It sounds like the consequences have been great!
They’ve been awesome! It was this wave of love and support. I’ve been so lucky with the response from my family and friends and everyone online, and now I’ve just made it my mission now to try and give a voice to those who aren’t as lucky as I am.
You represented a version of one of those not-so-lucky stories in the Blue Neighbourhood trilogy, which was so beautiful. What would it have meant to you as a kid to see videos like that?
I think I would’ve been really, really happy and just overwhelmed. Maybe I wouldn’t have even thought much of it—and I think that’s the best thing that could happen, for it to be normalized. I remember every single time I saw two men kiss on TV when I was growing up. I remember those two moments. I remember them so specifically and so clearly, and I remember the thoughts I was having and how terrified I was, but seeing it at least meant it was out there. In the back of my mind, I knew there were people like me—if I was that, I didn’t know I was gay at the time—and it was just a feeling in my gut. To put a normal, gay relationship on MTV or whatever, it felt like an important thing to do. I really wanted to just bring a bit of LGBT representation into the media and normalize LGBT relationships.
What were those two moments on TV?
One was Queer As Folk, but I don’t remember which episode it was.
I mean, it could’ve been any episode.
I know! And the thing was, I very very quickly changed the channel in case my family saw, because I didn’t want them to think that…I was gay? [Laughs] And the other one was an Australian soap, Neighbours, which I don’t actually watch regularly, but I remember the moment so clearly.
Your videos, album packaging, and merchandise are so sophisticated in their art direction. Where does your visual inspiration come from?
I don’t know if there’s one specific reference. I don’t have an art director or creative director—it all just comes from what I like. Keeping things pretty has always been a goal of mine. I love the visual side of creating an album—I love everything from the artwork and videos to styling clothes.
For the Blue Neighbourhood album artwork, I had such a specific idea of what the cover looked like in my head—it looked like one of the streets in my suburb in Perth, at sunset, with me standing in the middle of a long road. We tried to do photoshoots, and they didn’t look right or at all like how I see “home.”
We’d worked with an artist called Hsiao-Ron Cheng for the artwork on the Wild mini album, and I love her stuff so much and I’m so obsessed with all of her art. So we went out during sunset in Perth, down the road from my house, and I took a photo with my iPhone and sent it to her for the album cover. She so perfectly captured the feeling of fantasy and etherealness that I feel when I’m home.
I think, as well, one thing I’ve done over the last year and a half is romanticize Perth in my head. There’s not much of a music industry there, so I can’t do much work when I’m there, but my friends all still live there and my family lives there. When I’m there, I feel like I could be 10 years old again, and like none of this has happened. It’s so grounding and humbling and just awesome that I think I’ve romanticized it in my head, and I don’t think a photo could capture that. Getting an artist to paint it perfectly captured the dreamy vibe I wanted.
As you find your feet and carve out your place in the music industry, what advice have you received that’s been essential to you? What would you say to anyone might be looking to you as an example?
A lot of people have told me to stay grounded. Obviously I have not heard it from her personally, but seeing the way Adele’s approaching her life is really awesome and inspiring to me. She seems like a really normal person, and then she goes and sells, like, 3 million albums in a week, and then she’ll go back to being a normal person. To see someone completely not play the game at all, and just make the music that she wants to make in her own time has been an inspiration to me.
As far as advice—now, more than ever, the music industry is completely democratized. Before I even knew what America was, I knew I had to go to L.A. to be a singer. I wanted to move my whole family to L.A.! And then I found the internet and it completely took that away, and I did everything from Perth, which is literally the most isolated city in the world. I think it’s an exciting time to be a musician who’s starting out in their bedroom. If you want it, you just have to put yourself out there: Upload stuff to Soundcloud or YouTube and just go for it. Everyone has a chance and everyone has a voice. ♦