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WAM INTERVIEWS: Abbe May

4 Oct

With a sound described as ‘Soul-gospel-electro-bluez’, and with a boatload of #WAMAwards to her name over the years, Abbe May has grown from her early days of rock and blues exploration to become the versatile and dynamic artist that Australia knows today. After some time off, Abbe has returned with her two recent singles, Are We Flirting? and Doomsday Clock, from her upcoming fourth studio album Bitchcraft. WAM’s Amy Doherty caught up with Abbe to chat about the Fremantle Folk Festival, social change, and the “divine feminine”.

What would you count as your greatest achievement in your long and storied music career?
Surviving in a fairly fickle industry with my sense of self and humour intact. I am excited by the album I am currently making with Matt Gio and my brother, KT Rumble. I think my greatest achievement so far is to have survived with 4 albums and 2 EPs under my belt and to be happy in a place where I am constantly learning about my craft and to be able to continue to make a new album. I am lucky!

Are We Flirting? and Doomsday Clock, the first two singles from your forthcoming album Bitchcraft, seem to have a consistent political influence. Is this a sign of things to come, or what more can listeners expect you to explore throughout the remainder of the record?
Yes. I am politically activated and I am no longer just using music for personal catharsis. I believe I need to do whatever I can to make sure my niece and nephews don’t just inherit my guitar collection when I die. I want to try to help make social change so that the world they inherit is positive and evolved, not conservative and dead.

The album name has already been causing some controversy – please tell us more about the name and motivations?
Bitchcraft is a celebration of the power of the divine feminine. It is about reclaiming the power of femininity. It exists in both men and women and should be celebrated and brought into balance, both within the individual and in the greater universe.

We’re excited to see you at the Fremantle Folk Festival on the 15th of October at Clancy’s Fish Pub. Who can we expect to see in your gospel choir, and how do you go about selecting your choir?
My choir is a way for my girlfriends, Joni Hogan and Ofa Fotu, to get together and sing our favourite songs for the sake of singing, rather than for any other reason. We love to sing and we love ’90s RnB. You can expect a lot of these great hits plus some philosophizing about life, love and being a rad human being.

Who are you most excited to see at the Fremantle Folk Festival?
Lucy Peach, Todd Pickett and Donna Simpson!

You’ve talked previously about stress management changing the way that you meet deadlines. How has self-care and self-awareness impacted your songwriting processes?
Everything flows better when you follow your bliss. I don’t let myself get stressed anymore so I have a lot of time where I may seem to work at a very slow pace to others but the resulting music is much better for me and I am so much happier.

You and WAM have a long history together – you’ve taken out multiple WAM awards over the years – what advice would you pass on to aspiring artists?
It sounds simplistic, but you just have to never stop. Music should be a vocation, not a job. Make music for the sake of catharsis and connection and for learning how to be better at your craft. Don’t allow industry pressures or perceived failures in your career stop you. If you focus on the creative process being about learning how to make better music – then you cant lose – unless you stop.

Whilst this year not playing or speaking (thanks for your rad keynote a few years back!), name five acts/individuals you would most recommend people catch at WAMFest and WAMCon, and why?
– Lilt
– Hideous Sun Demon
– Odette Mercy and Her Soul Atomics
– Mathas
– Lucy Peach

And when can we expect your Bitchcraft album to launch, and – for WA fans – how?
I feel I will finish the record over the summer. I can’t be certain but I reckon Bitchcraft will be released in 2017.

The Fremantle Folk Festival – Saturday 15 October, Clancy’s Fish Pub, Fremantle.
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