Words by Kate Lockyer
Australian songstress Eliott has released her debut LP today (August 11), and I’m here to tell you that it is full of emotionally-charged ballads and bops about life’s big feelings – heartbreak, grief, depression, anxiety, love and acceptance.
The 26-year-old has been cutting her teeth in the Australian music scene since her debut single Figure It Out in 2017 and has since released an EP, ‘Bold Enough’ and several more singles. She has also built up an enviable CV with tours supporting the likes of Dean Lewis and Matt Corby, and collaborations with Lucy Blomkamp (aka LUCIANBLOMKAMP) and The Kite String Tangle.
The first track, Only 25, taps into the reckoning that you have with yourself in your 20s – what are the parts of myself I want to hold onto, and what things in my life do I need to change? Her gentle voice, starkly vulnerable admissions, and ballad-style instrumentation with piano and strings brings to mind Holly Humberstone.
Eliott says: “I remember writing that song and it was just me and my friend Simon [Lam] in the studio. We probably wrote it in half an hour. We did some improv and he was playing piano and I was just singing at the top. And the lyrics that I was just singing just subconsciously came out – and they were the ones we used in the end.”
‘just calling to tell you i’m okay’s production was helmed by Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper) – additional work was done by Jack Grace, Hauskey, Simon Lam, and Dylan Nash – with Eliott working with a range of co-writers across the 12 tracks, including Hauskey, Nick Acquroff (NYCK), Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Xavier Dunn, Nash, Angie McMahon, Alexander Biggs, and Mélanie Pereira.
Hanging On features a steady beat throughout, perhaps in contrast to the uncertainty she expresses in the song. Eliott is facing the reality of a relationship on tenterhooks, pragmatically leaning into the small moments and not yet worrying about the future. She sings: “I’m not scared what they think about us / Because I know, we’re just giving it a go.” Her vocal high range in the chorus feels like the seeds of a dandelion floating in the wind, light, bright and effortless.
In Tell Me, Eliott calls on the wisdom of her mother to help her out off a dark period – “Cause I’m drinking too much / And I’m all out of touch / And I’m stumblin’ around in the dark”. The song starts out slow and confessional, as she breathes out her worst fears and insecurities with a low melody and smoky vocals. It soon bursts into an emotionally-charged chorus as an ascending melody line pleads: “Tell me mother, when will I what to do? / If I can’t keep up and I don’t want to get up this time”. The rising pitch, backed by a choir, heightens the desperation in Eliott’s plaintive but beautiful voice.
I Miss You All The Time features layered vocals that remind of the echo of all the times you have said those same words when missing someone – “I was yours, you were mine / And I miss you all the time / How can a body fit just like yours did mine?”. The track has quiet, subdued synth and acoustic guitar, a diary entry from someone in the thick of heartbreak. The next song, Happy On My Own, lingers on the same themes of heartbreak, though this time a duet with Vancouver Sleep Clinic tugs on the heartstrings as you imagine them both singing about not knowing how to move on without the other.
While some of the tracks date back to 2017/2018, most of the album was written after a formative period in 2020, including spending two months in Paris alongside producer Jack Grace. In the City of Light, with no pressure to write an album or produce a hit on her back, the songs for ‘just calling to tell you i’m okay’ appeared. “I didn’t really go over with the idea that I was writing an album,” says Eliott of that time. “That’s what made it so such a good trip was because there was no expectation. It was the first time in a long time when I just wrote, because it was what I loved to do. There was nothing I had to write for.”
With the pressure off, the songs came, and suddenly Eliott had the beginnings of what would evolve into just calling to tell you I’m okay. “I felt like I was falling in love with music again,” Eliott says. “I found the reason I started doing this in the first place.”
Control switches up the mood, the instrumentation immediately more on edge, as Eliott shares that she doesn’t know how to feel without her ex because “I needed you for the longest time / And it broke my heart trying to get it right”. Despite this, the higher energy in the song, and the bigger vocals, hints at the fact she is ready to accept that she can’t control her emotions and is ready to just ride the wave – “Do you know, it’s out of my control?” The rhythmic, repetitive chorus is perfect for singing along to.
Eliott has been drawn to songwriting since her earliest years in Cobram, Victoria, when she became obsessed with artists like Missy Higgins, Tim and Neil Finn, and the great Joni Mitchell – artists that she believes can distil entire lives into their words. Higgins’ ‘The Sound of White’ was particularly influential; she learned to harmonise while singing along in the car with her mum on the long drives to Melbourne.
Draw A Gun is an enigmatic allegory for her feelings of regret as she looks back on her relationship, at all the things that look different from retrospect. It took me a few listens to guess at whether Eliott is regretting the relationship, or just her bittersweet memories of it – really, it’s up to the listener. The lyrics circle from her first memories of calling the person, to her feeling of wanting to call them after reminiscing about them. The songs attracts me because it feels like an image printed on lenticular material, which changes as soon as you peer at it from a different angle. Every line of the lyrics adds a new nuance to what you think the song is about. “Like a flower in a footpath / Like a rainbow in a fountain / Like the stairs to your apartment, kinda feeling like a mountain.”
For Oli is a compassionate, heartrending song to a lost friend, remembering the treasured memories and promising to “leave the light on all night until you come home”. It is a reminder to make the most of the time that you have with those close to you, sung soft and tremulously.
Energy is a serious but catchy comment on the energy we spend comparing ourselves to the people on social media – truly a song of our times. The next song, Here Again, is about releasing those inhibitions and being your true self with your friends. Even if sometimes we might stay out a little too late, “in the morning we’ll be fine”.
Percussive beats, like rapping on a door, is the first thing you hear in Oh My Heart, and it continues throughout the song, as if to affirm Eliott will keep showing up, knocking on our door, doing her best. Eliott repeats the mantra, “I’m doing my best just trying to survive”. “That song was an ode to friends and my family that I’m still here,” she says. “And I’m doing the best that I can.” Another catchy bop that serves a dose of inspiration alongside.
At the end of the record we arrive at Just Fine, an uplifting track that recounts her process as she emerges into a new mindset – talking with her mother, getting professional help, and going for walks. The instrumentation is brighter and brassier, leaving me tapping my foot and smiling. This is the conversation she’s having with herself, Eliott says, that you’ll be just fine. That everything will be okay. “I wanted to start the album with this particular time when I was completely broken,” she says. “I was a broken person. I didn’t really know what hope I had or what future I had. You hear that throughout the album. By the end, it’s like ‘you’re gonna be okay’, ‘you’re gonna be fine’.”
ELIOTT ALBUM LAUNCH SHOWS
Sat August 12 – Northcote Social Club – Melbourne
Sat August 19 – The Lansdowne – Sydney
Listen to ‘just calling to tell you i’m ok’ HERE!
With thanks to Universal Music Australia