If you think Lorde is the only young female kiwi rising to the top right now, you clearly haven’t heard of Christchurch singer-songwriter Theia (Em-Haley Walker).
Since releasing her debut single Roam in August last year, Theia has toured alongside New Zealand heavyweights Broods and Kings, taken on the East Coast of Australia in support of The Kite String Tangle, performed an industry showcase in Los Angeles and recorded a debut EP, which was released last week.
That now brings us to our conversation with the talented songstress herself. Queue the coffee & cookies and our chat begins..
“I feel like I was really lucky to be exposed to creativity in terms of the arts and music from such a young age,” Theia speaks of her upbringing. “My dad would often play The Coast [radio station] which I loved because it gave me such an appreciation for music from the 50s and 60s. I’ve always been an avid fan of seeking out music and sounds then recording them onto cassette, which along with writing I started at a pretty young age. As for fashion, I think my love started with all of the dresses covered in sequins and feathers that my Grandmother would wear ballroom dancing,” she reminisced.
“The whole EP is based on my life thus far, so it’s kind of an ode to youth – the ups and downs and the highs and lows. I feel like I’ve been sitting on these babies for a while, so it’s very special and I can’t wait for people to hear it,” she speaks of the EP.
When it comes to her songwriting process, Theia explains “there’s no linear process, but most of the time it stems from how I feel, then art or fashion will guide it along.”
“Roam is a prime example of a song that totally came about from how I was feeling at the time. I had been working in Australia for a week by myself and came straight back to a session in New Zealand feeling very lonely, isolated and anxious. Usually I’d plan and have an idea of what to write about because I want to use the time the best I can, but I was just so uncomfortable, I realised in that moment, that’s what the song had to be about, so I just projected everything that I knew I needed to hear into it.”
“Another example is when you’re writing for somebody else. For instance, I co-wrote a song with Guy Sebastian recently where we started off with a title and then delved into what that meant from there. Obviously you know the feelings, but they’re not directly linked to your own experiences. I guess that’s what makes these songs [on the EP] so special, because they’ve all started with something I’ve gone through, whether that’s an amazing thing or a low point.”
Inspired by a midnight hang out with friends in Herne Bay, our favourite track Forever Theia explains, is about “that feeling of being so overwhelmed with life. You’re all young and trying to cope, but also have this amazing sense of just being together and connecting. It’s about realising you’re going to have heartbreak and hurt, but to do it anyway and remembering to relish that time.”
“He’s very amazing,” Theia speaks of producer Josh Fountain, who produced 5 of the 6 tracks on her EP. “He puts my flighty-self at ease which is awesome,” she chuckles. “Then for Silver SecondI worked with Alex Hope in Australia. “[Hope] has worked with Troye Sivan, Tove Lo and Jack Antonoff, she’s incredible. It was a very special and different dynamic being able to connect with another female too,” she admit.
With a name that stems from a divine greek goddess, a strong edgy, ethereal, powerful and feminine image of her own, there’s no doubt that Theia is as much a fashionista as she is musician.
“Alexander McQueen is so amazing,” she gushes. “I truly admire his fashion aesthetic and ethos to revoke a response from people with fashion. I also love Edie Sedgwick, she’s one of those amazing 60s renegades of culture and fashion who just wore leotards, coats and round glasses all the time. I also love Rihanna, Lady Gaga and even my mum is super stylish,” she adds.
“I think looking at people who really have no barriers and just did what they wanted in terms of fashion was very freeing for me to see. Ever since I was little I didn’t like being told what to wear, I’d always dress myself,” she chuckled. “It’s just another outlet for me to express myself creatively that has definitely brought me a sense of freedom. I think I’d go crazy if I wasn’t able to express myself visually in the same way that I can sonically with my music. Fashion has always been very essential to who I am, and it will always go hand in hand with my music.”
On the topic of fashion Theia admits she knew the music video for her single Treat You had to be “really fashion heavy.” “Everything I do, I try and create something a little unexpected and I was privileged that the designer whose clothes are featured [Tess Norquay] was able to be on board. She’s a graduate from Wellington and her collection is being featured in Italian Vogue, which is so cool. I knew I wanted to do something with neon too, because I just love it,” she added. “It was also great to interject a nod to Korean fashion as well, because we used the hangul characters and they’re all about the bright and quirky. I feel like thiswas a really cool interpretation of the track, as it’s all about being young and having fun.”
“Then the treatment for Champagne Supernova was obviously completely different,” Theia declared. “We were so amazed to have [The Royal New Zealand Ballet Group] onboard. The director Chris Lane reached out to them and their creative director choreographed the entire dance, it was incredible. With the whole juxtaposition of light and darkness, glamour and grunge it kind of made sense to take a form of dance that was so pure and beautiful like ballet, and contrast it with a dusty old warehouse – creating the perfect mix to compliment the song.”
With the long-awaited release of her EP finally no more and a national headline tour just daysaway, Theia certainly shows no signs of wanting to slow down any time soon, admitting she really wants to head abroad again. “I love being able to travel and make music, so I’m just looking forward to playing more shows and releasing more music!”
Theia’s self-titled debut EP is out now via Warner Music.
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