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Abbe May
Abbe May

With the 2018 release of her fifth album, Fruit, and the critical and audience acclaim that came with it, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Abbe May is now a national living treasure in the Aussie music landscape.  A brooding, mesmerising and artful performer who could write a hit song underwater while wrestling a crocodile, May has it all.  And now, she wants to give us more.

With May on top of her game and, if the first release from the album, ‘Fuck You’, is anything to go by, seventh album, Red Flag, will have her ripe for greater commercial success and critical acclaim.

On 14 and 15 June, May will put on two very special performances to raise funds for recording her new album, already titled, Red Flag, at Clancy’s  in Fremantle.  The first will be a solo set and open discussion about her creative processes, life and philosophies. In May’s words, “There is no question I’m not willing to answer as long as you are brave enough to ask!”  Should be quite a night!

Then, on Saturday 15 June, May and her band, The Perth Girls, will deliver a double set, performing songs from May’s five albums plus previews of songs from Red Flag.  Equally, a night not to be missed and, for the already converted, there are special prices if you buy tickets to both shows.

With May about to take what will be another significant step forward in her career, Around The Sound took the opportunity to speak with her about what’s going on, beginning with her propensity to share.

“It’s not a deliberate act.  I don’t wake up and think, ‘I’m going to share this with people’.  It’s more like a relationship with my audience.  My art is basically very autobiographical, so it’s been a natural progression from my younger years, where I may have been a little bit more careful about what I revealed, to an era where I feel like the division between myself and my audience has largely dissipated.  There’s no real distinction between myself and other people.  That’s come from an existential crisis, a level of dread that’s come from realising that there is no separateness, it’s kind of this one and all thing.  After a while, if you work your way through it, it becomes an opportunity to experience life beyond that existential fear.  I reckon that’s why I feel so connected to the audience.”

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And, perhaps, why May’s audience feels so connected to her?

“I guess I’m looking for connection and answers as much as anybody else and for me the most direct path is through truth. The number one thing that anyone who is looking for truth has to understand is that just because it’s true for you, it doesn’t mean it’s true for anyone else.  A lot of my work is based around my experience of life, particularly with regard to love and fear of death.  Just because my experience of something is true for me, it doesn’t mean that another person’s perception of that experience is any less true.  For me, that’s been the biggest breakthrough.

I used to think my muse was sex, I used to think my muse was love and I’ve realised that it’s actually pain, it’s always been pain that I write about.

“Catharsis and connection and community.  Communicating my perception of experience in a way that gives me catharsis.  Music makes me release pain.  I used to think my muse was sex, I used to think my muse was love and I’ve realised that it’s actually pain, it’s always been pain that I write about.  I think the reason I keep going is the cathartic element, when I can write it and it’s done and then the beauty of my fortune in this is that I can then release it and share it and people listen and they get to connect with me through the song, which makes me feel less alone, and, I hope, them.  People get to experience their own recovery from pain through music and it’s amazing the way the songs become completely different for each person.  I really think that’s what art is about.  Any great art should be about communication and connection.  I think it’s formed through some drive for catharsis from the creator of the work.

“But you’ve got to make the personal universal.  It can’t just be me writing specifically about myself.  It’s too selfish and it’s also not very interesting.  You take the personal and you make it universal.

“Sharing my life with the people who follow me is really just a way to explore the truth and to get a communal philosophy about this crazy trip that we’re all on.”

If ever we needed a ‘communal philosophy about this crazy trip that we’re all on’ it’s got to be right now.  Music and art more broadly have always been about reflecting people’s lives back at them and, at their very heart, creating understanding of self and others.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt if all of this is delivered in a package of some damned fine music, like the slinky and dangerous beats on Fruit.

So, what does May have in store for us on Red Flag?

“I’ve never felt more on top of my game.  I’m very conscious of what constitutes a good song in terms of theme and lyric, intent and structure.  I’ve also never felt more in control of how an album should be put together.  I’ve never been more aware of what makes a good album.  The concept before I start this one is if I can’t play the songs on just an acoustic guitar they’re not going on the record.  So, what it’s forced me to do is just sit and write and bring songs with a complete structure and form.”

With May on top of her game and, if the first release from the album, ‘Fuck You’, is anything to go by, seventh album, Red Flag, will have her ripe for greater commercial success and critical acclaim.

And you can help to make it happen by attending on of the album fundraiser shows on 14 and 15 June at Clancy’s in Fremantle.  Each night will deliver in spades for May fans old and new, with the solo and Q&A set in the 14th set to be an opportunity for fans to find out more about May’s interior existence.

“There’s nothing I’m afraid of.  I’m not perfect, I’m not a complexly flawless human being.  I’ve done things and I’ve been things that are not great.  But I’m aware that I do have empathy and I do strive to become a better human.  I know that I have to evolve, I can’t be this drunk rock and roll person for the rest of my life.  It’s very fucking tiring living this self-centred life that I’ve been blessed to live, but it’s become quite vapid.  So, I have no fear of any questions, I will answer them all honestly.”

Tickets for these shows are limited at $25 each night or $40 for two nights and can be purchased through abbemay.com and Oztix.

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