When Olivia Gavranich unveiled her musical moniker St South with her debut single ‘Slacks’ back in 2014, we’re sure she had no idea where the project would take her.
With that single alone, the Fremantle-based singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist has garnered more than 35 million streams, taking her music to every corner of the globe.
It proved to be the perfect introduction for an artist already making waves – the skilful production, lush vocals, and pop-soul storytelling on show, saw her take out Bon Iver’s Stems project two years earlier.
Over the years, St South has experimented with different soundscapes – from the rich, sweeping electronics of her debut EP, 2016’s Nervous Energy, to the guitar-led sound she showcased on its follow up a year later, Inure.
No matter what avenue she explores, thanks to her warm, vivid storytelling, she never moved too far from what makes St South’s music so distinctive. And that is where we meet her, at the pulsing indie-pop of her debut album Get Well Soon.
St South’s lush, dreamy production skills are in full flight across the album’s ten tracks as she takes us through the fall out of a relationship – showcased in moments of R&B, indie, and pop.
And on the surface, Get Well Soon is a break-up album, but to leave it there wouldn’t be telling the whole story. As Gavranish describes it herself, Get Well Soon is “a self-care album – a soundtrack to self-empowerment,” and that really is the best way we can sum it up.
Across the record’s 35-minutes, you’ll hear St South unfold an intimate journey of grief, nostalgia, sadness, and heartache, but woven through the record’s sonics is also an inner-strength, reassurance and joy, and through that an acceptance that it is okay to feel both sides to their greatest extremes.
St South has had her music featured on TV shows The Vampire Diaries and The Fosters, has collaborated with the likes of N.Y.C.K. and Thelma Plum, and had her music heard in all corners of the globe, but it is on her debut album Get Well Soon that she truly reaches her greatest peak yet.
After many years honing her craft, St South is carving out her own place in, not only the Australian music industry, but the international landscape as a whole. Following the album’s release, we sat down with St South to get the inside scoop.
Photo credit: Liam Gillie
The St South Story
From the beginning
St South: “I’ve loved music since I was a little kid. It started with a few piano lessons at age 7, to teaching myself how to play guitar in high school. I was 14 or 15 when I began writing my own songs. It started as an acoustic folk project, and then slowly progressed to more of a produced sound when I started collaborating with producers. I then began the process of teaching myself how to self-produce in Ableton, and now I write and produce everything myself.”
What you’ll hear
St South: “My first EP, Nervous Energy, was mostly electronic. My second EP, Inure, was really stripped back (just electric guitar and vocals). My debut album, Get Well Soon, feels the most me out of everything I’ve released so far.
“A few reviews have called it lo-fi-indie, which feels pretty close. Someone else referred to it as ‘bedroom beats’, which also feels pretty accurate. I listen to so many different genres, and I think it’s gradually getting easier to hear more of my influences now that I’m producing my own music.
“That said, it ebbs and flows, and people only hear the music/genres I release. Sometimes I only want to write piano ballads and other times I’ll spend hours producing lo-fi-house music that I don’t know what to do with.”
Inside the creative process
St South: “It all happened pretty quickly. I had already written 40% of the album throughout 2018. And then I wrote the last six tracks in the space of two weeks, directly after a break-up. It was a pretty fuzzy few weeks of grief and disbelief, and I wasn’t writing with the intention of finishing an album – it was purely catharsis for me at the time.
“The creative process is different with every song but it’s definitely grown a lot over the last few years. I used to write everything on an acoustic guitar, but now I mainly write on my piano, in Ableton, or on my electric guitar. ”
Tell us the story
St South: “I think the most consistent themes [across the album] are self-care, growth and self-empowerment, mostly as the result of heartbreak. I’m naturally drawn to writing about my own experiences/struggles; relationships, heartache, love, mental health, self-doubt, worries, family etc.
“I love listening to music by artists who are my age and are experiencing the same mid-twenties life-things that I am. There’s so much comfort in relatability. And it doesn’t always have to be deep or emotional life- things. Sometimes you just want to hear a song about something familiar and mundane, like making your bed or hanging out the washing. ”
Down memory lane
St South: “[My favourite memory of the creative process is] probably the day Nick (N.Y.C.K) and I wrote ‘If It’s Not You’. He’s from Melbourne and I’m from Perth, so it’s not often we get to write together in the same room. That track came together really quickly and I remember we were buzzing for weeks after. I don’t think either of us had ever written something so upbeat and we were pretty excited about it.
“Also, the night I wrote the last verse in ‘A Little Alive’. It felt like the album was really finished – a pretty special moment.”
St South: ” I remember winning the Bon Iver Stems Project when I was 21 and I didn’t think it could get much cooler than that. Signing a record deal and a publishing deal last year were pretty huge milestones for me – especially after being independent for nearly seven years.
“On a more personal level, I think releasing an album is the thing I’m most proud of right now. You never really think you’ll finish it, but then you do, and the feeling is pretty indescribable. ”
Overcoming struggle town
St South: “I had written up a treatment for a music video for ‘RED’ that I was going to shoot over the last few months, but then Covid-19 happened. Instead, I collaborated with a 19-year-old dancer/choreographer from the US named Diavion Nicolas. We got chatting on Instagram and he ended up filming a video of himself dancing to ‘RED’, which is now the official music video.”
For the love of music
St South: ” I love that I can sit at my piano, or open a new Ableton session, or plug in my guitar, and hours will pass before I come up for air. I love getting transfixed like that. I love the feeling of knowing that you’re onto a good thing, even if it’s just a tiny chord progression or a crackly melody you’ve recorded on your phone. I love that it’s unintentionally cathartic. It’s such a consistent and easy form of self- expression; no matter where I go, I can always access it and it’s always going to be there for me. I also love that there’s no right or wrong. ”
St South: “The songs I find the most comfort in are the ones that give me a sense of strength, independence, or hope. Songs that make you punch the air and cry and dance at the same time. I hope people find a similar comfort in it, and if not, I hope it at least makes them feel something. I think that’s all you can really hope for when people take the time to listen; that they really listen. ”
Say it in a sentence
St South: “It’s about coming back to yourself after heartbreak, and holding your own hand through it all. ”
St South – RED
“I wrote and recorded this track at my parents’ house in Denmark, Western Australia (my hometown), back in 2018. I produced the instrumental first, and then started playing around with vocal melodies. I hit record and then unscrewed the lid of my water bottle and took a sip before I started singing. I kept the entire water bottle sample in the intro because I liked the way the water sounded.”
St South – I’m Still Me
“I really love the main ‘synth’ sound in this track because it sounds like a Chinese instrument called the Erhu, but it’s actually just my electric guitar played in reverse with a bit of reverb. As soon as I played it back it made me think of the Mulan soundtrack (one of my favourite movies), so I kept it and never changed it.”
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