Tia Gostelow on falling down the rabbit hole and making friends in Rainbow Valley

Tia Gostelow

Tia Gostelow has been busy brewing up sonic antidotes for our tumultuous times, from adventures in Rainbow Valley to remixes with old friends.

Tia Gostelow is an Indigenous Australian singer/songwriter from Mackay, Queensland. It didn’t take long for her lush, melancholic dream-pop to take hold, with debut LP Thick Skin (2018) winning Queensland Music’s album of the year, and becoming triple j’s feature album when it was released.

Since then, it’s been one adventure to the next for the budding artist. Performance-wise, she’s shared the stage with the likes of Bernard Fanning, Boy & Bear, and Lewis Capaldi. Meanwhile, in the studio, sophomore record CHRYSALIS (2020) introduced some disco magic to the fold. Then, the latest single, Valley Nights (2021), shone brighter than anything prior.

We caught up with Tia to discuss new releases, collaborations, and future plans. Her adventures, it seems, are just getting started.

Tia Gostelow

HAPPY: You started writing the gorgeous Valley Nights with producer Alex about three years ago. Was there anything that compelled you to return to the track a few years later? 

TIA: Alex and I wrote that song when I was about 17, and Alex was one of the first collaborators that I worked with in Brisbane. And we wrote together quite a lot, but I just never really did anything with a lot of the songs that we wrote together. I guess with COVID last year, especially, I wasn’t really writing my own music, I was just trying to experiment a  little bit. I felt like I really wanted to do something with females in the Brisbane music scene and some of my best friends here, and just do something really fun and something different compared to what I usually do. Just bring some light to the crazy music scene, just a bit of fun.

I absolutely love Sahara and Hope as well. We had such a great time recording down at Rainbow Valley. I guess it was just more of a fun process than wanting it to be a massive single or anything, which is really great thing to do especially in such a dire time that we’re living in. We really wanted to celebrate the Brisbane music scene and the Valley which is mainly where all the music is coming from. It was such a fun project to work on with them both and to work with Alex as well. He produced the whole thing, which was really awesome, so it was lovely going from writing the song together to bringing it to life and him being able to produce it. 

HAPPY: That’s really cool. I love that you mentioned it was one of your brighter tracks, and during such a tough time you wanted to do something fun and light. Is that a sound you’re looking to continue?

TIA: I honestly don’t know. I have no idea what my sound is going to be next. For me, that was something really fun to just experiment with, compared to my usual disco, pop stuff on CHRYSALIS. So, it was really nice to see what ideas Hope and Sahara both had musically and lyrically as well, to contribute. So, I think it was just an experiment and I really loved it. I could stick with stuff that sounds like that. I just am not sure where I am going with my sound.  

HAPPY: That’s so fair. Well, I mean it worked. The harmonies! [Chef’s kiss]

TIA: Yes, yes that was literally, probably the most fun part of it. It is just all being around one microphone together and being able to sing harmonies. 

HAPPY: Sick! 

TIA: And there’s that bit in the bridge where it was all about the different voices coming in and out. We did that all standing next to each other. It got pretty confusing sometimes because we didn’t know what the other person was going to do. But it was really, really fun and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in a recording session.  

HAPPY: Oh, that’s awesome! There is a little laugh at the start of the track too, is that you?

TIA: Yeah, I think that was caught when we were there trying to do all those different vocal takes. But it was super fun.  

HAPPY: Nice, you said it was recorded in Rainbow Valley, Matt Corby’s studio. Did that inspire the title of the track at all?  

TIA: No, actually, I actually never thought of that. But, yes, that makes sense. But it’s based around the Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, but we did record it at Rainbow Valley. So it was definitely very fitting and it is such a beautiful spot, there in Rainbow Valley. It was literally nestled in the rainforest, and it’s just so chill and serene, and so comfortable. Like I said before, it was literally just such a fun experience, and I would want to go back and redo it all again.  

HAPPY: Love it! Matt didn’t peep through the rainforest by chance? 

TIA: No, he was meant to come and play the drums on the track though. But he ended up getting caught up in something else. But, Jarryd James came and played drums and bass. 

HAPPY: That’s sick.

TIA: It was really, really cool. I’ve never met Jarryd before. But he’s just such a legend and he just made everything sound amazing. It was just so chill, everyone was best mates after knowing each other for five minutes, you know, and it was just such an awesome experience.  

HAPPY: Yeah, for sure. I heard that the song has elements of all three of you [Tia, Hope D, Saharah] which is obviously such a great outcome for a collaborative project. I was wondering if you could expand a little bit on what those elements might be. What did everyone bring to the table? 

TIA: Well, I think that all three of us are very different people and very different artists. Our voices are all very different to each other. But with Sahara, I’ve never heard a person with such an amazing voice like hers before. Like she can just sing anything and everything. I think some of those harmonies that are in the song wouldn’t be in there if she wasn’t in the room with us. She can just pick them from a mile away.

So, she definitely added that element, and with Hope, she’s got such a cool voice. The way she phrases things and her diction and stuff, I think brought a really, really cool and groovy little element to the song.

I think hearing all of our voices together is really special. I don’t know if we would have ever gone on another song together. So it was really cool to see what we could all do together. And since then, we’re such good mates. We recently just did a Moulin Rouge show here in Brisbane. 

HAPPY: Oh sick.

TIA: Yeah, Hope and I both have never done anything like that before. Sahara is so into cabaret and all that stuff. But for us, we’re like, okay, Sahara is doing that, we can do it. And since recording this song, we’ve all been able to do stuff like that together, which is really awesome. It was just a big Moulin Rouge show. So, we all sang Lady Marmalade.

HAPPY: Nice, nice. If you’ll indulge me, I know, I’m rambling on a bit, but I’m a sucker for vivid lyrics and they’re pretty vivid in Valley Nights, at least for me. There was one I wanted to ask about, “the apple tree has fallen in your eyes”. Could you tell us the meaning behind that? 

TIA: When Alex and I were writing this, it was, I don’t know, I think I was 17, I might have been fresh 18, I can’t really remember. But it was kind of, from the perspective of being out in the Valley, really late at night. It’s almost like a time to go home, kind of vibe. And you know, when you’re just out and you’re just having so much fun with your friends. And you feel like nothing could make your night bad. It’s just kind of that kind of vibe. And I think for me because I was still so young, it was me experiencing that for the first time.

I remember walking down for the Valley and seeing drag queens for the first time and seeing all these cool music venues that all these bands that I really loved have played in. So, I think it was kind of referencing that and referencing seeing things for the first time and being so excited about it. 

HAPPY: Yeah, cool. Kind of like a liberating, wondrous feeling?

TIA: Yeah, because like fresh 18, I think. Yeah, maybe I was 17. I can’t remember. But yeah. 

HAPPY: That’s really cool. You recently put out a remix of CHRYSALIS track, Two Lovers. And the remix was worked on by the five-piece band Ivey, which is so cool. How did that team up come to be?

TIA: I go way back with Ivey. So, three of the boys from Ivey – Matt, Dante, and Lachie – they were actually my first band.  

HAPPY: Oh, no way!

TIA: Yeah, so, they’ve been in their band, Ivey, for so long. They’ve all grown up together. But when I was 17, when all this entire stuff happened for me, that was the year that I got offered to play BIGSOUND. And I had no idea what BIGSOUND was. I’m from Mackay, from like this small, tiny town in North Queensland, and I was like, ‘yeah, fine. I’ll just play it as like a solo gig, just me and my guitar’. And then my manager was like, ‘no mate, you need a band’. He had been working with Ivey and he’s like, ‘I know these three boys that could be really cool to play with you’. And I literally flew down to Brisbane and met them somewhere on the Gold Coast. And we instantly clicked straightaway.

They’re like my brothers. They’ve played with me for so long. We would play Falls Festival and everything together. So, that’s how that started and then we stopped playing together for a  while. And Matt and Riley do a lot of producing for Ivey.  They’ve just become weapons over the past year and just become so freakin’ good. And I love everything Ivey does and obviously didn’t really want to release a single last year.  But, I still wanted to keep people interested and keep things fresh. So, I’m like, ‘can you do a remix?’ And they did, and they did an incredible job. 

HAPPY: Yeah, awesome. When I was reading about Ivey, I saw they’re from Queensland too. And I was like, ‘oh, I wonder if they’ve done a show together, or something?’ 

TIA: Yeah, yeah .

HAPPY: And yeah, you literally performed a show with them [laughs]

TIA: Yeah. No, they’re literally like my brothers. So, it’s always amazing to collaborate with them. I’ve just recently done some recording with Matt, in Ivey as well, and he’s done a little bit of producing for me. It’s really nice to keep those relationships and work together, and it’s so lovely to see them grow as a band as well. They’re such an incredible live band. I’ll go see them anywhere and everywhere that they play, that I can drive to. They’re incredible. So, if you haven’t seen them, I definitely recommend them. 

Image: Ivey

HAPPY: That’s so wholesome, Queensland musos unite! With the lyrics in Two Lovers, I thought it was interesting that you picked this track to get, you know, such an up-tempo, club banger, sort of treatment. Because the lyrics seem to be about the loss of love and the difficulty it brings, and“filling the void”. Hashtag relatable content.  

TIA: Yeah [laughs].

HAPPY: Was there a reason behind choosing to pair a sadder song with an upbeat feel?

TIA: I think I probably did it because Two Lovers is one of my favourite songs off the record. And I kind of forget that they’re sad songs. If you read the lyrics and didn’t hear the music with it, you’d be like, ‘man, this girl has like, got shit going on’. I don’t know, it just felt really right to use that song. But it’s also the first song on the album and my favourite song to play live.

So, I think it’s all of those elements. And I really wanted to hear what Matt and Riley could do with it. Because I think there’s something special about having a song that you can only hear it in the way that is recorded, then seeing what somebody else can do with it and pull from it, and I’ve always wanted one of my songs to be like, the dance club banger, like the house mix, you know. I think it’s really cool thing to hear. So, yeah. I think it was just because it was my favourite really.  

HAPPY: Ah, I gotcha. On Spotify, you’ve got a playlist called On Repeat, and it’s got the tracks you’ve been listening to. I was wondering, in light of the remix, have you got any recommendations for the house-type genre? 

TIA: Honestly, I have not been listening to a lot of house music. I caught COVID like two weeks ago… 

HAPPY: Oh, sorry to hear. 

TIA: No, it’s so fine. But I fell into this rabbit hole of listening to Phoebe Bridgers.

HAPPY: Fucking love Phoebe

TIA: Yeah [laughs]. So it’s, I don’t know, I’ve been watching a lot of Euphoria as well. So, I’ve been a really big fan of this song called Right Down the Line by Gerry Rafferty. It’s a really old song, but Euphoria made it stick in my head. Yeah, been listening to that kind of vibe. 

HAPPY: So good, I’ll have to check out that track. Did you hear Phoebe Bridgers do that cover of Bo Burnham’s That Funny Feeling

TIA: I’ll definitely have to check it out. I’m falling into a bit of a hole of watching Tiny Desk concerts as well. And I loved hers being in the president’s office with the outfits. It’s so good. 

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s such a statement. I love it.  

TIA: Yeah, awesome. 

HAPPY: Anyway, sorry f0r the tangent…

TIA: [laughs] That’s alright. 

HAPPY: I was going to ask, is remixing your tracks something you’re looking to do again in the future? Or are you maybe moving towards some originals for this year?

TIA: Well, I literally just got off the phone to my manager/mum, and we’ve started planning out the year and I’ve been planning on starting album number three, but I think it’s just been such a weird three years, I guess. So, I feel like I’m finally ready to start doing that. I spent last year writing a lot of new music. But I think this is the year that I kind of put it all together, record it, and release it as album three hopefully. 

HAPPY: That’s really exciting! Wishing you all the best for that. Just before we wrap up, is there anything you’d like to let your fans know about? Any upcoming shows? Obviously, it’s difficult with COVID right now, but if you’ve got anything you want to plug? 

TIA: Yeah, I’m playing in Melbourne, well, hopefully playing in Melbourne on the 17th of March. I have a headline show at The Corner. And then I’m playing at the festival Good Super Fun Day on the 26th of March in Brisbane at Eatons Hill, which will be really fun. I really hope that one goes ahead. And that’s it for now. 

HAPPY: Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us here. Can’t wait to hear that third album.

TIA: No worries, thank you so much. 


Interview by Manning Patston
Photos supplied