Broods frontwoman Georgia Nott released her new album on International Women’s Day. For The Venus Project, she has collaborated with an all women crew, from players to publicists.
“Every time I saw a woman behind the scenes or on a tour, which was not that often, I was just like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so surprising.’ and I got annoyed that that was my reaction.”
Her colleagues on the project included Broods’ keys player, Camila Mora, who was there from the start, co-writing. There’s artist Ashley Lukashevsky who has designed gorgeous images to go with the record: moon phases, naked women, tigers and venus flytraps. Mastering engineer Emily Lazar waved her final wand of magic over the recordings: she’s worked on thousands of albums, including ones by Bowie, Björk, Paul McCartney - and the last Broods record.
“I noticed a huge change doing this project - everything that I said was really absorbed by the women around me, and I got asked what I thought so much and got so much creative control - I felt so supported, not that I don’t feel supported by the men around me, but these women expected me to be amazing in every aspect. And it made me realize that I should expect that of myself,” says Georgia.
The statistics speak for themselves - in New Zealand and Australia, only around 22 percent of APRA/AMCOS registered songwriters are women. It’s worse behind the scenes - Women’s Audio Mission, a training program aimed at helping the cause, reports that only 5 percent of audio engineers, producers, video makers, and music media are women.
“What was I supposed to do about that? And how was I supposed to make my mark as a feminist in this movement and be an activist?” Georgia says.
“For me, to make something that completely embodied what I thought of the women around me, which is that they were awesome, and talented and creative and they had something amazing to say - I wanted to have a celebration of that. It’s been awesome to take this really vulnerable music that I’ve been writing and make it into this all-women Venus Project.”
In case it wasn’t obvious in the fact she can collaborate with her brother so successfully, Georgia is close to her family.
For this interview she’s got her younger sister Olivia with her singing backing vocals on the RNZ Music live session of 'Daughter Of The King'.
As I put my headphones to speak to them, I hear them whisper “I love you” to each other, it’s the sweetest thing.
“I’m Olivia’s favourite person on earth” giggles Georgia. I can’t see them, but I think Olivia is nodding.
“I think having siblings is the biggest gift, or having family that you can lean on. I come from a ginormous family, and it’s funny how you get older and your friends from school start to fall away, but you’re left with who you’re related to. And I feel lucky to be so close to my siblings, and all my thousands of cousins. I grew up knowing that family was the most important thing to put my energy into - that and what I’m passionate about, which is music.”
One of the songs she plays for us, ‘Daughter of the King’ was written for one of those thousands of cousins.
“She went through this awful breakup - it was pretty sad for her. I remember sitting in the car with her, and she started to tear up, and say, like ‘I know that I didn’t deserve what happened to me, because I’m the daughter of a king, and I deserve to be treated like that'. I thought that was really beautiful and I wrote a song for her about it that afternoon.”
It has a religious, hymnal tone to it, which Georgia says is intentional:
“She’s a very committed Christian, and I think that really helped her through that rough time for her. So I wanted it to be a song for her that related to her.”
Georgia and her siblings grew up going to church - the pulpit was their first stage, hymns were the drills for the Notts' angelic voices. It’s another committed Christian who inspired her to follow music as a career path too.
“Brooke Fraser was the reason I started to write music when I was a kid, her songs have been super inspirational to me."
Georgia doesn’t go to church anymore. I ask how her interpretation of feminism sits with the teachings of the church.
“There are a few things that I’ve decided not to take in and, like, my parents are very Christian but they’re more about the personal relationship between them and God rather than these old-school ideas that preach against homosexuality and that kind of thing. Those teachings, I think they’ve been misinterpreted, and I don’t believe in them.”
She and her brother Caleb have just attended the women’s march in Los Angeles, making placards for the occasion.
“My flatmate’s one said ‘I’m not ovary-acting’ which she thought was hilarious, and Caleb's said ‘He For She’.”
“I felt like I wanted to cry the whole time, it was a couple of days after we released the first song for the Venus Project and it was such a nice way to celebrate the fact that after two years of trying to make the Venus Project come to life it actually happened.
“And to celebrate with so many people at this women’s march, it was pretty moving. It was great to see so many families there, with their daughters and sons - people turning up for women - it was so special.”
I ask if she posted a #Metoo when that was happening, and she says no, that she felt that none of her stories were bad enough to warrant the hashtag. She says she’s been quite sheltered, and had good people, good men around her.
“But I do feel like I was told to shelter myself, and be very aware and self-protective, self-defensive.”
Which is what her song ‘Need a Man’ is about: “But you say I need a man / To protect me from other men / Can’t you see the irony?”
“Subconsciously I clench my fists every time I walk past a group of men. And everyone I say that to says ‘oh, me too.’ I just got really frustrated when I’d see women being blamed for being victims.”
The music video for the single ‘Won’t Hurt’ - features a young girl. Her mother is busy on the phone and the girl bravely gets her own breakfast, makes her own lunch and packs her school bag. She starts to dance up a storm of crayon, coloured doodles eventually falling to the floor where her mum finds her and picks her up, crying. It might be because I have two little girls of my own, but it has me choking up every time I watch it. It’s not just me.
“Everybody who knows me and has watched it ends up in tears.”
I ask “do you still have cuddles in your mum’s lap?”
“All the time.” says Georgia. “I’m very, very into cuddles. I definitely believe in the theory that hugs combat depression.”
Georgia wrote the treatment for that video, explaining that it’s her portrayal of what it feels like to be anxious.
“The girl in the video is young me, when I first started to experience anxiety. And I wanted to make it a bit more obvious, so at the end, that’s me, in the same clothes.”
I ask her what situations make her anxious and she answers with a chuckle; “everything!”
“I’ve really honed in on working out how to manage it in the last couple of years. When it first started, I was quite young and it would come crashing down on me hard, but not very often.”
But then she left home, and that was when her anxiety became crippling.
“I couldn’t leave the house and then when [Broods] got signed to a record label and we started touring, every night I’d go to bed and panic about everything and it would overwhelm me to the point where I was thinking about whether it was even worth being a musician.”
But she had good support through that time, and found strategies to cope.
“I know how to breathe through it.”
She went to see a breathing therapist, something she was skeptical about at first, but says that a good breathing habit has been crucial for her, on top of her regular yoga and mindfulness practices.
“That really helps me stay in this realm of a broader perspective - I think as soon as that narrows, everything that shouldn’t worry me starts to worry me.
“Even though doing this, the Venus Project has been mega scary and stressful, It’s quite amazing to be able to say ‘I couldn’t have done this three or four years ago. And now I’m attacking it like a boss.”