Sloan Peterson talks her pivot to pop music with Nightmare, and her next steps
Over the last few years, the Sydney-based musician has blossomed into a favourite of intimate indie. Now, she's looking at a new sound, and a bright future.
Header image by Joe Brennan.
With her arrival back in 2017, Sydney-based musician Sloan Peterson was someone who immediately struck us as something special within Australia's next generation. On her debut single 105 (and eventually, the tracks that would litter her debut EP Midnight Love, released the same year), she grappled with this deeply intimate and rich brand of pop music that was potent with its storytelling and lyricism, providing not just an introduction into Sloan Peterson as a musician, but also as a person too - and everything that fuels her swaying vocals.
In the time since, the musician has continued to blossom and arm herself with these potent bursts of rich indie-pop that have relatable and insightful storytelling at their central core, drawing you in with their familiarity and at times, leaving you not just more in-tune with Sloan as the person behind the songwriting, but also yourself, through the parallels she draws with her work.
It's something that's again emphasised through her first single for 2020 in Nightmare, albeit this time, it's shown in a way that stands tall from her discography. While her past work floats between subtle pop hooks and hazy guitar melodies, Nightmare is a move into pop music at its most bright-eyed and confident, featuring Sloan take hints from her past work and unite it with a more uptempo and synth-backed new edge that allows her work to really move at a more energetic pace, invigorated by new influences and collaborators that have taken her into a different direction.
Her poetic songwriting is still at the core of Nightmare, mind you - it descends into the depths of a long-term relationship and the complexities that often come alongside - but it's presented in a way that feels driven; residual of not just Sloan Peterson's embrace of new sounds, but also her increasing confidence and self-empowerment over the last few years, and how she's able to shape that into her work.
"The beauty of songwriting is creating a story or poem with emotive concepts; it could be elements of truth, exaggeration or completely fictional," says Sloan on the single, which was worked on alongside Hauskey - someone who is quickly blossoming into a favourite of Australian pop music. "Nightmare is shining a light on the fact that perhaps my expectations in life could come across unrealistic at times, but on the other hand does that really make me a nightmare or just a strong-minded woman who knows what she wants. It's written in a playful relationship sense but questioning the construct of being deemed bossy or controlling rather than assertive or driven.
"I think it's something a few people might relate too, whether it be a personal, social or professional circumstance."
It's just the start, too. Nightmare promises to be the beginning of an exciting new era for Sloan Peterson, with a new EP on the way. Sloan's invigorated pop sound is going to be at the forefront of that forthcoming release no doubt (if Nightmare is anything to go by), but don't fret, her potent songwriting isn't going anywhere. "It's a very different project now to what it was before," she says on her new work. "It's more personal too. I’m writing from experience about relationships, hurt, family and misunderstandings."
Take a dive into Nightmare below, and alongside that, we caught up with Sloan to talk about the new single, and what she has in store for us in the year ahead.
Sloan! Hello! To start with a bit of a check-in, your last release prior to Nightmare was through Midnight Love, Vol. 2, and I know quite a bit has changed since then. What’s been going on in the time in-between?
Sloan: A lot has happened the last year. It's kinda hard to keep track. Been recording and writing, lots of meetings and just generally living in this ‘new normal’ kinda world. A lot emotionally has happened in my personal life too so it’s nice to have distractions through my music.
Do you feel like any of these changes have impacted your relationship with music, either as a listener or a songwriter?
Yeah, I think it has, I’ve been listening to a lot of different music then I used to listen to and writing so much more in my journal. It's fun to play around with different melodies, it was also my first time doing real co-writes with several people, which was a challenge but also good to expand my ideas and thoughts.
Your work has always been quite potent, but Nightmare is really intimate and personal. Can you tell us a little bit about the track?
I mean, now that it's in public I sometimes listen and think fuck why did I release this first haha, people are gonna hate me, but then I have that other voice being like fuck it, music is so objective who fucking cares just write anything I feel. I had written a bunch of songs about my heart being broken, I thought I'd write something that put me in a different role for once, speculate all you want if its true or not haha.
What role has writing this song/songwriting in general played in processing moments like these?
I started writing songs as a therapy to help me process a lot of emotions and feelings, memories and situations I had experienced at a young age, regardless how many times I try to give up music I just can’t due the therapeutic release you feel after writing, recording and releasing music.
I feel like this track is a lot more pop-centric than much of your past work; it’s always had that backbone, of course, but this time around it feels a little more core to the whole song, and the hook is absolutely stand-out. Do you feel like there’s anything that drew out this side of your sound, or was it something you’ve been eyeing for a while?
I honestly don't think that much before writing a song, I just write what comes to my mind or circumstantial. I had written in my diary whilst in Bali. ‘I'm your nightmare, haunting my own dreams, treat you like a god and I'm your GOD DAM QUEEN!!!!’ literally like that, then when I got home I found that lovely little sentence and started writing verses one by one. This one I kinda came back to a couple of times, but I just wanted a strong song that was fun to sing.
The song was produced alongside Hauskey, who is very quickly becoming someone with a bit of a Midas touch for homegrown pop music. Can you tell us about working with him?
I loved working with Andy Hopkins, we work really well together, have the same dark humour in a way and just work pretty quickly. I would usually have a basis of an idea and we would just sit together all day and work out all the nit and grit parts to make it what it is.
And there’s a video too, which ties into the song in some ways. Can you tell us about that, and the process of making the clip amongst everything going on right now?
I got into this French pop start Angele and she has the funnest clips. I wanted something super femme portraying a vague storyline around some of the casual sexism women face in society, Courtney Brookes the director had this idea of ‘Is she really a nightmare or an independent woman who knows what she wants’ that really resonated with me... We then dived into the ideas of mansplaining, inappropriate touching, unsolicited dick pics etc... In saying that,t I work with so many great men who I respect, love and have helped me. So I didn't want it to maliciously call ALL men out, it was more like a way to explore what a lot of women do face every day. Wrapping up with me being at my own funeral, cause sometimes we can be our own worst nightmares at the end of the day.
There’s also a greater EP on the way, with Nightmare being the first taste of which. How do you feel like this record sits amongst the rest of your work? How do you feel like it shows your progression from a songwriter point of view?
Sloan: I think it's been a very natural progression and inclination for me, people keep saying how different it is, but I don't really feel that TOO much. I think the difference is the producers I'm working with and the time I had been given to record, I can put more thought into things. I mean the live shows are definitely different... But that will have to be one people come and see for themselves.
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