Elle Graham, aka Woodes, is headed to Austin for her first SXSW, despite being well-seasoned traveller to the US, this month. Already an exciting name on the Australian scene, Woodes’ music is bound to go down a treat with the Americans as part of the strong alternative and electronic contingent of Australians set to be on show.
Have you played SXSW? If not, how are you anticipating heading to Austin?
I haven’t played SXSW before, I’ve always had it on my goals for the future. A distant beacon. I’m really grateful to be doing it this early in the Woodes project. To make the most of the opportunity, I’ve asked for a lot of feedback from friends from the US and Australia that have made this trip before. From what I hear it’s chaotic and memorable. As a vocalist, I’m wary of how demanding a week it will be.
Tell us about any new music you might be hoping to showcase in Austin – how long has that been in the works for?
I’ve been working on a new release at the moment, pretty much since I finished my last one. I began a couple of weeks before my debut EP went out. It took a while to be in a new headspace, to disconnect from the mix/master times. I think the first release was really important to get right, but it was written and produced prior to touring and experiencing bringing it to a live environment with a band. That was a really new experience for me, to collaborate on the live show. It opened a door, which has impacted how I create now.
I’m now writing stuff where I’m pushing for something bigger with the live show in mind. Not necessarily louder, but pushing my vocals to their limits and exploring larger arrangements. For me, I want the live show to be an experience that showcases both vulnerabilities and strength.
I’ll be previewing a couple of the new tracks in the live show at SXSW.
SXSW can often be a platform for new musicians to gain exposure and also link up with potential collaborators/discover new artists themselves. What’s exciting you the most about heading over, as a creative?
I think for me it’s always about being part of the wider music community and getting inspired by others set-ups/new music. Live music is so important in my process to see and experience. I attend so much live music in Australia too. Seeing artists like Agnes Obel, Maggie Rogers, SOHN & Sylvan Esso will no doubt impact me positively. I can see it being a giant overwhelming wave of inspiration. I hope conversations at these events lead to collaborations & new friendships, they have in the past.
Have you toured/written/worked much in the American market before?
I’m half American so I’ve visited the US quite frequently to visit my family scattered around the country, though I’ve never been to Austin. I’ve worked in America as a writer in NY and LA but these will be my first shows. It’s also the first time my band mates have been to the US… so I’ll have to show them the full experience. Bad coffee and bacon doughnuts…
Writing for a week back-to-back in LA made me really understand the industry and how interesting that community of creators is. Everyone’s doing and talking about doing. It’s this machine that keeps growing and forming new parts constantly. America’s large population makes it an entirely different creature to the Australian music scene.
On the back end of the SXSW trip, I’m spending a week in LA doing another week of back-to-back writing. I’ll be waking up and heading to a studio to write with a new collaborator everyday. Since signing with Universal Publishing it really opens doors on who I can write with over there.
What I do love about Australia in comparison to the US is the close-knit community. When I’ve spoken to American artists about Triple J they’re all really impressed with how eclectic and supportive Australian radio is for independent artists. I feel like in the US there are so many different scenes, which are quite divided. I’m glad I’ll be surrounded by Australian friends at SXSW (Alex Lahey, Japanese Wallpaper, Mansionair, Sui Zhen, Wafia & Vera Blue) bringing that community over there will be really good. I know I’ll be at as many Australian shows as possible.
Have you performed at any of these sorts of festivals before?
I headed over to Canadian Music Week in Toronto last year and have done BIGSOUND in Brisbane the last two years. I premiered the live show at my first BIGSOUND and it’s been really nice to see how the live show has grown since then. I feel with those experiences under my belt I know a little bit of what to expect.
The quick changes and the strict time slots. The audiences of humming networking… It’s quite peculiar at first and there’s definitely additional pressure depending on the room. This time I’m taking my two band mates with me. That’s a great feeling, as I’m not taking it on solo. It’s really nice to be able to feed off one another to give the best show we can.
Something that was beautiful and unexpected at CMW was that there were festival attendees that had me on their lists, at that point I only had one song out… there were people that came to every show I did after discovering my set on the first day. I have a little Toronto community now and I’m very appreciative of that. That was the first time I’d played my music in another country and it was a really nice debut.
If you’ve seen the SXSW line up – who are you looking forward to checking out?
Music wise, I’m a huge Maggie Rogers fan… I’d love to see her show. I imagine it’s going to be a hard one to get into… Also extremely keen to catch Agnes Obel, S U R V I V E, SOHN, Sylvan Esso, Sam Gellaitry, The Japanese House, Phoria, Billie Eilish, Eisley and Kate Nash (I was a huge fan of these two as a teenager!) I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s new music. I’ll be trying to catch as many Australian Artists as possible too. I’ve started building my schedule on the website.
I’ve heard Sophie Turner & Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones are going to SXSW… so I guess my primary bucket list mission is to meet them. Also the cast of VEEP – would love to try meeting Tony Hale & Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I’m going to be missing Rainn Wilson’s talk on the Saturday, which I’m pretty devastated about. Dwight is my spirit animal.
How would you say the Australian presence is growing at these international showcase events – what would you say it’s doing for our industry?
It’s huge – there are 45 artists from Australia this year. It’s intimidating heading over there as a relatively small independent artist, but knowing on the other side there are Aussie Music themed BBQs of friends is really comforting. Sounds Australia does such an awesome job in providing artists with opportunities/providing them with an audience at their events. I think we have something really unique in Australia. Last time I was in America, pretty much every Uber I got into was playing Vance Joy or Flume. It was really cool.
Do you have any upcoming releases you’d like to plug for Aussie audiences?
I have a live video clip out now for “Bonfire” – watch below!
WOODES SXSW SHOWCASES
March 15th | 9pm at Lamberts
March 17th | 3:50pm at Sounds Australia Aussie BBQ (Electric Edition) @ Brush Square Park
Photo by Michelle Pitiris | She is Aphrodite.