There’s a warmth to Budjerah that can’t be missed, and it’s this warmth that wraps around his latest self-titled EP.
Amid meeting his celebrity icons, and touring across Australia, 18-year-old Fingal Head singer-songwriter, Budjerah is already having a bigger year than most.
However, we sat down with Budjerah to discuss his new self-titled EP, how he uses singing as a language, and how the meaning of ‘home’ can influence art.
HAPPY: How’s your day been so far?
BUDJERAH: Been good. I had a good sleep and I just come here. Woke up. Got ready. Come here. Got my photo taken.
HAPPY: Yeah. True. Are you staying down in Sydney for a bit?
BUDJERAH: Yeah. I’m going to Melbourne on Thursday. So I’m here ‘til Thursday.
HAPPY: Oh yeah? Oh ‘cause you’ve been doing the shows with Lime [Cordiale]. Hey!
BUDJERAH: Ah no this is a music festival. A different one.
HAPPY: Ah okay.
HAPPY: Oh my god! You are so busy at the moment!
BUDJERAH: That’s a good thing. It means it’s working good.
HAPPY: Yeah exactly! Oh my god! You have to tell me about meeting Idris Elba. I saw it in your insta, and I
was like holy shit! (laughing)
BUDJERAH: It was like crazy. So he was there on the second night. On the Sunday, and I was just turning at the dressing room and like, they moved our dressing rooms, ‘cause there was also like me, and Rodrigues was there, and so they switch our dressing rooms around cause they had this massive guest list, and there was a seating problem, so we just moved into this dressing room and whatever. And then.. and then… my manager was like “oh yeah, Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Russell Crowe are here” and I was like “What!’ Idris Elba?” ‘Cause Idris Elba was gonna be like James Bond and that is like the ultimate thing for me is Idris Elba. Like black James Bond, so I was like “I got a good picture of you Idris Elba”, afterwards I went behind and I was talking to the Lime Boys. I was talking to Louie in the dressing room and I like take polaroids everywhere, and I was talking to Louie and then Idris Elba just like walked in the room and everyone like turned to him.
HAPPY: Oh my gosh.
BUDJERAH: Like he just took the whole room and he was my last polaroid. Like I had only one film left and he is like “yeah I will be in your polaroid” but in the British accent. He was so nice.
HAPPY: Oh my god. That’s wild.
BUJERAH: Oh it was cool. He was like one of my favourite actors.
HAPPY: Yeah. Did Chris and Russell come backstage as well?
BUJERAH: They were but they left straight away like after the thing they did not hang around backstage. It is so weird like what is my life I get to meet such like, people. It was crazy!
HAPPY: Oh my god! I remember saying like I was supposed to go to that gig but I had something come up and I saw next day all of Pedestrian and Junkee was like ‘eat yourself’ and get on stage. I was like ‘the one time I missed a gig.’ It’s that one.
BUDJERAH: It was so crazy.
BUDJERAH: Like everyone in the crowd too, I sat up at the back, like way up in the back and I just saw the crowd. Like, everyone’s phone comes out and all I can see was the flashlights, and people recording like everyone was singing out – it was crazy.
HAPPY: That’s so crazy. How did the shows go? Was it your first time playing at the Enmore?
BUDJERAH: Yeah. It was my first time being at the Enmore. It was pretty nice like I just love theatres, like the coolest places. It sounded really good too, I love it in there.
HAPPY: Did you played out the whole show, or did you have a bit of a test run?
BUDJERAH: I did. I did. I started with Higher and then near the end of the set, I did two other songs in there, and people there seemed to enjoy.
HAPPY: Yeah that is so good.
BUDJERAH: Hopefully it means that they will like the songs when it comes out of the EP.
HAPPY: Yeah you must be excited for it to come out?
BUDJERAH: Yeah. I’m excited.
HAPPY: How long have the songs been sitting in the bag for?
BUDJERAH: Ah well, the oldest one we wrote in like 2019, you know.
BUDJERAH: That’s like over a year ago and yeah so the two that haven’t come out yet were like the two first ones that we wrote together and like October, November like September, September, October… when we wrote those two in 2019.
HAPPY: Yeah wow.
BUDJERAH: That’s a long time.
HAPPY: So long.
HAPPY: That is like pre-COVID (laughs),
BUDJERAH: Yeah and it’s like five months before COVID. Wow.
HAPPY: Yeah. Yeah, simple times (laughs). And obviously, what have you been doing with Matt?
BUDJERAH: Yeah, we wrote the songs together.
HAPPY: How did that partnership come about?
BUDJERAH: Well we like, have known each other for a little while. Nearly three years I think. But I opened for him in Brisbane. At the old museum in Brisbane. And when I played my set… I played like… I usually keep to myself, I don’t want to bother people too much I get nervous. I have gotten over nervousness now from doing interviews – just talking to people but I want to sit in a corner and play my guitar in the green room while I am with all these crew just doing their thing and conducting their regular business. I just snuck at him played my set quietly and then left. But he’d come around and watch me which, I thought was really nice of him and he was like oh ‘We should work together,’ And then we did.
HAPPY: Ah that’s so good.
BUDJERAH: Now we made EP together.
HAPPY: Yeah amazing. Well, I remember reading somewhere that you said let me find the quotes but you said in your music you go in thinking how you are gonna use your voice best as an instrument. Could you expand on that a little bit for us?
BUJERAH: Uhm well my voice is like, sort of like languages. You know how we speak English? Singing is that for me. I am a very like, technical person I really care about technique. Uhm so I always think how my voice sits in this key. How high can I go? What is the limit to my low? What other scales that I can sing over this particular chord? Yeah I always think about my voice like I play guitar and a bit of piano but I always think about like, the rhythm of like, the phrasing of my singing.
HAPPY: And then from there you build on like lyrics and stuff?
BUDJERAH: Yeah and even lyrically I think my singing influences is like, from the vowels and different sounds, like what is better to sing E sound or like L. Like, what sound is easier or would sound nicer in this section.
HAPPY: Yeah I’m sure Matt’s training would mesh so well.
BUDJERAH: Yeah, like I grew up in church and my dad taught me how to sing, and it was just a good way to learn how to sing. Like when you grew up in a church. But I think learning the classical, like a little bit from him, as well like breathing techniques. He taught me some exercises when we recorded the EP and it was just really like that. Some people say technique can take away emotions and stuff, but I think that it really extends the instrument like full voice, it gives you a lot more on what you can do and how you can play with that.
HAPPY: Yeah totally.
BUDJERAH: Good control, so I am happy that Matt would like, teach me.
HAPPY: Totally totally. Do you feel like it gave you a bit more range to kinda try out different things once you have that really technical bases in there?
BUDJERAH: Yeah I think it is very important. It does give you good range and it’s like painting. You are not gonna paint with the same stroke, you use different strokes – swirly line, curvy lines and then I think when you have technique and control over your voice you can do that.
HAPPY: That’s a great analogy. I love that. Was there a large demo in process before the songs actually came to fruition?
BUDJERAH: Well I was actually working with a bunch of different producers and writing and we did not really like, have a plan like, to set up the EP but then I have a week of writing with Matt. His tour was cancelled. And he lives just down the road from me.
HAPPY: Oh amazing.
BUJERAH: I was like oh I can just go to matt’s house and we can write some song.
HAPPY: Yeah good.
BUDJERAH: So we have a week of writing and we wrote Higher on the first day and Missing You the next day.
BUDJERAH: So I was writing about different types of people, there were some 30 songs that I’ve written with different people by then and then we wrote Missing You, and that afternoon it was those four songs and the cover I think ‘This is the EP. This is it. We are gonna go with this then.’
BUDJERAH: It just fell on our lap.
HAPPY: Amazing. Well I know that Higher is like a celebration of happiness, is that a theme that continues through the EP?
BUDJERAH: Not for the other two songs. One song like the main track of the EP – Shoulda Coulda woulda, when we wrote that. It was raining and I was having a really tough week. I was still in school the day we wrote and my parents came and picked me up – they said “you are not in school anymore. We pulled you out.” I was working too much and school was not helping and I was feeling really sad and so I wrote it about just wanting the rainfall instead, of having to make the sunshine, like sometimes its good to sit and just be sad – get it all out. So that is one song and the other has a bit of anger in it. So it is just all different emotions as to what I was feeling at the time.
BUDJERAH: It’s good. It’s human.
HAPPY: Yeah. Definitely.
BUDJERAH: Full of different emotions.
HAPPY: Do you feel like songwriting is something that comes to you in the heat of the moment when you are really feeling the emotion or do you like to reflect on things for a little bit?
BUDJERAH: Yeah it’s a bit of both. It’s like when I write songs and something is happening I like, bottle things up and I stay quiet but when I start writing a song, whatever is in me has to come out one way or another, so that is how all my songs come out just like a flow of emotion.
HAPPY: Yeah absolutely.
BUDJERAH: Bottled feelings from the week or whatever.
HAPPY: Yeah, yeah. You can definitely feel the vulnerability in the EP, like it’s really beautiful to listen to.
HAPPY: I feel like you’ve covered most of my questions.
HAPPY: So you recorded the whole thing up in Fingal Head.
BUDJERAH: Yeah around home.
HAPPY: Amazing I have only been there a few time but it feels like it’s the perfect place to try and be like, creative. Are you still living out there at the moment?
BUDJERAH: Yeah I grew up there. My family has been there forever before Europeans came in. I just love my
HAPPY: Amazing amazing
HAPPY: So You never think of moving down to Sydney or anything like that?
BUDJERAH: I think I might move across the river but all The land there that is my home. That is my country.
HAPPY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
HAPPY: You must be excited to go back there after all your touring?
BUDJERAH: Yeah I used to travel like a kid and Just like getting home after a trip was one of my favourite feelings.
HAPPY: Yeah absolutely I agree with that.
HAPPY: Well this is an amazing way to start off the year dropping your first EP what are you most excited for the rest of the year?
BUDJERAH: I’m not sure if I am allowed to say it yet.
HAPPY: Yeah it’s always a hard question to answer.
BUDJERAH: But I am excited to go touring. I love to like, sing live. I think it was just time right, the releasing of my songs so I can tour. I was just like ‘I can’t wait,’ it’s like I’m like it’s – I don’t even know how to explain the excitement that I am feeling but I’m like ‘I can’t wait to sing for everyone.’
HAPPY: Amazing Thank you so much.
BUDJERAH: Thanks for having me.
HAPPY: No worries. That was a very good interview.
Interview by Emily Elvish
Photos by Four Minutes To Midnight