Breakout Indigenous singer-songwriter Budjerah Slabb was always destined to channel his musical gifts, growing up in a vibrantly musical household and having the seminal sounds of 60’s soul and gospel greats such as Aretha Franklin and Sam Cook embedded into his musical DNA.
2020 saw him stake his own claim as an artist of rare talent, releasing a rapturously received debut single, ‘Missing You’, which topped the Triple J Airplay charts, a track which melds his impeccable influences into his own unique and contemporary indie-pop and r&b concoction.
The talented eighteen year old is based in Fingal Head in the Northern Rivers region, traditionally owned by Bundjalung people, from whom Budjerah is descended. He has recently teamed up with award winning producer Matt Corby, whose studio is located close by and the two have developed a fruitful musical partnership which has further blossomed with the release of Budjerah’s brand new track, ‘Higher’.
Masterfully melding 70’s disco-soul with a splash of gospel, the track is a joyous celebration that showcases Budjerah’s breathtaking vocals and is the perfect forerunner for his upcoming debut EP, which is scheduled to be unveiled on 26 March.
In the lead up we managed to have a broad ranging chat with Budjerah, where he delves into his background and influences, how he goes about channelling his muse and where his new music will take him for the rest of 2021.
How long have you been writing and performing music and was there a catalyst that put you on your musical pathway?
I’ve always loved singing but I didn’t start performing until I started high school. I auditioned for the school musical and I was really nervous in the lead-up to the actual show but once it started and I was performing I really loved it and all my nerves were gone.
I wrote my first song when I was 15 for a music assignment in school as well, I left it to the night before to do and I freaked out and ran to my dad for help. It turned out really good, I got a B and my mum put it on Facebook and people seemed to really like it so I decided to keep going with it.
Can you put us in the picture with your new single, ‘Higher’ – what was the inspiration behind the track and how did the song writing and recording process play out?
For most of my songs the inspiration comes from my mood and feeling in the moment, it’s a very honest expression of what I’m feeling at different times. For ‘Higher’ I was having a really good week, I was super happy and I couldn’t sit still, I wanted to dance. Writing and recording this song was really fun, Matt Corby and I were just jamming the whole time and it just came together super easy, we just had fun.
You’ve also got your debut EP about to come out. Are your lead-in singles indicative of the vibe of the EP and how did you come to work with Matt Corby on it?
The EP is coming along very nicely, I’m so excited and can’t wait for it to come out! ‘Missing You’ and ‘Higher’ express a lot of emotion and soul, they’re a good starter to prepare you for the other tracks on the EP, where I go deeper into my own feelings and explore the more technical and creative side of my music.
I’m so happy I got to work with Matt on this. I met him when I was 16 – I opened for him at a concert and we decided to write some songs together. I think it was meant to be because the songs on the EP are the first songs we wrote together. It just happened for us and I’m really thankful for Matt because he’s a really good friend and I don’t think the music would have been the same without him.
Can you describe the typical creative process you go through when it comes to your song writing?
I don’t think my creative process is really a process. It’s more of an emotional dump. Sometimes I bottle up my emotions and the way they come out is in my song-writing. I just let it come out whatever way it wants and I don’t hide anything, so the process and story for each song is different.
Who are a few of your biggest musical inspirations, both formative and current?
Some of my biggest inspirations are old school soul and gospel singers. I grew up listening to Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin and learned a lot for them vocally and from their song-writing as well. Some on my current inspirations are Beyoncé and D’Angelo, I really love their singing as well.
Outside of music what do you enjoy doing? And do you have a favourite ‘hang out’ place or venue?
I really like playing videos games – Legend of Zelda is my favourite. I like surfing a little bit too, but I’m not super good, my sisters are heaps better. I like hanging out with my friends and going to different food places, I like trying new things and going to new places. Feels like I’m on an adventure.
Where would you like to take things with your music into 2021 and beyond?
I plan to keep pushing myself creatively with my music and with my live performances, I want to take myself as far as I can. I’ve got a lot to give and I can’t wait to show everyone what I’ve been working on.
Have you got any live shows or performances in the pipeline over the coming months? And how do you approach things in the live format – do you perform with a band or solo?
I do have some live shows coming up that I’m really excited for, it’s so good to be able to perform again now that Covid-19 is slowly getting sorted out. I’ll be opening for Lime Cordiale in Sydney on the 13 and 14 of March and I’m playing at Euroa Festival on the 27 of March, just after my EP is out.
I usually like to play solo, just me and a guitar, I like it because I’ve got nothing to hide behind, so people really see I can do what I do in my recordings. I also just started working with a band this year, which has been really fun for all of us. I can’t wait for everyone to hear what we’ve got.
Having announced himself as a major new talent to be reckoned with, Budjerah has certainly got what it takes to take his musical journey to the next level. Be sure to check out his joyous new single, ‘Higher’, available on all major streaming platforms. His EP, released today, is available to listen to here.
Check out ‘Higher’ below: