Siobhan Cotchin's debut EP: “it's always just such a great, incredible process getting to watch your songs come to life”
The Boorloo artist drives us through the neo-western landscape of Highways and Heartbreak, Siobhan at the wheel, writing tunes and manifesting Nashville.
Photo by Michael Tartaglia
Last month alt-country songstress Siobhan Cotchin painted a neo-western landscape with her delightful single Tucson, a release that came with the news of a highly anticipated debut EP on its way. Today that five-track release Highways and Heartbreak graces us with its presence.
Filled with tales that unpack relationships, their breakdowns, and the aftermath, it’s both relatable yet transports listeners into another time and place. The Boorloo/ Perth singer-songwriter fabricating her own beautiful and refreshing world, an environment in which her story-telling and earnest vocals can thrive and soar.
In the lead up to the release, Siobhan joined us on a Zoom call to talk about herself, her music, and the debut EP. Be sure to listen to Highways and Heartbreak in all its glory - and learn a bit more about Siobhan Cotchin and the release below.
Highways and Heartbreaks is your first EP, when were the tracks written? And how did you decide what made the final cut for the release?
I wrote the EP over quite a long period of time. Some of the songs were from 2020 and also from early 2021, and basically I just kind of gathered the songs that meant the most to me and put them in this one collection, and I didn't realise it had a bit of a storyline until after it was recorded, and I was like, Oh… this is a story of the aftermath of a breakup and moving on from someone. I didn't realise that there was that storyline until after I had finished, so I thought that was really cool.
If you don’t mind me asking, do many of the songs draw from personal experiences?
You, Me and the Ever-Rising Sea is quite a personal one, because I just wasn't in a good place at the time, and I was really disheartened because of the pandemic and everything. I wasn't getting to go travel, I was just stuck in this one place, and was like “am I ever ever going to see the rest of the world and do what I want to do?” and Highway Song is also super personal, I wrote it when I was driving, well not actually wrote it out because that's illegal (laughter). But yeah, I love drawing from a lot of movies, books, TV shows, just any sort of form of art that I can relate to. So obviously, Tucson is definitely not about me. Although I feel like there are aspects of that song that I relate to, like “all dressed up to sing to no one” we've had a gig before where there’s no-one in the audience, you’ve given it your all and they just do not care. That hurts. So, there are aspects of the song on the EP that I relate to, even if they're not about me. If I Could, I Would, I feel like that's a universal experience, being with someone that just is not right for you and just does not bring out the best in you.
You’ve mentioned previously that songwriting is therapeutic for you, can you tell us about your creative process?
Yeah, it basically is free therapy. It's the best thing. But I find that when I'm feeling a heightened state of emotion I kind of shut down and can't write, but once the storm has calmed, I'm able to process everything that I was feeling, and it's a great way of reflecting on experiences and what I could have done better. Basically just what happened and just trying to process that. I think it's a great way to do that. I feel like in terms of creative process, my lyrics have always come first, I find that the most important part for me, and just try and match the melody and the chords to the mood of the song and voilà.
Were there any songs that were easier or more enjoyable to write or record?
I do find the recording process quite nerve wracking, especially recording vocals, I freak out. So I feel like that's probably the most vulnerable part of all the songs. So that whole process for all of the songs was pretty nerve wracking, especially for the quiet and more vulnerable moments in the EP. A real highlight was getting to work with Timothy Nelson, he did some vocals, those beautiful falsetto vocals in If I Could, I Would harmonies, and he did some organs as well which is pretty surreal. I got to work with some obviously incredible musicians like my incredible band, and on You, Me and the Ever-Rising Sea there’s some banjo, and I got to work with Ian Simpson who's played with Slim Dusty, who is like a huge country icon, which is pretty surreal. I think it's always just such a great, incredible process getting to watch your songs come to life and then realising that you get to share with the world. I think that's really exciting. It's terrifying though (laughs).
You’ve mentioned adding in banjo, are there any particular artists that you drew inspiration from musically? Or listened to a lot whilst you were writing?
In Tucson I was listening to a lot of Orville Peck at the time, and oh my god his new album is insane, I love him so much. I was drawing from a lot of that neo-western and trying to make it rock but with country flair. I was listening to Bruce Springsteen at the time, he's one of my heroes. I always listen to Taylor Swift. Like that's just a given. Lucinda Williams as well, I think she blends country and rock really well together and she's a real inspiration to me in terms of sound. Those are the main artists that I was listening to.
Visually with the EP cover, it’s a beautiful snap of yourself in a car (It’s almost Lana Del Rey-esque), where did the inspiration come from?
First of all, that is the best thing anyone said to me. I love Lana Del Rey (aaa) oh my god. I actually made a mood board for Michael the photographer, and I had some photos of Lana in a truck, they’re super old photos. And Ruby Boots did a cover for the album Solitude, of her in a car. I'm worried that I ripped it off (laughter) I don’t think I did. But that was a huge inspiration. I think being in a car, like an old car like the one on the cover was just super fitting for the feel of the EP. I feel like it's a sad traveler's album. I was thinking about where I was when I wrote some of the songs, and I mean Highway Song I was literally in the car. I feel like the car is really important to me, because it's where I do a lot of my thinking, and I wanted to make sure that was part of it.
How did you go about selecting the car?
Look, I'm not a car person. I have no idea. My mom and I were just looking online to see if anyone was just hiring out a car we just found was incredible - I think it's a Plymouth 67’, I don't know, a sick muscle car, and we were like, “oh my god that is such a hot car”. The owner of the car and his daughter I think, both came to the shoot. They were just watching and asking all these questions, it was really nice. It was really cool, I think I just found it on Gumtree or something.
The last few years have been incredibly eventful for you, I feel.
Just a little (laughter).
What have been some of your personal highlights?
Getting to win the grand prize for the song of the year was probably the most embarrassing but exciting moment, because I was in the bathroom at the time and it was just really awkward being up on stage, not knowing what to say. I was just super tipsy as well, and I was just like, “um, okay thank-you” and I didn't know what the award was for. But that was so surreal, getting awarded for your art is such a reassuring thing. It's not everything, but I really appreciate it. Getting to win Best Country Act at the WAM awards was really cool, and just getting to play honestly. I got to head over to Sydney to play with Bob Evans, which was super surreal. It's been hectic. Considering these times that we're living in, I feel really lucky to be able to play and just perform wherever, and just writing and making music. I just feel like that's the best thing.
Now that things are opening up again and restrictions are slowly easing, what have you got planned for the rest of the year (both musically and non-musically)?
I'm actually going to Sydney on Thursday, which is exciting. I’m playing some shows in trio mode. Then I'm playing in Melbourne with Bob Evans, and then he's coming to WA. Oh my gosh what am I doing for the rest of the year? (giggles).
I'm going to keep recording, I've already got the next single to go. I'm playing a festival with Leon Bridges, holy shit. I don't believe that at all. I think it's just a whole frame. I'm just keen to keep writing, recording and just playing wherever. I just want to do heaps more travel, and not to necessarily play but just go, just get out of here. So yeah, I’m just excited to keep playing wherever they'll have me.
Do you have any places in mind that you’d really want to travel to?
Nashville. That's my ultimate. I really want to get to the US and play some shows, I feel like that would be so fun. Especially in Nashville that celebrates country music. I feel like that would be such a cool place. They just celebrate songwriters really, it doesn't really matter what kind of music you play. Yeah Nashville. Fingers crossed.
Do you have any places or venues so far, in Perth or over east that are standouts for you?
Mojo's is always in my heart. I love Freo Social as well, we just filmed Tucsons, the music video there, like half of it, so that's also very meaningful. Any venue that will have me I will be there (laughter). Honestly, anywhere in Nashville. I mean, my dream would be the Grand Ole Opry, that would be nuts. Trying to manifest it. I’m gonna manifest it.
What have you been listening to lately? And have you gone to any good gigs lately?
To be honest, I haven't been to a gig in ages. I’ve just been super super cautious because I need to get to Sydney, I just cannot go out. I've been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen, my hero. I've been listening to a lot of Hole. I love Courtney Love, even though she's very problematic, Hole is a great band. I’ve been listening to heaps of Amyl and the Sniffers, a lot of heavy music. Oh my gosh, actually there's this one Lady Gaga song that I cannot stop listening to. It was on the Born This Way album, it’s called You and I. I've been smashing that song, on repeat, on my way to anywhere. It just pumps me up. That's pretty much it. I feel like sometimes I sort of go through ebbs and flows with how much music I listen to. Sometimes I just like silence in the car, or I put on a podcast. But yeah, mainly Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Amyl and the Sniffers, and Hole. That’s very chaotic (laughter).
Who knows, you might release a heavy album next.
Oh, I would love to play heavy music. I would love to be in a punk band, but (laughter) I don't know if I have it in me.
Siobhan Cotchin Live
March 31 - Nas Neo - Cell block Theatre, Sydney (Free Entry)
April 29 - With Bob Evans - The River, Margeret River
April 30 - With Bob Evans - The Rosemount, Perth
Siobhan Cotchin’s debut EP Highways and Heartbreak is out now.