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Q&A: Asha Jefferies Gets Personal With The Process Behind 'The Pinnacle'

Following the success of her 2021 singles; 'Crybaby' and 'Dancefloor', Asha Jefferies has released the second EP of her young (and already successful!) career, building on the hype that accompanied tracks such as 'Everybody Talks', 'Bad Kisser' and her feature in Noah Dillon's tune 'Knievel Daredevil'.

The Pinnacle is a beautiful, personal, and artistic reflection on relationships, familial dynamics, the weight of expectation and of course, missing the sweaty 2am dancefloor during these hyper-lonely COVID times.

Photo Credit: Anywyn Howarth

Comprising of five tracks, The Pinnacle is exactly that: the current pinnacle of Asha's musical venture. That is, until she releases a full album! The EP is an outstanding representation of her traditional acoustic, soft, folk sound, but also gives voice to new elements, something Asha described as "experimenting with different soundscapes".

We had a chat with Asha about musical inspiration, her upcoming tour with Josh Pyke, and some quirky specifics of The Pinnacle.

Your music has been described as 'somewhere between Jack River, Alex the Astronaut and even Paul Kelly', much of which I agree with. However, I'd like to ask where did your personal musical inspiration come from? Was it artists and bands you listened to growing up, or more of an adolescent / coming of age type of influence? (Or something different entirely)

From an early age, my dad introduced me to heaps of Australian singer/songwriters like Missy Higgins, Paul Kelly and Kate Miller-Heidke. So, when I started writing songs when I was 12 on the guitar, it always had this folk-songstress identity to it! I wrote to play live and share stories throughout high school. I think since COVID times, I’ve sunk my teeth into making my recorded music feel fuller and give a bigger insight - it’s a whole new ballpark that’s been challenging and energising for me.

Was The Pinnacle a long and laborious process, or did it come together relatively quickly? In these COVID times it seems like artists who've been locked down have found some sort of inspiration in the loneliness.

There were no deadlines for the EP (which felt amazing). I started co-writing with my friend Aidan Hogg at Plutonium Studios, peak zombie pandemic mode last year in May. My intention was just like let’s see what sounds we can make! Let’s be open to whatever happens and grow with the music! I’m sick of writing by myself in this sharehouse! Let’s collaborate! The first track that came out of these sessions was ‘Dizzy’ and that felt like the start of this new era of soft glow tones which felt soo exciting. I was definitely inspired by the isolation and this deep smack in the face that happened when the world shut down!

It's pretty obvious where the inspiration for 'Dancefloor' comes from, however there's one lyric I'd love to ask you about specifically. It's toward the beginning of the song, where you say, "instead I'm talking to a lizard about cynicism and settling". To me this sounds like a conversation with an absolute creature on a night out, but do you think you could you go into a touch more detail!?

YES! Oh my god, that line is so weird! Some people think it’s me talking about being on acid or something, but it’s really just about having an absolutely boring conversation with someone who reminds you of a lizard. You know those types of people? Someone that looks so intriguing from far away, but up close kinda dull!

How excited are you to tour with Josh Pyke? Having just finished your own headline tour are you keen to be going on the road again? (Are you expecting the vibe to be slightly different as a support?)

Goodness it has been a ride working towards the Josh Pyke shows - it’s been postponed/cancelled more times than I can count, but I am so thrilled to play some shows together hopefully at the end of the year! They’ll be real special and intimate solo shows with heaps of storytelling in cosy venues!

The Pinnacle is an excellent culmination of your idiosyncratic sound and classic folk instrumentality, however there's also a myriad of new elements we haven't heard much of before! Was this slight change always the direction you envisioned your music taking? And, do you expect it to change again?

I definitely stepped away from the ‘I'm a singer/songwriter that plays and writes on a guitar’ identity writing this EP! Definitely influenced by not playing live as much - the energy and storytelling of what I write has always been channelled and intended for live shows... So when performing live wasn’t a part of my routine anymore, I pushed my writing energy and expression into the bubble of sound production and focused on how my songs sound and feel without that live element.

The track 'Big Expectations' details an emotional situation I think most people can relate to. Despite the melancholy story, 'Big Expectations' still sounds remotely happy and the juxtaposition between the lyrics and music makes it sound somewhat hopeful (one of my favourite song-writing techniques!). Was this a deliberate choice from the beginning or more of a "this music would actually suit this song I've written?" type of moment?

I’ve always wanted to write a song like Big Expectations - but didn’t know how to or where to start. It might seem like a breakup song but it’s about my experience of being coerced by a pretty dominant male in the music industry. The toughest part of this long, drawn-out experience was the shame and blame I felt for trusting someone, having a misguided judgement and having “big expectations” (that were really just bare minimum requirements). In terms of production, it does sound kind of happy for such a heavy storyline! That was both intentional and a total accident haha. We wrote chords and a soundscape for the song first and then I went away and sensed all this frustration when I wrote lyrics (having no idea what I was writing about). It’s cool allowing your subconscious to speak in private and then transforming it from there.

Finally, what made you release 'Crybaby' and 'Dancefloor' as singles instead of some of the other tracks on the EP? Were there some distinguishing features the two had that defined the EP when compared to the others, or were they simply your favourites?

Crybaby definitely has the most big energy, so it made sense to make it a highlight from the EP. It was also such a defining moment for me, writing that song last year about a relationship ending and beginning to trust in myself more. And Dancefloor is a big defining song too, it was the first time I had opened up to myself about struggling with mental health and the path of accepting what was sitting on the sea-floor when I took a deep breath and dived into my subconscious.

If you're in Brisbane be sure to head to the EP launch show - you won't be disappointed.

Asha Jefferies The Pinnacle EP Launch

Thursday 28 October at The Bearded Lady with special guests Euca and Pipin. Tickets are here

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