Jazz-trained artist Majelen delves into her creative process, which involves incredible songwriting and performances, all the while running her own pro studio.
Majelen is an artist with a lot on her plate. Not that you would predict it, given her effortless performances. The solo singer-songwriter combines her sublime skills as a guitarist and vocalist with production prowess, intricately layering her arrangements.
In our chat, Majelen opens up about the challenges of being a minority in the music industry, shifting beyond the mindset of isolation, and building and maintaining communities in the music world.
HAPPY: Hey there Majelen! Where do you find yourself today?
MAJELEN: I’m sitting in my studio, Liondance Records, at beautiful Burleigh Heads!
HAPPY: Your sound is an incredibly unique blend of folk and rock. How did you land on this style?
MAJELEN: I initially studied jazz guitar at uni and toured in bands and played all sorts of styles of music, but when I decided to do my own thing I really wanted to combine a bit of everything together and create a sound that had energy and power behind it, despite the fact that I walk on stage with just my guitar and not much else. The percussion that I do on my guitar is pretty pivotal in creating that vibe and energy too I reckon.
MAJELEN: I’m pretty proud of the fact that I recorded, mixed and mastered them all myself in my own studio — that’s something that I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to do for a while, but apparently the universe had other ideas!
HAPPY: And what’s it like co-owning and running a recording studio?
MAJELEN: It’s probably the same as being a female guitarist — definitely a minority. There’s a certain judgement that I’ve always had to put up with, being a girl who plays the guitar. The stereotype generally depicts a quiet girl who strums along and sings some pretty songs and stuff, but that’s not me.
I’ve played in metal bands and every other genre right through to jazz and as the lead guitarist too. But normally no one takes me seriously until they’ve actually seen and heard me play. I guess it’s kinda the same in production. There’s definitely a need to prove your skills and capabilities beyond the norm to be taken seriously. But more women are getting into audio so that’s amazing. Maybe one day, things will be different.
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HAPPY: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
MAJELEN: I’d love for the creative community around the world to work together a little more sometimes. There’s really no need for competition because no one else can do what you do anyway and if we all helped pull each other up a little more we’d all go further and have more fun doing it too. I’m not saying that there isn’t a great connection amongst artists and others in the industry already, but I think it’s a mindset that is essential in the changing music scene that we currently work within.
HAPPY: You’ve had an incredibly enriching education in music. What’s the most valuable lesson you have learned?
MAJELEN: Don’t think. Just feel. It doesn’t matter how fast you can play, how tricky you are, how many riffs, guitar licks or runs you know, how many jazz solos you’ve transcribed and learned by heart. None of that matters at all if you can’t connect the notes that come out of your instrument with your heart. The audience can feel the difference. They may not know why, but the groove and the feel just won’t be there. Your feel is crucial.
HAPPY: How does the creative process typically look when you’re working on a track?
MAJELEN: I’m just chillin’ in my studio, I get the mics set up and get comfy with a hot chocolate and just start playing the guitar part. I lay that down three or so times (sometimes less) and then I start on the vocals and do the same thing. It’s a very simple process really.
I just set the mics up through the desk and the outboard gear and then try to just play and not worry about the fact that I have to get it perfect. After the recording process is done I start work on the editing, mixing and mastering. All up it takes a couple of weeks to get a track done cause I space my music out around other projects and work.
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HAPPY: Who has been your biggest music inspirations recently?
MAJELEN: John Butler, because he stands for things that matter and uses music to say something important. Tommy Emmanuel, because he’s a guitar genius. Kristen Berardi, because she’s a vocal genius and a hilarious and lovely human. Sylvia Massey (producer), because she has worked with some big bands like Tool, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and a heap more. She’s a woman who’s really up there doing some amazing production work.
HAPPY: Cheers Majelen!
Majelen’s new single Hindsight will be released this Friday 30 April. Pre-save the track here — until then enjoy the artist’s most recent song Walking Away: