Upon first listen, there’s something beachy and nostalgic about Hazel English’s voice. Perhaps it’s because of her airy, sweet vocals, or her collaboration with Day Wave’s Jackson Phillips, who produced her upcoming Never Going Home EP. The Oakland by-way of Australia singer has managed to fuel her music with philosophical undertones while waxing poetic about control issues and being your own personal fortune teller.
English’s debut EP will likely see its release later this year, but in the meantime she’s released breezy, Real Estate-like singles “Never Going Home,” “Fix” and “It’s Not Real” to give listeners a taste of her summery aesthetic. It’s easy listening music that features the singer-songwriter navigating the intricacies of her own subconscious.
We caught up with English about working with Day Wave, trying to balance control in your life and choosing to be a musician over an author.
Day Wave’s Jackson Phillips produced your debut EP. How did you two connect?
So, we met at a bookshop and it was completely random. We just got to talking and we both found out that we were musicians so we decided to collaborate. It was a very organic chance encounter. It just worked, and it was cool. We started working on Never Going Home. It was natural, so we just kept going.
Who are you most influenced by?
I have a bunch of influences, but when I was a teenager I was really into The Cure, The Smiths, Fleetwood Mac and The Doors. In more recent years, I’ve been listening to Slowdive, Broadcast and more shoegaze bands. I guess my influences have changed over the years, but not too dramatically. I try to listen to all kinds of music, like world music, whenever I can to broaden my tastes.
What made you want to have a career as a musician? How long have you been making music for?
I started learning guitar when I was 16—that was 10 years ago. I taught myself guitar because I wanted to accompany myself. I really wanted to start making music so I taught myself guitar and started learning covers and eventually started to write my own songs, play around town in cafes and bars. When I moved to the US I really wanted to try writing songs and performing with other people, so I just started meeting musicians and playing in bands.
What made you want to come over from Australia to the US?
I originally came over to study—I was studying creative writing and I got to a point where I had to decide if I wanted to be an author or a musician. I had finished my coursework, but I wanted to be a musician.
Tell me about what you’re working on right now. Are you still focusing on your debut EP?
The EP hasn’t been released—only just a few songs are out. The EP will be released soon. I’m not sure of the date yet. I’ve got more songs that I’ve been working on. I’m always working on new stuff. So, there should be more music coming out really soon.
What inspires you to write music the most?
I tend to write from a personal perspective point where I’m thinking about what’s going on in my life and internalizing it, but also keeping in mind that other people will read into the lyrics in their own way. They’re personal, but other people can identify with them too. They tend to be philosophical—it’s just a lot of stuff that goes on in my head. A lot of the songs on the EP have to do with the theme of control: finding the balance of having enough control, but not having too much control. Too much and not enough are not good things. It’s about finding those boundaries.
Did you have a personal experience regarding control that inspired that theme on your EP?
I think it’s a constant theme in my life. When we were recording, I had some moments of freedom where I gave up a lot of control that I normally have. I really realized how it could be good to give up that control sometimes. Then I had experienced other moments where I didn’t have any control and other people were taking control. I think it’s all about balance.
What was the solution for you after dealing with that?
I think it was about being able to create my own boundaries and learning how to do that. A lot of this stuff is new to me—the music stuff. It’s also understanding about how to compromise and how that can benefit you. This doesn’t have to do with Jackson and I because our collaboration has been very seamless and natural. I’m just talking about other things in my own life. I think finding out how to be assertive, but listen to other people and take their advice on board has been what I’ve been learning.
Are you collaborating with any other artists?
I’m working on a collaboration right now, but it’s not definite so I can’t give away details. I’m working on more music. I can tell you that this EP is coming out this year—hopefully by summer. I will be constantly working on music—that’s what I’m always doing.
Why do you think people should listen to your music?
I think I have a different point of view to most pop songs because of the philosophical undertones. I think what I write about is quite universal and can hit home with a lot of people. I have been told that a lot of people feel nostalgic when they hear the music, and they associate it with certain times or certain seasons. I think I’m a pretty sentimental person and that sort of comes through in the music. I think that’s the kind of stuff people get attached to and they find meaning in. I’m not very good at selling myself, and I’ve never been a person who has tried to get attention or anything. It’s hard about me to talk about myself on my music.
Obviously you’re saying your music is very philosophical. Which writers or philosophers influence you and your music?
Well, I’m a huge fan of science-fiction and science-fiction writers like Philip K. Dick. A lot of his books and short stories are very philosophical. I think that’s why he was so popular. Kurt Vonnegut as well. A lot of his novels have philosophical undertones. I’m a big fan of science fiction and when science fiction meets philosophy.
Do you have specific instances where these themes come through in songs or lyrics?
I guess on “It’s Not Real,” but I think some of the lyrics are about trying not to predict the future. I do that often and I think it’s a very human tendency to try to predict the future and try to control the outcomes in your life. I think it’s what creates anxiety in people. I definitely think about this a lot. I find it really fascinating that people are trying to predict their own future and the future of the world. Like, why do we do this? People don’t like to be surprised.