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tunesday – a chat with stephanie cherote

tunesday – a chat with stephanie cherote

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The singer-songwriter tells us about her time living abroad (as well as in a remote cabin) and enlisting members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra to play on her debut record.

If you’re in the market for moody folk music and romantic orchestral arrangements, you’ve certainly come to the right place. Northern Rivers muso Stephanie Cherote has released her debut album, Some Holy Longing, and it’s chock-full of hauntingly beautiful tunes, if we do say so ourselves. Keep scrolling to read about how the record came to be.

How long have you been working on Some Holy Longing and how does it feel to be releasing it into the world? It has been a few years, but throw in a pandemic and some resistance to finishing the record and there’s a few lifetimes. I feel very well-quenched about releasing Some Holy Longing, particularly at this moment in time. It feels more relevant than ever in the sense that it echoes the personal bewilderment and existential questions we are all sifting through.

What’s your favourite track from the album and why? The experience I had when writing “Faces” was one of those rare writing moments where it feels like you’re sailing on a sea of unpolluted thoughts. The immediacy and frankness of the lyrics incited a conversational melody for the verses and that allowed for a chorus that could pick up the pieces and soar. It was a particularly satisfying songwriting experience.

You moved to Los Angeles in your mid-twenties after winning a songwriting competition. What did you get up to while you were there and what did you learn? I didn’t have a car so I was on foot a lot (clearly, I didn’t know the first thing about living in LA). I was going to songwriting sessions, working a day job, trying to grasp the city. I never really found my stride there, spent a lot of time looking for the irony in the place and in the people. I did learn to let my guard down and find the humour in the absurdity of so many things. I was living there with a couple of my dearest friends who were much more comfortable with the high-octane frequency of LA.

You also lived in New York, as well as a remote cabin in New South Wales. What brought you to these places and how did they impact your music? I’ve never been a planner when it comes to travelling or living in different places. I suppose a yearning and an impulsive dash have intersected at certain times for me to find myself in these places.

I think life in the remote cabin was a much-needed pause after living in New York. Many of the songs on this album were written in New York; I was on a wave and shaping big chunks of the songs just by being there. Then, there came a time when I wanted to be quietly immersed in the songs and refine them before going into a studio to record, so I ended up in the cabin.

Describe your sound in five words. Dark. Wood. Sea. Mountains. Warm.

Tell us about the crowdfunding campaign you initiated. The record was made thanks to the contributions people made during a three-month crowdfunding campaign. I was terrified about starting the campaign; showing up on social media and basically asking for financial backing from friends, family and peers. It was one of the preliminary jumps I had to take when I set out to make the record. I received a lot of support, I raised the money I’d set out raise and learnt a lot about peoples’ desire to play a part in someone else’s artistic fulfilment.

What inspired you to bring in a 12-piece orchestra for the album? The songs spelt it out. I was wanting to record them in a way that would feel like they were born from a very quiet and solemn interior, intimate and minimal, just myself and guitar. When I started demoing, however, I felt a contrasting counterpart was necessary to create perspective within the recordings. In metaphorical terms, I wanted a large brooding storm hovering in and around this smaller, contained space. I’d also listened to so much of Lee Hazelwood, Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach’s music. They were masters at bringing orchestral largeness into productions that were essentially pop and folk songs.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t taken the musical path? I wouldn’t want to know! I’ve worn some different hats along the way with work and study and I’ve mostly felt like an imposter. I think you walk the path you want to walk when you pave it yourself.

What’s next for you? I’m excited to be playing some support shows in June for a wonderful Melbourne artist, Didirri, and I’ll be releasing a special vinyl edition of Some Holy Longing in July. Woohoo!