Published in The F:
Hailing from New South Wales, Penelope Austin is fast becoming one of Australia’s biggest musicians to hit the scene – her unique voice has been featured in HBO, her song “A Place To Call Home” was used to promote the Channel 7 drama of the same name, and she’s even collaborated with US producer J.J Abrams for the soundtrack of Star Trek Into Darkness. Having just come back from LA, we sat down with Penelope to learn more about her music and what we can expect from her new debut album.
You wrote your first song at the tender age of 15 – what inspired you to delve into music? Did you come from a musical background already or was this something that developed gradually?
I only discovered I had a voice after I lost my mum. As a coping mechanism I would write words and sing to myself into the night – words I couldn’t express to the outside world. Words only for me. My family weren’t at all musical and still aren’t! This road was a solo one.
Who inspires your music and why?
I don’t listen to a lot of music which is strange because I feel that I really should. Story tellers are the ones who really inspire me. I need to ‘feel’ something. I love the sound of big encompassing drums – the drama. But then I love the delicateness of strings or a solo piano. These sorts of things are what insures me musically because for me the dark sounds and the pretty nodes relates to the ups and downs of my life.
Describe your sound.
I get asked this a lot and to this day it still messes me up. Let’s make one up. Dark electronic pop featuring elements of indie cool hints of heavy rock beats accompanied by spaced out ethereal dynamics with vocals that correlate with a 90’s hold your horses soar garnished with – me. Are you confused? I’m confused. But maybe that’s a good thing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m waking up more and more in different cities so I guess a typical day for me is on the road. Which I love. It also consists of pen paper and coffee. I write everyday and explore art. I do find it hard to sit still – I have a very proactive mind – yoga is good me.. Keeps me grounded opposed to my body in the clouds. Physically and metaphorically. I also like to cook. And I love kissing my lover.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in your career, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is having someone stand up in my corner and say “I see you”. For years I travelled under the radar – nobody understood me or my music. It was different. And that scared people. Then it scared me because I questioned if whether I was doing wrong or if my talent wasn’t worthy of a trophy. I wasn’t seeking the trophy. I just wanted somebody to ‘get it’. To justify to me that I wasn’t crazy. That my music was heard.
Which one do you prefer – singing or song writing? Why?
I love the song writing process because it’s the initial phase of creation. I love playing with words and melodies – and that experimentation is a real thrill. However as I’ve grown as an artist the performance side is now just as strong. It’s the glue. The combining of what you created to the execution. Fucking cool.
How do you prepare for live performances? Are there any special or quirky rituals that you do in order to prepare?
I go very quiet. I smile obviously and am still pleasant to be around but I tend to disappear. I’m a myth. When I was younger I was a pretty fast runner and would compete at high levels. Before the 200m sprint finals I would go into such a quiet state. My breathing would slow so much I would almost faint before the gun to go would fire because I was so bloody relaxed. It’s similar with live performances. However I now really have to focus on my breath as it’s a massive tool when I’m giving the pipes a burn on stage!
What’s next for you and your music?
I have just recently finished recording my debut album – and I’m firing to get this bad boy out! I wrote it in many different cities & about lots of different themes. In the next few months I’ll be releasing a few singles and giving you guys a taste of me. An insight to my world before the album drops. Until then I’ll continue to write and perform on the road – I just returned from LA working with some EDM producers so I’m hoping to get back soon. London’s on the cards too.