Sheldon Ang – Interview with Siobhan Cotchin
Despite scoring the 2017 West Australian Music (WAM) song of the year nomination among other prestigious accolades, singer/songwriter Siobhan Cotchin ditches her melancholic reverberation of her yesteryears for an empowering propagation, a coming of age tale infused with indie rock (and almost grunge in some bits) while keeping her country roots intact. In other words, it’s an explosive MkII version of Siobhan Cotchin.
While the twenty-year old’s debut single Tear Myself Apart is an outpouring of an emotional discontent, she oozes a frustrated dictation of mutual echoes from both sides. It defines the telling tale of honesty, a relationship of symmetrical poise, without the old wise tales of domineering. The chorus with her own guitar styles is catchy and uplifting, a far cry of the teenage self – that she reflected as “cringing”.
Cotchin’s writing pedigree shines again in her latest single Do You Know What I Mean? – and despite the track was written last year, the lyrics find congruity against the backdrop of the present time. You’d be forgiven to believe that Cotchin has “been so uninspired lately, can’t feel a thing…” asking if anyone’s “willing to break my heart so I can write a god damn song again.” Then again, she’s so invested in her music, that perhaps that’s the best way to tell her story.
Both tracks grow in strength musically and vocally, correlating with the personal stance of Cotchin while maturing into adulthood, as Sheldon Ang sits with the Perth artist for a personal reflection.
Sheldon: Most songs are clear cut on who’s the victim. Initially I felt the lyrics of Tear Myself Apart can be interpreted in a few ways; the narrator as the emotional victim, and when I listened to it again, it feels the other person is the one who’s getting hurt because he’s looking for more? Perhaps both sides have a story to tell. Or am I overanalysing?
Siobhan: Wow, I actually never thought about it like that. For me, the narrator is kind not feeling it at all and just getting frustrated and annoyed…and this person is just asking too much. Wow, I never thought of it that way…
Sheldon: …I mean, looking at the lyrics, ‘It was never worth it in the end’. From the other character’s perspective, she’s not worth it. But it depends on the pretext, it could mean something else. And ‘I guess I let you on’ – so that could mean that she’s not putting it out in an emotional sense.
Siobhan: Yeah, I guess they’re both in the wrong in this scenario with these two characters, like they went into this blindly without knowing what’s going to happened with the outcome.
Sheldon: But the music is uplifting, almost a coming of age feel to it, and a sense of accountability. So is this more of a self-reflection, that retrospective feel, given that I heard your earlier works were thematically tragic?
Siobhan: Yeah, I thought this song would be a good introduction, like “hey I’m here”…a big song, an upbeat to get people’s attention – that’s the reason I put it out.
Sheldon: Is this through a personal experience?
Siobhan: Yeah, I was dating somebody and I was in high school, and that’s how I felt at that time.
Sheldon: Do you think having a personal experience is important in story telling?
Siobhan: Absolutely. For me, I write from personal experience. It’s the context of myself. But I feel to be a good songwriter, you’ll need to step out and put yourself in other perspective. So I’d like to write from other things like movies that I watched, or of my friends’ experiences, books that I read – and the reason why I do that is because it affected me personally and that allow me to write about it in some way.
Sheldon: Do you read a lot, then?
Siobhan: Yeah I guess so, but I really like to take my time and absorb it, or when I watch TV, I like to absorb it as well. I think right now life is kinda boring (because of Covid 19 restrictions) and nothing exciting is happening at the moment. So, I stepped into another world and write from another perspective. But I do put myself into that story as well, and makes it personal or almost personal – so is like a different person telling the story.
Sheldon: And the four indie rock singers I’ve interviewed in the last month, they were all songs about coming of age…do you think this is the current trend?
Siobhan: Yeah, I feel a lot of women are going into rock and feel more powerful that way…but I think any women doing music is powerful in itself.
Sheldon: Your next single, Do You Know What I Mean? – It feels like now is the perfect time to release that song based on the lyrics that oozes that frustrated elements
Siobhan: Yeah that’s so strange, and I was planning to release this single before all of this Covid – like as if I predicted how I would feel at this moment in time. Like what is happening…and what if my life amounts to nothing. How am I going to be productive.
Sheldon: That’s surreal hey…so what inspired you to write something like that?
Siobhan: I was in first year at WAAPA, and I was trying to find my feet and figuring out what I wanted to do. And being an adult was becoming closer and closer, and I was freaking out thinking I won’t get a job with this degree. So it came from that place.
Sheldon. I suppose with lyrics such as “I’ve been so uninspired lately…can anyone willing to break my heart so I can write a god damn song again” – well you had certainly been inspired to write a song!
Siobhan: Yeah nothing exciting was really happening, and I was like nothing and I was freaking out that nothing great was about to happen.
Sheldon: But even now, you’re only 20
Siobhan: Yeah, but I tend to overthink, so is kinda normal for me (chuckles)
Sheldon: Let’s go back to when you were younger. At 2014 you were the youngest winner of the Emerging Artist Award at the Nannup Music Festival. How significant was that award? Because that opened doors to many great opportunities such as Tamworth.
Siobhan: It really helped me to gain my confidence as a performer, and so it sort of solidified the fact I can do something with my music and to write songs. And it also gave me some time for recording at Crank Studios. So it was good… I recorded my first EP – which is so cringing now (chuckles). But I felt it prepared me a lot.
Sheldon: Because you were the nominee for the best song award of 2017.
Siobhan: Yeah, but I actually can’t remember which song is it for (chuckles)!
Sheldon: Is it a similar feel to your current song?
Siobhan: (Chuckles) Definitely not. I think it was ‘All Night All Right’ and it’s on YouTube – it is definitely a lot softer. Now my music has got a lot more rock.
Sheldon: So I guess reverting to my question at the start of the convo about your coming of age feel of your new singles…
Siobhan: Yeah, coming of age is my favourite genre – and I feel ‘Do You Know What I Mean?’ has that feel to it, like that protagonist feel; when will my life begin…when will something awesome start happening – and it usual does.
Sheldon: Speaking of strength – I heard you got into music because of Taylor Swift.
Siobhan: Yeah I feel she inspired me, and if I’ve not heard her music I feel I would be a completely different singer songwriter. When I heard her album, “Fearless” I was nine, and then I had this epiphany ‘this is what I want to do’ and I was like, ‘I so can’t wait for someone break my heart’ so I can write about it. So she introduced me to song writing and from there it led me to other songs and that’s why country music is a big thing for me.
Sheldon: I love her new work, like in her album “Reputation”
Siobhan: Oh I love them all, and all of her music, and I just think she writes so well.
Sheldon: Taylor made a transition from the country gal to something poppy and electronic synth. Do you think you’ll divert towards that direction, someday?
Siobhan: I don’t think so, because I am really rooted in the country rock sort of genre at the moment. Then again…it would be really cool to write songs like that for other people, with that sort of feel.
Sheldon: She probably gets dictated by her own record label?
Siobhan: I think she does it own her accord, she’s really smart business record and I don’t think she’ll do something she doesn’t believe.
Sheldon: That’d make total sense. So back to you, these songs are like a gestation period for an upcoming album or EP?
Siobhan: Not sure, but I’m back writing more music and recording but I’m not sure yet, maybe an EP.
Sheldon: Looking forward to that…