Celia Pavey is playing the waiting game. When we speak, the singer behind the Vera Blue moniker, a one-time contestant on The Voice and rising Australian talent, has but a week until her new record Perennial comes out, and not much to do but twiddle her thumbs and stress about it. “Recently I’ve just been feeling like it’s definitely a weight on my shoulders,” Pavey laughs. “I feel like because I’ve been working on this record for so long, I really want it out in the world and to just not be mine anymore. I want to give it to listeners, and for them to make it their story as much as it is mine. I just want them to be able to feel what I feel. I’m excited.”
That, as far as Pavey is concerned, is the real goal here: to call out to her fans, old and new. And in that way, she considers Perennial to be a kind of smoke signal, or a message borne by carrier pigeon. The record is the sound of a young woman making her heart public; a woman singing out for all who will listen, and in its.
“I work with very closely with Andy [Macken] my producer and his brother Tom [Macken]. When we’re writing we’ll always write on an acoustic guitar or a piano and then we will mould what the song is about, and make sure we get out the feeling we want to communicate. But when we are writing, we’re first and foremost going off my emotions and what I’m going through. The songs are very honest.”
So honest in fact, that a less experienced singer might be worried about airing such an extent of emotional laundry. But Pavey has been here before – her first album, released under her own name, might have been packed with covers, but in its rawness and its unfettered beauty it came to feel like the full force of a young woman making her personhood known. And anyway, Pavey understands that her fans will always have her back – even more so when she honours their intelligence and tells them the truth, as plain as she can make it.
“It’s really nice to have people connecting to your music,” Pavey says. “And I love it when I can talk to people about how songs have made them feel, and what they’re going through. Sometimes they tell me their music has helped them, or that they can dance to it… It’s really special. I love it. I love being able to release music that I’m so passionate about, and that people can feel the same way about when they hear it.”
But Perennial is not only Pavey’s most intense, wide-eyed release: it’s also her most structurally complex. Rather than just a straight up and down collection of pop ballads, the piece unfolds in three acts – a late in the game development that surprised even Pavey.
“It’s what’s really special about Perennial. It was written from the ashes of a relationship that had just come to an end. But it’s not like a breakup album – it’s more an album about self-discovery and personal growth. It’s structured into three chapters, which were formed after we had completed the album. Tom, my co-writer, he put them into that three chapter structure, because working with me from the beginning to the end of this record allowed him to see my progression as a person.”
The first chapter, kicking off with the song ‘First Week’ is located in the very epicentre of hurt. It’s about those first few days when you come stumbling out of a relationship, bleary and uncentred – a song with all of the vulnerability and heartache of something like the Mountain Goats’ ‘Woke Up New’. “It’s about coming off a relationship,” Pavey says, simply.
By contrast, the second chapter is “a little more exciting”. Kicking off with ‘Private’, one of the record’s very finest singles, the central section of the record is “about feeling fresh new ideas and having new ideas about people,” Pavey says. “It’s about opening my eyes to things around me that weren’t necessarily to do with love. So it was a really exciting period.
“And then there’s the third chapter,” she continues, “which is much more about reflecting on the relationship, so you get a little bit of that vulnerability coming back. And that’s the end. So really this record acknowledges vulnerability, and acknowledges that you can wear your heart on your sleeve. I mean, everyone wears their hearts on their sleeve, but I really do it strongly and that’s what the title is about. That word “perennial” means feelings and emotions will come and go. The title is about acknowledging that it’s okay to be vulnerable; acknowledging that all those memories will come back.”
Of course, Pavey knows that for casual listeners that such a carefully organised, subtle structural pattern might go unnoticed. But she doesn’t care. She is just ready to give Perennial away: to hand it over to those dedicated fans who have never once left her side. “Some people won’t listen to the album top to bottom, and that’s totally okay. But I think the way the album is structured will give them an impression of what I was going through. So even if they don’t go through it from top to bottom, that’s okay, because they’re just going to be able to take the story into their own hearts and relate to it in their own way.”
Vera Blue plays July 29 at the Metro Theatre. Perennial will be out this Friday, July 21.Write a Letter to the Editor