Jane Tyrrell is in damn good spirits. And why not? The Australian singer has just set her debut solo album Echoes In The Aviary free, after spending two years cooped up in the studio, and most of the last decade working with some of Australia’s finest artists. But we’ll get to that.
Tyrrell had performed on Channel 7’s The Morning Show just prior to our chat. Although she’s a live music vet, the singer confesses she doesn’t have the foggiest when it comes to being on a television set.
“No-one really says, ‘That’s the camera to look at,’ or ‘That’s where you stand.’ It’s just like, ‘OK, and three, two, go!’” she laughs. “It’s just a very unusual experience for a seasoned performer to go, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!’”
You’d think she’d be called up to deliver a cut from her fresh LP. But the show’s producers had other ideas for ‘Rocktober’. It’s just a shame rock happens to be her least favourite genre, next to metal.
Tyrrell was eventually saddled with Tom Petty‘s Free Fallin’. “I don’t really enjoy listening to [it], style-wise,” she admits, “but the lyrics are interesting so I totally flipped it on its head.”
Watch: Jane Tyrrell – Free Fallin’ (Live On The Morning Show)
This head-flip is typical of Tyrrell, we learn. She earned her musical stripes among the Australian hip hop scene, primarily as a member of The Herd. But the talented vocalist freely discloses that she had grown too comfortable being just one of many faces on stage.
This, coupled with a crossroads in her personal life, left her feeling disconnected from herself and her surroundings. It set her in search of new environments, both physical and sonic. “I kind of thought, ‘Now is the time to do a solo album if I’m going to do it.'”
She didn’t reach out to her Elefant Traks family, nor to former bandmates or past collaborators. Instead she chose PVT‘s Pike brothers, Richard and Laurence, to help begin the process of Echoes In The Aviary.
“I want to collaborate with new people and make a sound that’s me. There’s something about the industrial element of their music and their production that really just, you know, presses all my buttons. Their aesthetic is going to be something that I’m exited by, and pull lyrics and melodies from my head. So it did, straightaway.”
She openly considers PVT as personal heroes and unabashedly confesses to wearing the band’s T-shirts to their recording sessions. “They’re just like, ‘Oh, Jane-o, you’re not wearing our T-shirt are you? … That’s weird.'”
We assure her there’s nothing wrong with representing. “I love Beyoncé,” she says, “But I don’t go buy Beyoncé’s shirts. Only special people get that.” Damn straight.
Echoes In The Aviary is perhaps best described as a hybrid, a mishmash of styles and influences. In rediscovering herself and figuring out her solo sound, she first had to grapple with an identity all of her own.
“You should hear some of the tracks that didn’t make it. They’re the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard. It sounds, like, confused, lyrically, and just on every level.”
Whatever the growing pains, she knew she wanted to test herself and push beyond any preconceptions of what a solo Jane Tyrrell LP might sound like. “I was really aware that I felt like I could do a really strong neo-soul album but I just wanted to try and be holistic, which is probably pretty ambitious but I was hoping to kind of have that element and not be like a genre record.”
Unwavering despite the enormity of the challenge, she sought to make a record that encapsulated all of her interests, even if that meant sacrificing execution for exploration.
“Ships, for example, or The Rush, that’s me reaching, going a whole other style of singing. I don’t think, ‘Wow, they’re amazing vocal performances,’ but I’m really glad that I did it. I just tried out a new style.”
Listen: Jane Tyrrell – Wild Waters
Her foray into uncharted territory wasn’t confined to the studio. Last year when her label Elefant Traks celebrated its 15th anniversary, Jane took the opportunity to make her solo live debut.
Armed with only her half-finished songs and without the safety net of her usual companions, a nervous Tyrrell faced a stage that seemed unusually empty. But a dance with the butterflies let her know she was onto something real.
“I guess I got hungry to be challenged again,” she says. “And this was this whole other level, because all of a sudden I was the focal point. They were songs I’d written and put all my time and energy, and finances, into and here I am debuting them.”
As if performing alone with unfinished, unheard tracks wasn’t jitter-inducing enough, one of Australia’s most celebrated songwriters just happened to be sitting in the second row. “First show. Paul Kelly rocks up, two rows back. So no pressure! And I was pretty terrified, yeah!”
When she spotted Kelly in the crowd, she wasn’t just looking at an Australian icon but also a friend and mentor. The two struck up a musical kinship of sorts while touring together behind PK’s record Spring And Fall.
Performing Petty’s 1989 classic probably seemed a minor obstacle considering the cover that appears on Echoes In The Aviary. So impressed was the singer after watching Kelly perform nightly that she studied his past works until she found one that exemplified her own goals.
“Stolen Apples was exactly the kind of scene-setting song I wanted to try and create,” she gushes. “I just had to sing it.” With Kelly’s blessing, delivered in the form of the “biggest bear hug”, she included her own version on Echoes In The Aviary.
Now with her solo debut out in the world, it’s time again for Tyrrell to take stage. We ask Jane if she thinks the nervous energy she felt making her live solo debut will still be there for her upcoming album launch shows?
“I think I’m five shows deep and … my body’s just full of adrenaline,” she says. “There’s nothing like it. It’s quite thrilling. It’s wonderful. It’s what being alive is about… It’s really lovely after singing professionally for eight years, touring the country and overseas, to have that sense again. It’s really refreshing and it’s just filled me up with all the fuel I need to see it through.”
Keep on free fallin’, Jane-o.
Jane Tyrrell’s debut album Echoes In The Aviary is out now. Album launch show details below.
Listen: Jane Tyrrell – The Rush
Jane Tyrrell Echoes In The Aviary Launch Shows
Tickets on sale now
Friday, 5th December 2014
Newtown Social Club, Sydney
Tickets: Newtown Social Club
Saturday, 6th December 2014
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Tickets: Northcote Social Club