Interview with Tulliah
Singer, songwriter Tulliah has just released her stunning debut six-track EP, Fre$h Hugs. It is an intimate and personal account of some of the most pivotal moments in her life.
Recorded throughout mid-2020 while her hometown in Victoria, Australia moved in and out of lockdown, the EP is proof of Tulliah’s gift for song-writing that is raw yet full of warmth and serious insight.
Throughout the EP, she reflects on mental health and relationships by sharing heartfelt stories through swirling and incredibly complelling pop music.
Her six-track collection also features two interlude tracks. ‘Teenager’ is a prelude to ‘Just My Type (A Little Bit Lonely)’ and a BBC audio sample from an interview called ‘It’s The Age of the Teenager’ featuring Lady Lewisham. On ‘Hey My Friend’, a prelude to ‘Okay’, we hear an emotional Tulliah set the scene for the subject matter of ‘Okay’ – it is raw, spontaneous and deeply moving.
Tulliah’s EP is truly something special, striking a perfect balance between confidentiality and richness, and it was a real pleasure to speak to Tulliah about all things music…
Have you always been interested in music? Was there a particular song or performance that made you think “Wow! I want to do that!”?
I have always loved music. When I was younger I would non-stop sing around the house and would ask my teachers if I could perform for my class in primary school. It’s funny thinking back to when nothing really fazed me, and wondering at what point did I start caring about what people think.
The first time I really felt like music was something I wanted to do was when I was 12 after I watched Adele‘s live concert at the Royal Albert Hall on DVD. Even though there was nothing else I could picture myself doing, I still didn’t come to terms with it until I was in year 11. I guess I didn’t have the self-confidence up until then to say “I want to pursue music” out loud.
How did you learn to write/to play/to sing?
I started writing and playing guitar around similar times. At 15 years old I broke my ankle badly and was bed ridden for a long period of time. I used to play soccer and loved it so much, so I found it really hard when I was told I wasn’t allowed to play anymore. I was playing guitar for about one year before that and was writing the tiniest bit. However, when I broke my ankle I started writing heaps more, observing everything, and understanding my own and others’ emotions. Writing started to become a coping mechanism from there.
What sets your music apart? What is unique or at least uncommon about it?
I find this one of the hardest questions because I still don’t know what my “sound” is. At the start of the recording process I had no clue what my music was going to turn out like and was very open to experimenting. The only thing I know is what I like and don’t like. I guess as long as everything I put out is true to who I am during that time period, it will be unique.
Can you describe the process of creating your debut EP? Any favourite parts? Any challenges?
I came into the studio with voice memos of all the songs that I had written. They were either guitar and vocals or piano and vocals, with lots of family noise or dogs barking in the background. They were completely stripped to the bone. I feel like it was really good for the recording process because it meant I was more comfortable to completely flip the songs around if needed because I didn’t have a tunnel vision of where I wanted them to go.
Dean Tuza who produced the EP was amazing to work with. I had no clue what I was doing so it was very comforting to have someone who genuinely cares and was willing to mentor me throughout the process. I learnt so much while in the studio and would say it’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
We were recording during lockdown when restrictions allowed us to. That was probably the biggest challenge. I slept in the studio because it saved me traveling back after each session and risking getting covid. It was like a mini holiday though. I had my mattress on the floor, lived off beans and stir fry, played music whenever I wanted without my family telling me to be quiet. We put so much care into the EP and are both very proud of what we’ve made. I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience.
What are the key themes that run through your EP?
I wrote most of the songs about 2 years ago while I was still in school. It’s pretty much just a whole bunch of experiences that most teenagers would relate to in some way. Mainly mental health issues and relationships, whether that’s romantic or family and friends.
Out of all the tracks on your EP, do you have a favourite? If so, can you explain why it is your favourite?
My favourite at the moment is probably ‘Okay‘ and ‘Take it Off Now Boy‘. They are both the sadder songs on the album and I love the simplicity of them. ‘Take it Off Now Boy’ is two chords the whole way through with little piano embellishments that pan from left to right, a touch of strings and then just the vocal leading the listener through the story. ‘Okay’ just hits me in the feels every time I play it. It’s the only song of mine that still brings me to tears.
Where do you usually gather song-writing inspiration? What is your usual song-writing process?
I usually start off with capturing a melody on voice memos. I then sit down at either the guitar or piano to figure out chords. I kind of just jam on it from there and see what happens. I usually don’t know what I am writing about until half way through the process. It always seems to be thoughts and feelings that I haven’t come to terms with yet and then when I realise what it’s about, it all makes sense.
Can you tell us about the best live show that you have ever played?
The best live show I have ever played would’ve been my single launch a few weeks ago at The Corner Hotel. It was my first ever headline show and it got sold out which is really cool. Everyone was seated because of covid restrictions but it worked perfectly, especially with the fairy lights running from the back of the room to the stage. I performed my new songs for people and shared a few tears. The atmosphere was beautiful.
What can we expect from you within the next six months? Any releases planned? Future gigs?
I’ve got EP launch shows booked for Melbourne and Sydney in May which I am very excited about and I’m hoping to be back in the studio in the next few months!! That’s about it so far!
By Eveline Vouillemin