Wednesday, 4 March 2015

It's My Kind of Interview - Wren

One of our favourite new voices of 2015 belongs to the insanely talented Wren aka Sydney's Jess Graham. Her debut EP, Raw, comes served with haunting strings, beautiful compositions and an undeniably striking voice that you won't be able to resist. We were highly excited to have Wren virtually stop by for a chat and get to know more about the artist, her musical background, being stranded on a desert island and a whole lot more. Enjoy! 

Interview by Matt Bond

Hello Wren! Thanks for joining us at It’s My Kind of Scene. Tell us about your day so far?

Wren: Hey! Day so far is great. I am in the South Coast, Milton, visiting my parents. We went on a coffee run, then went kayaking, checked out a property here that I vow I will buy as soon as I am wealthy and now I am sitting in the garden enjoying the greenery with a cup of coffee (again).

Here’s an ice-breaker of sorts… who is Wren? If you’d be so kind, introduce yourself as if nobody in this (imaginary) room knows who you are, why you make music and what you’d describe your sound as being.

Wren: My real name is Jess Graham. I started out as a classical performer with the violin and then progressed from there into electric violin as well as a myriad of other instruments. This in turn led to composition. My works under Wren combine my love of both classical/orchestral and contemporary music, resulting in a cinematically unusual blend of genres.

I really love the composition of the tracks on your Raw EP and it totally makes sense you come from a trained background in classical music. Tell us about your music education?

Wren: I started out learning the classical violin at age 6 as well as music theory/musicianship. My most influential teacher, Professor Peter Zhang, taught me under his syllabus. I grew up playing in several orchestras and quartets as well as competing as a solo violinist. The plan was for me to travel as a classical performer to China, where I would perform as a soloist with the Orchestras. However, this did not seem to appeal to me, at all, much to my teacher's dismay. I continued to play the violin, however, I was being pulled from classical into contemporary where I began playing with bands as an electric violinist. Due to an accident in my HSC year (2008), however, I was rendered unable to play the violin for many months, completely throwing off my major in performance. I had to change my major to composition. Funnily enough, despite my reservations, I took to writing like a fish to water. I loved it. I began to sing and muck around with other instruments during rehab to lessen my withdrawal symptoms and found that I learnt quickly. I took these skills with me to the Australian Institute of Music where I studied composition for a year before transferring to Macquarie. I completed my Bachelor of Arts at Macquarie, majoring in contemporary music and have now just begun Bachelor of Music Honours at UWS.

And that Raw EP… it’s a beautiful collection of tracks. Let’s focus on the second single from the EP, ‘Alive’ for a second. What’s the story behind the song?

Wren: The story is that I guess I was trying to figure out what the point of everything is. For example, if everything in our lives that is material was suddenly stripped away, what would we be left with? What really defines us in the end and what constitutes a life? I came to the conclusion that it had to be the connections we make with people along the way; those profound instances when you truly feel some deeper knowledge and understanding of the world and that blissful epiphany when you wake up in a moment and realise how joyful life is supposed to be.

You’ve recently released a clip to accompany the track ‘Soldiers’ that was directed by Clare Conway. There’s a whole lot of memorable imagery in the video and it focuses on your skills as a violinist. How did you come up with the concept for the clip?

Wren: To be completely honest, not one single frame was my handiwork. I truly admired Clare's sensitivity and creativity and I asked her if she would be willing to work with me on a concept for a clip that I could use for one of my tracks. She was really keen and she selected "Soldiers". In the next 24 hours, she had already come back to me with a fully completed treatment and was requesting I immediately come to Melbourne to commence filming. Her brilliant mind and her highly commendable organisation had me hysterically laughing with both awe and amusement. From there, I left it all up to her. She had completely understood my vision and I felt very confident in her ability to deliver my message visually.

The Raw tour kicked off in Brisbane on February 12! Did you have a good time at Brisbane’s Ric’s Bar? And how would you describe the Wren live music experience?

Wren: I did have a great time! The experience is epic. The music is highly cinematic and as such, it really takes you on a journey, both audibly and mentally. The music is designed to stimulate your imagination.

Australia’s music industry is thriving at the moment, with so many amazing talents popping up each and every day. Who are some of your fave local music acts?

Wren: Some of my local favourites? I absolutely LOVE Sia, especially her raw, rough voice. It just oozes emotion. I also love Peking Duk - can't stop playing their track, "Take Me Over" - I wish I could have written some strings for this one.

Surprise! You’ve been stranded on an island in a remote location and no one’s going to find you for a couple of weeks. Don’t worry, you’ve got shelter and plenty of food and the weather is nice and there’s no mosquitoes. Problem? You’ve only got enough battery on your iPod to listen to five songs. Facing the prospect of a couple of weeks without music, what fives songs are you choosing to keep sorta fresh in your mind? 

Wren: Well...

1. Coldplay's "Paradise" so that I remain positive, glass half full regarding my surroundings.

2. Hans Zimmer's "Pirate's of the Carribean Theme" so that I feel epic and able to take on the island.

3. Coldplay's "Midnight" when I would be struggling to sleep one night, so I could instead appreciate the stars.

4. Debussy's "Clair de lune", because it is stunningly beautiful and relaxing

5. John Powell's "Forbidden Friendship" from How To Train Your Dragon", because I am sure I would get bored being stranded and the idea of a pet dragon would stimulate my imagination.

Bonus points for the Pirates theme. Well played. What’s on Wren’s radar for the rest of the year? New music releases, more tours, representing Australia at Eurovision?

Wren: Ha ha! I would love to represent Eurovision, however, I have not been presented with such an opportunity! So, I will be instead completing my Honours degree, filming my new music clip for "Alive" and recording my new EP, so stay tuned!

When they air Wren’s MTV Behind The Music special 45 years from now, what will they say about you?

They wont say much, they will instead air a video compilation of all my most embarrassing, quirky moments during my career. I am almost 100% sure my friends already have begun one of these epically embarrassing projects...

A huge thanks goes to Wren for answering our Q's! Now, dear readers... go and give the Raw EP a listen and fall in love. And if you're lucky enough to be in Sydney on March 6, Wren will be taking the stage at the always amazing Oxford Art Factory for the last show of her 'Raw Tour'. We know where we'd rather be on Saturday night. P.s. a new Wren EP is coming? Woo! Best news.  

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