With a debut single out at 16 and then a debut album at 19, there’s no stopping for Tia Gostelow. I caught up with singer-songwriter during her string of Australia shows. We chatted about bringing the album together, the importance of surrounding yourself with good friends and connecting with fans.
You’ve grown a lot since then and your music has matured. What was the biggest change? Would you say you’re influenced by different artists now than you were back then?
I definitely am. When I first started I was listening to really folky, almost country, music. And listening to totally different music now. As it went on I got more alternative and started listening to different things and you can definitely hear that in my music.
This album sounds more mature and really showcases your musical abilities. So at what point did you start finding your sound? Was it towards the end of high school, or ?
I honestly don’t think I’ve found it yet. When I listen to the songs, I think they’re all so different and I don’t see how people think that it’s – I’m not sure when I … I don’t even know if I’ve figured it out yet.
It’s an exciting thing though, to not be locked down to one particular sound. Five years, you could release a rap album and surprise everyone.
Everyone wants me to do a country album. Like, what?
You were Triple J’s most played act this week. When you do hear stuff like that and hear your songs being played on the radio, people requesting it to be played on the radio, what goes through your head, and how do you feel ?
It’s surreal every time I hear it. Last week I got so sick of hearing myself I couldn’t listen to the radio because I was feature album so it was on all the time, so I had to turn the radio off. Yeah, it was surreal, being 16 and hearing one of your songs played on Triple J. It’s insane. It’s a dream. And every time I hear it I still get just as excited as I did two years ago.
And can you tell us a bit about bringing this album together? Because you did write it mostly towards the end of high school or in high school?
It’s been two years, so maybe the end of grade 12, like what you just said, when I was finishing school up until the start of this year. It’s been process. It’s been very long. I wasn’t planning on recording an album, it just kind of happened. I’m glad it did. It’s been great. And it’s turned out. There was no pressure on what it had to be.
When did you decide that, you know what I’m gonna do the album instead of doing EPs ?
Well, I thought I was gonna do an EP until my manager came to me and said “I think we should do an album.” Okay … Don’t people usually do EPs first?
That’s gotta feel pretty amazing too, to have a manager who does have full faith and confidence in you to be like “put an album out.”
My team is so great. So great. They’re so supportive of everything I do, which is nice. My mom co-manages me, so I’ve got two managers pretty much.
Personally, what was the most challenging aspect of bringing this album together?
That’s a tough one. Everybody’s asked me that. It’s a good question. Maybe, the recording process I always found hard because I’m not … I have no idea what the hell I’m doing in the studio. I just go in and I sing and I play and that’s it. So, being able to tell my producer what I wanted and what I wanted it to sound like was kind of hard for me for a little bit. That’s probably one of them. And we had this song on the album that didn’t end up going on it because this was not … it didn’t mean to happen at all but I had this other song that I wrote with my producer and it had the exact same melody as one of my other songs, and I tried to change the melody but I couldn’t. It was a really good song it just sounded exactly like another one of my songs. Which is crazy.
You collaborated with LANKS on Strangers. How did that collaboration come about?
I was actually at song writing camp with my publisher, did his publishing as well, Native Tongue, they have a song writing camp every year. Every day you’re put with a top writer and another producer. I was put with him one day and I was really excited because I’ve never met him before and I’ve been a huge fan of his stuff for ages. It just worked really, really well. It was really natural. It was nice.
Your track ‘Hunger’, which is one of my favorites, mainly because of the relatable subject matter. There’s this specific bit that you sing “I sawed my legs right off to watch you walk by” meaning you kind of stopped doing what you were doing so other people would feel better about themselves in a way. Do you feel at times that you did kind of down play your accomplishments or success so that other people would feel better, or I guess just keep the peace amongst people?
I felt like that was my whole high school life. It sucked. That was a big part of what I went through in school. I was always so excited about all this stuff going on, but I had friends that were also trying to do the same thing that weren’t getting the accomplishments that I was. And it was kind of like I couldn’t talk about it because they’d get really annoyed. I didn’t wanna make them feel bad but I should’ve been allowed to be happy with the stuff that’s happening to me.
And for you what point did you draw the line and like “you know what I’m not going to make to feel bad about this I’m just going to, basically just, fuck it, I’m going to be happy. Screw them.”
To be honest, it was after I went to Blue’s Fest when I was in grade 12, I went with a group of friends, and it just turned out really … it didn’t go very nicely the whole trip. And after that I was just like, “I cannot be fucking friends with you people. You’re not good people.” And I just distanced myself.
I think there was point where I didn’t go to school because I didn’t have friends. It was that bad. I didn’t go to school because I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I felt like at lunch I wouldn’t know who to sit with because I just couldn’t talk to anybody. But it picked up from there. I’ve got really great friends now that I went to school with that are super supportive, and those people that were horrible come crawling back.
‘Tall poppy syndrome’ is something you’ve mentioned before. Is that something you feel is very much present within the Australia music industry? In that there’s this sense of entitlement just because they’ve been doing this longer?
I guess so. I think that Tall Poppy Syndrome’s huge in Australia no matter what, in every industry. Like when I was in school I feel like really good football players that I went to school with, you can see as well that they didn’t really have many mates either because their friends were jealous as well. I think it’s in everything and it sucks because you should be proud of what you’re doing. It sucks when you don’t have those people there to support you. I was just lucky that my family is so supportive because if I didn’t have them I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. A hundred percent. There were so many times where I wanted to just be like “no, I want a job at Macca’s.”
Did you have a separate job while you were doing music?
No, I begged my parents to have a job at Macca’s or something so I could feel normal. Because my job was just playing at pubs on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sundays. I just wanted a job at Macca’s or something and my mom would like … I’d go and get – oh what are they called – I’d just go and get employment things from Subway or whatever and mom would find it and she’d just throw it out. And I’m like “no, just let me.” You’re gonna hate it.
Is that the reason behind the album title ‘Thick Skin’ because you kind of needed it, in order to protect yourself and not let other negativity affect what you’re doing?
100%. It was weird how it came about though ’cause it was just one day my manager was like “alright you need to think of an album name. Just see what comes from it.” And I’m like “alright”. So I just went into a synonyms thing, and I just wrote out all these words, and I just saw thick skin, and I kinda like that. And I suggested it to them, and they were like “that’s great. You can’t go back now, that’s it.” And I’m like “right-o.”
How many didn’t make it onto the album? Is there a B-side ?
There’s only one, but I’m a person that can’t sit down and write three songs a day it’s more like the team comes to me and be like “Tia you need three songs by the end of the week.” And I’ll be like “okay.” And they’ll all be decent songs, you know? And that’s what happened for the whole album. Then we’d record them in three month periods and they’d be like “you need to have three to four songs by the end of this.” And I’d come back and send them to my managers and they’d be like “how do you do this? Usually it takes people three, four goes to write one good song, but you just do it in one”. All those songs were just one go.
What is your normal song writing technique that you do? Do you kind of go away somewhere, or I know sometimes people they rent out lodges in the woods and stuff.
I’ve never tried that but I want to. But when I’m writing by myself I have to … there’s a certain mood that I get in that I know that I can sit down and write, otherwise I don’t even really try.
But, I usually just sit down and play on my guitar and find chords that I like and then melodies and then I do my lyrics. Lately I’ve been writing heats with other people, I haven’t written by myself within, I reckon, a year. I’m excited to do it again. I procrastinate. I avoid doing it, and I don’t know why.
How have you found the reception online and with fans reaching out, and connect with the album?
Amazing. It’s been amazing. I’ve noticed my Instagram and stuff interaction has gone up so much. And I’m getting messages every day about it. I didn’t realize so many people were interested in it. That was one of the main things I was worried about, was putting out this album and getting all these vinyls and stuff printed, and nobody wanting to buy them. But its been amazing. Its been so much better than I thought it would be.
Lastly, what are your plans for the rest of this year. 2018.
I’ve got festivals coming up, like Falls which is amazing.
Who are you excited to see at Falls?
Everyone. I’ve gone blank right now but First Aid Kit one hundred percent. I’ve seen them before, but I love them. Yeah, I’ve gone blank but everybody. Everyone.
Thick Skin is out now!
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