Interview by Erandhi Mendis
Naarm’s Mezz Coleman releases her anthemic single Lion today, sharing with Ramona the genesis of the indie pop track and how it meets her at her most honest.
Hi Mezz! So lovely to chat – where are you today?
Hi there! I’m at home today- I recently moved with my family into an old 1950’s house in Naarm’s west- we are slowly filling it with plants and books and making it home.
We are so excited to premiere your music at Ramona. Some of our readers would be familiar with you, but can you share a little bit about yourself and your musical journey?
Yes, for sure! Well, my name’s Mezz, and I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by music as a child and had lots of opportunities through school and community groups to try a bit of everything. Choirs, musicals, jazz ensembles, band camp (haha) – I did it all! After studying music straight after high school, I dabbled in being a “jazz singer” for a while, but I eventually realised that what made me feel most happy as a singer was singing my own pop songs and expressing myself that way. So I now focus mostly on my career as an indie-pop singer/songwriter, while sometimes still working as a session singer in other genres to pay the bills! I’m also mum to 2 teenagers (well almost, 17 and 12!) and a cute adopted staffy called Banjo!
Lion is out now, what inspired it and why was it important to create?
I wrote Lion about the tenacious love I feel for my family. I didn’t want it to sound cheesy, but basically it’s a “I’ll be there for you no matter what” kind of song. I wrote it after a period of time that had been quite difficult for me and my family, and I discovered through that experience that I possessed a fierce kind of loyalty that I didn’t know I had. I was drawn to the idea of being a Mother Lion- full of strength and at times, righteous fury! It felt important to write about this type of love, which is very different to the “falling in love” kind of love, or the gentle “mother’s love” we often hear about. I like the idea of a strong feminine energy that is powerful, loving, supportive and relentless. Not docile or soft.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt while making Lion – either professionally or personally?
Wow, every song teaches me something new! Writing Lion taught me to LISTEN. So often as creatives, we can be so obsessed with output and producing new material- and for me that looks like constantly singing, playing, and generally making a lot of noise! There is definitely value in working like that- but this chorus actually came to me in the stillness of the middle of the night, while all was quiet and I was left alone with my thoughts. I think sometimes the best thing we can do when trying to create is give ourselves some space to hear what is already there inside our heads.
Oh thankyou, that’s so lovely to hear! Yes, I wanted this song to have a real strength to it, but for the start to feel like someone prowling (a bit like a lion!) The track starts with almost nothing (just guitar and voice) but there is an intensity to it, which then grows into a bigger and bigger sound as the song moves forward. I wanted the song to have a feeling of strength, and I hope we created that.
As a (retired) cellist, I really enjoyed hearing strings as the song reaches a climax! How did that arrangement come about?
The strings were fairly last minute and I have my producer, Rohan Sforcina, to thank for that. I had booked some string players to come in and play on a few other songs (ballads) that we were recording. Rohan suggested that since we had string players in the studio he could whip up an arrangement for this song too. I hadn’t thought of strings for Lion, but once they came in and played it I knew we were onto something. The strings add to the fullness of the sound we were trying to create. I’m in love with what they bring to this song!
How does Lion differ from work you’ve previously put out?
I think I’ve just reached an age and stage in my career where I’m no longer interested in following certain trends and sounds, and I’m just making music that feels 100% aligned with who I am. I’ve definitely fallen into the trap of writing for a certain genre or audience before, even changing the tone of my voice to fit a vocal sound that was “trending.” In hindsight it was like putting a lid on my creativity and expression, it was very stifling. Lion feels pretty honest, true and unashamed- both musically and lyrically.
When you’re not writing and playing music what are your favourite things to do?
Honestly, I’m such a Nana! I love gardening, drinking lots of tea and watching British period dramas and murder mysteries. The sillier the better – Midsomer Murders is my favourite! Basically, while I love performing, working with other people and spending time with the people I love- deep down I’m an introvert and I love nothing more than being home and going slow.
And finally – what is coming up for you that you’re excited about this year?
I’ve spent the last few years recording new music, and am finally releasing some of it out into the world. It feels a bit scary sharing what I’ve been working on, but I also feel really ready to let it go, and super proud of what we have come up with. During the course of this year I’ll be releasing a few more songs and playing a couple of live shows along the way. I also recently bought a loop station, so I’m excited to figure out how to use it and add live vocal loops to my live set.