Annie Rew Shaw, better known as Austel, has always been destined for music. From playing in her school jazz band across Italy and playing jazz festivals at a young age, now she’s here with her debut single ‘Crows’, full of synth and a dash of dark percussion. Ahead of her full debut EP Untold, we’ve had a chat with Austel about her music career thus far.
Congratulations on your fantastic single ‘Crows’, could you tell our readers a little bit about it?
Thanks! It’s been great to see people enjoying the track.
I wrote ‘Crows’ with Adam Stark (my producer) at the end of 2016 and it was a real forerunner for the Austel sound and direction. The song is about learning to let go of your insecurities and finding inner strength, no matter how many times you need to repeat that mantra to yourself.
How is your debut EP ‘Unfold’ (due for release later this year) going so far?
Really well, thanks. We’re just adding the final finishing touches – I can’t wait to share it!
The songs are very much part of a wider concept – a diary entry for the last couple years of my life. We’ve got two more singles coming and then the whole EP will be released just before summer.
Is there anything that’s surprised you or been unexpected in creating an EP for you?
The whole process has been a huge learning curve, both emotionally and technically. I’ve taught myself a lot more about production and learnt a lot from Adam about the use of space and where to place sounds. Personally, it’s been a really cathartic experience finally releasing my own songs after so many years of writing and performing.
You’re a super creative person outside of music, do you find poetry and art influences your music? Are there any poets and artists you’re enjoying works of at the minute?
I think my biggest inspiration comes from storytelling and exploring the depths of human emotion, relationships and our (dis)connections. Writing and drawing is a therapeutic release for me – it calms my brain and helps me make sense of my thoughts.
I’ve discovered a few new artists on Instagram recently. One of my favourites is Felix Dolah – his work is so bleak and minimal. Another is øjeRum, a Copenhagen-based collage artist. I’m fascinated by art that explores physical representations of mental health – that’s what a lot of my own work is inspired by.
Poetry and literature-wise, I’m big fan of Patti Smith and Leonard Cohen, and am also a bit obsessed with Max Porter’s ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ – it’s brilliant.
It’s amazing that you’ve hit so many major musical milestones already, playing Glasto, supporting Fleet Foxes on tour, it’s incredible! For you, what parts have been your favourite?
Definitely the people I’ve met along the way and the friendships I’ve made. There’s something really magic about playing music with people you love – that fulfils me more than anything.
Supporting Fleet Foxes with Lyla Foy in Ireland last year was amazing and gave me a real confidence boost as a musician. As much as I was in awe of the venues, I very much felt I belonged on those stages, just doing my thing. I felt very at home.
Given the chance to collaborate or work with anyone on the planet, who would you choose?
My gut instinct is to say Thom Yorke, but I think I’d actually be a little bit terrified of working with him!
I saw Nils Frahm at the Barbican earlier this year and felt like I was watching Mozart or something; it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t mind a little trip to Berlin to work with him – his studio at Funkhaus looks absolutely insane. All those gorgeous pianos…
If you had to describe ‘Unfold’ in three words or short phrases, what would you say?
I’m going to pass on your three word rule and share the most important thing I’ve learnt in the past couple of years:
‘You are your own home.’
Keep up to date with Austel on Facebook and prepare yourself for Unfold coming later this year.