LA-based songwriter Shelley Segal has announced her latest single No, a modern, bold and assertive track that describes the difficulty many women face when turning down sexual advances, out October 4. Shelley has also announced her masterful new EP Holy, a masterclass in intimate lyricism and exciting, innovative Americana, set for release on November 1. The Australian musician has been living and working in Los Angeles for three years, writing and recording Holy in the US while touring and collaborating on a host of noteworthy artistic projects… more info below.
Hi Shelly, tell me your top 5 songs for 2019, I know it is a tough decision!
Hi Jen -thanks so much for having me!!! This is an eclectic mix of my fave songs of this year. From avant-folk to pop they’ve been the soundtrack to my 2019! A good rep of new Melbourne artists here and then a couple of US entries. Extremely special and meaningful to me was being part of the release of my fave tracks #2 and #3 through my label, True Music.
TOP 5 SONGS OF 2019 SO FAR
Bay of Kotor – Sunkilmoon
Mark’s songwriting to me is the pinnacle of what I want to achieve with my music. It’s raw, expressive, striking, distinctive and connects so deeply with his audiences. This year I went to see Mark live at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and it was the first time I heard Bay Of Kotor. It went for just under 25 minutes and told the story of Mark’s time in the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. Among other things it describes his friendship with a maid at his hotel. An argument between them eventually leads to her crying out in the breakfast room to him, ‘It’s shit, it’s shit in here’ beating her chest. I was swept up in every moment of this story for 25 minutes straight, it’s not something that happens to you at every gig. The recording also had me spellbound with Mark’s graveling singsong storytelling atop an oscillating background of folky acoustic guitars contrasted with frantic drums, horns, spoken word, and electronica. Re-listens are spare but relished.
2. How Did I Get Here – Martika
Martika is an up and coming alt pop artist in Melbourne. This year she released her debut single, ‘How Did I Get Here’ and is steadily building her fan base. The song’s message resonates with me – it’s speaking to the struggle of being an artist, balancing living out your dreams with making a living, finding a way to make it work and sometimes being overwhelmed with it all. It feels like she is really speaking to you. I love the dynamics of her vocals – being able to go from soft, intimate whispers to huge belt! and the production is just really engaging, it’s distinctive but still feels like a smash
3. Beat You Down – TAMMA
Another Melbourne artist getting her work out into the world!! TAMMA sounds like a Sia and Amy Winehouse amalgam with upbeat lyrics and an infectiously positive energy. TAMMA as an artist has been through so much. Making her debut after losing her voice, and after a serious family tragedy, TAMMA has channelled her experiences into the never-give-up anthem that is ‘Beat You Down.’ It’s a total banger and her voice sounds amazing.
4. Mahmoud – Effi’s Fighting Pillow
Effi’s fighting pillow are a Synth-Pop outfit from Melbourne, fronted by lead singer and bassist Fabian Giacomelli. They play high energy shows with all members joining in for some serious harmonies. They dropped their debut EP this year and my favourite track is ‘Mahmoud’. Heavy synths pumping out colourful chords while we hear about Mahmouds life in beautiful and memorable melodies.
5. Truth Hurts -Lizzo
I can’t make a list of 2019 without including Lizzo because this is truly her year. Truth Hurts was released in 2017 originally but only came to prominence this year and it’s been so awesome getting to see it blow up. Her killer performance, flow and musicianship are absolutely deserving. It’s such a feel good song with the hit-making, T-shirt selling one liner: ‘100% that bitch.’ She raps about self love, self respect. Bop-star!
Great that you are supporting local music! I am all for that.
No has a sentiment that will ring true for many women who have found themselves in a situation where it was almost impossible to say the word. Driving guitars and textured percussion propel the track forward with serious attitude, while Shelley’s honeyed vocals carve a stunning melody on top. Speaking on the inspiration behind this important track, Shelley explains, “No is a song about consent and the subtleties surrounding it. It describes three different scenarios in which the protagonist finds it difficult to say no to sexual advances. I wrote the song because even though it’s 2019 and so many women feel comfortable asserting themselves and speaking up for themselves, and even though there has been so much public discourse and progress on these issues, there are still scenarios where it feels hard to say ‘no’. You can find yourself in a situation that you don’t want to be in and yet be unable to express that. It’s not always easy in the moment to process the potential consequences that may come from your reaction. Like the examples in the song for instance, in a work environment, in the street with a stranger. Saying ‘no’ can create adverse outcomes like risking your job, or your safety. This discussion around consent is not as straightforward as maybe we would like it to be and I wanted to reflect on those nuances.”
No is the first taste of Shelley Segal’s glorious new EP Holy. This is an artist who has truly found her feet; Holy Man shines with energetic roots, rock riffs, skilled arrangement and Shelley’s undeniable lyrics and beautiful vocal performance. San Antonio tugs at the heartstings, a simple acoustic track with a deeply affecting message, while Holy is steeped in attitude and power, as Shelley sings, “I believe my body is beautiful, and it belongs to me.” The EP was recorded in Brooklyn at Atomic Sound Studios with Dakota Bowman and Merle Chornuk (Tandy, Ryan Adams), it was produced and co-written (3 songs) with New York producer, guitarist and film composer Askold Buk and was mastered by Ted Jensen (Norah Jones, Dave Matthews). Speaking on the making of the release, Shelley enthuses, “I’ve been working on the songs for this record for over the last three years – since 2016, the year I moved to the US. I’ve called the ep ‘HOLY‘ which felt like a really powerful statement. In the Jewish tradition I grew up in, what was holy was dictated to me. Which words, items and actions and even which people were holy was dictated to me. To elevate my life, my songs, my experiences and my voice (which was not allowed to be heard unaccompanied in my synagogue), to call them holy is incredibly empowering. It’s a challenge to those who want to use concepts of holiness and the sacred to create hierarchies, often placing themselves at the top. I hope it will inspire people to decide for themselves what is holy and sacred to them.”
Shelley has been living and working in the US since 2016, and in between touring the country and writing music for her own project, Shelley has done everything from writing for musicals, for Estonian pop star ELYSA, and Dutch artist Glennis Grace, among others. She has also worked tirelessly for charity group One Law For All, writing two songs for the organisation and reciving the CEMB Award (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain) for her contributions. Always busy with multiple thought-provoking projects on the go at once, Shelley is currently working on the music for a documentary (entitled Transmission Love) about a young transgender girl growing up in LA, as well as a conservation-themed EP with a science educator and biologist about the Puget Sound Watershed in Washington State.
No is out October 4. Holy is out November 1.