ICON: Your talent was discovered at a young age. Who were you listening to back then?
Mel Bester: “Well I had super weird taste when I was a kid, ranging from listening to musical heroes, Barbara Streisand, to going through the emo phase listening to Asking Alexandria and Pierce the Veil – those kinds of bands. Then went through the big folk phase which I have kind of come back to recently, sad folk and country music. I was definitely a kid that was interested in a lot of different sounds.”
Do you think that inspired the music that you create now?
MB: “Yeah definitely. I actually used to be scared of embracing all those different influences because I thought it made my music sound really messy or not cohesive and then with this upcoming album, I just decided to embrace whatever song I wanted to make and it’s ended up as a pretty eclectic sounding album. But I love it.”
What has been the biggest lesson since the beginning of your career?
MB: “It’s so cheesy but it’s cheesy for a reason. I think I’ve really learnt that your instincts aren’t normally wrong. You will regret not following your instincts.”
Talk to me about your new album. The lyrics are all quite personal.
MB: “I guess, I started writing this album at a pretty rough point in my own life. I had been dealing with a breakup and I was having a lot of thoughts about my identity and where I fit in the world and just dealing with mental health struggles and physical health struggles, it was a really crazy time in my personal life.
I had also come out of a 10-month writers block as well and we had organised for Jim, who is based in Wales to fly to Sydney so we could start writing something. He was making this huge journey here and I was terrified because I didn’t even know if I could write any songs as I hadn’t been able to write for a couple of months. But then something happened when Jim and I get together and the songs just came pouring out of the both of us and the lyrics were really derived from what I was going through personally.”
In a recent interview you said your new single ‘I Wanna Be Here’ was written over a year ago now. Why the wait?
MB: “If I could have it my way, I would write a song, have it finished as quickly as possible and then put it out in the world as soon as possible. But there’s just so much that goes into releasing music, even just getting the production and mixing finished ended up taking us a good six months. Then once all the production and mixing are finished you have to get all the imagery around the music figured out and then execute it and then you need to plan your single roll out as well. So, I guess the way was purely just because we had to get it finished and playing.”
Even if you’re speaking of tough topics, every song still has an optimistic tone. Is that deliberate?
MB: “My taste naturally leans towards things that don’t lean too far one way or the other. I have always loved that contrast of really heart-breaking lyrics and a fall to the floor or soaring song. I’m really drawn to that contrast and the bittersweet feeling you get from that kind of music. I think that’s one of my favourite feelings to get from music. So, it was never super intentional but it kind of came naturally to me to write my own music.”
How does it feel to release music during these times?
MB: “It’s been interesting because normally around release you get to do a lot of physical things too. You get to tour and listening parties or playing festivals and I definitely really missed that personal level to releasing music. where you can actually see people experiencing the music and singing the words and [talking] to them about the music. That makes it feel real to me. So, this year has been odd, releasing music and being like, ‘Okay, I did that and now there’s nothing else to do but release more music, I guess.’ But there are still definitely moments of connection online as well. I’ve been messaging people more. It’s been good and bad I ways.”
What do you miss about performing?
MB: “As much as I love playing festivals and playing to as many people as I can, I miss the more intimate, personal moments you have at live music events.
“I miss making eye contact with someone in the crowd and having a moment or I miss being able to chat to people who are interested in my music and we can bond as humans.”
I miss that human interaction of live shows for sure.”
What is one thing you would like people to take from your music?
MB: “I’m hoping that there’s a song on this album for every kind of point in your life… I hope there are songs that people can really connect to when they need to connect to something and I hope that it helps people embrace their own vulnerability more. That’s something that I’ve always found hard to do, I’ve found it hard to accept that it’s not going good with me. But honestly, as soon as you don’t put pressure on yourself to feel better, I find it’s easier to move on from feeling crap. So, I hope this album can make people feel a little more comfortable with being like ‘Okay, yeah I’m sucking at this or this sucks,’ and that it can always just make it feel lighter to them.”
You’re still young, what do you hope to achieve in the next five years?
MB: “On a personal level, just learning more and just growing more and being open to change. I think I’m really happy as long as I feel like things are moving in life and I’m growing as a person. So that is the main thing I want to happen in the next five years.”
E^ST’Ss new studio album ‘I’m Doing It’, drops on July 31. For more from the artist, visit her website here.