Bella Deer is one of Australia’s best songwriters; her upcoming release already shines as a top 40 finalist in the prestigious APRA AMCOS Vanda and Young Global Songwriting Competition.
Bella Deer has captured the attention of audiences throughout regional Victoria with her debut single “Bloom” in 2022. She performs her heartfelt stories with confidence. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how it all got started?
BELLA DEER: I’ve played the piano since I was 6. I was classically trained but I moved away from learning Chopin and began songwriting instead. The first song I ever wrote was when my pet rabbit Casper died (he was acted more like a pet dog) and that was it. I’ve been writing playing and performing ever since.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
BELLA DEER: Apart from piano lessons throughout my childhood and studying music all through school, I also had singing lessons. I formally did some further music training in Melbourne in 2019. I loved connecting and performing with a range of diverse musicians from all over the world.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘BELLA DEER?
BELLA DEER: Growing up I loved a band from Brisbane Queensland, called George. Katie Noonan was trained as opera singer, and I really loved their lyrics and layering in their album Polyserena. I met Katie when I was 19 at a festival I played at and I felt so star struck I could hardly speak. I also specifically remember buying Shakira’s Laundry service from Target. I put a massive scratch in it, and I was devastated. I remember hearing Queen, Dire Straits and the Eagles on the radio at home. Such amazing harmonies Bamboléo by Gipsy Kings was a staple in the household. Mum also introduced me to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf at a young age. Bella Deer has a few different meanings which I’ll leave to your readers to work out. One thing I love about the name is that I kept writing ballads when I first started songwriting.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
BELLA DEER: I think for me, my lyrics are what would resonate most. I realise that is not what everyone always focuses on though. I would describe my sound as emotional, deep yet fierce indie alternative/pop.
5. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
Sitting down at my piano/keyboard and knowing that I have a theme/idea/story/issue already to write about is usually how I work best. I do the progression/melody/lyrics at the same time. I’d absolutely love to work and collaborate with more people. I have a band but generally I am the main songwriter, albeit changing things up here or there. I am open to people coming up with their own parts around the main skeleton of the song. I love what others can bring to the table. Recently I’ve not been putting much effort into some new songs, and the rest of the band seem to like those ones the most. This always makes me laugh. Perhaps simple is best?
6. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as POP?
BELLA DEER: I used to do this as a teenager. I learnt songs from Avril Lavigne, Evanescence to Missy Higgins, and always tried to sound exactly like them. That doesn’t work for that long though. I’d say I transitioned from a classical sound to folk and then to pop. Emulating other artists helps for songwriting development and style and to develop your own voice. I think it is so important to keep listening to other artists too as you continue to grow.
7. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative, and entertainment?
BELLA DEER: I think all music is spiritual even if people don’t realise it. Unless it’s generated by AI, it has come from a human being. Music is a universal language that connects us all. Music can be political most definitely, but I always get a little bit upset when musicians try and discuss important issues on stage for example and some audience members just wants to hear the music. This happened when I saw John Butler in 2018. He was trying to discuss an important topic between songs and people around me were like, ‘just play mate’. I don’t think you can get through to everyone unfortunately, but you can at least try. When you have the platform and audience, I think it’s important to stand up for what you believe in, if you are educated enough about the issue.
8. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfillment as the amount of work you are putting into it or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
BELLA DEER: I would absolutely love for my music to take me to new destinations, new venues, to work with new people and experience different opportunities. I’ve been in my local scene now for so long, I’m ready to step into a new chapter. I recently went over to Adelaide, South Australia and loved experiencing the people and their live music culture. I love new connections and different perspectives.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
BELLA DEER: I had a period of real disappointment right after things had started to look up in a really positive way. There were people interested, and I thought I had found a really great team. Suddenly, everyone disappeared. Might blame a global pandemic for that. I couldn’t get over this loss of opportunity for ages. I took it personally, when I probably shouldn’t have. I shifted focus and put my energy into other things. I think everything has a way of working out in the end. You can’t live in retrospect.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
BELLA DEER: There have been some amazing milestones this year alone. Some I never thought I’d see. However, some of my favourite memories are from the early years. I did a launch in my hometown and sold out a local venue. So many people I didn’t think would come, did. Some of those people have now passed away. I remember their faces so clearly and saw the joy in their faces when I was on stage performing. They’re the types of moments that are irreplaceable and came about because of a connection in music, and community. Nothing beats that.
11. Creative work in a studio or home environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excites you most, and why?
BELLA DEER: I love being at home in my own space to rehearse and create. As much as studio work is a super exciting, you can’t beat what a live audience brings. It is like the theatre; you never reproduce the same performance twice. I find it thrilling and it really is where I feel most like myself.
12. Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own personal way?
BELLA DEER: I really enjoy hearing how people interpret my songs. It’s their connection and relationship with it in their own context. Sometimes they tell me things I never intended and I find it really interesting. I always have to remember that for them, the song is fresh, whereas for me I’ve heard it countless times before. I wish I could hear it with a fresh set of ears!