Wise beyond his years, soulful musician, Budjerah (BOO-jer-uh), brings a thoughtful new EP, Conversations to the airwaves. The young artist from the Bundjalung nation of Australia, takes listeners through an introspective journey of conversations that started with his first single, “Talk.” It’s a song about being open and walking the talk. After his eponymous album received rave reviews and after winning ARIA’s Breakthrough Artist award, it seems natural to push the envelope with an EP that takes Conversations into action.
“[Budjerah’s] presence of sound is like sunlight for the senses,” praises Vogue. “Rich, track-stopping voice can command any genre,” echoed music authority, NME. We couldn’t agree more. Rain caught up with the promising young musician on his soulful influences and what this new EP has in store for listeners.
Rain: How did you first decide on becoming a musician? Was soulful pop something you were naturally drawn to?
Budjerah: I grew up in a family of musicians and I always loved singing. I did my first proper performance when I was 12 years old and from then on I didn’t want to do anything else but music. Gospel and Soul music is what I grew up on so creating soulful music feels very natural to me. Furthermore, I like to have fun when I make music and right now I’m being drawn to pop.
This EP Conversations is a major milestone for you. Therefore, when I think of conversations it could mean a conversation with yourself or it could mean a conversation between you and the listener, or both! What sort of conversations can we expect?
The songs came from actual conversations that I had over the last year. There were a lot of changes for me, and what helped me through everything that was going on was talking about it. This EP is me talking about the things I was going through in song form.
I like to think of myself as quite light and warm. My name, Budjerah, means First Light and Love in my language.
NME called your music ‘cinematic, powerful, and timeless.” Where do you think that comes from?
I don’t know. I’m glad they think that though, it makes me blush a little. I think maybe that comes from my musical influences. I grew up on a lot of older music, jazz, soul and gospel which is often described in a similar way. Moreover, I’ve only been putting music out for a year, so I’ll think I should wait a bit longer before I say that I’m timeless.
A lot of people call your music R&B which I think is strange. Adele, Sam Smith, and Whitney Houston are all considered R&B in some ways, which really is just soulful / emotional music that connects with listeners. I’ve heard glitchcore bangers that do the same thing. Does genre concern you? What do you want listeners to take away from your music?
I would call my music R&B, but I’m not too concerned about genre. I think what defines genre is the palette of sounds and instruments and the way they are played rather than how emotional the performance is. All styles and genres have the potential to be emotional and soulful. Although, I think the most important thing in music, regardless of genre, should be to make the audience feel something. Emotion and soul is key, that’s how we connect to each other.
You’ve said “these songs speak about the last year – about me figuring out what’s important.” How did you go through that process? What’d you find out? Finally, was there a catalyst or something within you that started that conversation?
The thing that started these conversations was when me, MAY-A, and Chris Collins wrote “Talk.” We wrote it a few days after my first single “Missing You” came out, which is when everything started changing for me. “Talk” is about being open and talking about things and after writing and putting it out, I felt like I should walk the talk. That led to the conversation that inspired the rest of the songs. The importance of being open and honest was the biggest lesson I learned.
What was life like growing up in New South Wales? The ups? The downs?
I grew up on the New South Wales/Queensland border on the New South Wales side. If I cross the river, I’m in Queensland. It is really nice because we live next to the beach and Snapper Rocks is just across the border, one of the best surf spots in the world! The upside is that this is my family’s country.
We’re from Bundjalung country and we’re still here. We’re super lucky that we still have a strong connection to our culture here. The downside is the tourists. I think some tourists forget about the locals that live here and think they own the place because they’ve been coming to the area every Christmas for the last two years. Other than that, it is a great time!
I don’t know much about the Bundjalung nation. Tell us more about your life in this respect.
I’m from the Bundjalung nation and my family is the Coodjinburra tribe, one of many aboriginal cultures in Australia. When Europeans first “discovered” Australia, they tried to “breed the black out” and we weren’t allowed to practice our cultural traditions or even speak our languages until the mid 1970s. Therefore, many cultures were lost, but the Bundjalung nation was lucky and we still have a lot of our culture. One of the oldest cultures in the world. I’m very proud of my heritage.
Your music videos feature a lot of nature. Is this important to you?
Yes, it is very important. Growing up with a good connection to my culture and living on my country, I was taught about the importance of the land and caring for it. It’s part of who I am and I’m very proud of it and I like to show that.
I really enjoyed your self titled album. LOVE the alternative cover art. It feels like you really came into your own – found your own voice and sound. How does Conversations extend from this or does it?
My new EP, Conversations, is an extension of my story, new stories that I have to share. My writing is about my experiences and I’m telling them in a way that is comfortable for me to do so, which is through song.
What’s the lighter side of Budjerah ?
I’m not sure. Do people see me as dark or moody? I like to think of myself as quite light and warm. My name, Budjerah, means First Light and Love in my language. I’ve never really thought about my light and dark sides. I would say my dark side is that I’m stubborn and a little impatient and my lighter side would be that I’m relaxed and happy.
What’re you most looking forward to this year?
I’m really looking forward to touring. I love singing live and I’ve got a ton of shows booked this year around the world. Finally, I’ve never been to Europe or North America before, so I can’t wait to meet all the different people and experience different cultures and try all the food!
Pre-save the EP here.