In conversation with Adelaide-based modern folk artist Naomi Keyte

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Naomi is one of those performers who has the uncanny ability to reach right into your rib cage, grab hold of your heart, and not let go. I’ve had the great pleasure of watching her on stage a few times now, and the ease at which she gathers up each audience member into the palm of her hand borders on the supernatural.

Ahead of our second and final co-headline show in Melbourne on Thursday 4 October, I chatted to Naomi about her life as an independent artist, songs as watercolour paintings, and her experience supporting Aldous Harding. – GF xx

Georgia Fields: So we met in Melbourne while studying music together nearly ten years ago (which, by the way, feels like yesterday!) – and since finishing uni you’ve returned to your hometown of Adelaide. I’ve noticed that your songs are steeped in a sense of ‘place’, whether it’s the bushland or ocean or your grandfather’s house. How does your location influence your creativity?

Naomi Keyte: My songs are often a way of processing people and place. I'm also quite a visual songwriter; when I write it feels a bit like watercolour painting. Subtle layers reveal quite a vivid picture. At the time I was writing Melaleuca I was spending quite a lot of time outside. 

GF: What do you love about being an independent artist? 

NK: I have so much freedom. I never have to force creativity or worry about writing to please an audience. It feels very genuine. I also enjoy being involved in all areas of my practice, marketing, booking shows etc. In spite of the challenges that come with being an indie artist, I've learnt so much. 

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GF: I loved seeing your band perform the new single ‘Travelling Woman’ last month. I can’t wait to hear the finished production! Can you tell me a little bit more about the story within the song?

NK: ‘Travelling Woman’ is about my best friend Lauren. Throughout our relationship she has spent much time travelling and living overseas. There has always been an underlying tension that maybe we are just too different; I love being at home. I recorded the song with Anna Laverty and Nick Huggins and it was an incredibly easy and fun process. Working with drummer Rohan Goldsmith the studio with two incredible engineers/producers was a pure joy. My dear friend and collaborator Tash McCammon is making us a clip for the song. I have a feeling its going to be pretty nostalgic, using lots of old footage.

GF: What was it like supporting NZ folk artist Aldous Harding – did you get any insights on her creative process? 

NK: Hannah [Aldous] was really interesting to play with. She came to Adelaide before she really began to peak in her career. She was actually quite shy and awkward in person, but when she performed she came to life. It's been fascinating to see her develop and refine her quirks into such a strong stage presence. I think I recall her saying in an interview that she has no interest in making people feel good, rather she wants to make people feel uncomfortable. 

GF: I totally get that feeling from her latest album ‘Party’; there’s this undercurrent of tension in the performances and sonic space that melts so beautifully with her vocal melodies. Her work has been an influence on some of my new songs. What’s inspiring you at the moment – whether it be music, art or anything else?

NK: The human body is always inspiring. Though my yoga practice I encounter all kinds of bodies with all kinds of abilities. Even observing the way my own body changes is kind of fascinating. I find dance a very inspiring medium and try to see as much of it as I can. 

Georgia Fields and Naomi Keyte play a Double Headline Show at The Toff In Town, Melbourne, on Thursday 4 October. Tickets and info here.