MONTAIGNE Free to feel complete

After her acclaimed album Glorious Heights in 2016, Sydney singer-songwriter Montaigne returned with new single For Your Love late last year and is set to tour Australia in support of its release. But first she is headlining a FREE special show for Mandurah Crab Fest at the East End Foreshore in Mandurah on Saturday, March 16 ahead of another exciting appearance for the festival from Josh Pyke on Saturday, March 17. Montaigne (who also returns to play Freo.Social on April 26) spoke to BRAYDEN EDWARDS about the making of the new single, teased new details on her upcoming album and what we can expect from her upcoming free show this weekend.

You have such a distinguished style and unique voice it’s hard to really see where your sound has come from. What artists do you think have shaped who you are today musically?

It’s hard to single anyone out because it feels like my music is a natural convergence of everything I’ve ever listened to. It’s hard to say because it changes throughout time. But there are still those that have continued to stand out over time like David Bowie, Talking Heads, Feist, The National, St Vincent, Coldplay and more. I also grew up on diet of 70s and 80s new wave and synth pop and my dad really loved 90s R&B and hip hop too and now my taste is basically borderless, so I find I have a lot of colours that I’m painting with.

Your recent single, For Your Love has been a great addition to your catalogue and well received by everyone really. I heard it was basically a ‘sequel’ to your previous 2016 single Because I Love You. Why did you feel that was a narrative or feeling that you needed to build on in this new release?

It’s because that wasn’t where the buck stopped. The relationship and dynamic described in Because I Love You continued to unfold after I broke up with the partner that the song was about. It wasn’t necessarily with me being in direct contact with him but more from what I found out later from friends and stuff and it was too interesting and too juicy to not elaborate on. For Your Love also has that retrospective nature to it where Because I Love You was more ‘pre’ the conversation covering more of the dark sexual side of that relationship.

Despite that depth of feeling and emotion, I heard the actual recording for the new single was completed in only a matter of hours?

Yeah it was done very quickly. It was a writing day in Sydney and I told everyone the story I wanted to put into song and don’t even remember what started first. I started with the lyrics “I have been a snake/ I have been a dog,” which hark back to Because I Love You and then it all came from there.

You recorded with Mozella and Kyle Shearer who have written songs for the likes of Madonna and Rihanna, basically megastars of pop. What did you feel they contributed to the recording? 

Kyle is very creative and we landed on something that’s very special and unique. It’s still very much a pop song but a bit more interesting than a pop song too. Part of that is what I bring to the table, but have an understanding about and reciprocate that so Karl recognises that he can utilise his pop styling without being boring about it. Mozella actually wrote the melody of that chorus (hums it). I wrote the words but she wrote that melody and I wouldn’t have come up with that. She’s very good at writing hooks. I mean she wrote Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus so that says everything. But she was also just really receptive. They understood the gravity of what I was saying and helped me translate that as music. If it was anyone else in that room it wouldn’t have worked like it did. It was a magical combination.

What can you reveal about your upcoming album at the moment? 

There’s a lot of collaborators and a lot of was born of out writing sessions. There’s a couple I wrote from scratch, some of them were done with producer Tony Buchen again, but there is definitely a bunch of producers, probably five or six on this record. It’s a very diverse sounding record. There isn’t much sonic consistency except in my voice and the style of my songwriting.

In the midst of that mix of producers and diversity in style, do you feel like there is a theme or a narrative that ties it together for you personally, even if just in contrast to your first record Glorious Heights?

I don’t know how different it is from Glorious Heights thematically because that was still a record written from my perception of life. There are still songs about me and my relationships with people and with myself. It’s maybe a little darker sonically. It’s still an album that’s full of different things. To distill it down to a theme, I think it is me and whatever was happening in my life over the time it was recorded which was over about two years from the age of about 21 to 23. I guess that’s the theme, me getting through my early 20s.

There’s a wealth of things to draw from in that time of your life…

Yeah when you’re in that stage in your life you don’t know how to be “mature” (laughs). You don’t know how to feel like everyone’s not against you or that you’re (not) the victim. It’s where this album has come from, a place where you’re starting to say “it’s like my life, now, I guess?” But now I’m in more a place where I feel like I’m in full control of how to approach things. In recording this album I was feeling things like, “if only you sucked less, and if only I hurt less”, whereas now I’m at a time in my life where I feel like it’s not like that at all.

And for someone who has been around being noticed from quite a young age, being played on the radio from when you were just a teenager, is it challenging going through that phase in your life in the public eye, or at least with so many people knowing or caring about what you’re going through because they connect with you through your music?

I’m very open as a person. I’ll tell anyone anything if it’s mine to tell. I have a very sure sense of self and a sure foundation of relationships and values. So it’s very hard for people to fuck with me. I’m grateful that I have amazing relationships both with others and with myself now. Success in the public eye is always secondary to the way that I feel about myself and the people that are with me in my life because at the end of the day they’re the ones who are going to be beside me on my deathbed, and not everyone else in the world.

I love my fans and fuck, wouldn’t even have a career with those people that are putting me out there but at the end of the day when I go through dark things I know the people directly around me are there to catch me. And I’m there to catch me too because I’ve built this strength in myself. The strength allows me to understand that when people come at you with vitriol then that’s more about them than it is about you. Or maybe you did fuck up and should have a look at your life and reassess yourself. I don’t have any ego about learning. If I make a mistake I will apologise for it and try to be better.

So going through things like this in the public eye doesn’t phase me. In fact for someone like me it’s probably quite good. It makes me make sure I am developing myself to be the best human I can be and a role model for the people that look up to me, and for my sister as well ’cause she is younger than me and loves the shit out of me and needs a healthy model to look up to in life. All young women do. All people  do. I’m not scared to put myself out there. I have everything and nothing to lose. I’ve had everything afforded to me which is so good and bountiful but at the same time if I did lose my whole career somehow and go bankrupt I’d still know what actually matters to me and it’s not money or power, it’s love and friends and family.