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An interview with Blossom McKenzie-King - Singer/ Songwriter

January 7, 2019

Tell us about yourself in your own words.

My name is Blossom, I’m 26 and I grew up in Ulladulla, on the South Coast of NSW. I’m currently working at a card store in Melbourne, although I spent the last 10 years behind a coffee machine. I think I’m a good combination of nervous energy and positive creativity.


You play music and write songs. How long have you been doing that and what sparked your interest in it?

My mother’s family has always been very musical and family gatherings would often result in DIY karaoke/talent shows. I remember my cousins getting up and performing numbers from the musical theatre productions they starred in. My Grandfather would every time, without fail, sing Blue Bird of Happiness and my mum would no doubt put on The Pretenders and dance around. Growing up around all kinds of music at home, and also positive reinforcement at school, meant when I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar I was met with encouragement and support. My parents bought me my first guitar when I was 15 and when it was apparent that playing music wasn’t a phase they, with the help of my friends, all pitched in to buy me my Cole Clarke Fat Lady for my 18th birthday. 


Tell us about your creative process.

Well I guess, it’s a journal entry. I have these memories of being deep in my teen angst years, sitting on my bed crying and playing any chord progression and just singing my feelings. I found it really therapeutic and over time I was able to kind of mash those into actual structured songs. I played a bit with other people in high school but it wasn’t until I moved to Sydney in 2010 that I was able to successfully collaborate with other people. I think it’s very important to be able to explore your thoughts and feelings and express them in a physical form. Whether it be painting them, sweating them out at the gym or putting them in a song. It’s just a good thing to do for your brain.


Is that the main way that you get your feelings out? Do you do other things to journalise your thoughts?

Well, obviously talking openly about mental health and how you’re feeling is a good way of problem solving and I find that comparative thinking helps me better understand my own behavioural and emotional patterns. But it’s not always easy to expose yourself in that way. I’ve found that being out in nature helps me feel a bit more centred, it’s a shame I don’t often find the time to do that as much as I would like.


Do you find there is a big difference between writing on your own and writing collaboratively? Which do you prefer?

I don’t prefer one over the other. I definitely enjoy them both for different reasons. My mum has always said music is a universal language and wherever you are in the world you’ll be able to connect with other people. Collaboration is just a really good way of making friends and forming bonds. Also, having multiple interpretations of how something sounds can steer it in a direction that you may not have thought of alone, whereas songwriting, for me, is a cathartic process and a personal experience.  So I don’t prefer one or the other - they serve different purposes.


Have you noticed how your process has changed over time since you started songwriting at 15?

Yes, definitely. I kind of stopped using songwriting as a journal entry all together, for a while there. I suppose I found other outlets of self expression. When I was travelling and living overseas I didn’t have access to the right instruments or the amount of personal space that I needed to be able to do it in the way that I used to. I was still able to work collaboratively though, which lead to the band Mortgage who I played with for a little while.

I find that now I’m definitely challenging myself more and spending less time doubting my ability.


What sort of themes do you explore through your music and lyrics and what inspires your songwriting?

I suppose lyrically I tend to write fairly literally, following a personal narrative. I talk about my own mental health and thought processes which are all affected by so many different social and societal influences.


What do you as an artist stand for?

Well, obviously I stand for equality, but I feel like that’s a given. I am definitely all for and encourage self reflection and understanding. It would be good if more people understood who and what they are in the world and took actions to help broader society head in the right direction. I want everyone to be kind to one another and the earth.


What is the biggest obstacle you face when expressing yourself creatively?

I’d say my own self doubt and anxiety. Being vulnerable can be frightening. Word spewing your feelings in to a song can be a little confronting because sometimes you’ll stumble upon realisations and go “oh that’s how I feel” or “oh that’s how that experience has affected me”.

I think also, that fear of vulnerability can often disguise itself as laziness or lack of motivation, which can sometimes be difficult to combat.


Do you do visual arts as well?

I grew up around a lot of art making. My parents have always been involved in the arts community and have run workshops, painted murals and run galleries. I have the worst handwriting out of anyone in my family and I’m not that good a visual artist but I give it a go though! I dabble in illustration and have been involved in some small scale group exhibitions and some of my work has been used by bands for cover art and gig promo posters.


What is the best piece of advice you could give to young women and queer folk who want to make art or music or just be seen and heard?

It’s not just up to young women and queer folk to be seen and heard. It’s up to everyone to start seeing and hearing them. I know it can be scary and intimidating to get started, especially because it is so easy to compare your own creativity to other people’s. But, there are groups like Girls Rock! which help connect young people and share with them different skills in music and collaborative songwriting. If you don’t have access to organisations like that, I guarantee that there are other kids at your school who are in the same boat. Get together, share knowledge and support and encourage each other. No one else is in charge of what you’re capable of. 


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