Thursday, February 9, 2012

Interview: Ashleigh Auckland for Mood of Monk

Recently I chatted to Brisbane songstress Ashleigh Auckland for Mood of Monk. Read online here or below.

The Wanderlust of Ashleigh Auckland

Wanderlust tugs at the restless mind, dragging us into the unknown. I feel the pull, too, so I relate when Brisbane songstress Ashleigh Auckland tells me she’s constantly on the move. Instead of the postcards and Facebook albums titled ‘Adventures’ most of us send back, Auckland internalises the world around her and weaves it into unaffected indie-pop.

The soon-to-be released Vagabond evolved with and apart from its creator, taking on a life and direction of its own, as creative works are sometimes want to do. Auckland says Vagabond isn’t the record she originally set out to produce, but in its fluid state, it became exactly what she wanted to release for her debut. The record is still raw and acoustic in nature, but it has taken on an unexpectedly darker tone. The title track is one hauntingly emotive example.

“It just captures every bit of emotion I was feeling at the time. That song is about someone quite close to me who has dealt with a lot of personal battles. The word ‘vagabond’ basically means someone who comes and goes, and it can be a positive word and it can be negative, too. It’s basically about those personal demons coming and going.”
Writing about the people around you can be difficult to pull off without sounding as if you’ve written a ‘relationship album’. Auckland says while many of her tracks may sound like odes to lovers lost and found, their inspiration is much more varied.
“I draw influence from life experience; I travel quite a bit. I moved out of home when I was quite young, travelled around, and I basically haven’t stopped since. Most of the songs are observations of people around me and what I see them going through.”
Auckland will be continuing her travels this year – she’s planned a move to London after the release of her record.
“I moved out there in 2008 with the expectation to live there indefinitely, then the recession hit and it didn’t really work out. It was really disappointing coming back, so I don’t want to put expectations on it, I just want to see what happens. I’ve been writing for some DJs in Belgium and I’ve just got a manager there doing some scouting for me, so it might be that I spend more time in Belgium and Germany. Who knows?”
When you’re away from home it’s often the most insignificant things you miss, the smells and noises of your natural habitat. For Auckland, it’s Brisbane’s simplicity and Australia’s cleanliness and quietude that bring her back.
“I spent a lot of time in regional areas as a kid, and so the thing I miss the most when I’m travelling is animal sounds – it seems a bit weird but I miss birds tweeting.”
I wonder aloud whether it’s difficult to get noticed as an artist in a country where we often put our prized exports on a pedestal, unless other countries notice you, too. Auckland both agrees and disagrees. She says while Brisbane was the perfect place to her plant her musical roots, there is still a perception that international acclaim makes an artist more worthy.
Unsurprisingly, Auckland, who plays piano and guitar, counts a number of female singer-songwriters among her favourite artists, citing Adele and fellow Brisbane lass Emma Louise.“I haven’t ever heard anybody in the Brisbane music community speak a bad word about anyone. It’s a really great environment to get started. I don’t know that if I had started out in Sydney or Melbourne I’d be doing what I’m doing now … A lot of people have a mentality that overseas artists are more successful because that’s what you see on T.V and hear on the radio, at least in mainstream music anyway. I think in the indie music scene the mentality is starting to shift a little, but I think that’s why people do go overseas. Also there are more opportunities for artists.”

Auckland herself works autonomously and organically when writing her music, creating an acoustic canvas before inviting outside creative direction. She says she feels a greater creative licence writing for other artists than under her own name.
“The first singer-songwriter that really struck a chord with me was Imogen Heap. She’d post these videos of her creating a sound – just the strangest sounds created in lots of different ways – that you’d hear end up in the album. It’s just organic and original music.”
“With my own songs, I tend to take them really personally, but when I’m writing for someone else there’s almost this complete freedom.”
For now, it’s all about wearing her heart on her sleeve and sharing Vagabond with the world. The title track, ‘Middle of Nowhere’ and ‘Running’ are all rating well on Triple J Unearthed’s pop charts – a good sign for this up-and-coming artist.
“When I first got my tracks up there, it was mostly friends voting for me which obviously gave me a bit of momentum, but now it’s such a great feeling knowing people you don’t know are listening to your music and taking something from it in some way.”
She muses: “That’s why you do it, to share your music with people”, and I can’t help but nod in agreement even though I know she can’t see me from the other end of the phone line. Yes, that’s why we all create whatever it is we create. Why we keep doing it.”
 I ask where she wants to be in five years’ time.
“I just want to be writing music I love and still performing every night. I’ve never wanted fame out of this; I’d just want a fan base that really enjoys my music.”
With a voice like that, there’s little question we’ll be hearing more of Ashleigh Auckland in the near future, never mind in the next five years.

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