New Music Interview: Greta Stanley

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Entertainment editor, John Turnbull, chats to Australian singer/songwriter Greta Stanley about influences, independent music and reality TV.

BORN AND raised in Mena Creek, Far North Queensland, Greta Stanley discovered music early, picking up her father’s old guitar not long after she could walk. She started writing and recording songs in her early teens and has recently released her debut EP Bedroom City.

In person Greta is personable, upbeat and articulate, with a deep appreciation of music that belies her age. On her early musical experience:

Growing up there was always a guitar in the house. My dad couldn’t play much, but he would pick it up now and again. I think he had the dream of being a rock star that never really worked out, but when he saw that I was interested he taught me all of the chords that he knew. 

From there I pretty much taught myself, through Youtube and that sort of thing, and we had a family friend called Dusty who was a wizard of the Blues. He taught me songs like Mr Tambourine Man and Space Oddity, and I think he gave me a broader appreciation of music. I only really started taking music seriously last year when I finished school, I turned 18 and could start playing gigs in proper venues.

On her influences:

“You know, I’ve always listened to so much different music. When I was younger I really loved Missy Higgins, the Dixie Chicks, and Lisa Mitchell. When I was about 13 I saw Lisa on Australian Idol and I just fell in love with her and the style of music that she played. My parents listened to Bob Dylan and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I really listen to anything from Eminem to country music.”

We talked a little about the musical landscape and how she discovers new music:

I try and switch up the radio stations that I listen to, although Triple J is on in my car most of the time. They play so much new and different music that I’m always finding new things. But YouTube is big now, I go on YouTube rampages where I start with one thing and end up listening to something else entirely. My friends are also a big part of it, sending me links to new bands or making me mixtapes.

After I get over the fact that mixtapes are still a thing, we discuss Greta’s new EP, Bedroom City. After having a few unsatisfying meetings with record companies, Greta decided to take the crowd funding approach. “I used an Australian based crowd funding platform called Pozible. Essentially it’s paying for a product before it’s made, so that it can get made. For a donation of $10 you’d get an EP, but you can contribute as much or as little as you want. I was so grateful for all the support, and I managed to raise a little over $4,000 to fund the EP. I think it’s a great model, because I’ve been able to stay in touch with a lot of the fans who contributed, and they really feel like they’re a part of it. It’s a really good way to build a better relationship with your fans.

I mention Taylor Swift and the importance of social media:

“I don’t have a Twitter account at the moment, but I’ve actually just been told to get one. I’m on Facebook and use that to connect with people who like my music, and I have a page that people can like to stay updated with what I’m doing. I respond to messages when I can, put links to all of my new stuff up there, but it’s hard to keep up with all of the new social media platforms these days.”

On songwriting: 

The songs on Bedroom City weren’t necessarily written to appear on an EP, I wrote the first of them when I was 13, one when I was 16, another when I was 18. So when the idea of putting together an EP came up it was more a matter of choosing which songs to include, to show a bit of range and include some variety. When I went into the studio it’s just me and a guitar, but working with my producer Mark Myers we were able to build layers of sound, and make the tracks so much more than they originally were.”

Like many songs on the EP, title track Bedroom City seems to be written from a very personal perspective, with the cutting line ‘I’ll never stay the night’; “Yes, that song was written about someone in particular (laughs). It’s about someone I was dating at the time, and I’m not sure that they know it’s about them or not! That song is about looking at a person as a city, and how everybody sees a different side, and how there are hidden depths once you really get to know someone. It works as a title track for the EP because all of the songs were written in my bedroom, looking out on the outside world. I wanted to give people a peek into my world, and I thought it was important to be honest and personal.” 

After nominating Lisa Mitchell as one of her influences, I ask Greta whether she considered going down the reality TV path to fame:

 “Look, I thought about it when I was younger. Growing up, I’ve started to learn a little more about the music industry and the reality TV industry, and from a lot of stories I hear there is a lot of corruption about. I think a lot of those shows craft you the way they want or they think is going to be successful, rather than what you’re good at or who you want to be. The other side of the coin is that from reading interviews with people like Lisa Mitchell and Matt Corby, I understand that they had a lot of trouble breaking out from the reality TV box. At the same time, it depends. If you want to get yourself out there maybe it is a good place to start, but I’m happy with the direction I chose. I like where I am at the moment.”

Finishing up, we talk about the issue of internet piracy, particularly relevant as Greta is a member of a generation famously reluctant to pay for music:

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about it. In one sense, I know how much money and work goes into making music, so I wouldn’t want someone to just rip it off for free. But in the same sentence, being an emerging artist means that you want as many people as possible to hear your music regardless of how they get it. If it results in artists getting more fans, selling concert tickets and stuff, maybe it’s a good thing.”

In the end I just want as many people as possible to hear my music. I understand that some people don’t have a lot of money, myself included, and it is hard to afford to buy new music. But in saying that, contradicting myself again, it’s ten dollars for an EP on iTunes, it’s five dollars for a cup of coffee. An EP is going to last a lot longer…

Thanks very much to Greta for her time. Bedroom City is available now at all good music stores, or on iTunes.     

Like what you read? John’s books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

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