Talking courage with a Musician

(4.5 minute read)

NUSSY-STICKS-AND-STONES-8Emerging from deep, within the fertile world of Melbourne musicians, NUSSY has continued to sing her way from dark back alley performances to shimmering festival electronica with a voice that both romances the ears and saddens the heart.

2018 saw the release of NUSSY’s single ‘Tremble,’ a shimmering and bouncy pop number, an ode to the club dance-floor.  Now comes her follow-up ‘Lights Go Out‘, a racing beat about the cascade of emotions during an explosive, romantic fight.

NUSSY has been commanding attention one electrifying live show at a time.  In the highly saturated world of electronica, she stands out from the rest as an artist with a story to tell, and the talent to tell it so it is clearly understood – she is no pretender.

With last year performing alongside Asta and making her Singaporean debut at Music Matters, NUSSY has recently returned from taking her live show to Canadian Music Week (Toronto, Canada) in May and homeland shows in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.

 Join us as Nussy shares the importance of being emotionally self-aware and expressive, and the courage required to express self on stage.

How would you describe workplace courage? 

Workplace courage is the ability to get up and go to work, whatever that may be for you, and do it to the best of your ability.  This is about harnessing your passion and drive, and recognising that these have greater value than just being good at something.

In the music industry, particularly when starting out, courage is about not comparing yourself to others who may have more experience than you. In creative fields, being “the best” is so subjective. There’s obviously a high level of talent required to pursue a career in music but there’s so many different ways an individual can push their talent and expertise. It takes courage to recognise and let go of missed opportunities, to push through and keep at it regardless.

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What does courage look like in your workplace? 

My workplace is a little different to most.  It looks different on any given day. Sometimes my workplace is a recording studio, sometimes it’s playing in a bar or club, and sometimes it’s across the other side of the country or the world.

I think the biggest part of courage in being an artist is being able to overcome the vulnerability that comes with bearing your soul both on stage and in your writing.

Someone once told me “you have to write what you know” and that’s stuck with me.  I think it’s the honesty in an artist’s writing that makes them genuine. But it also makes you super vulnerable.  Every release I’ve ever put out is daunting, it never gets easier. It’s always this feeling of “what if people don’t like it”, “what if it just doesn’t connect.” But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that as long as I am proud of what I’m releasing, that’s what matters.  Not everyone is going to like what you’re doing but it’s about being honest with yourself; haters are always going to hate.

I spent a long time experimenting with not only my music but also myself – my personality, my fashion, a million different haircuts, every sense of how I express myself – to figure out who I am, and I’m still learning, but I think when you have a good handle on your own values and expectations of the world it’s a lot more difficult for people to bring you down.

When did you learn this?

About 4 years ago, I began working with MSquared Productions, and neither of the guys tried to push me into a mold.  They encouraged me to identify and work with my strengths, and to consider the music that I enjoyed listening to.  When I was younger, I tried so hard to write music that I thought was “cool” and I was trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be.

But I just wasn’t connecting with my music and I was never happy with it.  Now, I proudly own who I am and the music I create.

What have you learnt about yourself?  Who are you?

I am very aware of my emotions and I am an emotionally expressive person.  I express myself in my songwriting and in my performances; writing songs and performing are such a big part of who I am. NUSSY-STICKS-AND-STONES-11

I’ve always been very expressive but a big part of my emotional awareness is a result of dealing with my own mental health issues.  Working through these issues, I am now able to articulate how I feel at any one time and the triggers that cause me to feel this way.  I understand my stories and the stories of others at a deeper level and express these through my songwriting and performances.  Know that this is not about finding the drama in situations; it is not about being a “tortured artist.”  It is about being in tune with myself, being able to articulate and express my feelings for my own wellbeing.

In performing, I have the ability to make other people “feel” through my expression; there is a noticable contagion of feelings in my shows.  I have the ability to transport others to another world through my expression which includes all of me, my performance and the environment which I transform with lights, glitter and confetti.

I do love the attention as a solo artist, and I also love when I sit in the background as a keyboard player, performing with other bands.

Please describe 1-2 examples in which you have been courageous.  What did you do?  Who/what enabled you to be courageous?  What was the outcome? 

Last year I was diagnosed with a benign cyst growing inside one of my vocal folds.  It was the scariest thing I could have been told as a vocalist and came at the worst time too.  I’d spent the entire previous year releasing music and touring, leading up to the release of my single Hard As Diamonds’ in January 2017.  My music was finally getting radio play and a lot of support, and then I was told I couldn’t continue to perform with the cyst growing there.

I’d never had surgery before, let alone on what I consider to be the most precious part of my body and I was terrified.  With any surgery there’s always a risk and the biggest risk here was my not being able to perform again.  But I chose an amazing surgeon, Dr. Amanda Richards, who specialises in working with vocalists – not only because of her expertise, but also because of her heart.  She really understood what a life changing experience this was for me and my career.  Amanda was empathic, matter-of-fact and encouraging.

NUSSY-STICKS-AND-STONES-4Coming out of surgery I wasn’t able to speak for a week.  I remember going to see Vera Blue play at the Corner Hotel a few days after my surgery – I just went home and cried and cried (silent tears!) because I was terrified I’d never be able to sing again.  But I had a great team of professionals around me – surgeon, speech pathologist, physiotherapist and after about two months I was able to start seeing a vocal coach again.  There were so many times I thought of throwing in the towel; there were so many setbacks (my surgery ended up being more complex than what they had originally thought so my recovery took a lot longer too) and I was so bored.

I felt like I’d lost my identity and it was frustrating not being able to do the thing I love the most.  But I had a great support network around me – my boyfriend, family and friends all kept me really busy which I needed.

It sounds lame to say “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” but it’s the truth.  I’ve never felt more inspired because I know what it felt like to have it taken away.

From your point of view, to what extent are Australia’s leaders leading with courage?

Courage is being shown by women in the Australian music industry who are pushing for female artists to have the same opportunities as males, including equal billing.  There’s a great film ‘Her Sound, Her Story’ featuring so many of the female heavyweights in the Australian music industry, which delves into amazing detail on such a pressing issue. It was so inspiring to hear how the women I see as leaders in my chosen field have overcome many of the issues young female artists are facing (even in 2018!) – what amazing role models. Other initiatives such as JJJ’s Unearthed High which is aimed at high school students, and APRA AMCOS’s setting up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music Office show real leadership in the music industry.

What advice would you provide an up-and-coming musician?

You need to live and breathe your music.  This is not just a career, it is a passion – you need to connect with it.

The music industry is really heavily male dominated and this can be super-daunting for younger women, so it’s important to be you – you don’t need to “fit in and be one of the boys.”

It’s important to speak up when your values are pushed.   Identify your role-models and have a mentor.

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You can find out more about Nussy and connect with her on:

Nussy’s upcoming gigs include:

All photographs by Ainsley Hutchence, Sticks & Stones.


I’ve known Nussy for a long time, in fact her whole life, but I know her mostly as Danielle who is one of my amazingly talented nieces.  Like all (most) young children, she and her cousins would put on concerts that we all had to “endure” with good heart.  But her performances would turn to gold and I couldn’t wait to go to her end of year music school performances.

If I can borrow a word from her, it would be “super” and I would use it to say that I am super proud of all that she has achieved – personally and professionally.  To acknowledge and manage mental health issues takes courage.  To share her talent in such a globally crowded marketplace takes courage.  She is one of the most courageous chicks I know.

@CourageChick

If you need support for your mental health please visit/call:

 

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