After leaving her mark on the Australian cultural landscape with The Clouds, Jodi Phillis has returned to her default mode of acoustic singer songwriter, mining the deep seem of neo-romantic folk pop. Tomatrax caught up with Jodi to talk about her latest music!
Your latest album is just about to be released, how does it feel to have it finished and ready to go?
It feels very very good. It’s a relief, let me tell you!
What made you choose ‘Becoming’ as the album’s title track?
It is the name of the first single from the album. It struck me as being a great word to describe the process of constantly changing and growing and creating. Even now at 53, I feel like a babe in the woods, discovering what it is that I want to say and how to say it, whether it’s through music or art or even within relationships. We are constantly ‘becoming’ something. We can’t actually become the thing that we are becoming, because we already are it. It’s a cosmic mystery….a riddle…a dance.
The album was crowdfunded, what made you take that approach to funding?
It is very expensive to manufacture cds, vinyl, books of illustrations, pay for publicity etc, etc. It would have been very difficult without the help of all the people who pledged to the campaign and I am deeply grateful.
I’m a totally independent artist so it is really the only way. It was a truly humbling experience and overwhelmingly positive.
I read Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’ and kind of felt like it didn’t apply to me, because I am a reserved, introverted kind of person, unlike Amanda Palmer who seems to have a huge energy pulsing out of her. However, after going through the whole process in my own way, I started to see that all you have to do is to be real and people will respond to that. That’s what we all need and want…for people to be real and show their true colours.
Do you think crowdfunding is the future way for artists to put out music?
Yes I do. It is great for independent artists who need complete freedom to be able to create. It can be in many different forms, whether it is in the form of monthly subscriptions or project based funding, it all helps and it is all appreciated. Artists bring so much joy and connection to the world. We work so hard to bring a finished piece of work into the world. Artists also have to eat and raise families and live a good life, just like anybody else. A world without art and music and stories and creative expression would not be a world worth living in.
The album consists of acoustic music, what inspired you to take in the unplugged approach?
It is something that has been brewing inside me since I was about 14 years old. I used to listen to records all the time. I had many favourite singer, songwriters and I remember saying to myself back then, “I want to be a singer, songwriter and make people feel deep things. I want to sing and have people really listen and have their hearts and minds opened up”. Among my favourite songwriters are George Harrison, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. I chose these four artists as references for this album because of the spiritual content in their music. I have always felt like a hippy inside and folk music is probably my default mode. So acoustic instruments just made sense.
You’ve also said the the album is an account of grief and it’s fallout, is it hard to put such issues for public display?
I began to write songs for the album five years ago. Shortly after, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died 11 months later….and then my Dad died from cancer as well. They were both still young and I was very close to them. My mother was my best friend. As anyone who has lost people close to them will know, grief is very personal, very unpredictable and very, very fuckin’ hard to go through. I went insane. But after the grief, there are moments of what feels like a transformation. It was such a profound experience for me that I felt like I had to share it through music. I was compelled. There was no choice. I enjoy expressing myself in a naked way. I always question my lyrics to make sure they are true. If I can’t argue with the essence of what I’m saying, I will sing it, no matter how embarrassing or revealing. If it doesn’t ring true after singing it for a while, I will change it or chuck it.
Your bio says that your constantly exploring new musical realms, is it hard to keep coming up with new music ideas?
It’s not really about ideas for me. The ideas just come up from inside me. It isn’t an intellectual thing, it is a spiritual thing. So once an idea comes that I really love, I will just explore it until I can see that it is something I can follow through with.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
It totally depends on the kind of music it is. I find these days that words and melodies often come together. I write songs now without a guitar. I just get a melody in my head and start playing around with it and some words usually come too. Then I pick up a guitar and start trying to figure out what the chords are. There really is no set pattern though.
How does performing solo compare with playing with the Clouds?
The Clouds are a four headed beast. I have to sing louder and fall in step with three other strong minded individuals. We have a lot of fun when we play. We make a great sound that is unique and exciting. My solo work is very cocooned and sacred. It feels very different to the Clouds. It is quiet and introspective and very personal.
You’ll be touring the country next month, what can fans expect from your show?
I will play the songs on acoustic guitar. The interstate shows will just be me and a guitar. I love performing this way. I think it is my favourite way to perform. I wrote all of the songs on Becoming with a view to being able to play them solo, so I made sure that they were enjoyable to sing, rather than being too challenging. I am finding that people are really resonating with the lyrics which is great. At the Sydney and Port Kembla shows I will have my band with me…Tim Oxley on bass, Damien Lane on guitar and Phil Lally on drums. I sometimes play with one other musician too which is a really special way to perform. Sometimes Damien will join me on guitar or Tim will join me on bass. I like to keep it flexible.
Given your vast back catalogue, is it hard to chose what songs to play on stage?
Yes it is difficult to choose. I have chosen a set that consists of all the new songs plus some of my favourites from The Dearhunters and a few from my other solo albums.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Once I have finished making an album, I play it to death. Once it is mixed and mastered and you can turn it up loud it is so much fun. Eventually though, I will have had enough of it and I will hardly ever listen to it again
What other music do you listen to?
When I draw I love to listen to quiet, dreamy, dark, sad and intimate music. My favourite artists for that kind of thing are Bonnie Prince Billy, Aimee Mann, Joanna Newsom, Josephine Foster, Lana Del Ray. I love all kinds of music though. Tim and I listen to lots of jazz and classical music from my Dad’s old record collection. I love psychedelic pop, Tame Impala, Daft Punk, Boston, Beatles, Stones….bloody hell the list is endless.
What do you have planned after your upcoming shows?
I am composing music for a dance performance which is really exciting. It’s a dream come true because I have always wanted to write for an orchestra and now it’s happening! I am working with Amanda Brown on that one.
The Clouds also have a tour planned for early next year and some more recording. Then I will have some kind of a holiday because it is way overdue. I look forward to writing my next solo album too.
JODI PHILLIS ALBUM LAUNCH / SOLO TOUR
Saturday 3rd November – Junk Bar, Brisbane QLD
Friday 9th November – Servo, Port Kembla NSW
Saturday 10th November – Gasoline pony, Marrickville NSW
Thursday 15th November – Grace Emily, Adelaide SA
Friday 16th November – Kastoria Club, Nth Coburg VIC
Saturday 17th November – Major Tom’s, Kyneton VIC
Sunday 2nd December – Mona, Berriedale TAS
Check out Jodi Phillis’s Facebook page to find out more!