“Colourful. Emotional. Personal.” That’s how Vera Blue – whose real name is Celia Pavey – describes her highly-anticipated sophomore album Mercurial. It’s been five years since the Australian star blessed us with a full body of work but behind-the-scenes a transformation – both personal and creative – has been in the works.
After a break up that inspired her first album Perennial, the award-winning artist struggled with writer’s block and later received a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. As Vera Blue tells me in a candid interview, “intense emotions” are a “superpower,” and she embraced all of the messiness for a powerful and cathartic new album. Something she hopes will inspire her listeners both via the sound waves and from the stage in her upcoming Australian tour. Here she joins GRAZIA to discuss her evolution.
GRAZIA: This album has been a long time coming. How are you feeling in the lead up to the release?
Vera Blue: “Eager for it to be out into the world and now I can get on stage and the sing the songs. It’s just been a long time coming. There have been a lot of delays and lots of writer’s block. I’m really happy I had the time to get the last few songs in. They’re amazing songs that I’m really proud of that probably wouldn’t have been written if I had put out the album earlier.”
Like you just mentioned, prior to writing this new album you suffered from writer’s block and a diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Can you recall the breakthrough moment? When could you breathe a sigh of relief and move on?
VB: “That was something that… having songs written was like a sigh of relief. I could feel when I was in the studio working on these songs and getting these emotions out and talking about them, it was really healing. Being in the room with Andy and Tom – my creatives – I felt so safe with them. I was able to say whatever I wanted, feel whatever I wanted and that they also could feel that too. We created something that was of that emotion which is amazing.
“It was really hard and there were lots of ups and downs – there always are and always will be – but a lot of it came from time and learning. The time to understand myself and understand my emotions and know how to work with them and live with them and nurture myself. It’s super empowering too because lots of people go through the same thing and make it relatable. You can connect with them and feel like you’re not alone.”
A massive part of mental health is being able to speak about it. When you have someone like yourself that’s so open about it is really powerful for your fans.
VB: “There were lots of moments on the album too where I would say something that I wouldn’t normally say or I would sing a certain way or use my voice in a different way. There were lots of things that were really experimental and I think that came from being fearless in the studio and wanting to evolve. There was a natural progression of sounds and with the way that I used my voice. Sometimes I would say ‘F**k’ or say ‘S**t’ and that’s all I wanted to say in that moment.”
Your sophomore album was meant to serve as this reinvention of sorts. In hindsight what does this album mean to you now?
VB: “This album means… gosh it’s everything. It has so many different colours and shades and emotions and it’s like a rollercoaster. When we were putting song list together I almost didn’t have any rules to where I wanted to place the songs. I wanted it to be messy and I wanted it to be all over the place because that’s what ‘Mercurial’ means: a sudden shift of emotions and a state of mind. I’m so proud of how it’s turned out because it really signifies all of the different parts of me and all of the things I’ve been through and the places I’ve been. I really hope people can feel that way too.”
Sonically how does this album differ to your first?
VB: “There’s a few different sounds. My voice has so many different shades. There’s a couple of songs that I use my voice in a more powerful way like in ‘Lethal’ and ‘Feel Better’ and there’s a real confidence. Maybe that comes from touring a lot and using my voice different on stage, or maybe it was more harnessing that particular emotion in the song. Andy, my producer, he might say, ‘I want you to sing it and really feel it’, or, ‘actually think about what you’re saying’. Then we come up with this magic of whatever tone it is, is speaking with what the emotion is.
“There’s also lots of different hybrid sounds of live and electronic drums, a lot more ‘80s synths which we really loved. I love all those ‘80s music sounds, there’s something about it. Also a couple of upbeat [tracls] but keeping within that world of swelling ballads and the massively stacked vocals. It’s a bit of everything and I love it.”
And are there any lessons you’ll carry throughout your career?
VB: “That’s a really good question. I think the biggest thing I learnt from that period of time – from the end of Perennial to now – is that emotion and mental health, meeting new people and relationships; going through all of those really intense emotions, you start to learn that it is a superpower. Having those emotions and not wanting to dampen. If you lose control and it affects the people around you then you have to bring it in. But if you can feel those emotions and harness them is really powerful. It’s ok to feel those emotions.”
In a previous interview with GRAZIA you said that Perennial is split into three chapters. Like a book. Does this album have a similar structure?
VB: “When I first started putting the album together, I over thought it. The same happened with Perennial where I had to go to Andy and Tom and ask, ‘Do you have an opinion on this?’. And they did for Perennial. It’s hard to see when you’re in it. It was hard to work out what made sense and what didn’t. They see a different perspective.”
An incredible part of your presence is your style. Who or what are you inspired by?
VB: “I’ve always loved colour, prints and different shapes. Tulles, big sleeves. I’ve worked with Jana Bartolo for many years now – since The Voice – and we had the same eye but she pushes me into directions that I’ve never worn before. It’s really amazing to be able to collaborate and wear Australian designers like Leo & Lin or Alice McCall. And I’ve been able to wear designers like Gucci which is an honour.
What do you look for in the perfect performance look?
VB: “It’s one of the most fun parts of being able to create something that will be up on stage. [Something] that catches the light and sparkles or shimmers – that has movement. I love to spin around on stage and dance.”
You return to the stage later this year. Can you describe the feeling you get when performing?
VB: “What I love most about it is that I’m not by myself. I’m in a room with people who are singing the words back to me or are feeling the emotion that I’m feeling. Often after I finish a tour I feel, as well as being really elated, really drained and exhausted because I’ve given everything that I’ve got for months on that stage. No matter where I am or stage I’m on it will always be everything in that moment. You’re connecting with these people, they’re feeling what you’re feeling. They’re songs that mean something to them. It’s also just fun. I love my band. It’s a form of expression that I really need.”
What do you hope people take from this album?
VB: “I hope they make their own stories and their own way of relating to these songs. Hopefully it will allow people to understand that emotions aren’t a negative thing. In whatever way they will come and they will go and it’s how you see those emotions and whether you turn them into a superpower or want to crumble. It’s learning about emotions and dealing with them and allowing them to be big if you need them to be.”
Mercurial from Vera Blue is out now. Book tickets for her upcoming tour, here.