Where did you grow up? And where are you living now?
I grew up on my island home, Groote Eylandt. I now live in Brisbane.
What is your first memory of playing music?
Well, my dad’s Filipino, so whenever my Filo fam would come over we'd have the Karaoke ready, and my lola (Grandmother) would get me to get up and sing. My parents were into a variety of music ranging from country to hip hop so we'd have singalongs at a birthday party or on the beach. The majority of the males on my mum’s side have formed little bands, so I grew up around that too.
Tell us about your process of writing music?
How I write music, my mum says it’s pretty weird [laughs] because I have to either have a full Nutella jar or Doritos, candles must be lit, incense has to be burning and lights have to be off, sometimes I could just be sitting down watching a movie and bam! a song will hit me from nowhere, or I jam along to my piano, press record on my recorder and just sing the most randomest things! Whether they be silly or sad or happy, it all just flows smoothly in the end.
How does storytelling have an impact on your life/music?
Personally, music is a universal story, life is the journey and my music tells my life and the little journeys I’ve been through. Storytelling has a major impact on my life AND my music because everyone can relate, and when I want some random person to listen to one of my songs I want them to nod and say “Oh my gosh, this is me all over” [laughs]
What’s the first song you remember hearing?
Umm, Pearly Shells by Jimmy Little.
What are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment, a lot, but mostly Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke! I love Jazz and Blues, absolutely am so in love with the structure of it and how it’s incorporated into so many popular songs!
What are some of your highlights of your musical career?
When I went to Paris and I taught a group of extremely talented musicians from around the world a song I wrote in my language (Anindilyakwa). It was probably the most incredible moment ever when we performed it, I wanted to cry, it was so moving and hearing everyone sing it, it made me feel so proud to be Indigenous and to have that opportunity to teach and learn, it’s a once in a lifetime experience I’ll never forget. And also I spent my 18th birthday there [laughs] which made it even more amazing!
Most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
"Don’t forget to make a life while you’re making a living."
Can you name five things you can’t live without?
1. Nutella, it’s my food motivation to write music.
2. Anything to do with music [laughs].
3. Respect - I can’t live without respect because if I don’t give it I don’t get it.
4. Trust - trust is important to me, because in order for me to meet someone I have to trust them not to shame me or put me down, even if it’s leading me to the stage, like even if I’m performing I have to trust the sound guys to make me sound great! Trusting my friends to tell me the truth, trusting myself even. Trust is very important in my life.
5. Smiling and laughing! I can’t live without that!! I need to be surrounded by people who love to laugh and look at things in a bright perspective and never look at the negative. When I’m sad or upset, laughing makes me happy, even smiling does too. I think that’s really all I need other than my beautiful family.
If you could have a coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be? And what would you talk about?
Oh my gosh, this is hard... I don't drink coffee, so I’d probably have a chai latte [laughs]but my grandmother, if she were alive, I’d sit down and talk to her about my culture and get to know more, get her to tell me stories about her growing up on the island and all the experiences she had growing up.
What advice would you have for aspiring artists?
Don’t forget to smile, don’t forget to take a bit of time out for yourself and just breathe, soak in the sun!
© Emily Wurrumarra