We're shining a spotlight on the best new artists set to dominate the year ahead. Meet Ticketmaster's Breakthrough 2022!
With slick and soulful R&B and pop production and a honey-smooth vocal, NSW-based proud Coodjinburra wunderkind from the Bundjalung nation, Budjerah (pronounced Bood-jer-ah) has locked into a sound that is both modern and timeless, making music that balances between sweepingly cinematic and undeniably catchy.
When he first exploded onto the scene with his debut single ‘Missing You’ back in October 2020, it was immediately labelled as one of the year’s best debut singles – and Budjerah cemented as an artist to watch.
Working on the single alongside Matt Corby (whom Budjerah met when he supported one of his shows a few years earlier) in his forest-flanked studio near Budjerah’s Fingal Head home, Budjerah was instantly able to condense his musical influences into a single sound – from the gospel of his pastor parents to the old-school soul of artists like Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, as well as a lo-fi pop sound that belongs right in the now.
“When people listen to my music, they’ll hear my experience. A song like ‘Missing You’ is honest, and I hope it brings them comfort and shows they’re not alone,” he said at the single’s release. And from there a huge 14 months was kickstarted.
The promise established on his debut single, combined with a childhood surrounded by music from old-school soul singers and performing with his family, and a songwriting wisdom and honesty far beyond his years came together in early 2021 on Budjerah’s self-titled debut EP.
Drawing from his own life – from tales of missing friends as you grow up to reflecting on moments of joy and heartbreak – his tender, modern pop take on gospel and R&B sounds saw Budjerah turning heads of industry tastemakers and winning the ears of fans across the country.
Not ready to slow down, only months after releasing his debut EP, Budjerah returned to mentor Matt Corby’s studio to record Live At Rainbow Valley – a second EP containing live renditions of each track from the original record, this time with guest features from Ngaiire, Ainslie Wills, JK-47, and Stevan.
It seems collaborations are something Budjerah is becoming very good at, with two much-loved tracks added to his catalogue in 2021. The first, ‘Stranger Love’ with Australian club legends PNAU, and later in the year ‘Talk’ alongside singer-songwriter MAY-A.
The PNAU team-up, a feel-good dancefloor-ready track which proves that Budjerah’s rich vocal sits comfortably in any genre, saw him land at #125 in triple j’s hottest 200. While the latter continued Budjerah’s affinity for blending pop with R&B and gospel influences, the pair’s vocals playing off each other in beautiful harmony.
After all that music in a single year, Budjerah would be forgiven for slowing down. But instead, he capped off a tremendous year with one final single – ‘Wash My Sorrows Away’. Like his debut EP and MAY-A collab, the track was produced with Matt Corby in his Rainbow Valley studio, and the warmth and familiarity shines through every second – leaving 2021 on an absolute high.
We couldn’t talk about Budjerah’s sublime 2021 without mentioning all the incredible accolades he has already received. First there were the five ARIA nominations – including for Best Artist and Best Soul/RNB Release – alongside taking home the ARIA for the Michael Gudinski Breakthrough Artist. Then the National Indigenous Music Award for Best New Talent. He announced a partnership with Warner Records US, was named an Apple Music Up Next artist, and most recently was nominated for NME’s Best New Act in Australia and selected as one of the artists from around the globe in the #YouTubeBlack Voices Artist Class of 2022.
Across the year Budjerah performed on The Sound, Music From The Home Front, and at the AFL Dreamtime match, adding to support slots alongside The Avalanches, Thelma Plum, Jack River, and Lime Cordiale.
Not bad for an artist who released his debut single a little over a year ago.
Now 2022 looks to be the year that Budjerah takes things to a whole new level, with performances lined up at Yours and Owls Festival and Splendour In The Grass on home soil, as well as The Great Escape in the UK, and as part of Vance Joy’s huge world tour in Australia, the US, and the UK.
Audiences around the world are about to get to know how brilliant Budjerah is, and that’s why he is one of our handpicked Breakthrough 2022 artists.