It’s been an interesting year for Jess Cerro, who goes by the stage name of Montaigne. Originally slated to perform on the Eurovision stage, but with the cancellation of Eurovision 2020 and the onset of restrictions throughout Australia, Montaigne has been able to discover new ways of exploring her creativity.

Speaking with Star Observer, she said that “emotionally and creatively” the past months have been “very fruitful. I have been practicing making original compositions more than ever, I think. It’s been a galvanising opportunity.”

She has been writing more songs “that aren’t necessarily personal.” These “stories” she said, “have taken a turn for the fantastical and the imaginative and that’s really exciting, like I feel really alive because of it.” She’s also taken this time to amass a dedicated audience on Twitch, a live streaming platform. “It’s so nice to be able to share that with a pretty devoted loving audience that I’ve accrued over the last few months.”

Montaigne also spoke about her newfound interest in hyper-pop: a genre of music which combines both EDM and more traditional pop music.

The “interesting thing about hyper-pop is that its themes tend to be on the extreme side of sexuality and dominance… I think it’s a lot of queer people and marginalised people who once were the dominated and in the music can become the dominating” although Montaigne acknowledges that she herself “wouldn’t know how to write it in terms of real human relationships.”

She has instead been writing within the genre of hyper-pop from the perspective of a “parasitic mushroom” that “takes over the bodies of insects.”

“I wrote a song about that” but “anthropomorphising the mushroom so it seemed like it was just this very parasitic toxic person.”

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 Montaigne currently has a number of new projects on the horizon. In November, she will be headlining the first Express Yourself-Queer Discovery Showcase. This showcase event is a combined effort by Mardi Gras and APRA AMCOS.

When asked about the significance of an event like this, Montaigne told Star Observer that “I am a queer person, and if I’m going to do work it is ideally in space that resonates with me and shares ideals and values and paradigms about being.”

“People need to be represented in public spaces” she stated, speaking about the significance of giving undiscovered queer artists a platform like that afforded to them through Express Yourself-Queer Discovery, “otherwise they don’t know that it is a valid way to be. She went on to say that “queer artists especially need to be represented in spaces that denote success and represent an artist’s work being acknowledged and celebrated and remunerated as well.”

Montaigne has recently been one of many Australian artists to sign an open letter asking for an end to police and corrective services participating in Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Montaigne stated that this was important to her because “we saw what happened with the Black Lives [Matter] movement accelerating and increasing this year, for good reason.” She went on to say, “I think a lot of questions were raised in Australia about our own police force, which are also incredibly valid, especially around black deaths in custody and general indigenous incarceration numbers and percentages.

“I think it’s important to try and remove police from scenes of marginalised celebration or events,” she continued, “because the police have a history and a tendency to target those people more, assuming that they are less than or that they deserve it or that they are inherently prone to doing something wrong or transgressive. It’s important to show that we’re taking actual structural steps to eliminating the intensity of the presence of the police so that the government feels less reliant on using force, and especially police force to look after the country” because “at the end of the day what’s really going to protect people is public and social services that are available to everyone.”

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 When it comes to how politics influences her music, Montaigne affirmed that “it’s definitely something I live in my life. I think politics is a big thing always, I don’t think it ever fades,” and that “of course this then becomes a feature of music and art,” especially “being a queer woman of colour.”

Montaigne was slated to perform as the representative of Australia for this years’ Eurovision Song Contest. The contest was unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Montaigne will still perform at Eurovision 2021 with an entirely new song and performance.

“We actually had a meeting, like a first proper meeting, yesterday. I feel like, fairly, but not 100%, set on a song which I love a lot.”

Reflecting on a year lacking in live performance opportunities, Montaigne is hopeful that she will be able to continue her digital success.

“Now that I’m doing more Twitch stuff and things in the video game world I’m hoping that there are more crossovers in the video game world because that’s something that I’m genuinely quite passionate about.” She also added that “I might be doing some song writing or composing for a new indie video game” and that “I’m part of a Twitch squad that’s comprised mostly of Australian comedians and then me.”

“I’ve tried to make comedy crossover events happen” she said, “I’d like to do more of that stuff if anything ever arose.”

“I think the digital thing feels compelling to me” she went on to say, reflecting on all the opportunities that the digital world has afforded her over these past few months. “I think all of that is appealing because I don’t think I can always depend on touring. Especially in this day and age, travelling is incredibly fraught.”

With a number of different projects in the works, it’s clear that Montaigne’s creative spark has only been further ignited by the possibilities afforded by an increased emphasis on digital spaces over the past year.

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