Felicity Lawless is like a chrysalid. When she speaks about her evolution as an artist, particularly around her new album Tails, it’s as if she is still enclosed in a cocoon, just beginning to emerge, unsure what final form she’ll take.
That’s my reflection anyway. Though she’s the first to say that this new album is one of story-telling, spirit and self. Tails actually tells a tale of Felicity’s self-discovery. A process she’s undergone by telling other people’s stories.
“I’m really grateful to be able to express in music what is happening in my soul,” she told me.
The title Tails is a little homage to the wisdom she said she received from hanging out with so many animals all the time, “but also a wordplay for stories and the stories people tell.”
She said she got part of the way through the recording process and didn’t want to continue. She realised her last album, while telling beautiful stories of other people and some of her own, were basically stories that she constructed.
“I got really consumed about the whole thing because I thought what story do I need to be telling?”
Felicity said that as a result she’s been doing a lot of work ‘within’ herself… “trying to create a different world through creating a different world inside myself.”
“I became really conscious of what I was saying and it kind of really blocked me. I want to be shifting up the energy of this world in a really positive way with this music and there is a lot of deep feeling in my music – a lot of it comes from pain and it kind of stumped me.”
The track titles off Tails do kind of read as a guide to self-discovery. Happy Ending, Love Is the Answer, Who do you Work For?, Boundlessly… Felicity said that the most significant thing about this album is that there has been little censorship of herself.
“It’s very diverse. I haven’t stuck to a specific genre, and I’ve explored all my favourites,” she explained. “I got back on electric guitar. There’s funk, reggae and the usual flamenco mariachi madness.”
“And it was really kicked off just by writing about a man who really inspired me and realising that his story is everyone’s story.”
She’s referring to the track Cowboy Camerman, inspired by Damian Lang (who also filmed the song’s film clip).
“He’s got a pretty epic story of having gone to war and had a big realisation – a wakeup in the middle of it all – and then finding myself.”
I ask whether the lack of self-censorship on the album means she doesn’t care what people think of the songs. But she clarifies, “I care that it makes someone shift up some energy, so people can feel more love or release more pain.”
And has the feedback been positive?
“I’m just doing what my soul is calling me to do,” Felicity said.
“It’s had a better response from my inner circle than any other album I’ve ever done and I’ve had so many people listen to the song Love is the Answer which talks about ‘hey, I see you’re in pain, but you’re not alone – just open up and connect because love is the answer’.”
“Just know if someone is in a certain space, they just need more love. That song I’ve had about ten people call up and say I just balled my eyes at that. I Just felt clear. You saved my day,” she said.
“That’s why I make music. I feel like I’ve finally achieved an amazing goal. That’s all I play music for, really – apart from my own self-gratification – it makes me feel beautiful to do that.”
And so Felicity Lawless has come full circle. She believes a lot of what “happens” in society is that we are busy and so having to BE ok all the time. “We have to keep up appearances to survive on that material level,” she said… “as in getting money to be able to eat and do the things we need to survive in this culture.”
“I had a bit of time where I really worked myself into the ground and had no barriers and then I let it all out in this album because I just really want to promote emotional honesty.”
Felicity shared a story of one of her favourite gigs. She had a set at Mudgeeraba’s Summertime Sessions in the Village which had been moved to the Wallaby Hotel due to wet weather. “I was really tired and run down,” she said. “And I just played. But I couldn’t even smile.”
“So I just put it out there and said ‘you know, I’d love you to sing along’ and it was a sad song about my healing with my father. And the whole audience sang along with me.”
“I realised that about being honest about where I was at and not being OK, it was a great experience,” she said. “And it was the Wallaby Hotel. It was the most… such a random place for such beauty to come out from. What I got from that is when you’re really real, just living in pain and indulging in pain and really able to truly say what’s going on and open it up for other people – they shift through and create a world where we’re not all pretending to be something else.”
And it’s through this process of not being OK that Felicity has come to an even bigger realisation.
“I just really want to emphasis that through all the busyness, that finding a place of stillness and being in nature and working out my core values in that stillness has been the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said. “I encourage people to look at what they’re doing and ask, am I honouring my values and are they prioritised in my life?”
“It’s this rushing-ness that we’re plunged into that keeps the blanket over us – we all do it,” she said.
“I myself have been doing it as well. There’s no judgement there, it’s just a realisation that everyone is busy all the time and sometimes not able to take care of their own health and that’s how this system stays unchanged and keeps us so busy.”
“Let’s create a world where success is defined by health, happiness and connection to the earth. Where we are not separate from nature, but a part of it.”
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Felicity Lawless’ album Tails is out now. Visit felicitylawless.com for details, including upcoming gigs.