INTERVIEW: JESSICA MAUBOY

The journey that Jessica Mauboy has been on over the past twelve years has been full of highs and lows. But it’s also been one that has taught her so much about the person and artist she is and wants to strive to be.  

Her fourth studio album ‘Hilda’ is a refreshing and vulnerable exploration of her foundations and hears her reacquainting herself with her roots. It feels like the mature older sister to her debut album ‘Been Waiting’ with it’s RNB-pop aesthetic and dives deeper into her vulnerability as a storyteller. 

“I really had to take back those reigns again. I had to take charge of what is mine because there was that moment where I felt like I didn’t really have control anymore. I didn’t feel like I was really owning it, and I now feel that was purely a personal growth thing. I just had to find the confidence inside of myself again and find the power that I knew I had” Mauboy explains of her personal awakening.

Questioning how she was going to do that, she returned home to spend time with her family and get in-touch with her roots. Realising early on that she wanted to be a storyteller, she reminisced on the moments where her family would get together and share each others highs and lows and laugh through the candid memories which initiated those questions “remember that story?” and “remember that time?”. 

“For me that was really a major part of reconnecting to my inner core and restoring memories and rebooting who I am and want to be”. 

Reclaiming that personal pride of where she came from, and the internal drive of what impact she wants to have, really influenced her confidence growth and you can hear that through the bold lyrical content.

Opening track ‘Blessing’ comes in strong as she unveils the level of transparency she wants ‘Hilda’ to have. “You know that I’m a ten and your a three” she sings during the second verse of the sassy and empowering anthem. It’s a very embracive lyric and she immediately starts laughing as I bring it up. 

“I really didn’t hold back did I?” she giggles. “I guess what it’s really saying is that I’m a tiger, and you’re a squirrel. I’m not really pin-pointing people explicitly, but those people know who they are and it’s giving me peace as I’m speaking my truth and saying my feelings out loud”. 

“You come across people in your life who are very ruthless. And because I’ve been raised as a very kind person, I’ve been taken advantaged of a lot. I’ve seen a lot of broken people and I’ve witnessed and experienced a lot of things, that it’s made me really not want to be in that position again. So I’ve learnt to stand up for myself and speak up. Sometimes you’ve got to tell someone that what they’ve said isn’t right and that how you’re treating someone isn’t right” she elaborates. 

“This record has been a blessing and that’s why I wanted to open the album with that track because anyone that has been bullied, suppressed, or held down definitely knows that feeling of giving your everything and not being listened to. And it’s a warning to all of the people that abuse their power or trust, because Karma is real”. 

Deciding to stay in Australia to work on this record instead of going overseas to work with big name international producers and collaborators like she’s done in the past, she really wanted to embrace her homegrown roots. Working with the likes of frequent collaborator duo DNA, she also worked with some exciting newcomers. 

Muki worked with Mauboy on the confident ‘Blessing’ and Jealous’ and really helped her articulate the underlining message and confidence she wanted this record to embody. Explaining her deep connection with the newcomer, she expresses her admiration of her raw strength and boldness.

“She is everything I wish I could have been at that time in my life. When I was looking back at my own journey, the reason I felt so connected with her is because she felt like my mini-me, but she’s already been there emotionally” she highlights before elaborating. 

“When I was 22 I was just along for the ride. I had just recorded my very first solo record and done all of these exciting things in between, and was just living on a high. There was no tug of war or struggle involved at that point in my life, so I felt very free. Years pass and you can’t always have it your way and I learnt that during the in-between moments of being 22-25. I had people doing every thing for me, and you get in the habit and routine but things didn’t start to feel right and I learnt to start speaking up and make sure I was being listened to which is where ‘Blessing’ originated from”. 

From finding that confidence inside of her, Mauboy also learnt to open about her relationship with her fiancé and explore the complexities that all relationships face in a more transparent approach. 

‘Tough Love’ is one of the albums most raw moments, and it’s also one of the biggest highlights. It comes from a place of fresh understanding of the frustrations she’s had and lashed out about for over a decade and realising that it’s actually a two way lane and it really isn’t all his fault. 

“I had never gone out of the boundaries and written in detail of our relationship and what we agree on and what we disagree on. There’s never really been a story of us like that in my work. So for me to be so open is definitely special” she cites.

“I remember the day I wrote that song I got him to pick me up from the studio because I wanted him to be the first person to hear it and to also kinda gain permission I guess” she laughs. “So once I hopped in the car I put it on and the guitar riff begins and the opening line comes in and he was just in shock. He was so taken aback by the candid nature of it. He was laughing throughout the whole song and was really touched by how personal it was as it referenced so many private things. But I wrote this song not just for him but for me. For all those times that I complained because it was thrown right back in my face as I do all of those things too. And it was reminder to me that love is difficult and I appreciate it more than I ever have”

Keeping with the theme of exploring her roots, ‘Tough Love’ also heard her stripping all the production back to just an acoustic guitar which we haven’t really heard her do in the past except for the pop polished ‘Back2U’ and ‘Kiss Me Hello’. 

“I think that really originated from my country roots. I love the basics of an acoustic and the actual sound. To have it just strumming in the background with such in-depth lyrics layered on top makes it more powerful. It’s storytelling, and it feels like I’m having a deep conversation through a song” she gushes about the stripped back nature. 

With no room for hiding on ‘Hilda’, she completely has her walls down but she has nothing to fear as her listeners have already embraced the raw vulnerability surrounding this record. Debuting at #1 on the Aria Charts, it also marks the first time in 15 years that a female Australian artist has topped the single and album charts at the same time with Tones And I currently #1 with ‘Dance Monkey’. And she’s not taking this achievement lightly as she screams about the excitement and radiates the proudness she deserves to embody. 

“You do doubt yourself a lot through the creative process and for me it’s taken fifteen years to realise that now is the moment I appreciate the most because I’m alive, I’m living in the moment, I’m aware, I’m awake and I owe it to everyone who has built me up to this day. But I’m most proud of myself for sticking to my guts and questioning ‘why’ to get through all of the obstacles. 

“Hilda is my proudest standing moment, and I’m giving myself a standing ovation. I think when you do have those successes in life it’s important to celebrate them in whatever way you like. For me it was sitting in my lounge room with my partner and my mum, and just soaking it all in and having an important quiet moment”. 

‘Hilda’ by Jessica Mauboy is out now