Interview with Missy Lancaster

Australian country music starlet, Missy Lancaster is set to release her latest single, Forget on August 25th 2017. Last year, I had the opportunity to interview her about her then-recent signing with Sony Music. Catch up on some of the best bits with this little flashback.

After doing the hard yards as an independent artist, Australian country music singer Missy Lancaster has recently been signed to Sony Music. On the eve of re-releasing her second EP, Missy, she spoke about the recording process, her love of country music and being Keith Urban’s biggest fan.

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Missy Lancaster’s new single, “Forget” is out August 25th 2017.  [Image via Artist’s Facebook page]

 

 

Congratulations on the upcoming release of your second EP, Missy. It was originally released earlier this year independently but now that you’re signed to Sony, it will be re-released tomorrow (8th July 2016). Are you nervous about that?

 Yeah. I suppose it’s just being put up on a much bigger platform, but it’s great, you know, that something I did independent[ly] is good enough to be released through Sony.

 

How does it compare to your previous release, ‘Til I Figure It Out’?

I think this EP just really suits my personality. It just sums me up really well. It really shows where I’m at in my life. I suppose [with] my first EP, I didn’t really know where I was at, what kind of music I wanted to make whereas this EP, I knew the style of music I wanted to make. I had a really clear direction of what I really wanted my songs to be about.

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Paul M. M. Cooper – River of Ink (Literature Review)

British journalist, editor and archivist Paul M. M. Cooper bewitches readers with his debut novel River of Ink – a foray into the depths of medieval Sri Lanka.

As court poet, Asanka has something of a privileged life. Spending most of his days in the luxury of the apartments afforded to him by the king – to whom he has dedicated his life – he teaches his mistress, a servant by the name of Sarasi, the secrets of language while assisting his master the best he can. Continue reading

Kylie Ryan – Got Me In (Single Review)

Sydney-based country musician Kylie Ryan announces her arrival with the recent release of her debut single, Got Me In.

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Click here to buy your copy of “Got Me In” on iTunes. [Image via Artist’s Facebook]

Kylie Ryan isn’t really your stereotypical country artist. Trading dreams of making it big in the music business for family life, it’s only recently that Ryan has been able to focus on kickstarting her music career. Having graduated from WSI Entertainment (Western Sydney TAFE) with qualifications in music theory, Ryan is ready to take the next step on her road to success.

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In Conversation with The Bedroom Philosopher

 

In 2014, I caught up with Justin Heazlewood (AKA The Bedroom Philosopher) following a  performance at Queensland Poetry Festival. In August 2017, he will return to the line-up with his highly-praised “Cat Show”. As such, I thought now would be a great time to share some of the best bits from one of my favourite interviews.

Justin Heazlewood (Image Provided)

Do you still get nervous when you perform live? How do you conquer those fears?

Yes. It used to be more of a loose shock, like weeing on an electric fence – these days it’s more of a focused buzz – like eating good Indian. The key to success is cutting down the amount of ‘nerves’ time before a show. In the early days it’s anywhere up to a month. These days it’s perhaps the morning of the gig. Yoga helps. Meditation helps. Arrogance helps.

If you weren’t a performer, what would you be doing?

Being mentally ill, probably wandering the streets. I would make a good social worker/ guru touring schools and helping kids with issues about self-esteem. This is something I am trying to do more of.

I’m fusing my Bedroom Philosopher skills into a presentation that can fire up school kids and remind them that everyone is messed up and lonely and that it will probably all be okay. That said, I can’t cure cyber bullying – that’s one complex dude.

 

Who inspires you, both professionally and personally?

I am inspired by artists who have ignored commercial trajectories and just made the work they wanted to make. I recently interviewed over 100 artists for my book Funemployed.

In particular, I was taken with Tony Martin and John Clarke’s attitudes. They don’t have agents, they just keep firing up and making their own work and relying on their personal networks and collaborations. It was a very similar ethos to the one I’ve had – and I’m at a stage in my mid-career where I really need to hear from older artists who are still doing it – because in some ways the world is screaming at you to give up and go away and have kids and disappear.

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Kesha – Praying (Single Review)

“It’s from our darkest moments that we gain the most strength.” – Kesha in her personal essay for Lenny Letter.

Pop superstar Kesha is reborn with her power-ballad, Praying, the first from her long-awaited third album, Rainbow.

 

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Get your copy of Praying on iTunes. Kesha’s upcoming album, Rainbow will be released on August 11th 2017 through Sony Music/Kembosabe Records and is available for pre-order. [Image via Artist’s Facebook.]

I’ve never really been a fan of Kesha, who first came to prominence with her debut single TiK ToK in 2009. While her debut album, Animal (and the follow up record, Warrior) garnered her millions of fans worldwide and accolades that most musicians only dream of, I couldn’t help but be put off by the “poppiness” of her material, that commercial vibe that, to me, sounded a little too manufactured.

But Praying, written in the aftermath of a hellish five years which prevented the pop singer from releasing any new music, is something else entirely.

There’s a richness and vulnerability to Praying that has been missing from her previous songs. A piano ballad, Kesha explores her unique vocal range in a way that, in my opinion, has been previously left untapped. The husky edge to her tone, and the skill with which she has arranged this heartfelt composition shows true talent. Aussie folk band, All Our Exes Live in Texas lend the song a slight gospel feel, and the combination of these two artists is almost perfect.

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Aussie songstresses All Our Exes Live In Texas’ vocals feature on this song. (c) Cybele Malinowski

Lyrically, Kesha allows the song to speak for her, fighting against those who tried to drag her down. While it is heartbreaking in some points, there’s also a sense of empowerment that cannot be ignored.

Kesha will probably entirely lose that pop vibe that has earned her such success, but Praying signifies a turning point in her career, a strength and awareness that can only mean that the best is yet to come.

 

[Editor/Author Note: Don’t forget to check out my review of All Our Exes Live in Texas’ debut album, When We Fall. You can also read more about their involvement with Praying here, and the video clip for the song is on YouTube.]

Emily Brewin – Hello, Goodbye (Literature Review)

Debut Australian author Emily Brewin delights with her historical coming of age novel, Hello, Goodbye.

It’s 1968 in Nurrigul, Victoria.  Good Catholic girls like seventeen-year-old May Callaghan aren’t expected to conquer the world. If you survive school, marry a hardworking man and raise a family, you’ve done enough. But May knows there’s more to life outside her small hometown, and a war in Vietnam. She dreams of being a part of something bigger.

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Hello, Goodbye is published by Allen & Unwin. Click here to get your copy from Dymocks.

When her boyfriend Sam leaves for Melbourne, May seizes the opportunity to catch a glimpse of what it might be like if she were to follow in his footsteps. But Carlton isn’t what she expected. It’s so much more.

There, people aren’t afraid to say and do what they like, to step outside the norm and face challenges head on. This is especially the case when it comes to opposing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, something which May can relate to given the impact her father’s military efforts have on her family life. And at the forefront of it all are Sam’s housemates, Clancy and Ruby, both of whom seem worldlier than May could ever imagine.

Soon, she finds herself caught up in the chaos of these new surroundings. The culture, the social scene, and the politics. The desire to be a part of it is strong she begins to question her beliefs, and who she really is. But is her longing for adventure going to lead to more trouble than its worth?
Despite touching on the basics of the Vietnam War in school, I – like many Australians – was not overly familiar with Australia’s involvement in the conflict, and the impact the revolutionary change of the 1960s had on the nation as a whole. Hello, Goodbye introduced me to that, and it’s a scene as alluring in fiction as it was in real life.

In this novel, Brewin has created a world that is captivating, full of vibrant three-dimensional characters who seemingly take on a life of their own. Their story is powerful.

When writing on a topic that is as politically and historically charged as this one, it can be difficult not to get bogged down in the research. Even the best and most-loved historical authors can trip up occasionally by providing too much information, and subsequently, bombarding the reader with facts and figures. This was never the case with Hello, Goodbye. Brewin’s style is effortless – hypnotising even – as she leads us on a journey of what it was like to be a teenage girl growing up in the late sixties. A time when the world was full of promise as well as danger.

Hello, Goodbye is a fantastic novel by a great new writer. It’ll leave you breathless and stay with you long after the final page. I can’t wait to read more.

 

 

Roslyn Petelin – How Writing Works (Literature Review)

Despite recent cutbacks in the arts and entertainment field, Australia has a plethora of aspiring writers hoping to one day make their mark on the industry – either through a novel of their own, journalism, literary criticism or some other way. But the professional development workshops that can teach you how to break in can sometimes come at a heavy cost.

The only solution, therefore, is the self-help section of one’s local bookstore or library. But have you seen the sheer volume of “how-to” guides on the creative industries lately? Sure, there’s the ones everyone talks about, like Lynne Truss’s highly regarded Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, The Penguin Guide to Plain English by Harry Blamires or even How Not To Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark, but there’s also hundreds of others dedicated to specific styles of writing, such as script writing, copywriting and writing for children. Where’s a fledgling writer, professional or otherwise, to start?

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Buy your copy of “How Writing Works” by clicking here.

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Glenda Millard – The Stars at Oktober Bend (Literature Review)

Glenda Millard’s latest novel, The Stars at Oktober Bend is a unique and heartbreaking coming-of-age story that shines a light on the human psyche.

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Click here to get your copy of this book via Allen & Unwin.

In recent times, young adult fiction has received something of a bad rap for its cookie-cutter plots generally featuring a hot guy who, when he finally pays attention to the girl next door with whom he was friends as a child, instantly falls in love with her despite her gangly awkwardness. Add in a broody vampire taking a liking to the new girl in town and you’ve got the next paranormal cross-over.

That said, there are exceptions to this well-worn rule, which form a category all of their own, such as John Green’s much-loved The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and even Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. In their own right, each take on the ‘coming of age’ theme in their own special way, and that is what makes them so popular.

To look at, Australian author Glenda Millard’s YA novel, The Stars at Oktober Bend definitely falls in the latter category. But as you delve into the pages of this unique and memorable story, you will find something altogether different, a coming-of-age tale that stands on its own in terms of comparability – at least in my opinion.

“They sewed me up when I was twelve. Mended my broken head with fishbone stitches. Tucked my frayed edges in. Tucked everything in. Things meant to be and things not. Do it quick. Stop the flow. Stop life leaking out of Alice.” This is how The Stars at Oktober Bend begins and it is with those few words, said so plainly and yet so powerfully that this book hooked me and found a place in my heart for many years to come.

Alice Nightingale is twelve when she receives an acquired brain injury doctors believe to be so severe that her mental capacity will not be beyond the age she is at the time of the attack. The repercussions upon her family – her brother Joey and her grandmother, not to mention her often referred to yet barely present grandfather Charlie – are great and it is through Alice and because of Alice that they are outcasts in their small town of Oktober Bend.

Now fifteen years old and unable to attend school because of her ‘limitations’, Alice struggles in the prison that is now her home, fighting to be free of the prognosis the doctors have given her. This “twelve-ness”, as she refers to it. As a way to escape and prove she is capable of more than expected of her, she turns to poetry, crafting the words which have become vocally lost to her with beautiful and unexpected precision.

In an effort to make herself heard, she leaves these secret verses in public places for strangers to find – such as the nearby railway station – taking comfort in the thought that someone will understand her long held secret.

Manny James has secrets himself. He struggles to find his place in this new world in which he has wound up: this place that is so far from his war-torn home of Sierra Leone. Though only sixteen years old, he has seen atrocities and experienced tragedies his classmates would not even dream of and yet he must keep his left-behind identity from them in order to avoid persecution. He must blend in and survive. It’s all about survival and that is one thing that does not change no matter the environment.

Eventually these two misfits, social outcasts if you will, find their way to one another and through the other’s story, find a way to create one of their own. A beauty and understanding that looks beyond what others take at face value. That is what makes this book stand out from other coming of age stories, and in a league all of its own.

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There’s something magical about Millard’s prose as she weaves the tender tale of these two teenagers craving to be heard in a world of static and chaos. Her approach is careful as she takes on topics such as disability – one not often covered well in fiction, let alone novels of this genre – but she does not stray from confrontation, presenting readers with cold hard facts in a way that is subtle but at the same time not allowing them to be ignored.

The Stars at Oktober Bend was my first introduction to this multi award winning author – who has written a number of YA novels and children’s books – but it will by no means be the last. Magical and tender, tragic and terrifying, this book will take readers on a roller-coaster of emotions and a journey you will never forget.

[Editor/Author Note: This review was originally published by The Australia Times.]

 

Interweaving Cultures with Nicole Alexander

[Editor/Author Note: In 2014, I was lucky enough to interview Nicole Alexander about her (then) new book, The Great Plains. This is the resulting interview, which was originally published by Hush Hush Biz. To celebrate the upcoming release of Alexander’s seventh novel, An Uncommon Woman, I thought now would be a great time to share this little flashback!]

Upon the release of her fifth book, The Great Plains, Australian author Nicole Alexander remains humble despite her success.

Leaving behind a high-flying, international career in marketing, Nicole Alexander returned to her family’s property in country New South Wales in the 1990s and quickly found herself immersed in running the family business. Continue reading

Tricia Sullivan – Occupy Me (Literature Review)

According to science fiction author Tricia Sullivan, her latest novel Occupy Me represents “twenty years of growth … in every way I can gauge, it outstrips anything else I have written.”

Even before the release of Occupy Me in January of this year, Sullivan has been well-regarded in the world of science fiction. Though she says it is not her best work, her 1998 novel won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award (for Science Fiction Literature), ranking her among some of the world’s great novelists, including Margaret Atwood and Australia’s own George Turner.  She has since gone on to write five other novels under her own name, as well as be nominated for that same prize.

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Get your copy of “Occupy Me” from QBD.

Occupy Me is the story of Pearl – a woman with wings struggling to find her way back home. The problem is, her home isn’t Earth, and she has no real recollection of how she got here. As if that wasn’t enough, the key to solving her mystery: a portal briefcase with access to another dimension, is now in the possession of a psychotic killer posing as the gentle doctor whose body he has overtaken. And he seems hell-bent on destroying the world. Can Pearl catch up to him before he succeeds? Will she find out who she is and return home?

I really wanted to like this novel. Though science fiction is not my usual genre of choice, I was intrigued by the premise and eager to get started, ready to fall in love with a new favourite author. Sadly, this was not the case.

In my opinion, there were too many plot lines in this novel. At times it seemed a bit like a draft, where Sullivan had all these thoughts down on paper in a rush to get to the ultimate climax of the story, but then failed to go back and tie up those loose ends, leaving readers with more questions than answers upon the novel’s conclusion.

Though the characters in this novel were interesting and dynamic, they were overshadowed by complex storylines and a lack of explanation in general. I certainly didn’t see how this could be what the author pretty much referred to as her crowning glory.

This is definitely not what I was expecting from an author so highly regarded and not really enough to make me want to read more of her work. If I was to do so, it would only be for comparison’s sake.

Occupy Me is out now through Hachette Australia.

 

[Editor/Author Note: This review was published by Hush Hush Biz in 2016. View it in its original capacity here.]