She was probably the most ‘grassroots’ of all contenders on this year’s The Voice. The pretty girl with the long red hair and porcelain face who sang, quite frankly, like an angel.
Since making it into the talent show’s Top 4, Celia Pavey has released the expected ‘journey’ album. What we didn’t expect, though, is that the girl who sang traditional folk songs like Scarborough Fair and Edelweiss would go on to deliver very intriguing versions of songs from The Gorillaz and Ellie Goulding.
Antonino Tati chats with Celia about the art of the alternative cover version, and the importance of staying true to your roots.
Being on The Voice must have been quite a whirlwind of an experience for you. Is it good to stop, breathe, and look back now?
Yeah, it was a bit of a whirlwind. It was very hectic, and a very different atmosphere for me. I just came back to Sydney from being in my hometown of Forbes [New South Wales], and it was really good to go back there and look back on it all, and think about it while enjoying the fresh air.
You performed a lot of covers on The Voice, which is par for the course on the show, but you really impressed audiences with your own material. Are you itching to get more original material recorded and released?
It was good fun doing covers, and cover work is really good for artists to practise, but I was really excited to get one of my own composition’s on there. And I can’t wait to do more of that.
Was putting together your first album a rushed affair?
It’s more of a journey the debut album, featuring songs from the show and a couple of extra songs. The new single, Believe Me [an Ellie Goulding cover] is also on there, Moonshadow by Cat Stevens, and Feelgood Inc by The Gorillaz.
Feelgood Inc is quite an interesting choice…
Yeah, I’m really excited about that one. It’s just a song that I love doing myself. I love the chorus of that song and I wanted to lace a melody into the verses, so I had lots of fun with that.
Folk and balladry are what you excel singing in. Did you grow up listening to these style of music?
My parents usually played folky music. We have an Irish background so when I was little we would watch The Riverdance and that sort of stuff. I learnt the violin for about nine years, and that was a very Irish influence there. I remember my parents playing a lot of Simon & Garfunkel and Fleetwood Mac, and I love that sort of folky vibe.
Do you look forward to mixing up the genres even more – taking pop tracks and turning them into different styles?
Well in my career, I probably won’t do any pop or hip-hop songs but I will take worldly influences from other genres: Latin American, for example; just something interesting. We’ll see what happens.
But surely you wouldn’t want people to strictly pigeon-hole you and say, ‘Well here comes the hippy chick again’. What will you be doing to break that mould; to prove you are able to traverse music genres?
I suppose as an artist you need to have a certain amount of diversity, but being your own artist, you have to stay with what you can do best. I love to write folk music and I think it’s a beautiful sound, so for now that’s what it’s all about. I suppose in the future I’ll explore different things but we’ll see what happens.
On the show your boyfriend was put under the limelight. Can you see a relationship and family coinciding with a music career?
For me, marriage is a bit far off, but I think I can balance being a musician and having another life as well. My boyfriend Hugo is a musician, too, and we play music together so that works as well. And people in my family, like my sister and my mother – we’re all musicians, so it’s good to have those sort of people around me.
Do you think you might incorporate some of your family’s talents into your own records?
Definitely – especially my sister, and Hugo.
What would you have been doing this past year if you weren’t on The Voice?
I would probably have been studying at the Australian Institute of Music in Surry Hills [in Sydney]. It’s an incredible college and I would have probably have been there.
Surry Hills seems like the perfect suburb for you to nurture your art; lots of pubs playing live music…
Yeah, I’d be very comfortable doing gigs there. And I know the area quite well now.
How do you feel when you hear iconic live venues are closing down? Does it feel that a part of Sydney’ inner-city artistic vibe is dying?
Yeah, I suppose it does; live music is having it harder these days.
From small venues to being on the international stage, so to speak, being on The Voice inevitable leads to being widespread on the internet. Did that kind of instantaneous broad visibility blow you away?
It did. I remember when I looked on the iTunes chart and saw my name there, sitting at number four, it was a weird feeling for me. It was very unique and it felt very special. Being on The Voice was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every second of being on that stage.
Was there anything about being in the show that got you down? Any contestants who might have peeved you off at the start?
[Laughs] No, not really. It was quite surprising how we were all really quite comfortable with each other. If anything everyone was so warm with each other.
You don’t feel even the coaches might have played favourites? Even you might have got special attention from Delta in the beginning…
I did feel a connection with Delta right at the beginning. But everyone in the Top 4, I think there was an initial connection with their coach that they could feel. The coaches managed to connect with everyone in general really well.
What’s your favourite thing, Celia, about making music?
My favourite thing is the feeling I get when I sing. It’s just a very special feeling that I can’t really explain. I just love what I do, and it’s all about the love for the music.
Is it surreal hearing yourself in a recorded format? Hearing those words echo-ing back?
Yeah, it is surreal, especially hearing my songs professionally recorded and delivered through iTunes, for example. I’ve never had the opportunity before to have my stuff professionally recorded. I have friends who’ve had really cool recording gear, and we’ve had lots of fun with that, but I’ve never been in a professional recording studio before all this.
Finally, for anyone thinking of entering a talent show like The Voice, what advice could you give them?
When you enter something like this, you have to know who you are as an artist, or at least who you want to be. You have to believe in yourself, stand your ground, and be strong.
Celia Pavey’s ‘journey album’, This Music, is available on CD through Universal Music. Both the album and first single, Believe Me, are also available on iTunes.