Shedding new light: Asha Jefferies and the virtue of perspective

Brisbane’s Asha Jefferies continues to go from strength to strength. On her latest single ‘Bad Kisser’, her already polished and award-winning songwriting style is tempered by reflections on growing up and a shift in her overall perspective on life and music.

Asha Jefferies has had a slew of successes in her still very early career. After the release of her debut EP Hold Yourself Together, Asha Jefferies won the Queensland Music Award for best world/folk release for her song ‘Everybody Talks’ and sold out shows across the country.

Last year, she was shortlisted for the Vanda & Young Songwriting Competition, won the triple j unearthed/NIDA competition for her video for ‘If You Were My Hero’ and has supported the likes of Julia Jacklin, Thelma Plum, Lucy Dacus, Radnor & Lee (Josh Radnor, Ben Lee), The Babe Rainbow, and Polish Club.

But after all of this, she needed some time.

“I’ve been writing since a very young age,” Jefferies says down the line from Brisbane. “I went to a high school that was heavily focussed on the music industry, so over the big span of my teenage-hood I was only ever thinking about music and the music industry.

“I was focussing on developing every part of my musicianship and it got to a point at the start of this year where I burnt out. I had to take a step back and not think about my career so much and just think about myself evolving as a person.”

Asha removed herself from her ingrained way of thinking and decided to spend her time going to festivals and seeing a lot of live music.

“I went with the intention of just listening and experiencing the music without thinking about my side of it,” she says. “I had a shift in perspective that allowed me to see music in a different light.”

Asha may have taken some time, but she certainly didn’t waste any. Last month she consolidated her experiences and her newfound perspective into her latest single ‘Bad Kisser’ – a tender and truthful song about the pains of growing up.

“‘Bad Kisser’ feels like a bold, maturing step for me,” she says. “There’s swearing and drug references, but it all feels very coming-of-age.”

With the help of Sydney producer Chris Collins (Middle Kids, Ruby Fields), she explored new sounds in the production and writing sessions as ‘an ode’ to the time she had off. A recording experience she describes as ‘effortless’.

“I liked what he did with the song,” she says of Chris’ production. “We spent two days recording it in his little studio, and that was that. It was the easiest piece of cake. Oh, and the bakery around the corner had really great sausage rolls.”

The result sounds as effortless as her recording experience suggests. The song is full of smooth and creative melodies and tasteful, dynamic rhythm changes. But what stands out the most are her candid (and sometimes brutal) lyrics – something she attributes to her perspective shift.

“I started writing music more for me,” she says. “Music that I didn’t really intend for people to hear, which makes it a lot more personal. I’ve found that that makes it easier for people to connect with.

“Music has always been such a therapeutic thing for me. Instead of going to a psychologist or talking to someone, I resolve things by writing songs. I think that it makes so much sense to be so personal and honest in my songwriting. I’m also very grateful that I can connect with people through the songs.”

Asha is confidently – and rightly – carving herself out a place in the Brisbane music scene. A scene that has a rich history of supplying some of Australia’s greatest acts: bands like The Go-Betweens, The Saints and Powderfinger, all the way to Ball Park Music and WAAX (and let’s not forget the Bee Gees). Every year it plays host to BIGSOUND, the biggest music conference in the country. But while it might seem like a daunting place on paper, it’s a place that Asha talks fondly of.

“I feel very grateful to have grown up in the Brisbane music scene,” she says. “It’s really small and you get to know everyone very quickly. Everyone is really supportive of all different types of music genres and it’s really cool that something like BIGSOUND happens in Brisbane – all the venues are so close together and the Valley becomes a hub for music. It’s quite an uplifting place.”

Jefferies is about to bring ‘Bad Kisser’ down the coast with a run of shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this September/October. This follows her tour in February earlier this year that she says was another big eye opening experience.

“It really brought me out of my shell a lot. I sold out my first show in Brisbane and I was like, ‘Cool! Awesome! Wait – what do I do now?’ I think when you’re developing as a musician you have different heights where you think you’ve made it, and then you come down and look at the next step.

“Especially if you’re comparing yourself to other artists. You have to think about your own pathway, about where you’ve come from and where you’re going and try not compare different pathways because it’s all so different. Everyone comes up at the right time.”

Much like going to experience live music without thinking about her own music in context, Jefferies found that it is vital to not fall victim to tall poppy syndrome and comparison. She prefers to swap jealousy for admiration.

“No one really talks about the judgement and competitiveness that some people have when they see other artists developing and succeeding. But it’s so much nicer and healthier for the community when everyone can respect and appreciate everyone for where they’re at.

“Everyones killing it in a different way,” she says, reassuringly.

“Only you can be you.”

Catch Asha Jefferies on her ‘Bad Kisser‘ tour.

28th September | City and Colour Support, Riverstage, Brisbane
4th October | Grace Darling Hotel, Melbourne
26th October | The Foundry, Brisbane