“I don’t think it’s [success] changed the way I’ve approached songwriting. I did feel very self-conscious about it for a year or so. I felt like I had to live up to something and to be my heroes but that was kind of a personal pressure that I put on myself.”
For Montaigne, the last few years have been huge. Winning the 2016 ARIA Award for being the best breakthrough artist, collaborations with Hilltop Hoods and Urthboy and on top of that, her single ‘Because I Love You’ recently went Gold three years after its release.
For Jess Cerro, the 24-year-old from Sydney behind Montaigne, it’s been slightly different.
“I’ve grown up with the feeling that I’ve needed to be very, very successful and I’ve got over that; as long as I’m surviving I’m happy,” she says.
Touching on her personal criticisms, Jess penned ‘Is This All I’m Good For?’ – an enigmatic and thought-provoking track found on her upcoming album, Complex.
“That was definitely for myself,” she reflects, “When I write music I don’t write it to push an ideology; it’s very much like therapy for me.
“That song is very much about my body issues; not even in terms of weight and those kinds of things, but more so about how my brain doesn’t exactly match up with my body.
“I’ve always wanted to be tall and slim and dark like Nick Cave, and mysterious and big-lipped,” she continues. “Like having always wanted to be that, but knowing that I’m not, that’s very much where that song comes from. It is about weighing those things up and finding it interesting that I do feel that way, not that it’s scary or upsetting, but interesting…”
Finding common ground over our desires of wanting to be Nick Cave, Montaigne expanded, “The guy is like a mystery, he has this mythic quality to him and I’ve always wanted to have that, but I’ve realised I’m the opposite of mythical. I’m loud, I tell everyone everything about me, I’m just not that and I’ve come to terms with that now – and I’m happy with that.
“For me, I just realised I’m not unavailable. I am an available human being and I think that’s a good thing.”
And to be honest, she’s not wrong.
With Montaigne’s lyrics delving deep into the intricacies of her life and love, it’s hard not to view her like an open book. Especially considering her biggest song (to date) ‘Because I Love You’ tackles the theme of quite an emotionally brutal breakup.
“I don’t have ten albums out just yet, so I don’t feel like I have enough miles behind to forget about any of my songs backstories just yet,” she laughs. “Especially ‘Because I Love You’. It was my most popular song that year and is about a person and a relationship that still rears its head to this day, so that particular song is hard to skip for me.
“I haven’t seen that person since the song came out,” she reveals. “They are a very elusive character but I’ve had emails from them, not necessarily because I wanted too but I have heard from them. They aren’t really into contemporary music and I don’t think they quite understand the level in which I am operating my musical career in, and they never really did.”
When & Where: Tap House, Bendigo – November 21 & Torquay Hotel, Torquay – November 22.
Written by Alex Callan