Harley Mavis has just released her latest single ‘Thief’. Tomatrax caught up with Harley Mavis to talk about her music!
What made you want to become a musician?
I think for me I’ve always known I wanted to make music and sing. I’ve been singing since I was 4 and grew up doing loads of Eisteddfods and choirs that sort of thing, so it was really just a part of my being from a really early age. I think when I realised I wanted to pursue songwriting as well as a career as a musician, was when I was 12 and taught myself how to play the guitar so I could write my first song. I instantly fell in love with the whole process. I think as well leading up to that moment of writing my first song, I idolised these strong, empowering female singer-songwriters like Missy Higgins and Norah Jones, and I would just sit in my room and sing and immerse myself in that whole style so I think that played a huge part in where I am now.
When did you write your first song?
So I wrote my first song when I was 12 and it was pretty terrible! I was a little bit of an activist when I was a kid and I lived in a small town called Bundaberg which is in Queensland. At the time, I think it was around 2008, there was this huge environmental crisis where they were going to damn this beautiful river called, The Mary River, and it was essentially going to destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of farmers and endanger or extinct a couple of species that were only found in that area. Anyway, I was SUPER passionate about it, and it really struck a chord with me for some reason. So I picked up my brother’s guitar without having ever played it before and just kind of wrote this song. As I said, I fell in love with writing and felt I just discovered something incredible for the first time. Anyway, the song is out there on my Mum’s computer which I’m sure will come back to haunt me one day!
You’ve just released your latest single, ‘Thief’, how does it feel to have it out?
It feels amazing to have this one out! It’s been a long work in progress and a lot of build up behind the scenes to get it all rolling. I’m so happy with how it’s going and people’s responses to it as well. It’s probably one of my favourite songs of mine. For someone who is entirely independent it’s pretty daunting to navigate your way through an industry. You end up ‘cold-emailing’ heaps of different people and when you’re doing that, and it’s just you, it really makes you feel exposed and vulnerable because you’re working really hard to get it noticed. So when it does start seeing success it makes it extra special and you feel quite relieved.
You’ve said that ‘Thief’ encapsulates your mental health at that time in your life. Is it hard to share something that personal for everyone to hear?
Yeah it is and it isn’t I think. For me, Thief was written a good 3 years ago and it came out of a time that was extremely challenging for myself and for my family. I was suffering pretty badly with depression and anxiety and it was so bad that I actually couldn’t write any songs. I had writer’s block for probably like 6 months which doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you’re in a dark place and that’s what you rely on to feel better it really takes its toll. Thief was the first song I wrote out of that writer’s block that I felt proud of, and something that just articulated exactly how it was for me in that year. I think it’s really important for me as an artist to share those experiences because these times are so important to share in our world.
Are there any plans for an LP or EP release?
In the big picture I’m setting my sights on an album. For now at least I think I’m going to keep releasing singles and see how people respond and then eventually look at doing an EP. Or you never know just go straight to an album!
What was the inspiration behind the video for ‘Magnolia’?
Maya Luana, who is an absolute genius at what she does, came up with the concept. We were both talking about the song and how it’s about taking a step back from your hectic life and remembering who you are. So I think it blossomed from there. My partner, Geo, is the other person in the clip and Maya and I wanted to show how these two people who were caught in these strange little mundane-like worlds wanted to break down the barriers that trap them in the hope that they’re able to express who they are. It was interwoven with a little bit of a love story as well and for me these narratives are important because as a queer artist I think it’s crucial for stories like this to be portrayed more in the media so there’s more representation for our LGBTIQA+ community.
Where did the name Harley Mavis come from?
The name came pretty much out of luck. My good friends and I were brainstorming what I could be called and one of them said, “Do your grandparents have cool names,” and just out of sheer luck they did! My Grandad on my Dad’s side was named ‘Harley’ and my nan on my Mum’s side, who is still alive, is called ‘Mavis.’ We put the two together and it just worked.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
I think I’d be lying if I said I don’t listen to my own music every now and then. Before a release and after I listen to it a bunch of tones just to make sure it’s perfect, but yeah sometimes it’s nice to sit back and listen to stuff you’ve recorded/released and be kind of proud about it.
What other music do you listen to?
I’m an absolute sucker for folk music so anything in that genre is pretty great. Otherwise music that I’m really loving right now is the new Marina Hackman song ‘I’m Not Where You Are,’ anything Courtney Barnett, Jade Bird, and locally my friend Merpire, her stuff is stunning!
Now that the single is out, what do you have planned next?
I’m doing a couple of dates in Sydney and Melbourne to launch the single, with a few shows coming up after the tour as well. The video clip for the track will be out pretty soon too so I’m really excited about showing that to the world, and then looking at recording another single for the end of the year.
Check out Harley Mavis’s Facebook page to find out more!
HARLEY MAVIS | TOUR DATES 2019
12th July– Botany View Hotel w/ Ainsley Farrell and Lisa Caruso
17th July– Grace Darling Hotel w/ Kaitlin Keegan and Rach Brennan & The Pines