dec 31 2023

Dear Monteam,

It’s the end of 2023. You and I have made it through another impossible year and through some minor miracle the terminals are still powered and pushing this email along the wires and you on the other end have an equally miraculous allowance of free time to read what I have chosen to say to you.

I wanted to recap on some things I got up to this year in case you missed anything and want to be fully abreast of all things Montaigne:

  1. I officially came out as non-binary, to a wonderful and expectant reception
  2. In a move towards greater independence I parted ways with my label and management after 10 years together! I hadn’t known the music industry without them until this year
  3. Julia Gutman, who recreated my image in textile and paint, won the Archibald Prize this year, which makes me the first winning non-binary sitter to be a part of a winning portrait
  4. Myself and Tom Cardy released Red Flags last year but this year it went viral on TikTok and has since its release now amassed over 110+ million streams
  5. I travelled to the US and finally met David Byrne in person – we went to his fabulous Broadway show Here Lies Love together and caught up afterwards. A very nice man.
  6. I wrote and produced a bunch of songs which will end up on my next album
  7. I was gifted my first ever PC by Aftershock at PAX (my first time attending and it was like coming home) and now I am able to Twitch stream more often and consistently!
  8. I became obsessed with Tetris and made a song about it for the McElroy Family’s Candlenights special
  9. My work on Stray Gods with Austin Wintory and Tripod was nominated for a GRAMMY and the game won Game of the Year at the Australian Game Developer Awards
  10. I performed songs from Stray Gods with Troy Baker and Anjali Bhimani at Eora Sydney’s first ever SXSW
  11. I hosted Naarm Melbourne’s first ever Big Games Night Out alongside Myf Warhurst in the pouring rain and the Cosplay Parade made me cry with joy
  12. I debuted at Zach Zucker’s Stamptown in Naarm Melbourne
  13. I let the world further radicalise me as we saw the cost of living crisis impact everyone but the wealthy and corporations, we’ve seen Israel decimate Palestinian life and the land of Gaza, and the climate around Australia become more and more intractable due to fossil fuel-accelerated climate change

I have been privileged enough to experience a great deal of joy and self-discovery this year despite it being personally tumultuous in equal measure. Fortunately I now find myself with a great gift at the end of 2023: that of clarity. In this clarity I see my politics and philosophy align with my professional purpose.

These days, the mask of humanity falls away from the face of capital with new regularity and brazenness, revealing a grotesque face: genocides, housing unaffordability, homelessness, the privatisation of social infrastructure and services, the cost of living skyrocketing, while those who create these issues pocket insanely unnecessary profits and blame the rest of our suffering on our own lack of individual responsibility/work ethic/ingenuity etc. It's sickening.

The music industry is very guilty of its own capitalist exploitation and I have decided to distance myself from those aspects of it as much as I can. It is impossible to be free from capitalism (unless…) but I believe that if it is at all possible artists should free themselves of control from the corporate profit motive. This is what I am going to try to do next year.

Thank you all for loving, listening to, and supporting me and my music all this time. Next year I am going to ask for some grassroots support. This will allow me to make what I like without having to think about the market, to make a Montaigne record entirely undistorted by pressure from charts, labels, press, all of that. It will also allow me to say whatever I like. I’ve more or less always done that but I think I have held back sometimes for fear that certain brands won’t partner with me (major source of revenue for a music artist nowadays) or that it might seem hypocritical to be vocally anti-capitalist while signed to a Sony Music venture but I’m choosing not to be concerned about those things anymore. I believe in solidarity, I believe in people wanting to support things because they believe in the goodness and value of them without developing any capital for them in return. I really believe that those on the Left want other leftists to succeed and for their endeavours to succeed too. I’m sure not all my fans are self-described leftists but I do believe that my fans want a fairer world for all.

I’ve been investigating distribution options for music and there are some interesting ways forward. I’ll keep you up to date on what I end up doing. There will be new Montaigne music next year one way or another!

Ok. Have a really fun New Year’s Eve/Day and see you in 2024 🙂

Solidarity Forever,

montaigne ✩°。 ⋆⸜ 🎧✮

may 6 2022

Heya Monteam,

I’m emailing to say that a few things have been announced! Firstly, there’s a remix EP for Always Be You called alwys b u (remixed) – title inspired by Linkin Park’s Reanimation album. The artists who did the remixes are Lonelyspeck, Katie Dey, Donatachi and Nick Ward – four extremely underrated queer Australian artists whose music I love so much. My next record, like most I’ve made so far, was made by just myself and one other person –  there wasn’t room to collaborate with others on production, so this was a really enjoyable way to get people I’ve wanted to work with for a while on the current project. Most of them have released their own records this year that are also completely amazing – Katie did Forever Music which you can listen to and buy exclusively on Bandcamp; Nick recently released his Brand New You EP which is just such an incredible entry to his catalogue; Donatachi released huge bopper donatachi.com, also an EP; and Lonelyspeck recently had a bunch of cuts on the new Daine mixtape Quantum Jumping released, as well as a song with cookii and Hearteyes called WEIRDO from 2021 – Abyssal Body is also a crazy good EP you should listen to.

I also did my own remix! It’s my first release that I have produced myself. Of course the stems from the original did a lot of the heavy lifting but I’m still proud of this new arrangement I’ve done :) We all mixed our own remixes and they were mastered by Joe Laporta from Sterling Sound.

Curtis Maguire + Jacinthe Lau worked on the cover art – Jacinthe has been acting as my art director for the last few months and Curtis has been a staple for graphic design. He’s got such a wonderful brain and it’s been a real joy working with him. The cover has a little secret which you will have to wait to uncover, though theories are welcome…

Here’s the team in all our zoom glory <3

I’ve also been announced as headline artist at the Queen’s Ball in Brisbane on June 25th! Graphic here, and the link for tickets is brisbanepride.org.au. Please come along! I love playing queer events.

And finally! There’s a new Netflix-produced queer teen romance called Heartstopper (based on Alice Oseman’s web comic) which is absolutely amazing and lovely and heartwarming and you should watch it, not the least because Because I Love You plays a part in the final episode! I’ve had a lot of new listeners come through because of the show and I’m very grateful to be a part of this brand new queer work that kind of feels historical??? Anyway, go watch it if you want to feel all warm inside and also want to cry happy tears. It’s a very heartening depiction of the queer experience, both for those who are old and new to their queerness.

Thanks for being here, team!

Love, Mont x


feb 25 2022

Hi Monteam!

I’m loathe to use capital letters nowadays but I’m gonna use them in this missive for the sake of flow. It’s not the last way in which I’ll betray myself and it’s surely not the worst.

I’m here to let you know that I’m back with a new release more special than any of the usual ones because, breaking news, this one has DAVID BYRNE ON IT! The song is called Always Be You and I thought I’d tell you a bit about it here, long-form (and nowhere else will I go into it long-form!!!!).

How did I get David Byrne to collaborate with me? you may well ask. Well, DB has been a long-time hero and influence for me, arguably the most influential artistic figure in my life; he’s someone I’ve learnt from and looked up to for the majority of my career. Because I Love You (which is my most popular song to date) wouldn’t exist had I not been listening to Speaking In Tongues on repeat at the time. I’ve even worn my own version of the big suit several times on stage (and in my daily life as a fashion choice).

(Taken by someone from Amnplify – not sure who. Feel free to msg me if it’s you.)

As usual, DB came up in conversation with Dave Hammer (the guy helping me make my third album – he’s worked with Lime Cordiale, Genesis Owusu, and Mia Rodriguez, to name a few) during a session. Dave just laid it out on the table: We’ve got to get David Byrne on this album. Dave, if I knew how to do that I’d have done it years ago, I said to him. 

(This is Dave – I took this picture of him on film recently.)

You miss every shot you don’t take though, so we decided to get to work on a song that DB might sing on. Meanwhile, Dave’s manager hustled for a DB email address and managed to get one from someone who worked on a project with him years ago. They wished me good luck with my contact attempt and I took it to heart.

I sent David Byrne an email – a very long-winded one explaining the initial space concept album I had in mind (RIP Space Lady), highlighting the one song I’d written for him to sing on – and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, DB replies in one business day.

I lost my god damn mind!!!!! Such a lovely, open-hearted response. All correspondence with David thenceforth was much the same – just a really chill dude who loves music and making things. A few months elapsed between the first email and him actually tracking on the song I sent (called Gravity) because he was busy with rehearsals for American Utopia which was returning to Broadway. When he finally had time to give the songs proper attention, this was his feedback:

Imagine getting this feedback from your idol?????? 🤯 There was a moment in the production of the album where I thought, maybe all these suck? And now I’m stuck with all this music I made that I feel less-than-confident about? David saying these things really drove those fears away.

So David sang on Gravity, and when I asked if he wanted to do a bit on Always Be You as well, which was mostly done already, he was up for it as well. Hence, David Byrne of the Talking Heads is now in cahoots with Montaigne Music.

That is a very glamorous ending but Always Be You had its inception long before this point in time. Like I said, Dave Hammer and I had been working on music for a while. I contacted him after I heard Don’t Need You by Genesis Owusu and wanted to work with whoever helped produce that song. We did Technicolour (my 2nd Eurovision song) of course but were working more generally on what would become an album.

Always Be You cropped on a day that my partner Pat sat in on our session. Pat at the time was funemployed and spending most of his time writing short fiction & D&D campaigns so he had ample time to come visit me at work. It’s a testament to the strength of our relationship that I was able to write the lyrics I did, clearly and unequivocally about our own relationship, while he was sat by me, listening.

The song is about the early stages of our relationship – how hard they were, the uncertainty and doubt I think we both felt about whether it was right for us or not, especially having been close friends before dating. Difficult as that time was –  all the panic attacks I had and insecurity I felt – we managed to communicate our way through all of it and arrive in an extremely secure and beautiful place. Learning to meet each other halfway and with compassion during those crisis moments really cemented trust. We both feel great certainty that, life-willing, we’ll be together for the rest of our lives. I wanted this song to encapsulate that journey – I feel like you don’t hear many songs about successful love relationships that acknowledge the inevitable struggles you confront as a couple (or for the poly folks, a several [?]).

Daniel Kitson’s 2012 show It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later addresses a similar thing (not specifically about songs but being in an intimate relationship), which is why I reference him in the song. He’s a comic/writer that me, Pat, and David enjoy very much. I also played soccer with him once at Crystal Palace in London! There he is, third from the right with the beard and glasses, shot on my now deceased Zoom 70 point-and-shoot.

Anyway, that’s heaps to digest.

I’d also like to encourage you to check out the music video for the song! It was directed by Nick Ward + Jacinthe Lau, another creative couple who we’ve become good friends with. Jacinthe shot the single cover on film. It’s really gorgeous. My abuela asked if she could get it framed and hung on her wall. Nick has his own solo project which is completely amazing, go check it out.

Thank you all for sticking with me over the years. It's such a thrill that I still keep hitting new milestones time after time – the pandemic really made me feel like the validity of my career was waning but when these kinds of things happen I feel incredibly light and heartened, and they happen more often than they have any right to.

Lastly, I have a show in Sydney at the Factory Theatre on March 3rd! There are still tickets so come along. You can find other show dates on my website which I totally revamped and designed myself using Cargo (it’s so good – not an ad, just appreciative of the service since I have zero coding ability). All photos on the site are either by Jess Gleeson or Michelle Pitiris.

I’m so excited to keep revealing music to you this year. I hope it can be comforting to you when you need it – lots of heavy stuff at the moment, look after yourselves.

Talk soon,

Jess aka Montaigne

feb 3 2022

hey team,

it’s been a min ! it’s always been a min. i’m gonna be a bit more regular with mailers this year, there’s a lot going on & i’ve become a bit more hands-on in the last 6 months.

these mailers are gonna be a source of bts info/footage but i’d also encourage you to join my discord server where i often dip in to talk one-to-one with members and make announcements that might not appear on other socials platforms.

today i announced that i’m doing the Great Summer Nights show, which is an addition to the existing NOW (IN SPACE) tour. the NOW (IN SPACE) tour now has three shows: feb 17 in melbourne, march 3 in sydney, and march 19 in queanbeyan for great southern nights. nardean will be supporting on all those shows. gonna try & do something new! we’ll see how it goes.

ON TOP of that, my appearance at eurovision: australia decides has been confirmed! i’ll of course be playing technicolour, plus a special other song you’ll hear more about soon…i’m actively having to hold myself back from revealing anything about this…you’ll see…

you might have noticed that my new press photos & campaign aesthetic is looking pretty un-space-y. just as now (in space) was about to release, i realised that the record i was working on actually shouldn’t be a science fiction piece, shouldn’t be about the vast expanse of space…was about the opposite thing, really. RIP space lady. so i’ve revamped the whole thing. me and my friend jess gleeson got together to take some photos around me and my partner pat’s rental & they turned out really nice. I styled myself, with my own clothes. we mostly chatted the day away, took photos in between. it’s so nice to make things with your best friends.

okay! that’s all for now, there’ll be so much more later…it’s gonna pop off. just you wait and see. alright.

hope you’re all well, jess aka montaigne.

copyright: montaigne 2022