Montaigne 1280 x 720
CREDIT: Richard Freeman

You need to be full of confidence to name your moniker after one of the most significant philosophers of the French renaissance. 

But, as Jessica Cerro (of stage name Montaigne) looks around our studio today, there’s little doubt in her mind she made a poor decision. “GRAZIA have chosen a lot of really talented up-and-coming female musicians and to be amongst them affirms to me what I think I already know,” says Cerro. “I feel like I’m producing good music but this shows me that other people can back up that faith and I’m not just being an egotistical wanker.”

It’s an unashamed confidence without the arrogance; a certain type of assertive naivety that comes with being young. Why can’t we all be that sure of ourselves? Why can’t we dance with moves that make our limbs appear as though they’re bathed in ecstasy whilst mouthing off a vocabulary of someone 10 years our senior? At just 20-years-old, Cerro has substance and a lot to say. “I wanted to have the name of a philosopher so people would know I’m not just a vapid popstar,” she explains, sipping her chamomile tea. “I have an intellectual drive and a creative drive and I don’t just sit around all day and then sing some songs.”

Reading about essayist Michel de Montaigne in a book called The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton, Cerro became fixated with his ideologies and soon parked her earlier moniker “Seneca” in favour of the Frenchmen.

“I want to be known under a mononym because it tends to be more iconic, like Madonna.” 

There’s that confidence again. It appears, today, on the long list of garments and powerboards for hot tongs, that someone forgot to organise the chairs. So Cerro and I have set up (interview) camp on the wooden floor, the singer’s long legs sprawled in gym shorts and Doc Martens. It makes complete sense her styling notes read: “No skirts, dresses or heels, not afraid of a masculine look with a touch of femininity.

“Androgynous with inspirations from Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Bjork.”

Got it. Michael Lo Sordo, we need you!

MONTAIGNE 1280  X 720 COMP
CREDIT: Richard Freeman

But finding her natural aesthetic didn’t come easy. Born in Sydney in 1995, the singer says her weekends with her family were always filled with hip-hop and RnB from the 80s and 90s. “We always did chores on Saturdays and Sundays. It was a family thing,”  Cerro explains. “We would open up the whole house and just play this big playlist.” A self-confessed hippie just a few years ago, Cerro sported “very long and very curly, frizzy hair”.  She tried to give herself dreadlocks by not looking after it and an appointment to the hairdressers would mean two-and-a-half hours of combing matted locks. “In the end, they cut it short. My thing was that I wasn’t happy with way I looked and the way I was dressing. I just didn’t identity with it,” she says. “For the first time, I looked in to the mirror at my new short hair and thought, ‘this actually feels right.’” Little did she know then, it was the beginning of a by-trademark, second only to her voice.

Music to her was, as she says, an intrinsic attraction. In 2012, Cerro released her first EP, an indie pop offering titled Anyone But Me. While well received, she cleverly decided to finish her university studies before making music her full time career. She spent these years fine-tuning her songwriting and her genre – art pop. “I think that’s a fair description because it’s pop music but it’s not straightforward. It sounds different to the weirdly-produced voices on the radio today.” In 2014, she released her first single I Am Not An End and November of that same year came her debut EP Life Of Montaigne. Currently at commercial radio, Cerro’s distinctive voice features on Australian hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods’ 1955 single, the singer the true milkshake-sipping star of its music video.

This year though, listen for Montaigne. An album will drop mid-year and to tide you over, her current single, In The Dark, offers a taste of what’s to come. But in and amongst all of this, it’s the smallest things Cerro counts as career highlights. In what can only be described as fate, de Botton tracked her down recently with a note: “Hi Jess, one of my colleagues sent me an interview where you mentioned me. I’ve listened to your music and it’s really beautiful. I’m so glad to be a part of the process that has lead to you being you.”

And what a version it is. 

 

Montaigne’s single In The Dark is out now. Her album Glorious Heights is slated to drop August 5. She will tour Australia from September 13. See dates:

MONTAIGNE ‘BECAUSE I LOVE YOU’ TOUR DATES 

TUE 13 SEP | THE SPIEGELTENT @ BRISBANE FESTIVAL, BRISBANE QLD (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.brisbanefestival.com.au *On sale Thu 30 June

FRI 16 SEP | CARNIVAL OF FLOWERS, TOOWOOMBA QLD (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.tcof.com.au

FRI 23 SEP | FAT CONTROLLER, ADELAIDE SA

Tickets available from www.moshtix.com.au | 1300 GET TIX | All Moshtix Outlets

SAT 24 SEP | JACK RABBIT SLIMS, PERTH WA

Tickets available from www.ticketbooth.com.au

SAT 01 OCT | BEYOND FESTIVAL, CANBERRA ACT (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.beyondfestival.com.au

SUN 02 OCT | WILDWOOD FESTIVAL, PORT MACQUARIE NSW (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.wildwoodmusic.com.au

MON 03 OCT | CALOUNDRA MUSIC FESTIVAL, CALOUNDRA QLD (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.caloundramusicfestival.com

FRI 07 OCT | UNI BAR, WOLLONGONG NSW

Tickets available from www.moshtix.com.au | 1300 GET TIX | All Moshtix Outlets 

SAT 08 OCT | OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY NSW

Tickets available from www.moshtix.com.au | 1300 GET TIX | All Moshtix Outlets

SUN 09 OCT | LIZOTTES, NEWCASTLE NSW (ALL AGES)

Tickets available from www.lizottes.com.au | 02 4956 2066 

FRI 14 OCT | WORKERS CLUB, GEELONG VIC

Tickets available from www.oztix.com.au | 1300 762 545 | All Oztix Outlets

SAT 15 OCT | CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE VIC

Tickets available from www.cornerhotel.com | 1300 724 867

 

MONTAIGNE WEARS:MICHAEL LO SORDO, SENSEI CONCOON SHIRT, $550. SHOP NOWMICHAEL LO SORDO, WIDE LEG RELAXED TROUSER, $470. SHOP NOW8 OTHER REASONS, BABETOWN EARRINGS GOLD, $59. SHOP NOWNINE WEST, TATIANA, $149.95. SHOP NOW

CREW:
Photographer: Richard Freeman @freemanphoto

Styling: Charlotte Stokes @charliestokes

Hair: Kieren Street @kierenstreethair

Makeup: Elsa Morgan @elsamorgan

thoughts?