Monique Brumby on music, mentoring and heading to ChillOut
Monique Brumby speaks with Rachel Cook about instant fame, her new album and performing at this year’s ChillOut.
Longevity and success in the music industry they say comes down to three things: talent, a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work. For the multi-award winning Monique Brumby, she couldn’t agree more.
The born and bred Tasmanian who now calls Melbourne home had quite the meteoric rise when in 1996 at the age of 21 her single ‘Fool For You’ made the top 40 on the Australian charts. Within a year she had won an ARIA Award for Best New Talent and her debut album Thylacine, produced by David Bridie was wowing the critics. She garnered a loyal following who stick by her to this day and without doubt will be there this ChillOut when she performs with Rebecca Barnard in The Shelia’s of the 70s at Cream at the Old Hepburn Hotel.
Songwriting came naturally to Brumby who says she began writing songs when she was ten-years-old:
“I just felt like I had something I always wanted to express, but the lyrical content obviously was of a 10-year-old. It was about the sun, the sky and things like that.”
Brumby says growing up in Tasmania helped her develop a sense of humanity early on.
“I think growing up in Tassie near the ocean really inspired me. I’ve always thought a lot about the human condition I suppose, and also have a lot of empathy for other people, so I think that my song writing has been driven by those factors and I certainly felt that even when I was a young child.”
Brumby’s sharp rise to fame at a young age wasn’t without its pitfalls. Like many young artists who find themselves faced with widespread expectations she was overwhelmed by the pressure and in hindsight also realises it was a lack of female role models in the music industry that made her path more challenging.
“Having a really rapid start to my career, being signed to Columbia when I was 21 and having a lot of pressure is not very good for you. It causes you to feel anxious and worried and so it took me a few years to try and find my own rhythm again after that, which I found quite traumatic.
“I would have loved to have some more female mentors to be honest, and it’s one of the reasons I have taken on the roles of producer and mentor to other artists.”
In 2011 Brumby began working with Aardvark, a not-for-profit organisation that brings young people living with illness or disability the opportunity to work with professional musicians and to write, record and perform original music.
Since then she has gone on to produce and work with other young musicians.
“I went back and studied sound engineering,” Brumby says. “I have a real passion for recoding and I have studio at home and being a singer-songwriter I have an insight into the brain of other musicians when they are recording. There’s a real sort of bedside manner you have to have as a producer and artists are very vulnerable particularly when they are in the studio. I think my experience as a recording artist and live performing artist has helped me as a music producer too.”
In 2011 Brumby married her girlfriend, Sophie Turner, in Hobart. An ardent fighter for marriage equality Brumby says that while their union isn’t legally recognised it was important to them to have a ceremony in front of their family and friends.
“We called our wedding a wedding. My elderly granny came to the wedding and we just thought we wanted to share our love with our family and friends which is our right to do. The government don’t recognise it, but we do. We wanted to make that commitment to each other and the government weren’t going stop us from doing that. When the laws are changed here we will have a party and probably renew our vows.”
While she has been outspoken about her views on marriage equality and her frustration that the Australian government is dragging its heels on the issue she says she believes her power as a musician is to be able to write about the issues and reach out to people.
“I still cannot believe that we don’t have equal marriage rights and I can’t believe that only now are same-sex couples being given adoption rights - there’s still such an immense amount of discrimination around the world.
“I think as a musician what I’m trying to do is to write about these things but I’m also trying to give people some tools to be able to cope, I want people to be able to listen to my next record and be really uplifted.”
“I don’t think you can be a songwriter these days and not reference things that are happening globally because we are so connected to it.”
Currently working on her sixth album Brumby says the music is flowing now after a 12-month stint of ‘writer’s block’. While she found her creativity had been somewhat paralysed by the state of the world she’s now found a new voice and enthusiasm in her music.
“Where we are right now is quite overwhelming for a lot of people and I think that’s why I couldn’t write for a while,” Brumby says.
“I’m really excited about the songs and I’ve just had this flow of lyrical writing. I’ve seemed to have unlocked something this summer.”
And in terms of performing at CREAM at ChillOut, Brumby is bringing the ever popular The Sheila’s of the 70s. Alongside Rebecca Barnard, Brumby will deliver an eclectic array of iconic women all the way from Donna Summer to Blondie.
“We’ll give them a show where they can dance and take their clothes of if they want and they probably might! You’ve got Donna Summer pumping out ‘Hot Stuff’, a bit of Blondie in there, a bit of Patti Smith, Carly Simon and a bit of Gloria Gaynor too. It’s going to be footloose and fancy free.”