Sydney Jazz Pop artist Briana Cowlishaw, has released her new album Paper Mache City, which she is currently touring across Australia. The young artist has a unique creative flair and was influenced by the likes of Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor.

Incredibly, Cowlishaw will be on a plane a short twelve hours after her last gig on this tour and will head to Malaysia to perform at the “Urbanscapes” Arts Festival.

Cowlishaw leaves no stone unturned and has ambitious dreams to compose music for a film and hire a van and tour the USA in the old school way. Somehow, I think she’ll reach her goals and beyond.

Music News caught up with the lovely Briana to discuss her love of music and the difficulties of organising a tour.

Music News - When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?

When I was in High School, I loved music but was pretty daunted by the idea of actually making a career out of it. In year 12, I realised there was nothing else I could imagine myself doing, so singing and music it was. However, the real click happened when I was actually studying a Bachelor of Music at The Australian Institute of Music in Sydney. About a year into the course when l started actually composing music, I felt this fire ignite in my belly that said, ‘YES... I want this REALLY BAD!’

Music News - You just released your latest single Paper Mache City; can you tell me about that? What inspired the song?

The latest single is the title track of my new album ‘Paper Mache City’. The song is basically my personal description of how I see New York City and the experience I had living there both in the winter of 2012 and summer of 2010. New York attracts such a diverse range of people, art, music, literature, food and so many different cultures, all of which are the cream of the crop! I felt like the luckiest person to be living in Manhattan. The particular day that inspired this song was the first day it snowed since I had jumped off the plane in. I was so damn excited to feel snow fall on my face that I burst out laughing in the middle of the street, to which a complete stranger asked me ‘What are you so happy about?’. These words became the first couple of lyrics for the song and the rest just flew out of me :)

Music News - I understand that you wrote your latest album in New York City. How did the city inspire you?

I wrote two songs for this album in Australia before I left for New York, and the remainder of the album I wrote while I was there. The stories I tell in my music are very much inspired by New York, most evidently through the creativity and freedom the city seems to bless me with. I can’t stop going back there, because every time I go, I am able to step back from my everyday life, and see the world from a different angle; THAT is what helps me write music. I guess you could do that anywhere in the world, but thus far for me, New York is the place that brings out my most innovative and adventurous side... and I love that!

The production, recording, mixing and mastering of the album were also extremely effected by what is being produced in New York at the moment. There is a huge singer/songwriter scene over there, with a large number of these musicians coming from a jazz background. This means there is a healthy and existing genre of jazz influenced pop music, a genre which doesn’t seem to really exist yet (at a large scale) in Australia. This new album ‘Paper Mache City’ very much adopted this same jazz/pop crossover feel to it and it was my intention to try and create an album that both had integrity in my eyes but could also appeal to a larger more main stream audience. Quite a challenge really

Music News - Which artists have influenced you?

My story telling has been very much influenced by Joni Mitchell. My style of songwriting has been inspired by James Taylor, The Beatles, Becca Stevens and Alan Hampton (two great young composers living in New York). My approach as a vocalist comes from listening to Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Elis Regina and Chet Baker. The rest is mystery to me! ha-ha

Music News - If you could perform with anyone, either living or passed, who would it be?

Can I pick 2 people? Well here I go...
1) I would love more than anything to sing a duet with songwriter/guitarist James Taylor.
2) I would die to sing a ballad duo with the great jazz pianist Bill Evans.

Music News - You’re about to tour with our six-piece band across Australia. Can you tell me about that?

I am currently in the middle of a 9 date album launch tour around Australia. We have performed in Perth, Katoomba (Blue Mountains), Canberra and are yet to play in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart (Tasmania) and Newcastle in the next couple of weeks. It’s been pretty crazy to organise the whole thing myself, a lot of work and what feels like 5 full time jobs! But it is so worth the effort, as every time the band and I get up on stage in a new city in front of a new audience, it’s such an amazing experience. It is such a unique and warming thing to share your music with a new group of people, telling them all your stories and becoming vulnerable as a musician and person over and over again. I love it.

Music News - What can people expect to see when they come to one of your shows?

Well, you can definitely expect to hear some stories about my life and the people in it! I am a pretty honest performer and very much talk to my audience like they are my friends, hanging out in my living room. It makes me feel more comfortable to do that and it is proving through experience that the audience also enjoy when I take that approach! :)

I am attracted to quirky sounds so my band tends to experiment a lot with their individual instruments and effects, totally encouraged by me! I love improvising and being in the moment, so there is a lot of freedom and spontaneity in our performances. We always play the songs I have written, they just come out a little differently every show... the way I like it!

Music News - What are your career goals?

I don’t so much like setting longer term goals for my career, as I am definitely a believer of ‘whatever comes your way... go with it!’. I love completing short term projects and then finding a new project to jump in to head first.
One thing I definitely want to do is continue building is my international touring career. I am a huge lover of travel and an even bigger lover of music (obviously), so touring in a band is kind of the best it gets for me! I have begun building a touring circuit in Asia with both my band and a multimedia arts project I am in called ‘The Wires Project’. My next targets are Europe and America.... Europe first I think.

Before I die I want to have: 1) Headlined a large European Jazz Festival, 2) Composed a really great pop album (& gotten one of my songs into the Top 40 charts), 3) Recorded an album of Brazilian music in Portuguese (a language which I am yet to learn haha), 4) Hired a van and toured USA old school style with my band .. road trip! 5) Compose music for film, television and possibly an orchestra!
OK, maybe I should slow down……

Music News - Anything you would like to share, from upcoming shows to albums?

I am currently writing music like crazy, there is so much new music flowing out of me at the moment! I want to record these new songs with my band in Australia next year and take them on a tour at the end of 2014. I’ll let you know where we will tour to when I know!

Apart from that, I leave on a plane for South East Asia again, less than 12 hours after my last gig of the tour (22nd Nov). I am heading over to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to perform at the ’Urbanscapes’ Arts Festival (Nov 23) with multimedia arts project ‘The Wires Project’. We are a group of 4 musicians who improvise live on stage to a projected video, in front of thousands of people. It is pretty exhilarating! ‘The Wires Project’ have plans to hold a 3 week exhibition at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Singapore mid 2014, so we will also be networking and meeting our Asian collaborators over there on this trip in November. Very exciting!

The film clip for the fun, upbeat lead single, Paper Mache City was filmed live at Venue 505 in Sydney. You can view the clip here:


Photo by: Kate Davis