Music Interview Interview

Top image: Hazel English, photo by Julie Juarez

Music provides a unique insight into the life of another by way of their views, experiences and world in which they live. This is particularly true for upcoming artist, Hazel English, who since leaving her native Australia and residing in the U.S Bay Area – Oakland, to be exact – has sent the blogosphere into a whirlwind.

Merging together an expansive Australian sound with sun-bleached Cali lo-fi, English’s music is a sonic interpretation of the passport stamps that document her travels. Citing West Coast musicians like Craft Spells and Hot Flash Heat Wave as fans, and Jackson Philips (better known as Day Wave) producing her debut EP Never Going Home, it seems the saying “home is where you’re understood” could really ring true for this musician. Visual and dreamy, this shortplay is a passage to somewhere else, literally or metaphorically.

Clementine Zawadzki: You played your first UK dates last month. How did it go?
Hazel English: It was awesome! I had no idea what to expect but I was really happy with the response and enthusiasm from the crowds. When we were heading to Scotland we stayed in this tiny town in a 17th century cottage, which was very quaint and lovely. My bassist got really excited because it reminded him of Downton Abbey and he’s obsessed with that show [laughs]. I really enjoy playing live and try to make it a bit of a different experience than just recreating the recordings. I feel like I’m always trying to find ways to make the live show better and learn as I go. 

Clementine: You’re from Australia and now live in the US – how has this affected your music?
Hazel: My lyrics are written from personal experience, so I guess they would be affected by the ways in which living in the U.S. has impacted my life but it’s not really something I think about.

Clementine: Was the move a very instinctive one?
Hazel: It was definitely a decision based purely on instinct and I think maybe that’s hard for people to understand because it’s not rational, but it’s the truth. I am reminded every day that I made the right choice and always try to follow my gut because it has not let me down thus far.

Clementine: What influenced the decision to move to San Francisco, and then later to Oakland? What is the music scene like there?
Hazel: San Francisco is a really beautiful city and I feel like it has a somewhat magnetic quality about it. It definitely drew me in and as I became more involved in the music scene I was really impressed with how inclusive and open it was. The move to Oakland happened because the cost of living in SF has become unaffordable for most artists, but it has created a very creative hub in the East Bay, which is inspiring. 

Hazel English. Photography by Brandon C. Long

Clementine: What do you draw from?
Hazel: New experiences, travel, science fiction, philosophy, poetry, going to shows, biking, showering [laughs] – I get a lot of melody ideas in the shower. 

Clementine: What made you first want to pick up an instrument?
Hazel: I think I’ve always been interested in music but it took me a long time to gain enough confidence to start sharing my songs with the world. I didn’t grow up in a musical family and I didn’t study music, so I had to just learn on my own and figure it out that way. I picked up guitar so I would have something to sing to.

 Clementine: You gathered a big online following and then subsequently it seems things took off quite quickly for you. Did it feel that way?
Hazel: Yeah it definitely happened a lot quicker than I expected. When I put out the first single Never Going Home, people really responded to it in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. I was being asked to play shows and I thought, “Crap I better get a band together so we can play this live.” 

Clementine: How did you begin working with Jackson Phillips (Day Wave)?
Hazel: I met Jackson at a vintage bookstore I work at called BOOK/SHOP. He was in the area getting his synth fixed and we got chatting about music. He told me he had just moved from LA and was working on a new musical project. I told him I was also a musician and suggested we collaborate sometime. Things just went from there. 

Clementine: Your music videos seem to have a very particular aesthetic. Are you very hands-on with artwork, videos etc.
Hazel: Yes definitely, I really like to collaborate, but I am also very specific about what I want. I have a very clear vision when it comes to my music and the art associated with it. It’s important to me to have creative control in my videos because they are a reflection of me and my music and what I am trying to express so I want to make sure it rings true. 

Keep up-to-date with Hazel English here.