I had a chance to sit down with Indie Pop artist Hazel English, as featured on the September playlist, and ask her a few questions. We talked about being from Australia, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, her favorite artists, and her collaboration with Day Wave. Read on to see what she had to say!
So you live in Oakland, but are originally from Sydney, so let's start there. I know your song, "Never Coming Home" is about this move for you. How long ago was this?
It was about three and a half years ago. I was only supposed to stay for six months, but I've stayed here all this time.
Was this your first time in the Bay Area or had you visited before?
Yeah, I visited San Francisco before and really loved the area. Later, I stayed here through an exchange program at San Jose State.
What made you move and what drew you into CA?
It's not really an exact term, but I'm not sure how else I'd describe it - the vibe. It's like I was immediately accepted by the people here and I really liked that about this place. The vibe felt very open, very accepting. I liked how friendly people were when you just met them. I didn't always feel as if I fit in while I lived in Australia, but here I felt as though I belonged.
Why the Bay Area specifically? From a musical standpoint, was there anything that you sought here? Was there anything you found that you weren't looking for?
Well, you have to understand that in Australia, artists come to America to make it. It's viewed as the place that you go when you want to be serious about your musical career, at least for most artists. Not all of them of course. I didn't really come here for musical reasons though. Music was only really a hobby until a few years ago. I just knew I wanted to live abroad and California was the place I decided to choose. To answer your second question, I found a lot of my friends early on by going to open-mic events. The scene is very vibrant; there were events almost every night of the week here and there, all over. The best part about the open-mic nights were how open and inviting they were.
Have you met and collaborated with any local artists you've met at these events?
My bassist, Eric, has been my friend pretty much since I just moved here. I also met Jackson [Phillips] from Day Wave at the book store I work at for my day job. He's now my producer and that collaboration has worked really well so far. We've been working on the new EP and writing songs together.
Did you guys meet and both talk about how you had the same taste in music?
No, he just wandered into the store one day. We briefly chatted and he just told me that he produced music. I was like me too! And then he said that we should collaborate sometime! I said sure, and didn't really expect him to contact me, but he did. After that we just started creating music and the whole process just felt so natural and it kind of flowed from there. There was no real formality to it.
Were you just being polite?
No! I meant it sincerely, but I still didn't expect him to reach out at the same time.
Let's talk about the new EP. Did you have any goals in mind when you started creating it?
I just hope that people like it. I didn't really have any goals in mind while creating it - the whole process happened so naturally. Since I haven't taken music seriously as a career until recently, I try not to have expectations. I definitely didn't have anything like numbers in mind when creating it and I think that's a dangerous road to go down.
I listened to your spotify playlist of inspirational music. Have your musical inspirations changed drastically from when you moved here?
Not much has changed really. I didn't all of a sudden change my whole musical taste at all, it's been more or less similar for a long time now. I mean, I listen to different things and new artists all of the time of course, but moving here didn't change that. I guess I listen to local artists here more than when I moved, but I also listened to local Australian artists back when I lived there.
When you were first starting music as a hobby, what did you listen to?
I've always really been into The smiths, the cure, the doors, ever since I was 16 and started making music. I'm a fan of the past haha.
Recently in the US, there's been a wave of 80's nostalgia. Do you feel like you've been ahead of the trend with your music taste?
Haha nooo not at all! Like I said, I've been listening to these artists for a long while and don't consider myself cool or trendy at all. You should see the dresses and other stuff I still wear!
You also had a lot of more upbeat, dance-y music on that playlist. Should we expect some of this on your upcoming EP?
No I don't think so, the music I write tends to be pretty mellow, so that will be what you should expect on the EP. But just because I tend to write more melancholy music doesn't mean that I don't enjoy listening to more upbeat music. The tracks on that playlist were just songs that I was listening to while going through the recording and writing process for the EP - they're weren't intended to necessarily be seen as inspiration. They're just songs I like. Sometimes I just feel like dancing to some happy music, you know, when I'm at home or whatever.
You mentioned you draw inspiration from a lot of older bands. Do you have any contemporary bands that you look up to?
Lately I've been listening to Braids. They're from Canada and I think their sound is so unique. They do a lot of very unconventional things but they still manage to keep some pop sensibilities somehow. That blend is such a hard line to walk and so I respect them for that.
Who would you do a musical collaboration with if you could?
I've been asked that question before. The last time I answered it, I said Phil Collins! That would be an absolute dream. It's a complete fantasy obviously though...
What's your favorite venue in the Bay Area?
Probably Great American Music Hall. It's just so beautiful. I love the space and it was the first venue I performed at, so I associate a lot of positive emotions with it. I'm a very sentimental person if you couldn't tell already, but Great American Music Hall will always have a special place in my heart.
Which is your dream venue to perform in in the Bay Area?
Hmmm probably the Fox Theater in Oakland. For Oakland venues, it's the big one. So many talented musicians play there. Actually going back to your question about goals [for this EP], that's probably one of them now that I think about it! Again, it's just a dream, but playing there would mean a lot to me.
Anything you'd like to say to your fans or new people that might be reading this?
We'll be coming back to the Bay Area on tour with Honeyblood, going down the West Coast - Seattle, Portland, and SF. After that, we're going on our first European tour, which I'm very excited about. I've visited Europe before, but never toured there and I'm getting to visit some places I've never been before. I'm excited for literally every city we're stopping at and I can't wait!