Austel – Interview

Tuesday 17th April 2018

Having spent the majority of her time dedicating herself to music, Annie Rew Shaw learnt to play piano from the age of 5 and is also classically trained.  She was part of a jazz band at school and also spent time as part of a musical theatre group. Instead of going to University, Annie decided to move to London to continue to pursue her musical career further.  She has since gone on to perform at Glastonbury Festival and support artists such as Fleet Foxes and Rumour Cubes, to name a few. Now, working under her alias as Austel, sees Annie release her debut single “Crows”, a beautiful expressive track, which relates to the anxiety felt within the unknown.

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself? How did you become a singer/songwriter, and what made you decided to make a career out of music?

I started learning the piano when I was five and was classically trained in both piano and singing. Music has always been a huge part of my life – my parents are both musicians and it was a huge part of my childhood. I was in my school jazz band and went to a musical theatre group for years, so grew up on quite a healthy mix of genres. I always wrote little songs and poems growing up, but started thinking about them more seriously when I was around 12. I had quite a tough time at school and songwriting was a real release – a way to gather my thoughts and find my own way. I loved acting and writing at school, but music always had that extra pull for me. It’s always felt like a very natural part of who I am, and in that way I guess it was an inevitable path. Instead of going to university, I decided to move to London and make a go of it, and I’ve been here ever since! It’s not always easy finding the balance between making music and making rent, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

How would you describe your music, and where do you take your inspiration from when writing your songs?

For most of my life, I’ve written songs on the piano or guitar, so they’ve often had that singer-songwriter, folky feel. However, in more recent years I’ve started to experiment with more electronic soundscapes and writing from bass lines and beats. So I think Austel is a real mixture of that – classic songwriting with dark, electro-pop vibes. I take a lot of inspiration from human emotion and relationships – not just those with people, but with ourselves and the world. I’ve always been quite a sensitive, empathetic person; I soak up a lot of what goes on around me. I also get really inspired by books, TV shows, art – anything that evokes a story or strong sense of relatability.

You released your single “Crows” a couple of weeks ago. How are you finding the response to your music so far?

It’s been amazing to release my own music after years of working on the sound and trying to find the right home for my songs. There’s been a great response to the single so far – some really lovely reviews in the press, which is nice to see. It feels great to get the ball rolling.

What’s the story behind the song?

I wrote ‘Crows’ with Adam Stark (my producer and bandmate) at the end of 2016, which was a year where I’d had to make some big personal decisions and change a lot of things in my life. The song felt like a new beginning; not for the project but also a mindset – that I could let go of the things that were holding me back.

There are only 5 lines to the song, which are repeated throughout. Was that intentional?

It’s designed to be a kind of mantra; ‘I don’t have to go where you go / I don’t have to speak when you don’t’ was a reminder to myself to seek inner strength and follow my own gut, rather than constantly seeking the validation of others.

The accompanying video is simple and effective, and works really well with the song. Who did you work with to create the video, and how did it feel seeing it finished?

Thank you! It was directed by my friend Dominique Croshaw, who’s a brilliant visual artist in her own right. We made it together in Kingston last year and it felt great to release it alongside the single. The video’s designed to represent the notion that sometimes you have to fall apart to put yourself back together again in the right way. It’s a continuous journey and about finding peace with the different parts of yourself.

Are you looking to release an EP or album in the near future?

Yep, there’s an EP on the way this summer! It’s called Unfold – I can’t wait to share it with you.

You have quite a background supporting other artists. Could you tell me more about your experiences and who you’ve enjoyed working with?

I moved to London a few days after my 19th birthday, only knowing two people in the city. That year, I played Glastonbury Festival as part of a project formed by Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly), and it was through that that I met an amazing group of musicians (including Adam and Terry who both perform in Austel) and my other collaborations have all stemmed from there. I’ve had some amazing experiences – supporting Fleet Foxes last year with Lyla Foy, touring the UK with Rumour Cubes and Munro Fox, performing gigs of all shapes and sizes across the city. I love all of the projects I’ve been part of. They’ve helped me grow so much as a musician and a human being, and introduced me to some of my best friends.

What do you get up to when you’re not writing or performing, are there any particular hobbies that you enjoy?

I love writing and drawing – they’re both also pretty important creative outlets for me. Long walks listening to records. Reading. Art exhibitions, museums, gigs, theatre shows. Brunch. Can brunch be a hobby?

What’s your ultimate aim and where do you hope your music will take you?

I think my ultimate aim is to create music that makes people feel less alone. To create some sort of relatability – a connection. That’s what I personally love about it; how songs can lift you up out of the darkest places, wrap themselves around you or help you tap into feelings you can’t make sense of. In terms of where I hope music will take me, I would love to be able to travel and see more of the world. Meet more people, create amazing memories. Making music with people I love is the best thing for me and I’m very grateful to be able to do so.

Connect with Austel via her Website, Facebook and Twitter.