For those of you who don’t already know, Gold Coast’s Felicity Lawless is one hell of a fiery flamenco guitarist and singer who began her career busking Australian streets with only her guitar to feed her.
Now gracing big stages at huge festivals, her album ‘Ouroboros’ rippled through Triple J’s airplay and into the cars and workplaces of fans across the nation.
Lawless genre bends across indie, folk and rock scenes, capturing her audience with a unique style that ventures on a pivotal point in Australian music history. And the venues she plays are just as diverse – you’ll find her at trendy cafes, fine dining restaurants, Miami Marketta, gigs in outdoor parks and venues up and down the east coast.
Felicity is the perfect example of an artist able to make a living on the Gold Coast working full time in the music industry. Her music takes on an upbeat country/bohemian vibe that seems to engulf the audience within an almost ethereal space. She’s got new music in the wind, new videos and a new live set ready for a huge crowd at this year’s Gold Coast Music Awards LIVE show where she’ll perform alongside friends Tijuana Cartel and PACES. She’s also a nominee for a bunch of categories.
Fellow Gold Coast Music Awards artist PACES says it’s “inspiring” to see how the Gold Coast music scene has flourished in recent years.
“People used to have to move to Sydney or Melbourne to pursue a career in music but these days that’s not the case at all,” he said. “Gold Coast musicians have been absolutely smashing it and achieving global success.”
“I’m super stoked to be headlining the Awards and kicking off the Surfers Paradise LIVE festival, I’m really looking forward to discovering the next wave of Gold Coast musicians,” PACES continued.
Felicity is similarly stoked.
“I am so excited,” she said. “I love what the women at Blank do. I love all of your work and it feels like an honour to play on an epic stage in my home town representing the Gold Coast music scene which is just an amazingly supportive beautiful scene; one of the coolest I have seen in the world.”
It’s been nearly four years since we caught up with Felicity and we’re curious as to exactly what she’s been up to since 2016.
“I definitely dropped into another realm there for a moment, I recorded a whole album and released the first film clip of the first song at the beginning of last year but the rest of the album is due out in April.”
The album title ‘Karasu’, which is Japanese for ‘black bird’ is “epic” according to Felicity. The music features cellos, trombone and a heap of guest musicians.
“I have still been gigging a lot but just haven’t been pushing the music thing as much until now,” Felicity said. “I went back into the forest for some rejuvenation time to realise what needed to come back out. My connection to the forest and natural world is what I bring out when I come and play in the city.”
Felicity played classical piano when she was a child – something that continued for many years until she picked up drumsticks until developing a wrist injury. She said that “actually turned out to be a gift” because it allowed her to explore guitar. That saw her play fulltime and within 4-5 years she became a professional musician, living off her craft.
“Along that guitar journey I had two really intellectual people, a blues and rock guy who I used to jam with and learn off and a classical guitar teacher who taught me flamenco and classical. I went to Spain and just started infusing all that world music into reggae and rock then blending it all together.”
But ask Felicity to define her genre and you’ll strike a problem.
“When asked what music I play I have to make up a genre for it,” she said. And no wonder, she grew up listening to disco, country folk and opera but has always loved folk music of different cultures including tribal music, Spanish-Latin and Arabic scales.
“My style is a blend of all those gypsy cultures, there is Indian in it, African rhythms, Arabic scales and it is really a fusion of a number of really different things which is what makes traditional flamenco.”
When you hear all of that it’s no surprise that Felicity has had a long-standing professional relationship with Tijuana Cartel’s Paul George – another genre bending artist calling the Gold Coast home, and with whom she’ll also be sharing the sharing the Surfers Paradise stage at the Gold Coast Music Awards this year, something Felicity can’t wait to do.
“Tijuana Cartel are one of my favourite bands and some of my favourite people, and the stage is awesome!”
Tijuana Cartel have built a reputation for making beats that span the globe and Paul has explored his own solo project through Black Rabbit George.
“Paul and I actually released one of my songs ‘Rabbit Hole’ which I have rerecorded for our new album,” Felicity said.
“We did a few moonlight sessions where he basically came out to my house over a bottle of red. He had written the ‘Black Dog’ song that day I had written another song that day. The idea was to put it down immediately and not muck around with it too much and they worked out to be really amazing songs.
“I have done a lot of support acts for Tijuana over the ears and Paul and I have done some duo shows. Our guitar styles go so well together. He was even kind enough to lend me a guitar for the year which I ended up modelling my guitar off because it was such a beautiful instrument. Those boys are legends.”
Felicity has always been big on collaboration – both onstage and off. 2019 saw her perform in someone else’s band (Hayley Grace and the Bay Collective) which she says is “very unusual” for her.
“It is relaxing playing in someone else’s band, I love collaborating on other people’s stuff.”
“At the end of the day I do love writing my own songs and bringing it all together and managing that but it was humbling and a nice position to be in to add flavour to someone else’s thing and explore different parts of my plane.”
“I have a unique style so to go and do a different style it brings out different aspects of yourself,” she said.
It’s hard to pin such an ethereal artist down on her comings and goings as far as music business are concerned.
“I am very moment to moment but 2020 is looking amazing already,” Felicity said.
“I have a film clip ready to go. I am just planning massive expansion for the band and for the music.”
“We have some great shows lined up, some really magic ones, to record more music even though I am still releasing this album and just to get some bigger shows. It is a big expansive year for my music, there will be a lot of shows there will be a lot of music coming out online. So more magic and more music.”
Felicity performs at the Gold Coast Music Awards LIVE stage right on the city’s most iconic beach on Thursday 30 April. She’s joined by PACES and Tijuana Cartel as well as a swag of after-party bands yet to be announced. The awards ceremony is a ticketed event but the live concert on a huge outdoor stage is free.
Rolling out the red carpet on the iconic Surfers Paradise beachfront, the Gold Coast Music Awards is gearing up for its 6th annual event, which celebrates the City’s rising stars and sees 8,000+ people revel in a free outdoor concert.
“It’s been amazing to see how the Awards have grown over the years,” says Gold Coast Music Awards director, Chloe Popa.
“The support our Gold Coast artists have received from local media, radio, Council and organisations like HOTA and Surfers Paradise Alliance is sometimes overwhelming.
“And it’s not just about the community of musicians who are attending and being nominated, but also Gold Coasters coming along to watch our incredible local talent take that massive beachfront stage,” she said.
THE POWER OF THREE WITH FELICITY
What message do you believe your music sends?
Find peace within yourself and create peace within the world, respect all beings, respect yourself and believe in magic. There is a lot more to this world than we are see and it is magical, we have more creative ability than we know. When we step outside the general realms of creativity, we can create change mass change together. Lose your ego, connect in and be joyous.
Your lyrics are brimming with deep emotions, are you drawing from personal experience?
Whenever I am writing music my intention is to create the most beautiful theme I possibly can. My focus in life and with other people is healing and being able to express that so we can all shift this depressing feeling and lift it up and basically heal the world. My own healing journey plays a big part in that I think we all have our own energy to take care of and yeah it is definitely my life experience, what comes through at the time. I have struggled for most of my life with hyper-sensitivity and depression.
Tell me about your music philosophy?
My music philosophy is Transcend, Transform and Unify. When people gather to listen to music collectively or come together to create music, it is art.
Gold Coast Music Awards LIVE, Thursday 30 April, 6.00 – 10.00pm | PACES + Tijuana Cartel + Felicity Lawless. More at gcmusicawards.com.
Interview by Melissa Flynn. Story by Melissa Flynn and Samantha Morris, with contributions by Kylie Cobb.