiety that was debilitating, and I had to stop. So I went to
Europe, and I floated around the Mediterranean for a bit,
and I just gathered myself. It has taken me about eighteen
months to be better, so my post was about coming out
the other end. It’s been a slow process but it’s also been
an amazing reminder that you’ve got to look after yourself
and you can’t control everything. I feel fully formed again.
I feel pretty good.
Was part of that transitioning to a solo show?
Part of the process of getting better was cutting out
everyone that I felt responsible for on the payroll. It was
a huge amount of pressure. Luckily, the people I told
I was doing solo shows are still my friends and we’ll probably
collaborate again. But currently, I’m just playing solo. It’s
not what you might think – I’m using samples and drum
machines, I play guitar and sing, and it’s a real show.
Insanely talented Perth singer-songwriter Abbe May talks about how to get
your mojo back when you’re painfully anxious, growing up in Bunno, and
the cathartic powers of music. Interview by Anna Christensen
TEN MINUTES WITH
Photography Natasha Saba.
“I love to make jokes and I love laughing, but when it comes to music, I’m very
serious about it. It saves lives.”
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