Album Walkthrough: St South walks us through her captivating debut album, Get Well Soon
The Fremantle musician's first album is a summary of her skillset as a powerful songwriter in Australian indie.
Header image by Liam Gillie.
Anyone from West Australia would be quick to tell you about the beauty of St South's music. Over the last decade, the Fremantle-based musician - real name Olivia Gavranich - has consistently proved her ability to craft emotionally powerful and rich moments of fleeting indie-pop that often have storytelling and potency at its forefront, both in her work as a fully-fledged multi-instrumentalist writing everything that goes into her music, and also as someone with a keen ear for production and collaboration, stretching amongst her work with N.Y.C.K. and Thelma Plum.
Since her emergence around six years ago, this sense of storytelling has always been at the core of St South's music, and in everything she's put out since, she's continually explored new paths and avenues without veering too far away from what makes St South's music distinctive to her. It worked with the singles that defined her earliest work right up to her 2016 debut EP Nervous Energy, which really introduced the musician at a level that would be further deepened on her second EP Inure the year after, a more singles that have littered the time since.
In 2020, however, St South's ability to really pluck the beauty out of musicianship is reaching a new peak. Throughout the year, she's been sharing singles that have moved with new energies and flavourings, expanding her sound beyond the depths of indie-pop into realms of swirling electronica and gentle, hook-focused pop that on her debut album, last week's arriving Get Well Soon, really find a place nestled amongst her songwriting and storytelling, with the album being where it all seemingly comes together in a perfect, pure way.
Get Well Soon is a collection of ten tracks that really showcase the beauty and charm of St South at her newfound peak (so far), encapsulating the qualities of her music that have taken her so far, while looking forward down future paths, which she may explore in future releases. The album moves between tones and flavours, from the gentle, down-tempo sombreness of songs like RED - which move with a soft, jazz touch - right through to those a little more upbeat, rich with the smattering of electronica that feels more in-line with musicians in the R&B sphere, rather than traditional more folk-y sound.
However, regardless of what sound she takes ahold of and succeeds in making distinctly St South, it's her songwriting that finds itself the linking point between each of Get Well Soon's tracks. As the album moves between R&B, indie and pop, St South's remarkable songwriting doesn't move away from being both potent and powerful, capturing the highs and lows of the musician - and the multi-faceted woman behind it - as the years spent honing in her craft really start to come together.
Get Well Soon is definitely the type of record where the music can do the talking for us, so take a dive into the album below, alongside a track-by-track walkthrough from Olivia, who breaks down the album's core themes and creation one song at a time.
Does Your Brain Ever Get This Loud?
This track is about being in your twenties and all of the uncertainty that comes with it. I wrote it two and half years ago, when I was 25.
In retrospect, I can confidently say that your early twenties can be full of loud-brain-moments, insecure thought patterns, warped body image, anxieties, self-doubt etc. But I have learnt that that’s completely OKAY. We don’t talk about emotional growing pains enough, but we really should, because it’s normal and healthy to struggle through growth.
If It’s Not You (feat. N.Y.C.K)
I’m really proud of this track. It’s about the rediscovery of self-worth during a period of feeling pretty worthless. I wrote it one week after being broken up with; one of my best friends, Nick (N.Y.C.K), caught the red-eye from Melbourne to Perth to give me a hug. We spent the weekend writing - I wrote all of my vocal parts, and he wrote his. I produced the percussion and he composed the synth/keys/bass - and after two days this is what we were left with.
Sometimes people we love don’t treat us how we hope they will. Sometimes we accept their love due to lack of love for ourselves. Red is about realising this very sentiment, and mustering the strength to walk away from someone who doesn’t treat you how you deserve to be treated.
It’s the B Side to my track Twenty Four (Inure EP).
I wrote, produced and recorded this song in my bedroom around 2 years ago. At first listen, it sounds like a breakup song, but for me personally there’s a double meaning, relating to self-care surrounding mental health. Lines like 'won’t you just try to be brave?' and 'you pulled away, I guess that’s when you needed a break,' are things that I’ve said to myself during bad patches of anxiety. When things get tough, I tend to turn inwards and focus on self-care until I’m ready to be social again.
There are always going to be people who can’t empathise with this, because we all cope in our own unique ways. So I guess Growing Up is about letting go of the people who don’t allow you the time and space to work through whatever you’re experiencing. It’s about being gentle with yourself when others don’t have the capacity to be. It’s about growing through love and friendships and learning how to process any pain that comes from losing either of these things.
I also sampled a home cassette tape from the early 90s - you can hear my mum talking to my brother and I (I was 3 and my brother was 8), so there’s some very real nostalgic value re: growing up.
Not Angry Yet
The first few days post-breakup can be raw and confusing. Once the shock and confusion starts to fade, anger slowly starts setting in. This track is about being alone in my house the days following a breakup and questioning all of the possible reasons why she left. Trying to complete household chores was a mundane task which left me questioning even the firmness of my bed not being enough for her: “I hang out the washing, I’m not what she wanted. I’m folding the laundry, was my bed too hard for you after all?”.
I brought in all of the drums for the last chorus as a juxtaposition for the line “I’m not angry yet”. I’m really, really proud of this song.
My friend Emmit Fenn sent me this instrumental in 2017 and I improvised the lyrics on the first take. 2017 was my first year living alone. It was a hard (but great) year of learning how to be comfortable in my own company. I discovered that if I started referring to myself as ‘we’, it made self-care seem less of a challenge. “We can make it better again”. I removed lust and romantic intimacy from my life for nearly a year in order to truly learn how to self-soothe and redirect that love and affection inwards - and it made me “better again”.
I’m Still Me
This track is about seasonal depression and losing support from a loved one (“babe, I’ve been wondering, waiting for that love again. It’s been a long winter, but I’m circling back ‘round again”). One of the hardest things about struggling with mental health, is the fear that people will struggle to love you through it.
A Little Alive
A very personal recount of a break up. I was spending “more money on fuel than food” because the only thing that soothed my heart was driving all day. I wasn’t eating or sleeping, just trying to keep moving so I wouldn’t break down. Relationships take care and effort, but I’ve always believed that love is a choice (“you treated me to a call in the days of your leaving, I said love is a choice but you think it’s a feeling”). You choose to share your love with someone each day. You choose to show up for them. Sometimes things don’t work out, but I believe that no matter what, you should respect the process, and the time you’ve spent together.
I started writing this song while the breakup was still very fresh (“I’ve been wearing your jumper and it’s heavy and soft, I really should send it back but I’ve been putting it off”) - but I wrote the second half nearly 9 months later, with hindsight, strength and self-respect on my side. These are all of the things I wanted to say at the time, but didn’t have the strength to articulate.
Can I Come Over?
This song was inspired by my best friend, Parky. Platonic love and intimacy are both so important to me. My friends and I have an unspoken understanding that if one of us isn’t okay, the other will be there in a flash, whether or not we want them to be. Sometimes when we struggle we feel like a burden, or we don’t want to bother or worry anyone. Sometimes it’s hard to ask for help. Sometimes we don’t always know how to say what we need in moments of sadness or struggle. Sometimes we need others to make those decisions for us; over the years I’ve learnt that when friends don’t know how to ask, the best thing to do is gently force my way in, with love.
That’s what Parky and I have always done; we stopped asking “can I come over”, and started saying “I’m coming over”.
You Loved Me Yesterday
I wrote this the day after a breakup. This song is so fragile and vulnerable for me because I wrote it with genuine hope that she would realise she had made a mistake. I remember crying while recording the vocals, and feeling so heavy and tired. When the sax finally comes in it feels like the doubt is setting in with it. Each instrument is slowly stripped back until all that’s left is the sax on its own - it feels tired here - it’s meant to represent the replacement of hope with heartbreak.
This felt like the perfect way to end the album. This felt like hopeless acceptance and surrendering to grief.
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