Jessica Cerro, A.K.A Montiagne has been making splashes across the Australian music scene since her 2012 Triple J High submission ‘Anyone But Me’. After finishing her studies in 2014, Cerro went on to pursue her music career with music label, Wonderlick Entertainment. Since then, Cerro has won multiple awards, released critically acclaimed tracks and even made it to the line up at Splendour In The Grass. It seems ike Cerro can’t be stopped, so we had a chat to see what makes her tick.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, first off: How’s the reception to the new album? And how’s the release process been on your stress levels?
The reception is very good! Re: stress levels, not huge. Myself and management have been pretty confident about this record and I mean there’s probably much more stress on their end because there is a shit tonne more logistical work that they have to do, but for my part I’ve been pretty unstressed.
You, like many of us, love to relax through gaming. Is there a particular go-to for you in times of stress? Out of interest, are there any video game soundtracks you can recommend for us?
Kingdom Hearts II is my absolute go to, and I do recommend that soundtrack, particularly a track called ‘Lazy Afternoons’ or ‘Dearly Beloved’ or ‘Missing You’ or the intro track ‘Passion/Sanctuary’.
Let’s talk a little about your Splendour experience. I was limited to experiencing Splendour vicariously through various social media feeds and I really enjoyed your little interview sections. How did you score that and are there any highlights from that experience you can share with us?
Apparently my fans index highest on Music Feeds so I think there was mutual benefit in me doing the interviewing for them in terms of traffic. I have a good relationship with those guys and I’m pretty good at talking/am confident in that regard so we thought it would be a fun little thing. Highlight for me was probs interviewing Lido because I felt like I was truly doing a good job?? I don’t think I’ve ever participated in banter that good in my life before, except maybe with Suffa from Hilltop Hoods. It was also really lovely to finally have a good chat to Ngaiire, who’s a beautiful soul.
As for your performance, I know you’ve occasionally come in for criticism over lacking stamina, which given how intense your music can be is completely understandable. So how do you feel about your set? What were the highlights for you on stage? What do you feel needs improvement?
I haven’t seen the stamina comments but I guess I wouldn’t be surprised because I’m not the fittest person alive haha. Also I don’t do shows enough to have developed that stamina through consistent performance. Though I think my Splendour set was pretty consistently energetic? I feel like I brought it? My focus is mainly my singing, but I feel like I need a plan now for movement and blocking and what have you. I had a loose one for Splendour which worked out well but I now need to work one for my tour. Also that transitions between my songs have been pretty shoddy but I think with the album songs now ready to play, that’s much easier to coordinate (it worked well at Splendour).
Okay, let’s get to the meat of why we’re here today which is your latest release Glorious Heights. You’ve previously mentioned small ways in which your producer, Tony Buchen, has influenced the album. Can you elaborate on that? How much of a different beast would Heights have been without his guidance?
Well, Tony is in charge of the production. I guide and encourage and discourage from certain paths or discrete elements but he’s generally the dude behind the instruments, and without him I literally could not accomplish a produced song. And Tony’s presence for some reason is like a conductor for creativity, I find it very easy to write topline when we’re fucking around in his studio. We both understood the influences I had in mind, we shared those influences, and hence we made pretty tight songs. Tony and I are like yin and yang and you need both for perfect balance.
Now I’ve read a lot about your talent for lyric-writing and I have to say, I’m rather jealous of your skill in this field. Can you run us through your process a little? Do you isolate yourself? Are there particular areas you come back to a lot for inspiration? Do songs come to you fully formed or are they more of a piece by piece kind of thing?
There isn’t really a uniform process! I’ve never really written for work except when someone asks me to write topline for them – all my songs & lyrics are just necessary effusions borne of moments in which I am feeling particularly emotionally unstable haha. So I write whenever it comes over me. Last year, it was particularly often. This year, less so, since there’s a great degree more stability in my life. I suppose the most solid answer about where/when is whenever I find myself without distractions to keep me from my own thoughts and feelings. Often when in transit (walking, planes, buses, trains, etc). And I think there’s pretty even divide between songs written all in a moment and songs which are pieced together over time.
You’re still pretty fresh into your music career and we know that the industry can have a pretty intense learning curve. What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve taken from the process of making Heights and what are you excited to be working on next, either personally or professionally?
Hmm…I definitely had to “learn” how to record my vocals well. I’m still getting there, my live performance is much better than my studio takes. I’m more of a live singer than a studio singer, though I enjoy both. I think I’m approaching an intermediate level of skill with knowing how to deliver a good recorded take but mastery is still a bit far off. Definitely improved by the end of recording this album, though.
We’ve covered a lot of ground here but ultimately The Wandering Lamb is all about music, especially new music. What new music are you listening to that you think is worth sharing? Can you tell us why you think its worthy?
Hohoho. I’m obsessed with DRELLER right now. He’s Papa vs Pretty’s old frontman and is a prodigious genius. The three songs he has out right now are all bangers. He’s sent me some other unreleased stuff which is all the work of intense genius. Think Prince, but darker and more disturbed. He also animates all his own music videos which are amazing. Alex Lahey’s new EP is also full of poignant nostalgia with a droll lyrical style, and that new D.D.Dumbo song ‘Satan’ is my song of the year.