Aussie singer songwriter Demi Louise is one well-travelled lady. Now with a solid amount of overseas writing trips and tours under her belt, the Ballarat native now looks ahead to another year at SXSW as she chats with us about 2016, new music and her latest single, “Taxi Driver”.
The first time I saw you was here in Adelaide last year, supporting Joshua Radin. Start there and tell me about how the last six months has played out.
It’s been really crazy, as always. I feel like November through to January is a blur for most people! I came back from the UK and went straight into the Joshua Radin tour which was incredibly exciting for me, because I’d never played most of the venues on that tour. From there I went and played at Australian Music Week in Cronulla, which was very cool. Since then, I’ve just been getting everything together for the release of “Taxi Driver”. I’ve also been playing at the Ben and Jerry’s cinema in Canberra for the last few weeks. Then, in a few weeks, I’m heading back to SXSW in Austin.
You’ve done SXSW before. What’s that experience like for an up and comer like yourself?
It’s just massive. It’s so much bigger than how anyone ever tries to describe it. You just don’t sleep. You know, you start shows at 1am. I think this year will be a little different, because I’m accustomed to the layout of Austin now and maybe I’ve learnt a few tricks now too, like don’t rely on Uber because the prices go up at will!
“Taxi Driver”. Great Sound. Tell us about the story behind it?
I actually wrote this song during of the APRA Song Hub sessions in Toronto last year. The version we’ve recorded is actually the one that we did then. We wrote and recorded the song in one day, which is pretty mental. I’ve been hanging on to it for a few months, because it’s a lot different to the other stuff I’ve released. I’m really excited, because it’s been really hard to keep it to myself for so long!
It’s not a typical love song, like a lot of the songs that I’ve written. It’s actually about this night I was in Toronto; I was going out to a gig and it’s really about this feeling I had when I got in this taxi. I travel by myself so much when I’m touring and it used to be a really scary thing, but now it just is what it is. So this night, I found myself telling this taxi driver all about my life and emotions and problems and it occurred to me just how much this taxi driver has known about so many different people. In a way, he’s like a secret keeper. Who knows what he’s seen and heard?
It sounds like a more pointed pop song. More production, bigger band, a definite deviation from the folk sound. That’s intentional is it?
Yeah, definitely. I just feel like it’s a natural step forward for me. I’ve been touring for a couple years solo, playing the singer/songwriter stuff. I’ve really enjoyed being a writer – for myself and other acts – and so to step into the pop realm was natural. It’s still very acoustic based, I won’t step away from that.
So no nine minute guitar solos anytime soon?
(Laughs) Not quite.
When I saw you here in Adelaide last year, you told the story of playing Adele to Adele by accident at SXSW. And I believe she actually complimented you afterward. So when you sit down to write, who do you channel?
Um, do you know what, it’s bad because I have so many different influences. They change every month, or even every day sometimes. I get really obsessive over a certain artist at a particular point in time and then a week later I’ll be doing the same with someone else. But I guess the classics have always been Adele, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey and I love John Mayer, as you do. I’m also very much into The 1975 at the moment also.
Bit of a British theme going on there?
Yea,h that’s actually very true. I do listen to a lot of UK artists.
Is there a process when you write? Or is it every time is different?
I’m really like every time is different. I suppose I haven’t been writing for that long, but I sometimes feel like I’ve got too many songs in the works at any one time. I’ve always written poetry and have always been into quotes, so I suppose that’s usually the core of it. But I like experimenting with different styles, so no two songs ever take the same path to completion.
I like to make comparisons for new artists’ voices. But some for some reason, I really struggle with you. It’s unique. So I’ll cheat and ask you, what is your style? Who do you think you’re like?
I sang a lot of The Waifs when I was young. Some people say I sound like Adele with a cold.
That’s harsh. The only comparison that’s ever popped into my head is Tracy Chapman. Not necessarily the depth in tone but the phrasing and richness, I think there are some similarities there.
Oh my god, really? I grew up listening to Tracy Chapman, my dad loves her. I’ve never really thought about it but that’s a really cool thought.
I can’t believe you’re only 22. Please don’t take offence at that, I don’t mean you look old! I simply mean that your voice presents a person who is very mature and experienced. It just seems like you have a lot to say for your age. Has that been part of the motivation for doing this as a career?
When I started writing I only ever really did it for me, especially when I was younger. But when I started performing and people would come up and tell you that your songs spoke to them, it makes you realise that what’s happening to you has already happened to others. It doesn’t matter if your 13 or 30, emotions are ageless, I suppose. I don’t really write anything that is metaphorically distant, my lyrics are quite straightforward. I like writing stuff that people can relate to because that’s who I am, I’m super open with everyone.