One of the more cohesive, thrilling albums of the year to come out of an Australian artist is the debut from Maddy Jane, the Bruny Island-born, Wollongong-based songwriter who is impossible to ignore.
Not All Bad Or Good feels like an apt title. A record of feelings that are a precocious mixture of contentment with the way she’s processed the narrative of her past friendships and relationships and a yearning for something more out of the world.
The album was recorded at the Central Coast’s The Grove Studios – a rural property famous for providing an incredible tranquility for some of the most loved albums in the country to be made – so
FaceTiming from her loungeroom, Nic Kelly’s in bold and Maddy Jane’s in not-bold.
Look at you. What a setup.
I’m all about the home decor.
What’s that behind you? What’s this painting?
It’s by Aluna & Harry – I forget his last name – they did a live painting at Strawberry Boogie which is a little Wollongong local arts and music event that they put on at the UniBar. Aluna’s doing some great stuff, she’s designed a few of my things…
What is it about her vibe that catches you?
She just became a really good friend of mine and we lived together and she left heaps of prints everywhere.
Love this for you. How are you? You good?
Yeah! I’m good. I feel like we’re nearly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now…
I know it’s a generic thing to say but congratulations. It sounds like you worked your ass off on this album.
Thanks… I did.
I like talking about the environments in which people make the music and I know you wrote it about five minutes away from where I am right now at The Grove, which is just the most magical studio in the country to write at, just the perfect environment. What time of year were you up there recording and making the record and what did that environment allow you to bring out that maybe, a studio in an industrial part of the city, wouldn’t have?
The Grove is just that, hey. I mean, I’m from Bruny Island, so writing definitely comes from being able to be in those still places without those distractions or be amongst – as lame as it sounds – the trees and stuff. I’ve had experiences at studios in the cities and even just the knowledge of like, “we have to get there and get back,” takes so much mental capacity and is another thing you have to do and get done, you can’t stay there until four and just go to bed. Being able to just be locked away for a week is how to do it, in my head. And that spot is just so beautiful. How could you not be inspired?
Exactly. That’s why I live on the Central Coast. And I presume it’s why you live in the Gong? Is the city life just not for you?
Yeah, I mean I’m from Bruny, in Tassie and everyone from Tassie moves to Melbourne… it’s just what happens. Just through touring, I’ve spent a little bit of time in Wollongong, I was like, “yep, cool, it’s still got the water, it’s still got the hills,” I don’t think I could do Melbourne or Sydney.
I always just end up back here and it’s that connection to the water. It’s that connection to the tranquility. The different pace. It’s still fast paced! These regional centres are not slow sleepy towns.
And we’ve got such a community vibe about what we do. I don’t know what’s going on a bit more, I feel. Love a little community.
Talking about the songs on this album – Femme really stands out to me. The line “I’m not trying to be, I’m just being,” feels very much like a sentiment that a lot of people feel at some point in their lives and particularly I think as the world enters a more self-aware and self-caring phase, it’s even more important. What does this song speak to?
I wanted to be able to address that feminism is such a huge part of me, but we’ve had all of those amazing songs that really stamped the foot and said “this is wrong, and this is wrong,” and actually brought that to life. So I guess I wanted Femme to be the next step from that. I just wanted it to come across, like, “this is happening, get with it or get used to it,” you know what I mean? To almost try and change that mindset – that we’ve done that and now we’re moving forward – this is happening. It’s not just about stamping the foot anymore, because we’re making progress.
Is it almost a case of by merely existing as a woman and being oneself, that’s kind of the protest now in itself?
Yeah, I guess I wanted it to come back down to the simplicity of it. That I’m not trying to be anything, or trying to be anything that I shouldn’t be, you know. I’m just… bein’!
The other thing that I really enjoy about this record is particularly in the first half it’s really fast paced, energetic and loud. Maybe this is just because I’ve been to a gig now in two or three months but it’s another one of those albums that just makes me fucking want a gig to go to. But then you’ve got a song like Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop, which everything down for a bit, give us a breather for a second. Why that choice to make that kind of a slower, more gentle production on that kind of song.
It’s a hard one to explain but Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop I’ve wanted to write for a while, I’ve had that title in my head from when I was living in Hobart. An old friend – who is no longer a friend – her last name is Bishop (I have to say that for the title!) – basically, I was on the phone with her, I lived with this really arty guy at the time and he had this poetry book open on the table. It was open on a poem called Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop. I was like, “hey, get this, there’s a poem open on the table right now called this… and you call me crazy because I’m a musician… I’d better write a song called that one day…” and had no idea what it would be about. It eventually became about the people you have to let go, for you and them, and knowing that you can’t help everyone. There’s so much tension that can come from you caring too much when people are going through things. It really came from that. There were two particular instances where I’d left relationships in Tassie and had to really cut people off, as a responsible thing to do.
Do you think you’ve found it easier to do that and been a bit more ruthless with it since you moved out of your hometown? Do you think that’s become a little bit more of a black and white thing to be able to do?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m not one to just cut people out of my life because I can’t be bothered. Because I do care so much, I’ve definitely learned and I’m just not taking no shit anymore. I’ve done my fair share.
It’s not easy though, is it? There’s a comfortability that comes with keeping those people in your life and there’s a temptation sometimes – and I think particularly in times of crisis like we’re going through at the moment – to keep the status quo as consistent as possible, but there comes a time when you have that moment of “I’m not taking this shit anymore.” Thank You and Sorry really stands out to me, because this whole album feels really – I think the word’s overused now – but unapologetic. It’s confident and full of you speaking from heart to mouth. But Thank You And Sorry feels like a really apologetic moment? One where you’re a little bit more – almost the opposite of cutting off those toxic friends – and kind of apologising for existence. Could you talk to me a bit more about what that song is about? And why the yearning that I feel on it when I listen to it is so strong?
Those two lines – “so thank you and sorry,” came up first. Again it was going back to “what is that basic thing?” It was like, when something ends, it’s not gonna be the same. Thank you for the time that we had and what I got out of it and I’m sorry that it’s not still a thing! The verses and everything all came out really easily. It was a few years ago now but it was definitely, pretty raw at the time and I was getting it out. I guess it’s one of those songs that just kind of came out.
From what you’ve told me about those particular songs, I feel like you’re one of the kind of writers – Sia’s a bit like this – where you take a core idea, or you take some words or a phrase, obviously a lot of the titles that you’ve written so far are phrases or sentences almost and then you kind of build the idea around around that. Is that the kind of way you tend to write?
It’s either that or I start at the beginning and get the whole way through, kind of thing. A whole narrative. Either that one strong idea – or even maybe the strong idea is at the start – I go from there.
I think in conclusion, if I can sound like a Year 10 English essay, you’ve got an album here of songs that really speak to what’s happened so far, the shit that you’ve gone through and the relationships and communications that you’ve had to process. That means that this is now off your chest. So, what does the next Maddy Jane music sound like? Do you know what it is yet? Do you know how it sounds?
Oh, I don’t know. A little bit? I’ve been writing a little bit but I think this time is a little bit weird. But like, I wrote an absolutely made up song about a murder? That was something new? That’s something I’ve never done – just write a story from absolutely out of the air – it’s totally come from all the crime stuff I’ve been watching… but yeah, that’s different. Musically, I’m definitely exploring more genres. Old school stuff tends to inspire me to look into those different genres.
With this album, I think you’ve got a really cohesive – that’s such a wanky word – moment in time stamped into this album. It’s broad, it’s confident, it’s exciting. Are you stoked?
I think so?! Yeah. Yes I am. And every single one of the songs on the album has a purpose. I don’t think there’s any song that I’m like “it’s alright…”, I’ve definitely crafted every one that I possibly could. At the same time, it is what it is at this point, but I’m so excited to see how people get it. If they don’t, what they get from it? What they get that’s not what I was writing about? It’s crazy. It’s a debut album. To even be able to complete an album was something I didn’t even know I could do.