Inside the Mind of Montaigne

Image credit: Laura Semple
Image credit: Laura Semple

Sydney singer/songwriter Jess Cerro (Montaigne) chats to Sam Little about her debut album, life as a self-confessed music fanatic and… Donald Trump?

“It’s like Donald Trump, how he’s leading the polls and everyone’s like ‘why is this happening’, but at the same time it’s providing news and entertainment for people who want to just gasbag about how shit the state of the world is… So, Donald Trump, while awful and tragic, is not boring.”

There are just some things you can’t predict in an interview, and one of those is Jess Cerro’s (AKA Montaigne) description of the meaning behind her third single, ‘Because I Love You’, from her debut album ‘Glorious Heights’.

“I first wrote it from the perspective of myself being in the relationship at the beginning and thinking ‘this is new, this isn’t boring’, but throughout the song it develops into things not being… ideal.”

The line “this isn’t boring” is repeated throughout ‘Because I Love You’, evolving into something more sarcastic and almost tongue-in-cheek toward the end of the song.

The 21-year-old Sydney-sider, ever eloquent, chooses her words carefully as she describes the artistic process behind Glorious Heights and working with close friend and renowned producer Tony Buchen on the record.

“Tony and I have grown really close over the past year or two now, so that in combination with the fact that we’re just very well suited creatively just made it really fun and very, I suppose, easy as well.”

Buchen is famed for his work with an array of musicians including Bluejuice, Miami Horror, Ronan Keating and the John Butler Trio.

“I write very quickly when I’m comfortable… the songs are all written in about a day each; it was just really good fun [working with Tony].”

In between apologies for being ‘fluey’—and fair enough too after a massive set at Splendour in the Grass in July—Montaigne tells of how she branched out from her previous work.

“The influences were different; this album I sort of went in an ‘80s direction because I was listening to a lot of Talking Heads, and dabbling in other things like The Cure and Depeche Mode – a lot of new wave stuff.”

Though driven by Montaigne’s distinctive, powerful vocals, the record also has a very strong percussion presence in parts.

“Again, I listened to a lot of anthemic pop which is all very drum and percussion driven; I think that’s the stuff that makes a track really pop for people.”

“It’s part of how we feel the music and that’s why I think I’m very much drawn to the visceral, not so much the musically theoretical… that’s the bloody beat!”

Glorious Heights rises and falls so sharply throughout, as if it is the musical manifestation of a manic, rollercoaster-esque relationship where even the highs are tinged with a touch of melancholy.

The album kicks into gear straight away with the title track telling a tale of transformation.

“[Glorious Heights] is my favourite track off the album at the moment… it seeks to transform sadness into, not necessarily happiness, but of beauty.”

We then descend into the darkest corners of the mind of Montaigne with what was the eerie first single from the LP, ‘In The Dark’, before being shaken back to reality by ‘Till It Kills Me’ and what shall now be referred to as the ‘Donald Trump song’, ‘Because I Love You’.

“The album descends into this very dejected mode and then slowly builds its way back up because, in life, tragedy often hits without warning and it takes much longer to recover from it.”

In the latter half of the record, we’re treated to some slow-starting, slow-building heart-starters of which Gang of Youths would be proud.

In a fitting finale, Jess gives us one hell of a send-off with ‘I’m Behind You’, a track which, if it doesn’t leave you with goose bumps, you probably don’t have a pulse.

Jess brings ‘Glorious Heights’ to Adelaide on Friday 23rd September for All You Can Eat at Fat Controller and a limited number of tickets are still available.

The album  has just been released, so do yourselves a colossal favour; grab a copy and get ready for one hell of a quirky, triumphant, inspiring ride!

Image sourced from Semple Size

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