“I feel like writing is a bit cathartic. I’ll write about it [experiences] because that’s my way to essentially be my own therapist.”
For some artists, the ability to find their niche happens overnight. This wasn’t the case for Celeste Polson. Not at all. The Ballarat-born singer songwriter, who artists under the stage name ‘Celeste Kate,’ didn’t begin performing her original music until she was in her mid-twenties. This was following the completion of a Diploma of Musical Performance at Gordon TAFE in Geelong, and making the move to Melbourne to give herself the best opportunity possible.
“The Diploma of Music introduced me to Jazz, so when I moved to Melbourne I found myself performing in the jazz scene. In 2015, I was singing in a big-band style ensemble at a jazz club in Richmond, where I shared the lead with male vocalist.”
Celeste also undertook a Diploma of Musical Theatre at the APO of Arts Academy. Whilst her main passion is singing and song writing, she took a year off her original music to focus on completing the degree and becoming an all-rounded performer: “I wanted to incorporate acting and dancing into my singing- I wanted to be a triple threat!”
With jazz and musical theatre under her belt, Celeste’s most in depth experience as a musician comes in her song writing. Having begun writing at the age of 12, after keeping a lyric-filled journal, she began to compose music with these lyrics. She even remembers the first song she ever wrote.
“I do actually [remember it]! I did record it. It was called Nowhere. It was sort of just about feeling like you’re literally getting nowhere in life, like people are trampling on you and you end up feeling like you’re never going to get anywhere.”
Recording these early songs proved beneficial to Celeste, as they equipped her with the experience needed to go on and place highly in several song writing competitions around Melbourne.
“In 2010 I was a semi-finalist in a competition called the Melbourne Fresh Industry Showcase. Then last year I came fourth in a competition called the Emergence Festival.”
Similarly, her last EP I’ve Been Waiting, created a track that came in the top 30 at the finals of the Australian Song Writing Association Competition in 2015. Beating thousands of other songwriters for one of these positions, Celeste described it as the “highlight of my career- it was all very exciting!”
I wasn’t surprised to hear of her success after further discussing her song writing skills with her. I was in awe as she took me through a step-by-step process of a song she wrote, entitled Smile for the Camera and depicted the completely captivating concept she had for a supporting music video.
“I wanted to write a song about people who appear to be really attractive and look like they’ve got everything together and look like they’re happy, but behind that smile it can be deceiving. It was about the point that you can be attractive and you can look like you’ve got all those things but perhaps behind those eyes there’s someone dealing with something really huge. I had this vision for this film clip that I just don’t have the budget for yet. There’d be these supermodels posing for the camera and looking all glamorous and beautiful; then in another scene they’ll be in the bathroom snorting cocaine with tears running down their face, which shows how they’re really feeling.”
This song; however, was out of the ordinary. Celeste admits she tends to write based on her own personal experiences, starting from the journal she kept as a child. The themes she addresses may not be a direct reflection of her own life, but rather those of her family and friends yet that have touched her in some way. When she does write about herself; however, she confesses to feeling selfish about what she’s producing.
“It’s a bit selfish really, it’s all very internalised. I feel like writing’s a little bit cathartic. If I’m feeling a bit anxious or particularly emotional about something that is affecting me in my life, anything that might be happening, I’ll write about it because that’s my way to essentially be my own therapist.”
Increasing her song writing experience has also meant that her methods and processes have changed over time. In the past, Celeste says she would come up with an entire lyrical structure and then add the chords in whilst at the piano. The lyrics would always be the primary feature, with the melody being added second. Nowadays, her song writing method consists of lyrics and melody after she has created a chord progression on the piano. Even then, no one process is set in stone.
“I wrote a song about a week ago and I sat there and wrote all the lyrics down until I was completely happy with them. It was kind of like this weird poem. Then I tinkered with different melodies, not even at the piano, I just sang them out loud until I was happy roughly with what I was coming up with. It’s kind of considered a really backwards way to do it but it seemed to work for that particular song.”
If you needed further convincing that Celeste’s song writing is on par with some of Melbourne’s best, you only need to look at her musical influences. The style of music she aims to create and perform can be determined without even asking her. Discussing how she grew up inspired by artists such as Katie Noonan and Sarah McLachlan – and currently greatly idolising Kate Miller-Heidke – Celeste admits that it’s Kate Bush that takes the cake as the most influential artist on her career so far.
“The way in which she wrote a lot of her songs was very unusual for that era. A lot of female artists were writing ‘love’ songs, about having their heart broken and everything, but she was writing about lust and desire and all those other parts of being in a relationship that we don’t always hear about in songs. We often hear about the pain and the heartbreak of it, but she was writing about all the good stuff. I just love the way that she writes, as well as the sound of her voice. She’s a fascinating story teller, so I definitely look up to her as well.”
Celeste is launching her next single I’m Not Sorry at the Matthew Flinders Hotel this Friday (May 12). She will also be performing a few new songs that have yet to be recorded but hopes to add to her next EP. As for what to expect on the night: “It’s going to be just myself on piano so it’s going to be a very intimate performance.”
You can purchase tickets to Celeste’s single launch on the night for $12.
For more information go here.
Written by Jordyn Hoekstra