After releasing the powerful anthemic single Ready, Montaigne’s new album Complex takes her into a higher sphere stamping her mark as Australia’s next iconic artist. Covering themes of loneliness, isolation, distorted love narratives, confused sense of self, the desire to escape, self-image issues and self-realisation this album screams of empowerment and urgency but at the same time revealing more layers of herself in true Montaigne style. “The right songs all came together over a couple of years and each song pertains to a different period of my life. It’s basically a series of portraits of all of my insecurities, or the weird relationships I’ve been in, or neurotic feelings I’ve felt while being attracted to others. The album’s like this veil behind which I stashed all these secrets I was keeping from myself.”
Montaigne opened up and chatted all things Complex with the Hi-Fi Way.
Your new single is Ready. What’s the song about and what are you ready for?
The song when we wrote it was about feeling like your sitting on all this untapped potential as an artist or just as someone with the skill set and it not being taken advantage of where not having the opportunities be able to use them where its effective or that you would feel, give you meaning. It’s just like an expression of “I’m ready to use myself to do something good in this world!” But I haven’t got there yet. The opportunity just hasn’t arisen.
At the time we were very much referencing musically as me and Eliott (Melbourne based Singer/Songwriter) who I co-wrote it with, we were talking about how we felt we are good at what we do but it’s just sometimes it feels like no achievement is ever enough, you know? You keep needing to do more and you forget to sit on and reflect on what you have achieved which is really good and its progress, you know?
I think for me now its more about activism and trying to make a difference in this world. Being angry, you know, being angry about the fact that you as a citizen are not being heard. You know the needs of the world are not being met by the leaders we have and then being ready to do something about that. To try and make the world a little bit fairer, a little more just and all of that. Kind of a rally anthem, like a call for action.
The new album is titled Complex. Would you consider yourself a complex person or artist?
(Laughs) Yeah, I think everyone is. I think everyone in the world is complex. I just called this album Complex because I think the songs all really explore that in their way. There are several layers to the word ‘complex’ and that it can mean complex as in things are complex and complicated and then complex in the sense that someone can have an ‘inferiority’ or ‘superiority’ complex or a ‘messiah’ complex which is what the song Complex is about.
Then there’s complex in a sense of a group of buildings or rooms or whatever in one lot. To me all these songs sort of shift on that lot but they’re all different rooms. Like with many different kinds of moods and feelings and attitudes and also internally contradicting ones. I think each of those rooms also has conflicting characters and narratives but that’s the idea. So, the short answer to your question is (laughs) I suppose yes, I’m a complex artist and complex person but that doesn’t make me unique. I think I’m just as complex as everyone else is, you know?
Some of your lyrics on this album feel assertive, raw and even poignant at times. I don’t want to say angry because they aren’t angry lyrics but there is a sense of urgency in some songs. What kind of mindset were you in writing this album?
I like your observation there because I think you’re correct! None of the lyrics are overtly angry, but I think a lot of anger I didn’t recognise was seething in me during a lot of the creation process. That’s why it doesn’t appear conspicuously because in myself it was kind of hidden from me. I was sort of doing this double thing where I could both be angry but not believe it. I think anger is a big theme and a big variety mood for a lot of those stages. Indignation about certain things that have happened in my life which simply aren’t fair.
A lot of things that have happened to me in my life which I had no control over, and I didn’t deserve, and they happened anyway. I was trying to deal with them in music. I think it definitely helped but I think for sure anger and yeah, a lot of insecurities. A lot of anxieties about who I am and whether or not I am a good person and why it is that I question whether or not I am a good person. Intellectually I think I am but there’s some second voice inside me that’s like “but what if you’re not?” (laughs).
But also just allowing myself for a minute to throw some shade on the people who have hurt me. You know I think some of those songs whilst they don’t out right say “your behaviour was bad and you were mean to me” I think the way that I paint some of the characters in the songs sort of speak for themselves.
Did you open up and reveal yourself a little more with this album compared to your previous work?
I think so yeah. Purely it was a natural progression. I felt like I was already divulging parts of myself, my life and growth heights and what not but I think this one I was very much…umm….I just lost reservations. I didn’t think I had any reservations to begin with but this time I figured out how to say something, crystalize without giving up details that might affect my personal life.
Yeah, I definitely opened up a bit more you know. I think its very evident in a lot of the lyrics especially in Is This All I’m Good For? I’m just laying it out on the table exactly the things I thought about myself. Like my thinking about my thinking. Words like, I wake up and I have these body image issues and I think about that and its like “why am I thinking about that?” Like “Why does it have to be like that?” “Why can’t I just not think like that?” you know and then torture myself thinking like that (laughs). I figured out how not to do that anymore. I think therapy and meditation’s been really helpful for that but definitely at the time it was like a struggle.
I was very vulnerable throughout the whole making of the album I think, and I just allowed that to come out on the page so to speak. For peace of mind I’ve definitely resolved a lot of those issues (laughs). I’m good now! (laughs).
Do you think the more you write songs and the more you create music it gets easier to open up to be a bit more vulnerable and say, raw and honest in your music?
I don’t know if that its music which is the key factor in helping me open up. I think its actually the work I do with myself in my private and personal life. I journal everyday and I read books and go to therapy like I said. I think developing confidence and self-esteem as I have has then allowed me to be open with my art and with myself to other people because I’m not afraid of who I am anymore. You know I’m like ready to be “this person has a voice that is worthy and she’s ready to give it to you in whatever shape or form that is communicated.” The songwriting just demonstrates that comfort, I think.
You worked with a few producers on this album that have worked with some amazing artists. How was it working with such a diversity of producers? Did you connect the same way with each one?
No! I definitely have different relationships with everyone I work with. The person I worked with on most of the songs Tony Buchen I’ve been working with since I was eighteen and we just have a lot of closeness now that is unparalleled than anyone else in my life. He’s definitely a singular figure in my life not just in terms of making music but also personally that does flow through to the creativity. He’s sort of like a point of difference I suppose amongst others and the thing is like every human being that you interact with and granted they all have their different flavours and their different perspectives but naturally everyone that you do collaborate with you will have a different dynamic with them. I definitely found that with a lot of these people and different songs got made because of that.
So, everyone I worked with was awesome. I definitely had a level of personal closeness with each of them like not everyone I sort of resonated with socially in a very strong way but most people on the new record I love and get along with really well and still have contact with. Obviously with some I like them, but we don’t stay in touch.
Everyone that I worked with was a champion and really good at what they do and really good at hearing me out and allowing my voice to come through. I think that’s what usually ends up making the cut in terms of my songs cos I’ve made a lot of fucking songs (laughs). These are just 13 that have ended up on this record but I’ve fuck’n written so many songs (laughs) with a bunch of people. I think the ones that do make it are the ones that I felt at liberty to be myself in the session to speak my mind. There’s a difference in flavour but the common thread is the openness of the characters that allows you to flourish.
I think it works really well. I can hear the different sounds and the songs don’t blend into one sound. But they all work well together as an album. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t when you use so many producers.
Yeah totally! I was really afraid not making an album that kind of doesn’t work but yeah, I think it does work. It means a lot that you say so as well, to get that feedback. Thank you!
You’re very passionate about social justice issues that are going on in the world at the moment. How important is music to help give a louder voice for these issues?
I think it’s vital. You can see throughout history how art, culture and music has influenced the generosity of people throughout the world. You had Live Aid and such and I think just those sorts of public figures that do things that people admire, they have so much influence to help positive change or at least help change. Music for me is really empowering especially pop music which is what I make. It’s a communal genre that gets people together and I think that’s the most important thing. Togetherness. That’s what music fosters and I think that’s a big thing.
You have a new tour in November starting in Adelaide. What are you looking forward to this tour?
Performing new songs finally! (laughs) I’ve been singing the same songs for the last three years so I’m ready to just finally share these ones and try to sing them and move with them. I’m very dynamic on stage so that’s going to be a challenge for me.
What can audiences expect at your show?
More storytelling. I want to do more storytelling on this tour. I tried that last tour and that worked really well. My fans were really receptive, so I want to do more of that.
Interview by Anastasia Lambis
Catch Montaigne on the following dates, tickets from www.montaignemusic.com.au