Special Interview: Shelley Segal

theaussieword.com catches up with the very talented Shelley Segal.
What can you tell our readers about you? How and where did it all begin?

I’m a singer songwriter, guitarist and performer. I’ve been singing since I was 3 years old.

My father was a musician, a singer and a violinist who had a Jewish Function band. I started performing with them at weddings and bar-mitzvahs when I was 11. That’s how I learned to sing and perform.

What had you first interested in music?

Probably being around live music all the time. I remember doing my homework at my dad’s band rehearsals, getting up to sing a song, then going back to work. The year I started performing with the wedding band was the same year I started writing my own music. Expressing myself through music became completely natural to me at a young age and it’s stuck.

Who motivates or influences your quest to make great music?

My family have definitely influenced my quest to make great music. My dad comes from a line of classical string players. A lot of my friends who are musicians have inspired me as well. It’s great to be able to perform alongside the people you love and make music together.

My favourite artists have motivated me by being great role models of what is possible, in particular, Ani Difranco, Alanis Morissette, Kate Bush, Jewel. I am also inspired to write moving and engaging music for music lovers. I think growing up performing at people’s functions and seeing the positive impact that music can have inspires me as well.

Your forthcoming tour will see you perform six dates, where, when and what can we expect from your live show?

The tour is in Feb/March and will include shows in Hobart, Launceston, Ballarat, Brisbane, Melbourne and Lismore. My live show is a very intimate experience. I play solo guitar and vocals. Besides singing my guts out I like to talk and share stories with the audience about my songs and my life and try give as much of myself as possible.

You’ve also announced a two month US tour.  Where are you heading, how many gigs and what are some of the expected highlights that you can tell us about?

At the moment I have 13 dates but we are still booking more in. So far, I am heading to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Boston, Lowell and Washington DC. One gig I am very excited to play is a conference in DC called ‘Women in Secularism.’ There I will get to meet a lot of my favourite speakers and activists who have inspired me over the years. I will also be going to SXSW while I am in Austin.

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

As an artist I want to be independent and be able to spend my life making as much music as I can. I want to expand in my song writing and performing and musicianship. I think my biggest goal is to create music that impacts and resounds with people. I know how special that has been in my life and it is so great to give that to somebody else and to be a part of the chain of musical expression.

What can fans expect from you in the coming months?

I’ll be on tour so I’ll be documenting the shows, the people I meet and my experiences along the way, which should be fun. I’ll also be coming back to Australia with a new release in June! Aaaand I am starting my own podcast. It’s going to be about independent learning, extremely varied and unfamiliar subjects and still with a focus on music.


Success, what is the secret to it and what has been your biggest career highlight so far?

I think there are a few things that when lined up, can make all the difference. The first is a passion, dedication and love for music that will get you through when things aren’t so great. The rest is a fantastic team. When you are surrounded by people that are dedicated and passionate about what they do, when you are working together in a way that ensures everybody is gaining, that’s when the magic happens.

The highlight of my career so far: It’s hard to choose as so many special moments come to mind. Some of the best moments have been singing in house concerts to less than 10 people, or just hearing from someone what your song meant to them. One stand out event was last March at the Reason Rally. It was a secular rally on the national mall in Washington DC. I opened for my heroes like Richard Dawkins, Tim Minchin, Lawrence Krauss and Jamila Bey. There were 30,000 people there, the whole day, standing in the rain. It was an incredible atmosphere and I will never forget it.


Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?

I’m inspired by people who are passionate about what they do. I like so many different artists as well. From Eminem to Beyonce, to Fiona Apple. One of my biggest heroes is Ani Difranco. She has been independent for her whole career, she is fearless and puts her world-view into her music so powerfully, it’s impossible to not consider what she is saying. Now she has her own label and supports other artists as well.

How would you best describe you and your music to your fans?

I am like my music I think. Honest and full of life and joy. I can be serious sometimes but I can also be funny. Most of all I enjoy communicating and interacting with people. I think that all those things come across in my personality and I hope in my writing and performance as well.


You’re releasing a dual album.  What made you want to release TWO albums at the same time?

I perform, write and record across a broad range of genres. I sing reggae, pop, folk, jazz, blues, electronic music. I know that’s something I’m going to keep doing and I feel like this double release will reflect that.

One album is titled AN ATHEIST ALBUM and the other LITTLE MARCH, touted as a jazz album.  They sound very different!  Which of the two would you pick as your fave child and why?

Nooo! That’s way too hard haha. I can’t choose. It’s like a parent with many children. You can’t love one any more than the other. I’m so happy and proud of both of them for different reasons. AN ATHEIST ALBUM is a themed album that discusses my world-view from a significant time in my life, when I became an atheist and began to value critical thinking. It is very assertive and has a full band behind it. LITTLE MARCH is a collaborative project with US guitarist and singer songwriter Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman). It’s a very intimate jazzy record with minimal instrumentation. I enjoy the delicateness of it.


Your album title very much asserts your viewpoint on religion.  Was this your sole intention behind the naming?  Do you think it may scare some people off, despite the content being very inoffensive?

I had several intentions behind the naming of my album. One was asserting my viewpoint as that was one purpose of the album itself, expressing an atheist perspective. I also want to normalize atheism. The fact that just having the word in the title will turn people off shows that the concept is misunderstood. Atheism holds such negative connotations. I want to combat that by associating it with something positive like art, music and creativity.

Your Father is the president of the East Melbourne Synagogue.  How does this clash with your strong beliefs?

It’s not so much a clash as just where I have come from. My father and I love, respect and support each other. I understand where he’s coming from because I was there. He understands where I’m coming from because he has been there with me through my journey. While there is much we disagree on, we are able to focus on areas in which our world-views and goals converge. We both want to lessen suffering. We both want people to be able to live according to their values, free from discrimination. I don’t want institutionalised atheism. I’m anti-doctrine. I want secularism -a separation of church and state that will protect everybody’s freedoms equally.


The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?

Hopefully still doing what I am doing now. Touring at home and overseas, releasing albums, writing in all different genres while growing and maintaining a relationship with my fans. I would like to be able to have a regular band that I can travel with and build an onstage rapport. At the moment my show is solo, which I adore and will never leave but it would be great to be able to add the energy of a live band as well. Also, I’ll hopefully be able to shred in a few years. J Improving my guitar playing has been a big focus the last while.

Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.

I love Katie Noonan! Vanessa Amorosi, Sia, Kate Miller-Heidke, Sarah Blasko, Matt Corby, Humans as Animals, Hiatus Kaiyote, Beth King, Khristian Mizzi, Kimbra, Lester the Fierce. Lauren Glezer. We have an awesome music scene.

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?

I feel like the industry has changed for the better in many ways. The opportunities afforded to artists in getting their music out there are endless and mostly free. Artists are now part of a global market and more able to sustain themselves in a small niche than if they were limited to their local market. I feel as though my reach is unlimited and I can keep exploring, discovering new ways to connect with billions of people and retain my independence.

Thank you for the interview! What can you leave fans of theaussieword.com with here today?

To fans of theasussieword.com: Thanks heaps for supporting local original music. You make it possible. Also, I like to tell people that music is really accessible and if you want to play, it’s never too late to start.

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