Woodes self-titled debut is beyond beautiful, and beyond her years
Woodes is the moniker for 24 year-old producer, singer and songwriter Elle Graham. She grew up in Townsville and made the move from Townsville to Melbourne to pursue a career in music. She produces all her own music, sometimes working with different producers (including Rob Kleiner who has worked with Australian superstar Sia), and her debut EP Woodes is beyond beautiful and beyond her years.
Woodes says, "I've been working on these six songs over the last couple years. The Woodes was a project I formed a while ago. To me the name and the alter ego attached with it is strong and brave. Songs such as Rise and Daggers & Knives embody that strength. There are mentions of fire, of fear of being submerged underwater, of solitude, strength and change. The stories that exist in these tracks span from my childhood - Bonfire, about growing up on a national park in Townsville - to quite recent collaborations - The Thaw, written with [producer] Lanks in Melbourne late last year.
"There's a little journey I've noticed, and the them became apparent as I made the final song selection and lined them all in a row. This release starts with Woodes emerging from the water, and ends with her returning to it. It felt fitting to self-title this release, as it's the first chapter of many for Woodes."
She kindly gave Music Love a wonderful interview about her approach to making music (filled with great nerdy gear speak for any budding producers out there) and her story to date. Pop her album on and go for a stroll in the woods with Woodes.
WHAT DOES MUSIC MEAN TO YOU?
Just last night I was listening to a 10 minute voice memo I recorded at the piano early this year that was about dealing with loss, and when I listen I get tears in my eyes revisiting it. Every time. I like that I can express myself in that way in a moment, and then pull me back into that headspace twelve months later… It’s really special to be able to share those songs and connect with others dealing with similar situations.
To me, at the base of it all, music is something I do as a way of processing things and as a tool of expressing myself. That’s how it began. And that remains at the core. Sometimes things just tumble out and I read back the words and my state of mind becomes clear or I figure out the way forward. Other times, when I’m working as a writer, it is problem solving. It’s piecing together melody and going back through years of musical theory to find a way of expressing a thought.
Through music I have made relationships and friendships, I have travelled and I have found a nice sense of purpose. I also adore collecting music, seeing live music and making playlists. So music’s really entwined with everything I do.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR TIME IN THE STUDIO AND YOUR PROCESSES IN SONGWRITING AND PRODUCING
For myself, I like to plug everything in and have it on, ready for operation. I surround myself in keyboards with my microphone on, usually at seat height. I experiment, I go through references. Sometimes I spend a long time perfecting a moment and other times I just keep building layers and layers as they come. In down times I collect visual images on my tumblr and my notes section on my computer. Voice memos on my phone are filled with little entries.
In the studio I’m a fan of spending a full day/night on fleshing out an initial idea. Then I’ll tidy and colour code, bounce out a demo and usually go for a walk or ride at some point and digest it as an audio file, rather than all laid out in front of me in the session. You listen and think about it differently.
With other writers, we’ll usually be getting food and running by influences and references as a starting point. It’s usually back and forth, sometimes starting with chords or an existing melody. Sometimes it’s just a jam. Sometimes they’re big discussions, which segue into some kind of group therapy, discussing how to deal with a situation. It’s really nice. I like listening back to a collaboration and hearing all the little parts each person brings.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE GIG?
At the moment I feel like each new show grows into being my new favourite. I loved playing the corner Hotel in Melbourne supporting Montaigne. I’ve seen so many of my favorite artists at that venue, so it was a bit surreal sitting backstage and then walking on.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN WOMEN IN MUSIC?
Honestly I could write an essay on this. I LOVE women in music. Meg Mac, Buoy, Antonia Gauci, Vera Blue, Sophie Lowe, Gordi, Kucka, Mallrat, Alice Ivy, Gretta Ray, Montaigne, Alex Lahey, Sia, Eilish Gilligan, Tanya Batt, Lisa Mitchell, Lupa J, Al Parkinson, Tash Parker, music manager Leanne De Souza and Triple J radio presenter Bridget Hustwaite
ANY FUNNY, FRUSTRATING OR SIGNIFICANT STORIES FROM TOUR, STUDIO OR MEDIA?
Mmm I have ‘Elle Moments’ quite frequently. That’s the term that was established by my friends… Touring brings out a lot of Elle Moments.
One story that comes to mind from this EP project was when we were filming the film clip for Rise and we shot some drone footage on the edge of a cliff in the Blue Mountains. It was the end of the day and the producers told me to go stand out near the cliff’s edge as the drone started. I thought it would be best to choose an epic rock, so I kind of precariously balanced in heeled boots on an uneven rock whilst this giant whirring sound ascended behind me. I had this worst case scenario playing in my head, that if I got spooked or the drone came too close, I had very few options on how to survive appropriately. The wind whipped my hair over my eyes so I couldn’t really see and it was just down to core strength and internal belief.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST FAVOURITE SONG OUT OF THE ONES YOU HAVE WRITTEN?
I’m not sure if I have a favourite, I have many now, after so many years of writing. They all document a time and place.
TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS ON BEING A FEMALE PRODUCER.
In terms of being a female, I didn’t think much of it when I began. I did notice that there were less female producers to look up to (especially over 30) that were both producers/songwriters. That idea kind of simmered with me for a while. I want to change that. I have a lot of female friends also producing music, but I’d like to see more. It’s the best feeling having control over both your sound and aesthetic.
I’ve been producing music since 2013. It began as something I was both curious about and had to do in order to submit my assignments at University. I’d worked in Logic 8 (Editors note: Logic 8 is the name of a particular computer program for digitally recording music. Ed) here and there, to get down demos but I wanted to push it further when I began studying.
I got so into it that I withdrew everything I was doing on the internet, I stopped playing shows for a bit and just focused on trying to make what I heard in my head. It’s pretty frustrating at first, hearing things and not having the tools or knowledge to create it. I’m starting to use Ableton (Editor’s note: another music computer program) now, and it’s frustrating at times having different layouts, constantly looking up tutorials, etc. I think that initial moment of confusion can deter people from the technical side of music. When you try reading something about it, usually it’s washed in technical terms.
I began by recording my voice as a simple place to start. For weeks I’d take a new plugin (Editor’s note: additional software component that adds a specific feature to a computer program) or effect each day, a flanger (Editor’s note: A flanger is an effect used to warp a sound) for example. I used the flanger to warp my voice in a way that I liked. Just 30-second clips and ideas. I’d mess with delay, or figure out how to gate something. Collecting these little moments without any pressure on the outcome. I’d experiment and add these things into my tool kit. Then I’d draw on that knowledge and be able to apply it when working on something bigger.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP IN TOWNSVILLE?
Townsville’s a fantastic place to grow up in. I grew up with musically and environmentally focused parents. I went to high school a couple of blocks from the beach. We had bonfires for birthdays. I have a song about those fires on the EP.
The musical theatre and arts community is very close knit and I was surrounded by professional musicians frequently through doing lots of curricular music groups such as orchestra pits. This helped me want to share what I was writing and also inspired me to travel to study music after school.
Simultaneously, artists Emma Louise and the Middle East were active around North Queensland, and through going to those intimate little home shows I found a community of similar minds in the audiences. We got to see The Middle East take over and realise that as kids in Townsville we could tour and share what we were making and be heard.
HOW WAS THE MOVE TO MELBOURNE?
I was ready for the move. I’d researched it and knew where I wanted to live within the giant sprawl. Prior to the move I bought tickets to The Paper Kites and Matt Corby shows. In Townsville we were always waiting for touring artists and here were two favourites within the same two weeks. It was a dream.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE IN AUSTRALIA?
I feel Melbourne is a pretty special part of Australia & I’m so happy to call it my second home. I like that if you tell people that you’re an artist in this city, you get a communal pat on the back and people ask what you’re working on, or give suggestions on how to make it better or even how they could personally assist. It’s collaborative and it fuels creative fires.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN CAFÉ/RESTAURANT?
To me, for my coffee it’s all about the staff. Every time I move to a new neighborhood I establish a café spot and visit it daily. Rituals.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN FASHION DESIGNER OR RETAILER?
I love Etal. They’re a Melbourne based label and they make the most magnificent layered pieces that can be worn so many different ways. I love a good coat & clothing that’s super comfy whilst looking boss. They nail that. For myself everyday I love Neuw Denim, Nique & Bassike.
Woodes has a lot going on. A tour with Ngairre, a show in january with English producer/singer/songwriter Shura, more collabs. Check out www.woodesmusic.com.au for more details about everything.
Facebook, Instagram,Twitter and Tumblr: @woodesmusic