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INTERVIEW: Shelley Segal

Hi Shelley, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi VENTS! Thanks so much for having me. I’ve been very well, thanks! I’m in the middle of tour at the moment and just loving it!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Blood”?

Absolutely 😀 Blood is a guttural folk-rock track with a driving beat throughout. It starts with just the drums and builds slowly. The vocals and lyrics are very repetitive – always coming back to the chant-like refrain – ‘Blood, Blood, Blood, Blood.’ It is a heavy song that confronts tribalism.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

It was an amalgam of different things, really. I wrote Blood just after moving to the United States. At that time the then Republican Nominee was espousing blatantly racist sentiments, Black Lives Matter was gaining international recognition and Colin Kaepernick was facing backlash for protesting racial injustice. It encouraged me to reflect on racism in my own home country, Australia. These things were all floating around in my mind and forcing me to ask myself – how do we face tribalism? It made me look inward and I found myself remembering the Passover Seders I attended as a child and how some of the symbolism meant well but often fell short. I remembered in particular a chant we would sing where we mentioned the 10 plagues of Egypt. A ritual that attempts to remember the suffering of others but by it’s very nature simplifies and dismisses them. The chant starts with the first plague ‘Blood’ and was the spark of inspiration for the track.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Not at the moment. Eventually I would like to but no immediate plans.

The single comes off your new album Holy – what’s the story behind the title?

I grew up in a religious household, a religious community that ascribes holiness to certain behaviours, physical items and even to people. What is holy was dictated to me and to adherents of my childhood religion for centuries by others, exclusively by men. I believe that it should be up to each of us to decide what it holy and sacred to ourselves. By calling myself holy, my stories, my experiences and my voice holy, I elevate myself and my experiences. I also challenge those who try to define what is holy for others and those who try to use the idea of holiness to create a hierarchy often placing themselves at the top.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process was quite quick and in that sense very rewarding. I wrote it in one sitting alone in my bedroom one evening. When you have a few ideas building up and they can come out quickly and succinctly it feels really great and I always have a bias towards those songs. I don’t know if objectively they are truly better but I always have a preference for them. My partner and accompanist Rob J Robertson worked on some pre-production with me at our home studio. We then performed the song with a band at our Folk Alliance Showcase last year. I used that same band to record later in the year at Atomic Sound Studios with producer Askold Buk.

What made you want to go for a much darker tone?

I think this was a really heavy subject and warranted that treatment. I don’t usually use that part of my voice – so close to the bottom end of my range. It gave it that chant like feel that I wanted to invoke from the passover chant and it also allows for the song which builds steadily throughout to peak very dramatically when I go up the octave to belt on that final chorus.

What role does Australia play in your music?

It’s where I grew up and so it will always be there somewhat in my observations and in the way that I react to my new surroundings, as I mentioned above in how I came to write ‘Blood’. The attitude of the people and the humour, self-deprecating, unassuming. It provides a certain perspective to be able to come here and absorb the culture as an outsider. Yet growing up in a religious minority in a very secular culture as I did can make you feel like a bit of an outsider so in a way I already did feel a little separate.

How your upbringing has influence your writing?

I think that my upbringing is the influence of a lot of recurring themes in my work as well as my attitude towards creating. My family were very loving and supportive and very encouraging of my music. My father is a musician as well and I grew up surrounded by music, performing regularly, even doing my homework at his band rehearsals. Writing music was treated as something really special in my home and If I had an idea for a song, even in the middle of the night I would be allowed to get up and write it. At the same time I also had to adhere to certain rules and rituals that didn’t have explanations outside of tradition. There were different rules for me because of my gender. Having to learn to question the way I understood the world had a very significant impact on me. I often write songs about skepticism, questioning others and myself, challenging authority and institutions, social structures, discrimination. I also talk about freedom and self expression, the right to autonomy, self empowerment and self-belief, as much for myself as for others.

What aspect of religion and love did you get to explore on this record?

On this record I explored the love of my friends and family in the opening track Already Gone. I wrote the song after returning to Los Angeles after visiting my hometown, Melbourne. I was struggling with feeling disconnected from my old home and with the distance from those I love the most. It has a real sense of longing in the song. Then second to last on the EP comes Here which is almost an answer and a comfort to the sadness of Already Gone. Here talks about a love that cannot be diminished by separation or by distance of any kind. The love that you have for another and the love they have given you can remain with you always, even when a person is no longer with you. I wrote this song initially about the depth of my love for my partner but in the studio I found myself singing it to my maternal grandparents who I was very close to and who have both now died. The issues I have with religious hierarchy I mention above when talking about my EP title Holy. I elaborate on this very directly on the track Holy Man. There are also some allusions made to old testament ideas in Blood.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I always take inspiration from my day to day life and experiences. This past year has been a year of growth for me in terms of learning to stand up for myself and how to say “No.” There happened to be few scenarios across several days where I felt a subtle pressure not to say “no” in situations that were specific to my gender and I also saw that occurring to other women as well which at that time gave me the inspiration for No. San Antonio is a true story about the murder suicide of Jennifer Smith by her husband who I knew. I, along with their friends watched that horrific event unfold online after he posted “goodbye” one morning on facebook. Music is such an incredible tool to help process things externally when my brain is no longer able to on it’s own.

What are your upcoming touring plans?

As I mentioned above I’m on tour at the moment which has been great. I’m so proud of the new record and it’s wonderful to have a chance to bring the new material to folks. I’ve been on the road for a month now and have another 7 weeks still. I’m touring as a duo with Rob and we’ve been through CA, AZ, TX, LA and were’ currently in Florida. I’ve still got GA, NC, CT, NY, PA, DC, MA, WI, CO and WY to go as well as a performance in London on March 23rd!!

What else is happening next in Shelley Segal‘s world?

As usual I’m kept busy making regular content and videos for my Patreon subscribers – I share new content with them each week!!! patreon.com/shelleysegal

I’m always writing for myself and other artists as well and working hard at my indie label True Music. Next week I’ll be dropping something special for International Women’s Day in collaboration with UK Human & Civil Rights group One Law For All. So keep an eye out!

Also I recently have a new addition to the arsenal ????I was gifted a mountain strum stick by a friend and I’ve been writing with it so looking forward to some new tunes on that too!

Listen to “Blood” here

Find Shelley Segal Online:

Official:  http://shelleysegal.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shelley.segal.music

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/purpleshells

Instagram: www.instagram.com/shelleysegal/ @shelleysegal

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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