Interview Series: Woodes.
In an era of over-produced and underwhelming autotune hits, Elle Graham AKA Woodes stands out as a breath of fresh air. The Melbourne-based singer/songwriter/producer has been consistently pushing avant-garde, beautiful tunes over the course of the past year, and her pure musicianship has invariably shone through with each release. Her EP with fellow Melbourne native and producer, Elkkle, was debuted to much critical acclaim, and forced the music world – in Australia especially, but also worldwide – to take notice of this rising star.
From her inclusion in Pigeons and Planes’ “Best New Artists” to her spot on Triple J’s full rotation for her single “The Thaw,” Woodes has shown the potential to become a household name in the perhaps not-so-distant future. As the follow-up to her first single “Daggers and Knives,””The Thaw” was undoubtedly Woodes’ breakout track.
At the time of our review of the song, Woodes had a few tracks in the range of 15-30k plays on SoundCloud; these figures are nothing to scoff at by any means, but nonetheless pale in comparison to the 108k plays “The Thaw” has accumulated to date, all in just under two months. And this seems just a glimpse of what’s in store.
Woodes’ sound is truly one that is uniquely her own. Her production is immaculate and totally infectious, and yet it’s perfectly minimalist, stripped down to allow her crooning, gorgeous voice to serve as the showstopper. Her sound is at once progressive and classical – while her music seems anything but old or recycled, her focus on instrumentation, voice included, harkens back to a time preceding anything electronic. Regardless, Woodes is a marvel, and she’s here to stay. Read on for the full interview with this talented young artist below!
Triple J has been showing you a lot of love recently – what does that mean to you, especially as an Aussie, having such a cultural powerhouse backing you?
When I first uploaded music to Triple j Unearthed over a year ago I had no expectations of anyone listening or reviewing it. The original music that we uploaded was a collab between myself and Elkkle that was quite left field, I suppose. We made it in a shipping container on Elkkle’s property and it was just a fusion of initial ideas, which we used as an introduction to us both. That project ended up being in the Top 50 played artists on Unearthed last year, and through that experience I met a lot of other Unearthed artists on a similar journey, which opened doors for collaboration.
Once you start to connect with others on a similar journey it can be reassuring to see what choices people make and where it can get you in 6, 12…24 months.
It also really showed me how close knit and connected the music scene is in Australia.
Triple J, and Triple J Unearthed have some very kind and passionate staff that trawl through uploads to find music. It’s a very nice thing to have their support. Community radio across Australia has been really awesome in general.
The day I found out about The Thaw’s full rotation addition I treated myself to a nice breakfast. It’s cool that the simple decision to upload to their site has evolved into my music being heard on the radio in Australia. To be added, whilst being independent is such a dream.
Do you feel as though your experience with production on your own tracks has set you apart from other singer-songwriters and/or expanded your creative boundaries?
For my friends who write/sing/play music I implore them to get into production. It’s immensely empowering to have that control and informed knowledge on how you want to sound in your recordings. Even when you’re in a room writing or collaborating with another, you can take it beyond descriptive words or references, or simply sit in the chair and do things yourself.
At home in my studio I find it a really creative little bubble that definitely allows for me to push my own creative boundaries.
A lot of the people I hang out with produce/write/record too… so I don’t feel too far from the pack.
Is it ever a difficult balancing act between playing live shows, making music, and, well, everything else?
Most definitely. Everything is a bit of a balancing act at the moment.
For my live show I’m in a bit more of a routine with it, now that most of the songs I’m playing are in their final stages. It was harder to balance this last 12 months when the live shows happened quite sporadically and I was working with demos. It’s refreshing to look at my music a different way and start to chop up bits and think about trading/buying new gear in order to achieve the live set up I have in my head, rather than being concerned about mixes or swapping lyrics in and out in shows.
I did my first national tour last month supporting Dustin Tebbutt & It was really interesting finding how you balance your time whilst being constantly in between.
I stopped always needing to find new things and fill the silence. Simple afternoons on the wifi at art galleries… early nights watching TV shows, going for walks or getting exercise. Treating my voice well.
I’ve found by adding exercise in, it’s possible to do this. But having a tired body & voice is the worst. You’re always demanding so much from it.
Making music usually comes in blocks, I like some isolation, or time with a piano. I’m getting better at a temporary writing set up for travel. I guess, the balancing act is just part of this career. Many speak of it that have been doing music/touring/producing for many years. I don’t think it fades… feeling on the tips of your toes, but by putting routines and systems in place it’s manageable.
Loved your music video for “The Thaw” (filmed at the beautiful Lake Mountain Alpine Resort in Victoria) – how did that come to fruition?
Thank you! I really wanted to shoot in the snow, I think there’s a beautiful dream-like vibe up there with all the skeletal trees… it feels a lot like a film set. I grew up in Townsville and find the concept of snow in Australia really interesting, that juxtaposition of gums and wallabies in the middle of winter. Originally we were looking at mountains with thicker snow, but that proved to be difficult for working with the drones.
I was on the tour and couldn’t do a location rec before filming. So we went to Lake Mountain, as I’d shot there before for my initial press shots with Studio Aton, and even with limited snow, we had the beautiful trees to work with. We shot on two different days, as the first had barely any snow and really strong winds. The drone morning there was a thin layer across the ground, which was perfect for the final shots.
When I saw the final shot on the back of the camera my jaw dropped. I’m so happy with it. Felt like a Game of Thrones moment, seeing the trees covered in fog. That place is unreal.
Who are some artists you’d love to work with going forward?
I’m so happy writing with my friends. I’d love to work with some string arrangers and more live instruments amidst the electronics. I would like to collaborate with more artists from the UK and Europe. Some writing in Sweden would be amazing. A dream would be to collaborate with artists such as Jon Hopkins, Imogen Heap, James Blake or Nils Frahm.
What’s up next for Woodes?
Ep’s out next month, some live shows, and another film clip that I’m very happy with. Some fashion collaborations and another trip over to the US before the end of the year. I think more travel next year, first time over to Europe!
How is it like working as an independent artist in the current music industry landscape? Have you ever felt pressure, or had any desire, to sign to a major label?
I feel as an independent artist you have to have a range of different things you’re ok or great at. From design to PR to social media to music… it’s an amalgamation of things. It helps having a broad understanding.
Everything keeps shifting and you shouldn’t be reliant on a label swooping in and telling you how things get done. Having that understanding allows for you to have control. There are books, websites and tutorials around. It’s good to ask questions and seek mentors.
Major labels help music get heard, in some cases they are a collective of similar artists that support one another, I love that. For now, independent is a great way for me to have both creative control and the ability to experiment and cement who I want to be as an artist.
Even Pigeons and Planes are showing you love now! Has there been any definite point in time at which you’ve said to yourself ‘Wow, this is really taking off,’ or has your growth been a really gradual process?
Pigeons and Planes are so incredibly lovely. I really am grateful to all of the blogs and music journalists that take the time to really research an artist and allow for them to tell a story to accompany their music. I’m half American, so to have support from blogs in both USA and Australia is really awesome. I’m looking forward to heading back at the end of this year to play my first American shows.
As for the process, I was speaking to a friend at Bigsound about how much of a slow burn this has all been. I keep dropping that phrase. Maybe because my dad is a park ranger and he’s taught me a bit about fires. Rangers always favour the slow, orchestrated fire, they call it back burning. They plan fires on the cusp of fire season, preemptively. It takes a little longer, but it carries on through the bush safely. It’s so much more practical than one that just tears through.
I think I feel this way about my music. I’ve thought a lot about Woodes, and who I want her to be. Similarly I have thought a lot about this music. I set the fire when it was just time, and slowly, it moves.
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Note: The official remixes for “The Thaw” were just recently released! Australian indie producer Lupa J crafts a brooding, experimental take on the track, German sibling production duo DNKR put a lovely spin on “The Thaw” in their beautiful chill house remix, and Sydney based house duo SODF take the track into the clubs with their deep house rendition. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for Woodes’ debut solo EP, dropping in the next month!
Show Woodes some love:
(And check out our full SoundCloud Artist Spotlight playlist for Woodes here.)