Left-leaning pop artist Austen has released new single North South East West, a gorgeous track about blossoming love, on Tank Top Records. Austen has also released a stunning clip to accompany the track, featuring an all-Austen band performing on a ‘60s talk show, filmed by Teel Studios (JOY., Nyxen, Miss Blanks). North South East West feels evocative of alt-pop forces Clairo and King Princess with a Mark Ronson-esque beat and production – but also exhibits something uniquely Austen. Perfectly summery, with gentle, rolling percussion and lush, full instrumentation that highlights Austen’s quietly assured vocal, North South East West is a woozy track that feels just like falling in love. Co-written by Evan Klar and Hailey Collier, and co-produced by Evan Klar and Jono Ma, North South East West is a beautiful addition to Austen’s impressive discography, as she explains, “North South East West is about that easy type of love where it feels like you’re living in a hazy dream, exploring new territory and not having to force anything – a love letter to the honeymoon period. I’d written a lot of songs about toxic love and I wanted this one to be the polar opposite…it’s a love song to simple, flirty love.” We caught up with Austen to learn more about her.
Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
Hello! I’m sitting at the airport right now, about to go and surprise my Mum with a visit for her birthday. So far today I’ve just been last-minute packing, making some pasta for lunch, and sitting on the SkyBus.
Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?
I’ve been making music as Austen for about 5 years. Before that I hadn’t really written or performed much pop music before, but was always a big music nerd and fan. I learned classical violin when I was younger and was in a lot of other bands growing up.
Who are your greatest inspirations? Why?
Musically, my inspirations at the moment are Gorrilaz, The Talking Heads, Little Dragon, Metronomy, London Grammar, The 1975, Mark Ronson.
How do you create music? Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first? Explain your process.
It’s different for each song, but I’d say the chords and melody come first most of the time. My vocals usually start off as gibberish words that I’ll sing into the mic to write the melody and then they turn into proper lyrics over time. Often there will be some random words in the gibberish that I can’t un-hear or can’t bring myself to change, and that will tell me where the song wants to go lyrically.
What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
It’s a financial challenge for sure, especially since Covid, obviously. But I’d say the main challenge lies in balancing the creative brain and the organised brain, making sure that you’re giving yourself enough of an outlet to feel creatively fulfilled but also making sure your sh*t is together enough to give your creative brain room to relax, and not worry about how many unread emails you’ve got waiting for you. Also, just letting go of caring what anybody else thinks and creating for yourself and your own taste.
Tell us about your new release, how did it come about?
North South East West was born out of a super fun co-writing session, and it’s basically a love letter to the honeymoon period. Ironically stemming from a dark place, I went into that studio session having just found out 10 minutes earlier that a person really close to me had been telling me loads of lies – which is where the first verse started from, wondering what makes someone feel the need to lie? We took that, tried to laugh at it, and went on to spin it into something positive, imagining the flip side of the situation where things are easy-breezy and simple. I took the demo to Jono Ma (Jagwar Ma, Flight Facilities) who did co-production and mixing.
What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
Trust your gut, on everything! You can always tell deep down if something is the right fit for you or not. Also, remember to enjoy the journey and not put too much pressure on yourself.
Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
Yoga, everyday. I struggle a little bit with anxiety so yoga and meditation are so helpful. Also just getting out of the city and into nature, going to an airbnb for the weekend or something and just turning my phone off and painting and drinking tea.