Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Interstellar Tay has shared her emotive new single Garden Song, a memorable, heartfelt record detailing the shock of grief. Garden Song is a deeply special track – one that will remain with the listener long after the music ends. With influences such as Paul Kelly, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and First Aid Kit, Garden Song is a true amalgamation of sublime folk songwriting. Comforting and sweet, acoustic guitars gently cushion the layers of vocal harmony and textural percussion. Garden Song has such a precious feel to it – and the story behind it is moving and sacred, as Tay explains, “Garden Song is about the night my grandfather died. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but we were very close. At 11pm that night I had a dream about somebody stomping on piano keys which woke me up. In the morning I called my grandmother and she told me that he had passed away at 11pm that night. I didn’t think too much of it at the time. However, after his funeral we were all having a chat about the night he died. Both my uncle and grandmother told us that they were also woken up at 11pm. So the song is about how jarring losing the connection of a loved one can be.” But don’t be misled, this exquisite song is upbeat and authentic, a celebration of life and the connection the two shared, with the melancholy of loss intertwined within the joy. We caught up with Tay to learn more about her.
Hi, thanks for taking the time to chat with Hear 2 Zen, what have you been up to today?
No worries, thank you for the opportunity to have a chat! It’s been a pretty cruisy day, working on some new demos which has been a bit exciting.
Tell us about yourself, how long have you been performing/creating music for?
I’ve been playing music my entire life. I grew up in a family of musicians. I started writing songs around 8, however, I didn’t seriously get into music until high school. It became a bit of an obsession. Growing up in a fairly chaotic household, I think music also provided me the opportunity to feel safe and connected. Anyhow, I ended up studying jazz bass at the conservatorium when I was 18. Got deep into the jazz funk thing, but I’ve been more focused on writing songs for the last few years.
Who are your greatest inspirations? Why?
Musically there’s so many artists, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint only a few. I have a tendency to get bored and distracted easily, so anything that keeps me engaged is important. Artists that continually create music that is engaging, upbeat and interesting are my greatest musical inspirations. Beyond music, it’s a bit hard to name just one person! I don’t know that I necessarily have one. I’ve always struggled to answer questions about who I look up to. It’s not a lack of respect, maybe more having a rough childhood has taught me that everybody is fallible in their own way, but at the same time I also have a tendency to see people as good. This in no way has answered your question! But I guess it’s a nuanced thing for me.
How do you create music? Are you lyrics/story driven, or does the music/melody come first? Explain your process.
It’s always just a very strong emotion which sets the tone, then the chords follow and melody after that. Once I’m happy with the melody I sort of work out what lyrics fit the tune, rather than writing lyrics and then trying to fit the music around it. Writing the chords and melody takes about 15 minutes, lyrics can take weeks.
What has been your greatest challenge so far in performing/creating music?
I had a bit of a bad band experience a few years ago, that made it hard for me to get back into writing and playing. That has absolutely been the biggest challenge so far.
Tell us about your new release, Garden Song, how did it come about?
Garden Song is about the night that my grandfather died. It’s about that jarring feeling of losing the connection of somebody you love, but also a celebration of life.
What advice do you have to artists who are just starting out?
Pay your dues! It’s worth the effort.
Tell us your favourite Zen practice.
I meditate everyday, that’s a big one. Also making time to be grateful for what I have in life, this has been important too!