Special Interview: Just Shy

Just Shy stops by #TheAussieWord for a chat with Brian Peel.

How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?

I’ve always been a huge pop music fan, and dabbled in songwriting as a teenager. I moved from Sydney to Melbourne in 2017 and I think the change of city – being in Minogue Metropolis, probably – inspired me to kick things into gear!

What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?

I love the challenge of piecing a song together. It’s a bit like working on a jigsaw puzzle without the reference image of what you’re trying to create, which makes eventually landing on the end result all the more fun and surprising! Of course, seeing a song resonate with people – particularly in a live setting – is such a wonderful gratification, too.

What are some of your biggest goals you hope to accomplish?

This definitely goes against the principles of manifestation, but I prefer not to think too much about long-term goals, and just have fun along the way. Having said that, I’m really keen to perform live more frequently and hopefully build my audience organically that way!

What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?

This year’s big focus for me is on releasing new music. In 2021 and 2022 I managed to release one track per year – they’re both bangers, if I do say so myself – but this year I’m keen to build more momentum through more consistent releases. Hopefully that’ll be complemented by plenty of live performances – whether that culminates in a tour, I’m not sure!

Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?

I just released a track called Silhouette. It’s a big, sexy, very gay dance-pop track that’s all about the exhilaration that comes from actively deciding to lean into a big night out. This track is probably the boldest one I’ve released so far, but it’s definitely a reflection of my broader sound in terms of the focus on memorable melodies and evocative lyrics.

Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?

I’m definitely a topliner rather than a producer, so I start with lyrics and melody. I’m always noting down lyrics that pop into my head, which I try to group by theme or mood to have a big repository of ideas when I sit down to flesh something out. When that happens I’ll usually work up a huge number of melodies, and then mix and match them with different lyrical ideas to see what works – again, that jigsaw analogy feels quite pertinent!

Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music? 

I don’t think so! My first few releases were probably a little bit more alluding or mysterious, but I think I’ve learned that direct expression is the most fun – and it also tends to resonate best with listeners.

Success, what is the secret to it?

From my limited experience, I think being a larger-than-life version of yourself is the ticket. I try to apply that lens across every aspect of my music: writing, recording vocals, performing, and social media. Authenticity is key, of course, but pushing myself to find that extra something special helps me get more confidence and ultimately satisfaction out of what I do.

What has been your biggest career highlight so far?

My first ever live show was a huge thrill. My collaborator Boyd Kelly and I did a show upstairs at the Gaso early last year, and it was such a fun time to be in a room full of friends celebrating our music. Getting playlisted by Popjustice – an arbiter of taste I’ve followed since I was a teenager – was also an amazing moment!

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?

As a huge pop nerd and a gay I’m going to revert to stereotype and name all my favourite big pop girls: Kylie and Madonna. I think they demonstrate the importance of persistence and hard work – and of course, they both have bulletproof catalogues of incredible pop music.

Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

I’ve got a few more songs ready to release throughout this year, culminating in an EP release; I’m also hoping to find some time in the next couple of months to get to work on writing some new stuff!

The music industry is constantly changing, where do you see yourself a few years?

Who knows! As long as I’m enjoying myself, releasing new music and able to perform it in a live setting I’ll be happy.

What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?

I absolutely love the start and end of the creative process: creating a song out of thin air, and then being able to bring it to life in a live setting. I find the social media aspect challenging; it’s not really in my nature to want to share every aspect of my life, and I think social media can exacerbate some self-critical, self-conscious tendencies I have. I’m trying to find my own ways of managing that, though, but I don’t think it’ll ever be something I love.

Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.

The Minogues are our most valuable national asset. There are so many incredible smaller acts that deserve way more attention, though: Tanzer, Huntly, Claire Knight, Max Lawrence, Charley and Josef Salvat to name but a few!

The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?

As much as I’d love to believe in the “build it and they will come” approach, it doesn’t apply in 2023. For me, social is a hugely important avenue in getting exposed to new audiences and keeping them engaged. I’m still figuring out the balance between that social presence being music-led versus personality-led – I guess both have an important role to play.

How will you continue appealing to the international market?

I’ve always been a huge fan of British pop, so I think there’s quite a British sensibility to a lot of my songwriting – acts like Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys and Goldfrapp are among my biggest inspirations. Because of that I think my music tends to resonate quite well in that market. Apart from that I don’t pay much attention to the geographic spread of my audience, to be honest!

Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?

I’ve had such a fantastic time collaborating with my friends Boyd Kelly. We’ve done two tracks together so far – Mirrorball and Hula Hoop Girl – and I love them both. Hopefully we’ll do some more stuff together down the track. I’ve also done some work with PRODUCT, an electro artist based in Adelaide.

I’d love to write for other acts at some stage – it’d be so incredible to see something I wrote performed by an amazing female pop-star!

What advice do you give for other artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

First, start. Second, keep going!

A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your followers and fans?

I’m so grateful to anyone who takes the time to listen to my music and come on the journey as things evolve! I’m reasonably active across Instagram and Twitter.

Any last words?


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