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Getting cathartic with Sydney-based composer Zach Goldfinch

Posted on September 17 2021

Getting cathartic with Sydney-based composer Zach Goldfinch

Words by Keane Fletcher

We all have those songs we turn to, right? When we need a good hype up, when we need a good cry, when we need to let off some steam. It's something all good songwriters know, that music has the power to generate feeling in a way few other mediums can, a primal-ness that by-passes the head and cuts straight to the heart before we even know what's happening. I mean, gimme four bars of Adele's 'Someone Like You' and I'm already bawling my eyes out. What I'm trying to say is, music is cathartic y'all! And no one knows this more than Sydney-based singer-composer Zach Goldfinch, who was so captivated by music's cathartic efficiency that he even named his album after it.

I chose the name Catharsis because every time I wrote a new song, I felt weights lift off my shoulders immediately [...] it was really therapeutic to explore some feelings that I maybe wasn’t comfortable being open with.

Inspired by the story-telling capabilities of genres such as country and music theatre, MY/ND: Catharsis marks first full length release from Goldfinch, who says the album happened almost by accident after writing a string of singles intended for individual release. 'I wasn’t really going to do the album at all actually,' says Goldfinch. 'But as I wrote more, I realised that the only appropriate setting for these songs was an album.'

'I Call Home' is the first single from the album and -- by way of a single plaintive guitar, and warm, tender vocals -- showcases Goldfinch's carefully attuned songwriting capabilities front-and-centre. 

Not one to rest on his laurels, Goldfinch also hosts a podcast called Catharsis, which features a slew of guest artists talking about the creative process, and delves into such oft-neglected subjects such as artistic insecurity, rejection, and writing blocks.

With the release date of MY/ND: Catharis soon to be announced, we sat down with Goldfinch to talk all things music, inspo, and what being a musical storyteller means to him.

Check it out below!

1- Where in the world are you based?

I’m based in Sydney, Australia.

2- How did you get started in music? How would you describe your sound? 

I’m not really sure what sparked it for me. I was always surrounded by music growing up, particularly country, and I think I just grew fond of storytelling in that way because of the music I listened to. I moved into music theatre and different contemporary sounds during high school, and studied Music Theatre at University, but I think I was just in love with creating sonic stories. Thats kind of how I think of my sound; it’s quite folky and country and blues, but it’s just really storytelling.

3- Tell us a little bit about your upcoming album Catharsis. What was the inspiration behind it? How long did it take to come together?

So, MY/ND (pronounced My Mind): Catharsis is a project I’ve been working on now for the best part of a year. I wrote a few songs that I kind of intended to be released as singles and I wasn’t really going to do the album at all actually, but as I wrote more, I realised that the only appropriate setting for these songs was an album. I wanted to give the tunes their own time to breathe but I also wanted it to be a connected story. I chose the name Catharsis because every time I wrote a new song, I felt weights lift off my shoulders immediately and it was really therapeutic to explore some feelings that I maybe wasn’t comfortable being open with, and once I knew what the album was about, it became super easy to finish writing. I’m still putting the finishing touches on it all, but I can’t wait for it to be released.

4- Not only are you a musician in your own right, but you also host your own podcast series, Catharsis: A Podcast About Music, which takes listeners behind-the-scenes on some the challenges of being an artist. How did it come about? Why do you think people are so interested in learning about the creative process?

Really, the podcast was for me at first and it wasn’t really supposed to be something that was educational, more conversational. It also helped me narrow down my own process, and the more I talked to different artists, music lovers, producers, whatever it may be, the more I felt my process change and evolve as new ideas became clear. I think what I find most interesting about the Podcast though is the way people have responded to it. I notice people have been clearer in discussing new ideas with me, and people have reached out with new songs to look over together, and I think people find it interesting because it’s so personal, and when its personal, its easier to create a connection with someone because you feel like you know them. Learning about process is always interesting too, because you get to see literally how things come together and I don’t think a lot of artists do that, so I champion those who do (including myself). The podcast is also an extension of my album, so I think people are at least in part intrigued by that idea, too.

5- With that in mind, can you give us a quick run down on how your own creative process works?  

It’s just a whole lot of sitting in the studio and creating stories from stimuli, and listening to music, too. I think that’s actually a hugely underrated part of writing too, checking in with your influences I mean. Normally, I’ll write my lyrics first and then my melody and then I add the other elements of music, like harmony and rhythm, and tonality and just see what Frankenstein’s Monster I create.

6- How do you feel the Internet has impacted your career? Are streaming and video services like YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud making things easier or harder for artists to get their music out there?

I think social media has been a pretty big factor in the early parts of my career. I feel as though a lot of my ideas are filtered through my Instagram and Facebook and I try and see what others are liking, or connecting with, and opening the floor to work with some amazing people. I don’t really post on YouTube, though I should do it more. Most of my social media is story based, to be honest. I don’t really post a lot. Spotify is a good platform though, because there’s more choice with what you listen to and you’re not just subject to one radio station playing the same “hits” all the time, and I like Soundcloud as a sound boarding opportunity to showcase cool ideas and connect on a purely musical level.

7- If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be? 

I think there needs to be more accountability in showcasing diverse stories and artists. It sometimes feels like amazing talents go missing in the stream because of what they’re saying, or what they believe, their sexuality, or even gender, which is messed up. We need to be championing more artists and supporting music from all parts of the World.

8- What's next for you? Where do you hope to see yourself in a year’s time?

Well, hopefully I’ll have released the album and have done a few live gigs. I’d like to say I’ll be touring but given the current climate, I am unsure. I am going down to do a few shows in Wollongong in the new year, and then a few around the Sydney circuit around Feb, which will be cool. I’ll also probably be working on my second album, let’s be honest.

Thanks for stopping by Hipland!