Soulful Perth Qween Abbe May brings her latest album Fruit to the Perth Winter Fest Dome at 420 Wellington St on Thursday, July 12 for a free entry show. Running as part of the Perth Winter Fest, you can catch this and more at the Yagan Square pop-up venue between June 30 and July 29. MAGGIE BOCHAT has a chat with May.
You are playing a free solo show at Perth Winter Fest Dome at Yagan Square next Thursday. Do you have any winter rituals that keep your mood up?
I like winter! Especially here in Perth as it isn’t as extreme as other places I have lived. Winter is a good time to rug up and watch movies, read books and write music. I like to shave off at least one month of every winter though by heading to the Northern Hemisphere when possible… that’s a good way to warm up.
Last year you released your fifth studio album Fruit. What is your favourite fruit?
I like all the fruits in the LGBTQIA+ basket, but as I am currently eating watermelon, let’s go with that.
What has life been like since the release of that album?
It’s been really fun. I feel really good about what we have acomplished. I have loved touring the record and meeting the people who have connected with the work. The band I have now is the band I will have for life. I’m balanced, fit and inspired and when I’m not on the road I’m at home building my gardens, renovating my home and hanging out with my best friends and family. Life is pretty great right now and I don’t think I have ever been happier.
Were you moved/affected by the campaign for a “Yes” vote to equal marriage last year?
It did affect me. It was a horrible experience to see and feel this untethered attack on my community from contingents of the NO campaign who sought to spread hateful anti-gay propaganda. I am a very supported person, with family and friends who are very protective of my wellbeing. It concerned me deeply that if I could be so affected by the division orchestrated by the Turnbull government, it must have been so much harder for people without the support needed to come through something so difficult. I became very vocal about my support for the equal right to marry.
In many corners of the web you are described as a “human rights campaigner”. What human rights issues do you feel most affected by at the moment?
I know and am related to people who actually devote their lives to campaigning for human rights, so, I would never refer to myself as anything other than a musician who isn’t afraid to put my name behind issues and causes I feel strongly about. In particular I feel very strongly that there are parts of the LGBTQIA+ community that need extra support, especially in the aftermath of last year’s battle. My band, collaborative venues and I offer our shows as safe spaces for all and make it clear that if you can’t afford a ticket, you can email us at email@example.com and we will sort you out. My audience and I will be your family.
In May you posted on your Facebook your feelings about ageing. In line with comments made by Jen Cloher last year on the age bias of the music industry (particularly here in Australia), how have you felt age has changed your perspective in this industry?
I guess I can now see its machinations a lot more clearly. I’m immune to the bullshit and the fuckwits and as such I will continue to push through. Another artist recently referred to what she has experienced as a “Shelf Life” for her career. She has had massive success but once she hit 30 she couldn’t garner the industry support needed to push her new work. It is shocking to see someone so talented and magnetic get pushed to the side. It actually broke my heart watching that. Luckily she’s a real artist and continues to create. Hemmingway was right when he said you must be prepared to work always without applause. The rest is fluff.
For me, at 34, I have found myself with 15 years of experience and acclaim as a professional musician, writer, performer and singer facing rapidly diminishing opportunities to expand in this industry. However, I am fortunate that I like touring so I can continue to go out and build my audiences, which I am finding to be devoted and supportive. This has been vital in an era of my career in which I am considered too old to invest in by an industry that largely focuses on youth and “The Next Big Thing”. I have been able to continue because of a few key, long term industry partners and the people who keep coming to my shows and buying my records.
It’s been an interesting and challenging progression into my “mid-career” but I have a tendency to laugh – I don’t feel entitled to a career and I have the most beautiful life regardless. I have seen terrible, traumatic things happen to people, things that seem virtually impossible to recover from. I have had a few close shaves but ultimately my life is pretty golden so I am always genuinely grateful for my brilliant, free life and creative career, however it manifests. I am aware that I am a very fortunate woman and artist. I don’t bother complaining much nor do I bother being offended, well, not for long anyway (laughs). I just keep on chooglin’. I have no doubt that at some point I will be forgiven for ageing (I know, I’m so fucking sorry!! Grey hairs and everything!!) and more opportunities for expansion within this industry will again come knocking. Until then, the only thing that can really stop me is if I decide to stop and that ain’t fuckin’ happening. I will die on stage, 96, setting a guitar on fire. And you just know I will be buried soon after with the most fabulous fuck-off boots on. Gotta walk through the gates of hell in style, yes?
I would ask if you have any cool plans for 2018, but it seems we are already halfway through! What have been your highlights so far? What are you most looking forward too?
I am really looking forward to pressing Fruit to vinyl and then having some time off in Europe… before heading back home for more touring and recording.