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Annie Hamilton on finding the magic in the mundane and her glorious debut EP

1 May 2020 | 9:07 am | Emma Jones

The debut EP from Sydney musician, visual artist and fashion designer Annie Hamilton has been a long time coming.

The debut EP from Sydney musician, visual artist and fashion designer Annie Hamilton has been a long time coming. From cutting her teeth as one third of Little May a few years back to slowly but surely developing her solo musings and songs she thought no one else would hear into music she was ready to release into the world, her journey to this point has been one of learning how to trust herself, her intuition and the great inspiration she finds from the world around her.

Released today, the self-titled EP is six songs that mark a chapter in Hamilton's life as she details the mundanity of coming-of-age stories with remarkable magic. She finds the extraordinary in everyday life, and creates beautiful, emotionally-rich indie tunes to explore this wonder. From a real-time conversation with her anxiety in 'Panic' to the utterly glorious first singles we heard from her in 'Fade' and 'Kitchen', Hamilton has a knack for making music that is at once hugely personal and completely universal, and its in this relatability and authenticity that makes her such an exciting artist right now.

Speaking of her EP, Hamilton said, “When I started writing these songs I didn't think anyone would hear them - it was an intensely private experience, writing only for myself, for my own creative fulfilment and desire. As the project has evolved over time, I've always come back to this as the underlying motivation - to follow my gut, trust my instincts and to not let the fear of external pressure or judgement influence my music.” It's fitting then that we would now receive her first solo body of work, under her own name, ready for the spotlight.

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Hey Annie! How are you today?

Good thanks Emma! Hope you’re doing well!

What’s one thing that’s getting you through self-isolation right now?

Betty Grumble’s daily disco-aerobics class on instagram live.

Your EP is out! How are you feeling on a personal level?

Actually quite calm and just happy to have it out there. I have found in the past that I get super nervous in the days leading up to a release, but this time ‘round I don’t have any of that negative feeling, I’m just excited to share these last couple of songs.

A lot of these songs have existed in some shape or form for years now, how does it feel to have them officially out in the world? Is it a nice way to look back on the time in which you wrote them, or does it bring up feelings from back then in a weird way of re-processing things? 

The EP has definitely been a long time coming. I’ve been working on it for the last three years - writing, recording, re-working, scrapping, starting again, re-writing, etc… So it’s a huge relief to finish them, release them and move on to new music. During the writing/recording process I always feel very over-protective of the songs and they feel really private, but there’s something that happens along the way once they’re mixed and ‘finished’ where something flicks over and then they feel really ready to share, and once they’re at that point then it’s really nice to look back on them… But once I finish the songs I never really listen to them again. I listen to them so much in the process that once I give the final tick of approval I’m generally pretty sick of them hahaha.

Speaking of isolation, it seems like your trip to Iceland and your isolation there has had a profound impact on your creativity as a whole. This was obviously back when isolation was a choice, so I wondered why did you make that trip and what was it about being secluded so far away from home that helped you tap into your creativity in this way? 

Definitely - my time in Iceland was hugely influential on my creative practice… I went there on a residency, where I basically just got an apartment in a tiny town in the Westfjords region to work on my own creative projects for a couple of months. My apartment was beautiful and simple and it had this amazing old grand piano and big windows that looked over the fjords. I’ve always found that isolation helps with creative work - definitely in this case the landscape and weather and the distance had a huge effect on me, but also just the lack of distractions… I think I do my best work when I’m locked in a room for days at a time and I don’t have any reason to leave or any social interaction - I can really get deep into the writing process. I’m pretty introverted so I’ve never had an issue with spending time on my own - it’s actually a massive luxury considering I usually live in a six-person share-house.

You’ve spoken about how you like to try and find magic in the mundane moments of everyday life, and I feel like this is evident throughout not just your music but your videos as well. Why is it so important for you to show this magical side?

I think we seem to have reached a point (pre-pandemic) where we just move so quickly through life. It feels like we’re always connected, always rushing around, the pressure to be constantly ‘productive’, always working and doing. I often feel like I don’t have time to just sit in the sun and drink a coffee or read a book or just sit and play my guitar ‘for fun’ instead of feeling like I should be trying to write a song for my album or something. So for me, noticing and documenting and writing about these little magical moments in everyday life cements them and gives them importance and reminds me to slow down and appreciate all of the things I have.

You also seem unafraid to confront yourself and your deepest thoughts through your music, and this also extends to videos like the brilliant clip for ‘Fade’. It took you awhile to be able to feel comfortable with your music though - how did you get to a place of being so real with your audience? 

My close friends often joke that I am really terrible at talking about my feelings but for some reason I can sing about them. It’s actually quite funny when you think about it… A lot of the things I sing in songs I would never be able to say in ‘real’ life (what even is real life?)... I think my time in Iceland really helped me feel comfortable and confident with my music, because I was sitting there recording myself and listening to myself all day every day. At first I hated the sound of my own voice but after a while I just got used to it, and with that I got used to playing and experimenting with it and pushing it and I lost a lot of that self-consciousness that I had at first.

You took this a step further with your latest single, Panic, which sees you address anxiety head on but in a way that looks at it curiously rather than trying to banish it… Why do you think it’s important to discuss mental health in this light? 

I can only speak for my own experience with anxiety, but I often find that if I’m feeling it my first instinct is to push it away and try to ignore it and press on, which generally doesn’t help. ‘Panic’ was a way for me to actually confront it and pick it apart and try to rationalise it, to accept that it was there. I tried to imagine it as a character and write to it rather than about it. I think it’s helpful to acknowledge that we feel a certain way rather than trying to hide it.

You’ve spoken about how this EP documents the process of you finding your voice over the years as a solo artist. I imagine that only comes when you’re able to trust yourself and your intuition enough. Do you think developing this trust was the liberating factor in being able to create such personal tracks with so much intimacy and vulnerability?

100% this is about trusting your intuition and following your gut. One of the things I’ve realised in the last few years working on my own creative projects is that there are billions of creative avenues you can take and each one is not necessarily better or worse than the other, they are just different. So it’s just about picking whichever one you like best and having the confidence to stick to it. Every creative decision just comes down to what you like, or what feels right at the time. This is definitely liberating. The times I’ve tried to write or create things in the hope that other people might like them I have ended up with terrible results.

Does it feel like these songs have taken on a new meaning given the world you’re about to release them into? 

It is very strange to have these songs that were written and recorded over several years now coming out in such a surreal and uncertain time for our whole planet. I had always planned to release Panic early this year, but then when everything happened, I started reconsidering and questioning whether it was appropriate or even necessary to be releasing songs and promoting music when this crisis is in full swing. But I also found with myself that I was turning to music and art more than ever - relying on music and books and art to distract me and comfort me and inspire me. When I’m writing and producing music I think about the songs from a kinda cinematic standpoint - with each recording and video I want to create a distinct little universe that the song lives in, so if my music provides a few minutes of escape during this weird time then that is where the meaning comes from.

You also have your own fashion line - does this influence your music or vice versa? Do you feel like having a separate creative outlet empowers the other and helps prevent burn out, for example if the music side of things is getting too hard you can switch gears and work on your fashion? 

I don’t really think one influences the other, rather I think they’re both born from the same external influence - they’re both outlets for creative expression, just in different forms. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance them and ideally allowing them to feed off each other rather than competing against each other / totally burning me out. I used to think that it was beneficial to switch gears when I was getting sick of one of them, but actually I’ve come full circle and now treat them as different facets of one larger creative world, which I think is a bit more manageable, at least mentally.

Annie Hamilton's self-titled EP is out now via Inertia Music.

Interview by Emma Jones

Image by Rosie Fitzgerald