Vieux Director, Jack, sits down with NaNa Muse, Brisbane based musician, to chat about being a creative in 2021, the music industry and her latest release “Love me Better”.
In Conversation NaNa Muse
Oh wow you have two phones? Everyday and a burner phone I take it?
Its a dealer phone…..hahah. No this is my work phone and this is my “me” phone. Its pretty drug dealery but it is the Gold Coast! No one’s surprised.
Drug dealers and privileged kids, the through line is two phones. Anyway, we digress. You were saying the track has been essentially finished for the better part of a year?
Yeah, so flashback to 2020. Probably around November 2020, the track was written and we finished tracking in March this year right before re-locating.
All the way back in March?
Yeah, so we’ve been sitting on it a while. We did another record Karma, and released that first. But my production team are awesome, (Entente Music @ententemusic ). They’re amazing, it’s adapt or die with covid but we really honed our zoom skills in doing music that way.
So all revisions or additions were tracked here in QLD? Then all changes made in Melbourne and sent back to you to ok here?
Yeah it was all happening down there, revisions back and forth.
Fuck, thats a nightmare
It was crazy, a much longer process than if you were sitting in the studio and saying “more bass, more cowbell”. It’s a much longer process because of that, and my mastering engineer (name) relocating to Spain, so there was a time difference to work with as well. Then, theres the financial element of being an independent artist and funding your own project. It’s so much more than just a song.
St Jean RX in Crystal
You’re absolutely right, you become the PR team, the artist, social media manager, everything
You’re also funding it all, it’s crazy. It’s really restricting and its hard because there are so many artists. It breaks your heart to think of how many people gave up and you never get to hear their music. So many unwritten songs that will never see the light of day because people gave up and stuck to their 9-5. I saw this post the other day, that was really telling of the current situation. It was talking about just how starved we are of creativity, because we’re in the pursuit of constant content. As artists we’re really forced to be this cog in the wheel of content. We’re pushing for content over creativity. We never get a break to explore an aesthetic, a song or a vibe. We never get the opportunity to explore it because we’re stuck in the day to day “need to post”, whether it’s good or not, whether it’s interesting, whether it fuels my creativity. I think everyone has social media fatigue. It’s all we’ve been looking at for over a year. People are just oversaturated with content.
I agree, I think it degrades the quality of content. Theres an inverse relationship with the amount thats coming out and it’s making things less and less relatable. You’re matching an aesthetic or an algorithm. For us, I am moving more toward posting only when it is meaningful or when we have something important to say. There’s a habit brands fall into of being fucking noise. I’d rather not fall into that trap.
See, but then theres the other thing, what if you don’t do that, how do you survive? I know certainly in music, I think the issue is it’s almost because there is so much content available it has actually devalued the industry. 20 years ago an artist made money touring, selling merchandise, selling records. Now, there’s no value in music anymore. Anyone can access it essentially free. And, now with streaming those numbers have become our currency. That’s ok, but I can’t pay my rent with streams or exposure. It’s hard that this has become the catalyst of make or break for artists because I can’t actually survive on exposure. As much as it’s a creative passion, it’s still my job. If I can’t survive, I can’t do my job. There’s this perception with younger artists that you’re only valuable when you’re famous. Until then you can play for exposure. It’s sad because you wouldn’t do that to anyone else in any other industry.
Which coincidentally is where I draw a lot of distaste for the influencer/collaboration space. With the proliferation of influencers, much like content, its devalued the whole space. It’s very difficult to establish a genuine relationship. You’ll be told “oh my god I love our brand and your product, then next week their friend or sister is wearing your product” and you’re assured its great exposure.
Yeah, at the end of the day, you have to ask how much of this is relevant to me? How many of these exposure gigs are helping toward a career? I did the cover artist thing for years, playing pubs and bars. I still do, don’t get me wrong. But it does starve your creativity.
There is only so many times you can play a certain song by oasis that need not be mentioned. So, coming from that perspective do you write with a commercial mindset when recording?
Definitely not, I’ve never gone into a record wanting to fit into a genre. All of my inspirations will come from another song, or an album I’m obsessed with. It’ll always have an idea of what I want to write, but I don’t write to a genre.
Interesting. When I used to go into the studio, it was always with 3-4 songs and I’d know this is what the track wants to sound like form a production perspective.
I think thats important as well, especially in the modern age of music, because everything is dying. You can do so much in production now.
I’ve done the whole tape thing and it was cool, but theres some $150 plugins that sound great
Digital is so accessible now. But because its so accessible everyone is a backyard producer. In the one sense I think its awesome that everyone has the opportunity to experience music in a new way but at the same time it does saturate the industry.
Versaille in Champagne
Do you have an input with everything in your own production? Are you a gear nerd?
No, I’m an aesthetic nerd. When I know it I know it. But I’m not super fussy, I don’t feel that need. I’m in a position where I’m very fortunate I have a lot of faith in my production team. I can trust their creative judgement. “Here is my inspiration, I trust you will know how to get there”. I am present but at the same time, I’m aware that is not my area of expertise. They are very good at what they do. If it’s not shaping out how I expected they’re also very good at being able to respect the changes. It’s tough because not every producer works that way, sometimes it feels like flesh and blood.
Yeah, we’ve always believed when designing glasses that you almost have to be ready to kill your baby in a way
Yeah its hard, I’ve always preferred to have a team of really honest people rather than yes men who are not invested. I want to know. I don’t want to put anything out that I’m too biassed on.
Exactly, that reflects badly on you, if you release an awful track and people start asking “who let her release this? who okayed this? was a team of people involved here?”
100% I think thats why I love working with the people that I do. We’re doing this project because we care about it and we’re passionate about it.
Is there a part of you that thinks “well, we’ve done the passion project” do you ever feel compelled to sell out?
Totally. All. The. Time. Every Sunday night when I sit and think well… nothing happened this week. But usually Monday comes around and I change my mind.
So would you write generic pop? Whatever generic pop means these days.
Yeah, what is generic pop. I’ve written songs I don’t connect with. But I try not to limit myself and say “I’ll never do a song like that”. Honestly I change my mind more than the weather
So tattoos are out
I love tattoos but I can’t commit to any aesthetic. Look at my instagram, it’s a smorgasbord of aesthetics. Would I sell out? It’s such an open plethora of what it means to sellout. It’s tempting. But it does feel hard to be passionate when it’s a formula. My reason for doing this is because I’m passionate about it, if I take the passion out why am I here? Whats left? I think I’ll always care more about putting music out that I care about.
Theres a certain element to it, where if you run your own race, put the middle finger up to the world, only then do people become interested in the project and go “ok thats cool”. It seems if you run your own race long enough, things catch on.
Yeah, I’ve always maintained the perspective of “I’d rather have 10 people who absolutely love the record than 100000 people who only kind of care”. It’s always been about connecting with people. To feel like I am being understood, but also reaching others. The priority for me has always been to know that I am connecting with people. Even if its just one person I don’t care. It is for my own self fulfilment but it is also to know that I can connect with people. It’s really rewarding. My intentions are being understood for the song and its reaching someone else emotionally the same as it did for me…. Or even differently, they might take a different meaning. I try and write elusively in a sense that I don’t want anything to be too specific. I’ve never really written about an event. Or something that happened specifically. I’ll write a song about a colour, and build a world.
It must be a different process then because there is no half life to the song. It’s not based around something topical, it exists in its own sphere.
Yes, and it will always continue to evolve. Love me better for instance is about feeling completely oversaturated in bad news. To the point where you just want to close your eyes and ignorance is bliss. You don’t want to hear the truth because it’s too hard. You’ve heard too much bad news and its so much easier to just not… I mean, people will hear the record and think its about a boy. I do reference a boy at some point in the song but that was just to give a context. The song isn’t about any thing or person or an occasion that happened. It’s an accumulation of things, from a time where I was. I had many things happen. I had loved ones die, I had everything going on with covid, all these things I had lined up crumbling. I just got to the point where I had enough.
Previously, with the last few tracks I’d come in with lyrics and everything has been non-specific and then we would write on top of if. But love me better was one of the first ones where I had already written the track acoustically, I’ve actually got the original recording, I was filming some covers, and I stopped to write a song, so I just kept recording. The back end of the song is just me saying “something is going to go here, I’m really inspired by this song”. And I reference this Banks song, which has a really funky baseline moment. That’s where the feel came from. Then the dua lipa record came out and I felt very inspired by songs like “pretty please”, which has a very similar funk vibe.
So you had a whole arrangement there, all ready and on video.
Everything was there. Then the guys really brought it to life with their amazing skills. They have an amazing knack of just knowing what I’m thinking. Even when I can’t articulate it.
You’ve got some mind readers
Yeah, which is great because its taken a few years to find people who understand me creatively. I worked with a bunch of different people and just accepted the fact that people were never going to get me. Thinking “this is just what the experience is like”. I spent so much of my early adult life…..haha she says at the tender age of 24…. I spent a lot of time fresh out of high school in the studio questioning my abilities. Thinking I’m not talented enough to have an opinion on my own project, or on songs I wrote. It’s hard because it is a learning curve. People always thought “she’s a little blonde pop star, she’ll just get up and do her pop star thing”. Thats not what I have to offer, thats not the art I’m projecting. That was a bit of a lightbulb moment, “I need to find people who get me”. Its funny because the guys I work with now, it was one of those stars align, chips fall where they may moments. It was one of those instantaneous moments where you feel really relaxed and feel understood.
Well thats incredibly fortunate, do you have some plans for the future?
As for the future, the world is my very expensive oyster.. haha. We had a tour organised for 2020, but that year doesn’t exist. We’re hoping for some good news for next year, hopefully some shows, more music, more collaborations, more more. So stay tuned.