- Tiana Speter
From sending to demos as a pre-teen to swiftly becoming an in-demand performer as well as a songwriter for inernational and local acts, E^ST, aka Melissa Bester, is both a dazzling fixture and a tale of unstoppable tenacity in the world of all things music.
Discovered at the age of 8 singing at a local event, E^ST has gone on to taste both the highs and lows of a surging career, with false-starts and incredible successes equally paving the way for her present-day incarnation as one of the new undisputed queens of the indie pop realm. And while her music itself speaks volumes to her innate artistry and passion for storytelling, it's with E^ST's ability to weld vulnerability with exceptional musicianship that her burgeoning trajectory truly ignites. This is a woman who can command a room with nothing but her raw and charming sonic prowess, and her upcoming debut album I'M DOING IT is set to dig deeper than ever before into the woman behind the moniker E^ST, while also defining the capabilities of an indie pop masterpiece.
But while the brand new album from E^ST won't officially drop until late July, we've been slowly gifted with snippets of what's to come with a slew of stunning singles dropping in the lead-up. And today in honour of her latest single I WANNA BE HERE offering an joyous ode to life, today we grab some time with the lady herself to chat creative processes, expectations and some live music memories to tide us over until the album release. Interview below.
I WANNA BE HERE (E^ST)
TIANA SPETER: Hey E^ST, it’s awesome to chat with you today, lately your tunes have been brightening my days, and you’ve been sprinkling some stunning singles in the lead-up to your debut album this July. But before all that, your latest tune I Wanna Be Here has just jumped out – and what a timely anthem for the bleakness in the world right now. Obviously this would’ve been written well before all the craziness of 2020, but somehow your amazing ability to weld personal narratives shines through once again. How cathartic is it to write and ultimately release a track like ‘I Wanna Be Here’?
E^ST: That’s so lovely to hear, thank you! Yeah definitely very cathartic. I wrote I Wanna Be Here over a year ago, and I wrote the song kind of as a way to speak that message into my own life. And it’s cool releasing it now, because I don’t feel like I need to speak that into my life anymore, but hopefully now the song can do for others what it did for me.
TIANA: I am such a sucker for a catchy piano line, so you had me hooked instantly with I Wanna Be Here. But in terms of how it came to life, what was the inspo from a writing perspective? How do you go about crafting these crystalline bops, do you have countless ideas running around in your head at all times, or do you usually have a clear-cut idea for each individual track?
E^ST: Honestly it’s different every time! Sometimes it will start with a chord progression, other times a beat, or sometimes a feeling, and sometimes a lyric will be the starting point. Some songs get written in 20 minutes, and others can get written over a couple months (or even years!). I always just try to be open to the process that each individual song needs to go through.
TIANA: I believe that I Wanna Be Here sits in the latter part of the overall I'm Doing It album, and you’ve spoken previously about how the overall album grows in its optimistic tone, landing with the “I’m coping” state of flow following the collapse of a relationship. Was this overarching concept always the plan for how you structured I'm Doing It?
E^ST: Honestly, I didn’t think about that concept until I realised it was already there. I found that at the start of the writing process I was writing songs to help me through that time and also help me process things, and then as life went on, I started to grow and experience more things, and that was reflected in the songs that I was writing. And then there came a point where I realised the songs were not only telling their own individual stories, but also were telling a bigger story.
FRESH OUT OF LOVE (E^ST)
TIANA: There’s a lot of sonic shades shimmering in the tracks you’ve unveiled so far from the album, you’ve got some jaunty jams and then really luxe stripped-back ballads…but all the while finding so much of your trademark heart and connection. Did you find anything significantly changed this time round writing for a full-length as opposed to an EP? Did you feel there was a pressure to “rise to the occasion” so to speak?
E^ST: I definitely felt the pressure of the debut album! I had been putting it off for a while, but I’m really glad I decided to do it when I did. On most of my work so far I’ve collaborated with lots of different people, but for this album I knew I had to do the whole project with Jim Eliot who I’ve been working with for years (and written some of my personal favourite songs with). When Jim and I make music together, it just becomes this little world of imagination and silly ideas that end up being wonderful songs, and we try not to put restrictions on ourselves, and I think you can sense all of that on I’m Doing It.
TIANA: At such a young age you have accomplished an eye-watering amount, and over the years you’ve channelled your love for storytelling and music into a pretty astonishing musical fairytale. And it’s a tale not without its own struggles and setbacks, as well as one of sheer hard work and determination…but what is it about what you do that you love the most after all this time? What is it that just eternally draws you to music and writing these charming tunes?
E^ST: I’ve always had different reasons as to why I make music... When I was really young I did it because it made sense, and then as I got a bit older I did it because it made me feel seen, and there were times where I did it because I needed to... But for the last few years, I’ve tried to purely make it as a form of self expression and I think this album is the most authentic piece of work that I have ever released.
TIANA: I know you’ve been playing music since an extremely early age, and it’s nothing to sneeze at that you have been courted by labels since you were a teenager. But what bands or artists did you grow up listening to that had a profound Impact on who you are as an artist today? Was there a significant artist or band who really kick-started your passion into this beautiful journey?
E^ST: Well I grew up around music, so it was always a huge part of my world. My earliest appreciation of music was actually musical theatre! And then as I grew up a bit I went through a bit of a Euro/Brit pop phase (I loved bands like The Wombats, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend)… I also had an emo phase for sure! Twenty one pilots have been a big influence (not only in writing but also their showmanship). But yeah, these days I find myself listening to sooo many different types of music, and there are definitely a lot of those influences finding its way into my own work.
pic by @helloitsrhii
TIANA: While we’re currently all at a loss with live music not in our lives, no doubt you will have a huge amount of live shows in your near future once it’s safe to do so. But can you take me back to the very first time you ever performed under the moniker ‘E^ST’, where did you play, who was there, and what went down, was it a successful event?
E^ST: I was 16, and playing a tiny show at a venue in Sydney called Good God. My mum was there haha. And probably just some random people who happened to be there, and a couple people working in the music industry who were keen to sus it out! I was so nervous before my set I was genuinely scared I was going to be sick. But honestly for a first gig, I remember it going pretty well and I think I did a good job of shaking off the nerves and starting to find my groove as a performer.
TIANA: And fast-forward back to the most recent show you played before the COVID stuff went down, how was that experience and would your 12 year old self picking up the guitar for the first time have believed that’s where that moment would lead to?
E^ST: The last show I played was super fun, although you wouldn’t expect it to be. I played at Melbourne Uni, outside in the cold rain, and not many people knew the gig was actually happening, so there were probably only 50-80 people there. But it was so wholesome. They stood out in the rain for a whole hour, and danced with me, and it felt really personal and intimate and was one of the most fun gigs I had played in a while. 12-year old Mel would probably think that sounds terrible haha, but I’m really glad I ended up there.
TIANA: Before we end today, I can’t help myself with the cliched desert island question. So! If you had to be stranded on a desert island with one other band or artist (living or dead): who are you choosing and why?
E^ST: This is pretty tough! I guess I’d wanna be stuck with someone who has a balance of seeming like a fun person to be around, but also someone who you could chat to for hours about whatever. And also someone who is intelligent and resourceful enough to survive on a desert island haha. So with that in mind, I think I’d pick Tyler the Creator! At the very least, it would be super entertaining.
TIANA: And finally, in honour of your brand new track I Wanna Be Here…what’s your go-to advice for someone who might need some inspiration to start looking for the brighter sides in life? What’s something that helps ground you and inspires you to push through the struggles?
E^ST: Well I think it’s really important to meet yourself where you’re at, and always have a good deal of patience for yourself. Once the pressure of feeling better is off, I find it’s easier to eventually move forward. And if things can go from being so good to so bad so easily, it means it can go from being so bad to so good just as easily.
E^ST'S BRAND NEW SINGLE I WANNA BE HERE IS OFFICIALLY OUT IN THE WORLD NOW, WITH HER DEBUT ALBUM I'M DOING IT SET TO UNLEASH ON JULY 31. FOR ALBUM PRE-SAVES, HEAD HERE, AND FOR ALL OTHER E^ST INFO, CHECK OUT THE BELOW:
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BY TIANA SPETER