Monique Brumby burst onto the Australian music scene in the late 90s, the rising star of what promised to be a new era in thoughtful, women-voiced Australian pop music. She released her debut album Thylacine in 1997 and picked up the ARIA award for best female artist. That year she was also included in Outrage magazine’s list of the most influential gay and lesbian Australians. After years spent dealing with an unwanted major record label contract, Brumby has come back with Signal Hill, a very pretty, very poppy collection of tracks written in the five years between albums.

It was very hard to decide what songs to put together. I really thought these 12 songs worked well together as a body of work, and took me on a journey -“ I think I moved through a place of frustration and hurt and sadness to enlightenment and jubilation, she says.

That frustration came in the form of pressure -“ to conform to the expectations of the mainstream music industry. Her honesty and openness about her sexuality created different expectations.

I feel that being a gay woman and being in the public eye, I think there are a lot of pressures from many sides.

Including from within the gay community itself. Brumby says: There is a part of the gay community that I find very superficial. I sort of felt like I was being pulled this way and pulled that way, when I was really just a person who wrote a bunch of songs. And really, sexuality is a part of who I am, but it’s not the whole.

[But] I think it’s important to remember that the body is just the housing for the soul, and we all live our lives the best way we can. There are different kinds of people in every community, and sometimes you can’t please all of the people all the time.

I don’t take things to heart as much as I used to, and I feel like I can speak really quite freely. I feel like I used to have to not hide, but refine my words, because I was scared, I was scared of giving away too much. But I think in the end you’ve just got to be yourself.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday Brumby and her band will play two Sydney shows with legendary political folk singer Michelle Shocked. Brumby says she has been a fan of Shocked since learning to play Anchorage from Shocked’s Short Sharp Shocked album as a young girl.

To get the support shows is just fantastic. I’m really excited and I think that the music I play is very compatible and complementary to what she does.

Monique Brumby and Michelle Shocked will perform at The Basement on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 April.

Sydney Star Observer has two copies of Monique Brumby’s Signal Hill to give away. Ring 8263 0513 on Tuesday 22 April at 2pm to pick one up.

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