Monique Brumby for most Australians, is a long-lost friend. With a musical career spanning 20 years, her new self-titled album Monique Brumby is a heartfelt exploration of her life's journey. Marrying personal adversities with earnest lyrics, each single from the new release is a window into Brumby's world.
Signed to major record company at 21, Brumby reveals the early years were framed with many unwanted questions about her personal life, 'a natural reaction to that is to run away and to go in the opposite direction and you don't really reveal anything about yourself.' After many challenging experiences, Brumby's position has melded – creating space for new expression through her music. 'I'm probably more able to talk openly now and I think that has been the difference. I think I've been afraid to in the past. I've been afraid of judgement and I felt really vulnerable.'
When asked how she takes these moments and turns them into captivating arrangements, Brumby pauses to reflect, 'ahhhh that is a good question. I think sometimes I am paralysed by life, I feel that I need to not be so hard on myself. I don't know if everyone feels like that, I have a feeling they do.' It's in these moments of energy and inspiration that Brumby feels a compelling desire to write, 'I'll go into the studio and pick the guitar up or I will record random melodic and lyrical ideas that have come into my head. It is very spontaneous my writing, I do really go in the moment and I love improvisation and that is something that people don't really know about me.'
Brumby has drawn on her work with teenagers over the last few years to fuel some of the album's sentiment. Running music programs has provided insights into young worlds where she is privy to the turbulent times a lot of youth are facing. Songs 'Hang on Babe' and 'In this Game' are reflections of this, 'I feel like I am now in a position where I can be the support. I want to be brave and at this point in my life, stand up for things I really believe in and have a voice for people that don't have voice.'
It is this genuine emotion and humility that endears you to Brumby, and many are keen to collaborate with this incredibly talented singer-songwriter-mentor. 'I feel that when I was younger I really needed a mentor and to become mentor in my adult life and help young people is really important to me. It won't leave me alone to be honest, working with young people keeps bashing my door down. I can't escape it, everyday I get an email asking me to work with people. I get so much satisfaction from being able to help the people. This part of my life is a great part of my life, it is certainly not the most difficult and I think I am at a state of my life where I am ready to show the world who I really am!'
The composition of 'In this Game' showcases this bravery and desire to experiment. She discloses it started out as an idea, then just evolved and evolved, to a point where Brumby just couldn't put it down. 'I just sort of sat down one day and started messing around on my computer and came up with some really cool sounds. I always had the 'reaching out against my will' as the first melody. And I thought, what was that? What does that mean? Then I pictured myself on a highway just driving and I suppose it is just a metaphor for life. That sometimes you can fall asleep at the wheel of your own life and not be present, [with] fear holding you back.'
Putting the string arrangement on it Brumby tells me took her back to the early 80's, 'the stuff I used to love, Madonna's 'Papa Don't Preach' and also Suzanne Vega. I wanted to write a song that came from an electronic background. I think that is my favourite song. I got asked this earlier in an interview and I said 'ohhh I don't really have one' but I will always love that song, I really connect to it, it's been a new exploration for me on this record.'
With an upcoming national tour spanning two months, Brumby has been working hard to make this a reality and is excited about making the tour happen. No two shows are the same Brumby tells me, 'fans are surprised when they come to a live performance, it is not a really a go-through-the-motions type of performance, random things come out! Stories that I don't even know I am going to tell [laughs].'
Bass player Maryanne Window has been playing with Brumby for 17 years and is a critical element to recounting Brumbys tales, 'she'll often remember stories better than I do! It's good having someone like that around. To be honest, if someone had of laid down in front of me and said this is going to be the next 25 years of your life, what do you think about that? I would've been amazed. Living life, is not like that. There are days when you are really low, there are points of sheer exhilaration – Double J played my song the other day and I cried. I was so excited. I couldn't believe it. These things mean a lot to me and I don't take things for granted.'
The bittersweet paradox to this, is the disheartening feeling Brumby has experienced when it comes to the music industry. 'You have to push, push, push so hard to get your music out now. It's always been like that, but there is so much music out there and it is a great thing, because artists can take control of their destiny and I have done that in the last 10 years.' Brumby tells me that learning about sound engineering and making her own records is not easy. 'Some days I do so much administration around the business side of my music that I don't actually have time to play. That has to shift. I've now got new management and it is making a big difference to my focus just being on being able to make and play music.'
One thing that won't be digressing Brumby this year is the Reclink Community Cup. True Melburnians will know this event well, and while missing Brumby on the field this year – will be able to catch her cheering on in the stands. A former soccer player, Brumby has a great love of team sports and cites this day as being one of the highlights on her calendar. 'Oh god, they asked me to play this year, but every year I get really hurt. It takes me about a week to recover, my body gets bruised. Guys just jump on you and they don't realise it, but they just do! I remember one year Tim Rogers [You Am I ] just totally jumped on my back – I was like oh my god I am so sore!'
Friend Paul Kelly has a less tactile approach, 'I really enjoy playing footy with Paul. I first toured with Paul in '97 on the road and in between gigs we'd find an oval and his band and my band would run around the oval and play footy. Sometimes our members do go to hard and we had one tour up in NSW and two boys in the band in went hard for the kick and could hardly move at the gig, it was so funny!' Brumby tells me she would love to play this year, and confides mainly because she hasn't kicked a goal and would really love to. Off the back of this new album and praise for her new single 'Silent War', I have a feeling she'll be kicking plenty of goals on this tour.