Posted On 26 Apr 2019
Last month on March 8th, the California via Australia singer-songwriter Shelley Segal released her six-song EP, HOLY. Segal’s Americana-tinged latest tackles homesickness (“Already Gone”), religion and leaving the strict Jewish upbringing of her youth (“Holy Man”), a true crime story a murder/suicide (“San Antonio”), national tribalism (“Blood”), love and life partnership (“Here”) and consent in the time of #MeToo (“No”.) Segal has been touring North America this spring with stops in Arizona, Florida, Nashville and Philadelphia amongst others.
“Blood” – the first track from HOLY premiered on Americana Highways who cheer, “the song takes pace over urgent dark rhythms, as it asks fundamental questions: “It flows through our veins, how can something that makes us the same be used to divide ?” The music guides your heartbeat as it demonstrates the unifying humanity underneath perceived divisions.”
Listen to “Blood” and check out the premiere here
After leaving the Judaism of her youth with its strict rules and regulations and contemplating those implications as an adult, Segal sets the tone of her EP with its title: HOLY. “For me this is a very empowering declaration to make. I grew up in a religious community and synagogue where what is HOLY is dictated by others. It has been dictated for centuries by men,” Segal explains.
Here’s an EXCLUSIVE premiere of Shelley Segal’s newest track “San Antonio”:
Find Shelley Segal Online:
Instagram: www.instagram.com/shelleysegal/ @shelleysegal
Learn more about Shelley Segal in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
Thanks so much for having me! At the moment I’m in Madison Wisconsin. Last night I performed at a all female songwriters night and next I’ll be traveling to Kansas City for a House Concert!
Now that we are into the 4th month of the new year, how has 2019 been treating you so far? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How are those New Years Resolutions going?
2019 has been a whirlwind so far! I started my HOLY tour at the end of Jan and I’m still out on the road!! This is the last week of tour. I’ve been all across the US and even to London for a special performance for the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. With music goals for this year I really wanted to be touring intensely and so I’ve definitely been achieving that. I’m also very focused on writing as much as possible and getting my live streaming off the ground. I’ve managed to keep up with my writing on the road. I share new music each week with my patron subscribers which is a great motivator to keep me writing. My personal goals have been to meditate and exercise regularly which I was keeping up pretty well in Jan but has unfortunately slowed down a bit – it’s hard on the road!!
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music is my life, it always has been. I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. My father was in a wedding band and I used to sit and do my homework at his rehearsals. Sometimes I’d get up and sing a song.
I started writing music when I was 11. It was an amazing release to be able to externalize my thoughts and feelings and it has been an indispensable part of my life ever since.
The hard part has been melding the business side to something that you love- something that is sacred to you.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
I mean there were times where I thought I should do something else – for a few reasons. Financial and mental stability especially.
There are still those moments. (Haha) But I want to do this in every capacity that I can for the rest of my life, until my fingers don’t work and I can’t even whisper. I hope that will be possible and if not, I am grateful for every moment that I have been able to be a musician and songwriter.
If for some reason I couldn’t play or write I would still like to work in the music industry and would continue the work that I do at True Music – an indie label that I run with my father Danny. If I had to do something outside of music I would be interested in science writing/science journalism and communication. Or teaching.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
One big surprise that I’ve gone through was in regards to my song writing. Writing has always been so special to me and I have always drawn from my own life. Inspiration used to come after an intense experience or emotion. I felt that in order to write I had to know what I wanted to say and it had to come to me in a particular way. Being a working writer means having to learn how to write in sessions, how to write for other artists, how to write when you’re having a shitty day. How to write under pressure. How to write with a room full of people. I didn’t know I could create music that was as meaningful or fulfilling outside of those initial parameters I was working in. It’s been an unexpected part of my journey which is incredibly rewarding and exciting for me. It has opened my creativity up in a way that I never imagined. I feel like I am right at the beginning of where I can go.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live now?
The live scene in Melbourne is amazing. I’ve been able to perform original music at countless venues around my hometown and develop my live performance. I know that’s not possible in every city and I’m grateful to have grown up in a city with some fantastic music institutions.
Living in LA has opened me up for writing opportunities in genres I didn’t imagine myself in previously – it has been a lot of fun to experiment and connect with so many creative people there. Touring across the US and in particular the south has really influenced me. I’ve always loved folk music but I’ve fallen in love with bluegrass and old school country. Before I knew it Americana tinges have seeped in.
Let’s talk about your brand new EP, “HOLY.” What was it like putting this collection together? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
HOLY is my 6th studio project so far so no surprises really. I felt comfortable in the studio. The month before we went in to record I was showcasing at the Folk Alliance International Conference and I had to put a band and set together for the event. It was a great precursor for the studio. It helped to decide on tracks for the EP and develop rapport with the band. The producer I worked with was my dear friend and super talented writer, producer guitarist Askold Buk. Askold and I created 3 of the songs together for the EP. I’m so proud of our collaborations and we are continuing to write together as much as we can.
While it’s difficult, can you pick out a few of your favorite songs on “HOLY”? How did they get to be a part of this EP? What was the inspiration for them?
Yup – you are right, it is almost impossible. Haha!!
‘No’ is a song about consent. It started as an acoustic track and developed a rockier edge in the studio. I’m really proud of the message in this song which I believe is important and confronting but also carries a lot of nuance. It describes three different scenarios where a protagonist is put in a situation where they find it uncomfortable to say no.
‘Holy Man’ is a challenge to religious hierarchy. I grew up in a religious community where what was holy was dictated to me. Which words were holy, which items were holy. Even which people were holy. This song is also a challenge to that hierarchy and hopefully an inspiration to others to feel free to decide for themselves what is holy and sacred to them.
‘Here’ and ‘Already Gone’ are just so sweet and wistful, so full of love and strength with incredibly beautiful guitar work. Shout out to Teddy Kumpel who really made those songs shine.
What has changed about your style of music? How has your creative process grown over the years?
My sound changes all the time. It’s not great for marketing (Haha) but I’m influenced by such a broad range of styles. I grew up singing in my dads wedding band so I learned to perform across pop, dance and rock songs. Songs from the 60’s through to modern top 40 and even folk and jazz songs that we would play as background music during the meals at functions. I’ve released a couple of folk-pop sounding projects (An Atheist Album and An Easy Escape), a stripped back jazzy folk record (Little March) and a rockier release I made with my Melbourne band that had even had some subtle electronic elements (Forms). My latest releases and writing have definitely been influenced by living here in the states, touring through the south and mid-west listening to country radio. One thing that is a common thread through all my songs and releases is a focus on strong themes and lyrics. My vocals are always up front. I like the freedom that living under the singer – songwriter banner affords. My process is really dependent on my writing and my guitar playing. Each time I progress with my playing it resonates through my writing, my songs reflect that advancement. It’s been similar with my writing. As I have learned to write in a more structured way it is coming through. I feel like I’m still adjusting. I’m learning and growing all the time.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
I post pretty much every day on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There are good things and bad things about it. I have enjoyed getting better at editing photos and applying my creativity to the process. I love connecting with fans, hearing their feedback when I share lyrics or songs, their support when I share my achievements. I enjoy documenting my tours and sharing cool pics fans have taken from shows.
On the other hand I can get a bit sick of my own face. (Haha) Or some days if I feel like I don’t have something to share I won’t post and it doesn’t feel great. You definitely feel like you need to keep up and I don’t think that’s a good thing. I think social media can make us feel down about ourselves and it can be a time suck. I’m trying to find ways to be really creative about it and to make it reflective of my practice when I can.
My favorite way to connect with my fans now is through my Patreon. I share new content with my subscribers there every week. Since it’s behind a paywall I feel a bit more free. I share home videos and demos of my new songs. I also have a patreon only Facebook group where I share behind the scenes content and it’s a real community feel. I love it.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Alanis Morisette, Ani Difranco, Ben Harper, Sarah Mclachlan and Jewel were my biggest songwriting influences growing up. I love Counting Crows, Dave Matthews Band, Frank Zappa. Vocally I was very influenced by jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Doris Day. Powerhouses like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and Vanessa Amorosi. My current favorite artists are Tiny Ruins and Mark Kozelek (Sunkilmoon, Red House Painters). I would be so happy if I could work with Mark one day.
These artists have changed the way I think (especially Ani Difranco, Frank Zappa) and the way that I write (especially Tiny Ruins and Mark Kozelek) and if it wasn’t for the songwriters who have inspired me I wouldn’t be out here on tour, doing what I’m doing, sharing these messages and connecting with people around the world
Where can fans see you perform next? How is your current tour going? Any favorite venues or crowds yet?
The best place to see where I’m playing next is www.bandsintown.com/shelleysegal
This tour has been amazing. I loved City Winery in Atlanta and The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. There were some really special intimate shows as well. House concerts in Philly and Raleigh. Seeing so many familiar faces.
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
I would like to be able to create some really powerful narratives to go with my songs. I’ve tried making some more narrative driven videos and they don’t work on a small budget unfortunately. With an indie budget you have to keep it simple, usually one idea that you can make look really good. I’d want to make some movie quality videos where I can tell intricate stories! I have a dream video for ‘Already Gone’ where a tiny version of myself is climbing across these little boxes hanging on the wall, each box containing a different memory. A time, person or place from the past that I can climb in and out of.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you take with you and why?
That’s easy! My guitar. It’s all I need in this world! (Although a studio with some great mics would be good too!)
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
I would love for my music to be in Wentworth – it’s one of my favorite shows. Or Mrs. Maisel or Glow 😀
Do you remember the first time you ever heard one of your songs on TV, in a movie or elsewhere? What was it and how did it feel? Where were you when you heard it?
I remember about 5 years ago I was working in the studio, it was a long and productive day. When I walked out of the building into my car and turned on the engine my song ‘Morocco’ came on! It was playing on triple J and that was pretty cool. It was a really validating moment.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
Oh wow, that’s an awesome question! I put all of my love for life into my songs and I hope people will feel that and be inspired and comforted. I want people to feel that their lives matter, their experiences are valuable and full of wisdom, even the really hard experiences. I hope that it challenges people to reflect, to question everything and to think and decide for themselves. I hope it inspires them to look for different perspectives, different ways of seeing the world.