You only have to look at the top of the Singles and Album Charts in the US to know Australian females are killing it at the moment. Sia’s sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear is the number one album while Iggy Azalea is holding the number one single in the country for the eighth week in a row. 18 year-old singer/songwriter Montaigne may be slightly more like the former than the latter, but she is nonetheless further proof of the healthy state of the Australian music scene.
Sydneysider Jessica Cerro has only just released her second single, I Am Not An End, and already she’s been added to high rotation on Triple J and become a buzzworthy name on websites around the country even before the release of her debut EP, Life of Montaigne.
Born from a diet of Owen Pallett, Arcade Fire, clouds and theatrics, Montaigne is crafting self-assured, pop-music with a grandiose far beyond her years. Speaking to the interns, Montaigne described her music as “Regina Spektor with the epicness of Coldplay”. The Coldplay reference comes from her first live encounter with the band whilst here on their Mylo Xyloto tour- a show she describes as “the best night of my life”.
She goes onto further cite her references as influences from Bjork to The National to Florence Welch and Marina and the Diamonds. This perhaps explains why her music sounds so epic for an 18 year-old singer who, two years ago, wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a musician.
In 2012, Cerro was a finalist on Triple J’s Unearthed High. While she didn’t win, she calls it a “blessing in disguise”. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a musician full time”, she said, continuing, “but now I am sure that’s exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
She’s used the two years since to finish her studies, define her sound and find an image. “Everybody kept asking what my image was going to be and I wasn’t sure. I’m a t-shirt and shorts kinda girl”, she says. Since then she’s cut her hair off and found an image revolving around her “obsession of clouds”.
Both singles off Life of Montaigne, I’m A Fantastic Wreck and I Am Not An End have been picked up by Triple J. “It’s awesome Triple J and blogs are picking it up, it seems to be happening so quickly”, she says. Until recently Montaigne was managed by her Mum. She explains, “I’ve only just got a manager which is great because now I can go back to having a normal relationship with my Mum”.
Cerro sounds genuinely giddy about her success and confident in talking about her influences both sonic and sociological. She says, “I’m more influenced by concepts than sounds”. In particular, she is most influenced by French Renaissance writer, Michel De Montaigne, who was known for his depictions of the human-race. His most famous phrase, “Que sçay-je?” meaning literally ‘What Know I?’ comes across in Cerro’s songs as she takes on a very personal self-exploration, particularly on the self-deprecating yet triumphant, I’m A Fantastic Wreck.
However, Montaigne says that Michel De Montaigne’s theories are not the topic of her songs, rather just a notion. “He’s not a direct lyrical influence”, she says, “I just kinda want him to be attached to my music, so people think of my music kinda like that”.
The EP, which is due out this year, is described by Cerro as “a mix of everything…a mix of the two styles of the singes”. She “just hopes everybody likes it”.
1. What is the best end to a movie?
“That’s hard. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kings… It’s really cute.”
2. If you had to re-record an entire album, what would it be?
“ Bjork- Post. I just love that record.”
3. Describe your music with one animal?
4. Do you believe Shakespeare wrote his own plays?
“Yeah, I reckon he did.”
5. Your favourite trend from your childhood?