Words by Keane Fletcher
Look, I can do a lot in 20 minutes. Fry an egg. Take a shower. Have a nap. What I can't do however, is write a song, especially one as catchy and genre-defying as 'Love Inside', the latest release from Brisbane-based folk-pop goddess Miss Elm, written via a burst of inspiration in the midst of last year’s impending apocalypse.
'[The song] was actually first written for a controversial dating show I was cast on,' says Miss Elm (real name Erin Harrington). 'We were only allowed to date and interact via zoom...it felt very disconnected. I wrote it for the last episode and ironically lived out the mantra of self love after having to pick myself up after several romantic rejections!'
Talk about making lemons from lemonade. In fact, despite the dystopian nightmare that was/is the current state of the world, Miss Elm has so far managed to turn the last 12 months of straw into gold, releasing her new EP The Shape of Light, launching an online ukulele program (right!) and even squeezing in a few live shows in February before the lockdown hit. And with her first single of 2021 dropping in just a few weeks, it doesn't seem as if she's got any intention on slowing down soon.
Me? I think I’m just gonna take another nap.
We recently caught up with Miss Elm to talk all things music, inspo and online dating shows. Check it out below!
1- Where are you based at the moment?
I am based in sunny Brisbane, Australia.
2- How did you get started in music? What are your musical influences?
I was immersed in music from an early age. I was lucky to be in a household that embraced musical play and experimentation. I would spend time hanging out at my Dad's band rehearsals listening to big jazz bands play so there was a lot of influence from that genre in the early days. As I grew up I became more interested in female folk pop artists like Imogen Heap, Sarah Blasko and Regina Spektor for their sounds. Now it's evolved to a blend of Folk Pop with my experimentation of live looping pedals and Ukuleles. I'm so inspired by the music that Vera Blue and Tash Sultana are producing right now.
3- Your songs seem to straddle both the folk and pop realms. Is genre an import consideration when writing a song? How does the writing process usually work for you?
I used to try and write within a genre, but now it's more about how I can expand creatively. I am constantly picking up ideas for production when I hear a song on the radio or on Spotify asking 'ooh what makes this song so juicy?' Or 'wow those lyrics are so powerful, I wonder what it would be like to write about that topic?'. I spent a lot of 2020 co co-writing and collaborating with other artists and it opened up my writing process to be more free and conscious. I really see myself as a vessel for creativity now, the less I try and control the outcome the better the song turns out. Sometimes song ideas come to be in dreams where I'll wake up singing the chorus, or a whole story plot will be playing out and I'll be furiously writing it before I'm fully awake. It's now an intuitive journey I feel into to see if a song really wants to be produced, shelved as an idea or just performed live.
4- You’ve got an amazing voice! Have you had much vocal training or has it always come naturally to you?
Thankyou! I grew up singing in choirs and was lucky enough to have singing lessons. I was trained by an opera singer and am really grateful it's given me the tools to expand my voice with a technique that doesn't damage it. My voice grew stronger with live touring and life experience over the past 5 years however; the more confident I am within myself the better I sing.
5- Your latest release ‘Love Inside’ is a ethereal yet muscular ode to self-love and inner strength. Was there any particular moment that inspired it? I heard somewhere on the grapevine that in was written in 20 minutes!
Yes 'Love Inside' was actually first written for a controversial dating show I was cast on where it was live streamed via Facebook. We were only allowed to date and interact via zoom...it felt very disconnected. I wrote it for the last episode and ironically lived out the mantra of self love after having to pick myself up after several romantic rejections! It became a course in becoming my own hero.
6- A lot of artists are really suffering at the moment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications. How has it affected you and your creativity? How have you been forced to adapt?
For me it has been a transformational challenge. I chose to accept it as a growth lesson and work with what I had. I created an Online Program (called The Ukulele Rockers) to help people find their creative expression through the Ukulele. I ended up working with people all over the world thanks to the internet and zoom!
I was also lucky enough to release and tour my EP The Shape of Light in February before the lockdown hit...and released 6 songs in one year. I feel sad that I can't travel overseas and fulfil my dream of international touring...not knowing when that is possible is a daily struggle. Australia is both very fortunate and unfortunate to be isolated from the world in some ways. Living in Brisbane we've actually been able to go back to live shows again. I really empathise for the other artists out there unable to interact with their fans live. There is no other feeling than seeing a stranger's face light up from my musical offerings.
7- If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I would change the percentages artists get in royalties from online streaming platforms. It really saddens me that we don't get fair financial support from the current system. The current value on music and how it benefits our society is not where it needs to be.
8- What's next for you?
I am releasing a new song in February and very excited as I'm currently working on my 5th EP! Find me on Spotify and click 'Follow' to stay updated!
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!