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Out Now: Great Aunt

Jun 27, 2024

Out Now: Great Aunt

Great Aunt is an Australian folk duo composed of Megan Bird and Chelsea Allen. For a small outfit, they showcase a wide array of instruments – including mandolin, resonator guitar, acoustic guitar, double bass, percussive instruments, and vocals – with detailed harmonic arrangements.

Their music is groovy, with a foot-stomping feel as the base underlying relatable lyrics and stories, primarily drawing from Appalachian folk, bluegrass, and gospel music. Great Aunt is a duo with an impressive log of tours, festival shows, and releases that they’ve independently managed. Their most recent single, “What’s A Girl To Do Now,” covers issues around body image, identity, gender, safety, and equality.

We are eagerly awaiting the release of their debut full-length album, It’s All Downhill From Here, expected later this year. In the meantime, we are honored to highlight this incredible duo from all the way down in Australia, Great Aunt.

You just released “What’s A Girl To Do Now?” This powerful song addresses the struggles that women face around being “woman enough” – body image, identity, and more. Could you share more about the inspiration and meaning behind this song?

We started writing it when a lot of awful things were happening to women in our parliament that no man was ever held accountable for. We then spent a lot of time reflecting from our own place of privilege, as we watched First Nations women dying in [state] custody and the trans community being politicized and targeted by extreme acts of violence. We wanted to acknowledge how discrimination and acts of violence against women further intensifies at the intersections of race and gender. There’s a lot of work to do to support each other and fight for equity, where everyone feels safe, included, and as valued as any other woman. Space is infinite, there’s a place for all of us, except TERFs maybe.

You’re planning to release your debut full-length album, It’s All Downhill From Here, later this year. What has that process been like for you? What might listeners expect to hear from this much-anticipated release?

A diverse range of folk songs and a lot of personal stories to tell. We’ve been recording and mixing it ourselves with a vision to have some common themes throughout the album. Our main goal is to remain honest and sincere, and to try and translate that into the album.

As independent artists, what has the process been like for you to secure so many festival placements and shows? How do you balance the creative side of being artists with the business needs to book shows, attend conferences, and promote your music? 

We are fiercely independent! The balance is often skewed towards the business side of things with the amount of touring we’ve accomplished in the last 12 months, including three U.S. tours. The admin feels never ending, to say the least, but we both divide and conquer with festival applications, booking tours, and the PR side of things. We even do our own artwork!

Now that we’ve put in the effort, we’re starting to get invited to festivals and events around the world, which is really exciting. This year we’re balancing it in favor of writing and recording, while we start booking our next U.S. tour for 2025!

What’s your ideal vision for your future?

In the short sighted future – to continue touring the U.S., Australia, and abroad.

More importantly, we want to continue to embrace and help grow this music community so we can all thrive. We know that without the help of this community we really wouldn’t have had the incredible experiences we’ve had, so we will continue to pay it forward however we can.

What is your greatest fear?

We fear for all of us. That things don’t get better and we never find our way as humans. The feeling of being unable to make an impact or calling for change and it falls on deaf ears, is the crossroads a lot of us have been at for a while now. We see this as key as western countries enter the next round of elections.

What is your current state of mind?

Burnout and worry, yet still optimistic? Right now we make sure we find pockets of joy, away from our devices and the news.

What would a “perfect day” look like for you?

Starting off with a big pot of coffee… or two. Then sitting in our pajamas together, in our home studio, writing and recording music throughout the day, maybe sneak in a video game or two. Then we head to a show. It doesn’t matter if we or someone else we admire is on the stage, but it’s a room full of friends and heartfelt stories.

Why do you create music? What’s more satisfying to you, the process or the outcome?

It’s a form of communication and expression that is a part of both of us. Creating or writing music is a constant process of growth and exploration. When we “finish” writing a song, record it down, and release it, it still continues to grow and evolve as we perform it.

Do you create music primarily for yourself or for others?

Our songs start from personal experience, a reflection of something from our lives. While we don’t write music with an audience, we do hope that someone out there listening to it feels less alone, and can hold onto that connection.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

That a career in music is a long journey.

Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ artists and bands?

Some of the best music out there right now is queer music, and the list is forever growing. Adeem the Artist, Jessye DeSilva, Wiley Gaby, Crys Matthews, Brittany Ann Tranbaugh, Julie Nolen, and the beacon of light that is Allison Russell! Oh my!

We also adore Flamy Grant, Karen & the Sorrows, Amythyst Kiah, Jake Blount, and some local Australian favs are Charlotte Le Lievre, Little Wise, the Double Dole String Band, Kerryn Fields, Hana and Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits, This Way North, and the Tuck Shop Ladies.

For anyone reading this who might not be out of the closet, were there any specific people, musicians, or resources that helped you find yourself as a queer individual?

I, [Megan], was lucky enough to attend this place called Rock’n’Roll High School in Melbourne. It was a place started by Stephanie Bourke, an icon in Australian music. She created a safe space for young women, non-binary, and queer folks to start bands and taught us how to navigate the industry. On reflection, I distinctly remember I felt safe to be myself and finally found a place of belonging, where my queerness or size wasn’t singled out as an issue to fix. It was a significant turning point for me, and it came at the perfect time.

I came out when I was a young teen, and was fighting to live every day. I had the support of my family, but was constantly abused at school and even the school itself told my parents I didn’t belong. It nearly had a devastating impact. Please. Hold on. Find a space that makes you feel alive. Find people and community that don’t question or challenge your identity, and let you just be, that is your family. If you haven’t found it yet, please don’t give up. When you do find these people, the feeling of liberation will overwhelm you with joy. Great Aunt loves you, we’re rooting for you.

What does it mean to you to be an LGBTQ+ musician?

Being a musician helped me process and get comfortable within my own skin when trying to understand my own identity. We’re queer women, our music is written from our perspective, and our songs are literal stories from our lives, so it’s inherently queer music. We don’t underestimate the importance of visibility and allyship. It’s critical for us that our music is a safe space for everyone.

What has it been like for you as Australian artists touring in the US?

As folk music has such deep seated roots within American culture, we are always humbled by the breadth of the music community in the U.S. and how welcoming and supportive they have been to us. We reflect on how lucky we are to be able to do this, and the listening rooms we’ve played that have been full to the brim with people we now call friends. There’s no music scene like it.

What are your release and touring plans for the next year?

There’ll be a couple of U.S. tours, that’s for sure. Once we have this album out, we’re already thinking about another release to follow shortly after, and really want to make the most of a slightly quieter tour schedule this year.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Out Now is presented in partnership with our friends at Queerfest. Learn more about this Nashville-based queer-centered event and collective here.

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Out Now: Great Aunt
Out Now: Great Aunt