Fertile ground for global pop innovation - the thriving female independent scene of Australia
Although at times Australia might feel like a distant island far away from the musical metropolis of the U.K. and the U.S., its influence on international anglophone music history is inescapable. More often than not, artists from this region storm the world charts with a refreshing vision of trending sounds that helps pop music evolve into new directions.
Going back through the years there are lots of examples of this. We can recall the way AC/DC created an infallible blueprint for hard rock or how Flume introduced a whole new dimension of melodies and sensibility into big room bass music. However, most recently, it’s been female artists such as Tones And I or Sia who've been breaking the expectations of what a global pop star could sound like.
It’s hard to pin down the source of this Aussie magic to one thing in particular. However, we are pretty sure that the depth and plurality of its local scene plays a significant role in it. A circuit known to have a big love for international sounds, yet always being able to print its own distinctive local style on them.
To give you a taste of what we are talking about, here is a list of 9 women artists coming from the Australian independent scene that will give you a quick introduction into this huge pool of amazing local talent.
Hollie Col (Sydney)
“I’m not sure superstardom is the level of fame I would want now. I think I truly just love writing music, and the process of building up a world, sonically and visually, so if I could make a comfortable living doing that for the rest of my life, I’d be stoked”. Hollie Col
Hollie Col’s music is all about using great lyrics to encapsulate those moments in life where happiness and sadness are intertwined in a rush of emotions. Barely reaching her mid 20’s, this Sydney-based songwriter has created a strong following by honing a sound that mixes a bit of pop style with an alternative/indie creativity and the emotionality you can sometimes find in the folk rock use of big - almost church like - choruses, like in her latest video “Forgot To Love You”. This song is a great proof that Hollie Col is a master at mixing pop melancholy and indie happiness in what could both be the perfect soundtrack for breakups or for the end of an epic summer adventure.
Eilish Gilligan, (Melbourne)
“Experience has taught me [that] if you just keep up the discipline of practicing most days — nearly every day — writing, doing things to spike your creativity, you’ll encourage that creative wave to come visit again.” Eilish Gilligan
Eilish Gilligan is a singer that has a unique way of picking up an alternative synth vibe and taking it to her very own pop territory. The key to her sound relies in the way she can mix uplifting melodies with dramatic vocals, as well as using production aesthetics that, although feel pop, never lose their nocturnal vibe thanks to a gripping pattern of synthetic drums. After spending the past couple of years releasing singles that primarily focus on slow jams where her voice was the big protagonist, in her latest album “First One to Leave the Party” she lets the rhythm section take a bigger role. This gives amazing results, especially in songs like “Up All Night”, where the synth line plays a role equivalent to Eilish's powerful voice, particularly on the hook where the bursting vocal effects will almost give you chills.
Mwanje is a young singer ready to explode into stardom. We are talking about an artist with a gifted voice that started to showcase her talents by uploading covers of Etta James and Ariana Grande on Instagram or has been seen more recently doing the choruses and ad libs for Zambian-born & Australian-based artist Sampa The Great at stages such as NPR’s Tiny Desk or Splendour in the Grass. Despite these credentials, what stands out is the solid aesthetical vision that accompanies her gifted voice. In her debut video “Divine”, the laid back RnB track pushes forward a visual statement where a fashionista composition serves as the frame to mix 1970’s retro-futuristic vibes with lots of African symbolisms. A visual statement with great care of detail that transpires into all of the areas of her artistic persona.
Lisa Mitchell (Albury)
Lisa Mitchell is a singer and songwriter that has her musical DNA strongly rooted in folk rock, connecting the dots all the way from 60s and 70s folk icons to the folk revival generation artists like Sufjan Stevens. After honing her skills on a local cafe circuit, she rose to national prominence when she took part in Australian Idol during 2006. On her first albums, songs like “Neopolitan Dreams” and “Coin Laundry” had that sweet ukulele vibe of late 2000’s indie pop and folk bands. Ever since, her music has taken a stripped-down approach that also led her to a more eclectic set of influences. Her cover album from 2017 featured melancolic versions on acoustic guitar of songs like Lovefool by The Cardigans or So from Spice Girls. This side step from her previous sweet ukulele vibe seemed a necessary stepping stone to help her reach new musical frontiers, such as the sound she is able to explore on her latest single “Vital Signs” in collaboration with the electronic music producer Mazde.
Mia Rodriguez (Sydney)
“I’ve always loved creepy stuff. Songs, cartoons, movies... big Tim Burton fan here. I enjoy turning the spooky visuals I see into music! I just think it’s so cool.” - Mia Rodriguez
Mia Rodriguez embraces a new paradigm: changing many of the expectations of what it means to be an alternative punk-pop star, from Avril Lavigne all the way to Billie Eilish nowadays. She pushes it forward with a unique style, tapping heavily on animé aesthetics and “psychotic versus sweet contrasts”. In 2019, she rose to notoriety through TikTok and was quickly signed to City Pop Records. Her first two singles “Emotion” and “Psycho” became blockbusters that currently accumulate almost 20 million plays across streaming platforms, same with their videos. On her recent single and video “Billion Dollar B*tch” (featuring rising US rapper Yung Baby Tate), the use of trap references brings her sound closer to a pop and rap crossover - ensuring that this will not only be a viral hit for online life, but also on the new dancefloors opening as the year comes closer to its end.
Miss Blanks (Brisbane)
“For so long, women of color, especially trans women of color, have been seen as an inconvenience and for the first time in Australian music I get to be highly visible. I get to say what I wanna say in my music, and reclaim my voice, sensuality, femininity, body, mind, energy - everything that is me/Miss Blanks. I think that's the best thing about being Miss Blanks.” - Miss Blanks
Miss Blanks “is part of the new generation of Australian rappers reclaiming hip hop as a political weapon, a megaphone amplifying racial and gender diversity”. Although her music could be labeled as party music, the unapologetically way in which she raps about her black and transgender identity confronts many of the expectations of the Australian hip hop market. Known for a number of singles such as “Clap Clap” that work primarily with trap beats and hip-hop aesthetics, she raises the BPMs and summer vibes on her last track to create an infectious rap house anthem. According to her own words, “Flying High'' is the "ultimate party starter, written for the return to clubs as people around the world step into what is our new 'COVID normal”' This is a banger with a strong L.A. vibe that mixes a bit of laid back hip-hop vibe with an infectious house beat. All of this is complemented with an “in your face” attitude that reminds us of the glory days of Yo Majesty.
Sahara Beck (Darwin)
“[If I had to go back in time] I would've told myself to not be intimidated by other people. I thought when I heard someone better, it meant that I wasn’t good. I had to learn to stick to what I’m doing personally and to believe in myself. Doing music is hard enough already — artists should support and bring each other up instead of being in competition. We always need more music!” - Sahara Beck
Playing and releasing music since she was thirteen years old, Sahara Beck has grown to become quite a “badass pop futurist”, known for dramatic contrasts in each of her songs, such as mixing hard rock tone with hopeful lyrics or a beautiful piano with a darker wordplay. After a first couple of years releasing music with a focus on rock sounds, her album “Queen of Hearts” marked a paradigm shift that led her to create a unique kind of pop that combines influences from 70's rock and pop with more modern sounds, sometimes reaching as far as introducing electronica elements, like on her collaboration with Luke & Friends. On her latest single “Crave Me”, she shows all of this with a particular approach of combining sweet - almost toy like - indie sounds with epic bass lines and synth atmospheres.
Emma Donovan (Sydney)
“Just being able to keep creative and consistent in writing lyrics and songs no matter what life throws at me. That’s how I deal with things – especially the hard things. Music heals me and is there for me always. It settles all.” - Emma Donovan
Emma Donovan is an Australian Indigenous singer that has been on stages since the age of seven. She started her path in the industry by singing for the longstanding aboriginal country band The Donovans. Afterwards, she developed a career that turned her into one of the most recognizable names of the aboriginal music scene. Either playing solo or with bands such as Stiff Gins or The Black Band Arm, she has been an ambassador of the importance of shedding light on the historical discrimination the indigenous people of Australia have suffered throughout the years. Since 2013, Emma has been performing as Emma Donovan & The Putbacks. A line-up that picks up the energy of the retro-soul scene - particularly the Daptone Records l catalogue - and infusing it with a certain confrontational and eclectic instrumental hip hop vibe of the early 2000’s era.
Rachael Fahim (Sydney)
“We do it for the love of it, it’s not really for the money” - Rachael Fahim
It’s always intriguing to hear about someone making country music outside of the United States. There is an exciting expectation of the new frontiers this genre could reach when infused by a different context, and Rachael Fahim is a great example of it. On many of her songs, including her recent single “Middle Ground”, this chart-topping singer brings a new perspective to the scene by bringing back the 2000’s era guitar chords and melodies. However, this is only half of the story. Her signature sound, whether solo on songs like “What I Don’t Know” or with her country supergroup Southbound, is also keen on exploring the connection of her songwriting skills with EDM. In this territory she stands out by creating songs that instead of “remixing” a country melody into a festival banger, they do the opposite. Thus, they are able to contain the emotional vibe of EDM anthems into sweet pop songs that turn country music expectations by 180 degrees - something not so distant from what Shania Twain did for the genre at the end of the 2000’s.