Interview/Words by Emily Hollitt
Athena Joy has been a fairly present force in the Gold Coast music scene for quite some time. With recognition in both the Gold Coast and Queensland Music Awards, her unique approach to pop music is definitely nothing to turn a blind eye to. Inspired by acts like Daughter and Lorde, Athena prides herself on atmospheric and honest songs surrounded by immersive lyrics, impactful production and her distinctive soaring vocal style. She has just released her latest single Take Me Away, a short but sweet introspective track following the idea of getting lost in your own head and your own thoughts, resonating extra hard right now echoing the experiences in the social isolation period. The simple vocal melody circles around simple, sparkly piano and a delayed, repetitive guitar hook as the vocals grow around it. The minimalism of the dream-like production adds to the songs overall allure. The immersive track was produced and mixed by Jared Adlam (Jackson James Smith, Tori Forsythe) and mastered by Paul Blakey (Amy Shark, Cheap Fakes). I was lucky enough to pick Athena’s head about all things to do with this track, the meaning and how she’s been coping with everything going on right now.
To begin, tell us a little bit about what Take Me Away is about?
I wrote this song a couple of years ago and it was when I was going through a pretty tough time but not really ready to face any of it head on. It was kind of a song that evolved as I was playing around with different atmospheric sounds and synths just in Logic with headphones in my bedroom. Everything felt like I was painting this picture of the world I was escaping to. I think, as artists, we often turn to music to conceptualize things and for me this song was me kind of realizing that sometimes I’d rather be in the world inside my head.
Your music reminds me a lot of artists like Lorde, Taylor Swift and Sasha Sloan. Who are your main influences when it comes to finding and designing your sound?
I love all of those artists so definitely all of those… and then honestly whoever I’m inspired by or listening to a lot at the time seems to creep in there as well. I’ve always been the kind of writer who wants to cater the production to the songwriting not the other way around. I want the production to match the emotions behind the lyrics in some way or another so that’s always my main motivator and then we usually build around that. At least for now, always open to new ways of experimenting.
You’ve had a fairly successful run over the past few years that you’ve been performing and releasing original music including recognition at both the Queensland Music Awards and the Gold Coast Music Awards. What would you consider to be the defining moment of your career so far?
I still think the first Queensland Music Award nomination I got is probably the most defining moment. Only because no one knew who I was and when the song was submitted it wasn’t even released yet, I had nothing out. It’s actually a little mind blowing looking back that I was even nominated. I think as well because even though I didn’t win, Amy Shark won her first QMA that year and watching her career unfold from that moment has been pretty inspiring. I’ve definitely had some other highlights as well like getting to song write in America a couple of years ago and the odd show that has just hit with that little extra magic, but for some reason I feel like that nomination has just stuck with me because I didn’t really have anything before that.
What events lead to you knowing you wanted to become a career musician?
I always feel strange with questions like this, only because I’m not really sure. Sometimes I wonder if it was even a choice. Like, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. There’s nothing else in the world that makes me feel as at home and alive that music does. I suppose when I was a teenager and I started writing my own songs was when I started to get hooked to music… I wanted to be like Taylor Swift maybe she’s why.
You’ve been a fairly enigmatic force in the local scene in your own right for quite some time now. Who are some of your favourite acts that you love in the scene around you?
That’s really sweet thank you for saying so! There’s some amazing people in our scene Malina Claire for starters absolutely stunner (hi), also Tiarne just released a new collab with Soft Nylon and it’s super Vibey, also Hazel Mei is an absolute angel and I’ve actually been listening to a quite a bit of Tesla Coils recently- super different stuff.
I’ve noticed a lot of posts on your Instagram particularly covering how you’ve been feeling and coping with the current global pandemic, which I’ve noticed lots of people in the arts and other places of influence have been doing. Why do you think this is an important thing to do?
I’ve honestly debated going on about it as much as I probably have at times but I think to ignore that it’s a very real and scary reality for all of us right now, would feel pretty empty. I think it’s important to be honest with people. Everyone is struggling right now. Literally everyone. I am lucky in comparison to a lot of people right now and yet I have struggled. To pretend that I haven’t doesn’t serve anyone, and is actually super damaging to myself and others. I feel like normalising talking about real things, talking about your struggles is important because it means others can too. Finding out that other people are struggling and have felt what your feeling helps minimise feeling alone, which is particularly important right now.
Extending on from this, what challenges as well as positives have you experienced from this pandemic both musically and personally and what advice would you give to anyone else who is struggling?
Challenges have definitely been surrounding the financial uncertainty not just for me but for my friends and this whole industry. Also carrying the worry that doesn’t really go away, for health of friends and family also.
Positives though is I feel like I’ve really embraced this time to focus on my mental health. I’ve done a little bit of writing but honestly I’ve felt like there’s no rush and I’ve tried to let myself take the pressure off a bit. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and processing and doing whatever I need to dot. Some days that’s been staying incredibly busy and somedays it’s been sitting back with my feelings. The world we created for ourselves is so fast paced I feel like we don’t allow ourselves time to process anything. This time has been really valuable and I feel like I’ve used it for all it’s worth.
What are some of the main albums and artists that you have been streaming to keep you inspired during this very strange period?
I’ve been a little all over the place in terms of music listening.. I’ve listened to a lot of Queen, some Taylor Swift, some heavier music too! Honestly, whatever music the day and mood call for.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might come across this who may be looking to start releasing music?
Something I’ve been really trying to remind myself of late is that you don’t have to do anything. There is this perception at the beginning of your career that you have to play all these games, play all these rules, do this, do that, here’s the key to making it! That doesn’t exist. No one has the magic path to get where they want in life and no 2 people have the same journey. Music is exactly the same. My advice is do what you love, have as much fun as possible because life’s short and you also don’t need to wait for anyone else to make things happen for you.. If you want to release music, go do it.
Finally, what can we expect next from Athena Joy?
The EP with this song and Just like You will be out in the next few months. In the meantime, lots of posts on Instagram including self-care and tea.
Take Me Away is available now on all streaming platforms.
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