It’s only February and Celia Pavey is having a massive year. Fresh from snagging spot number two on Triple J’s Hottest 100 with Flume under her musical nom de guerre Vera Blue (you might have heard of her?), she just yesterday opened the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup first match between Australia and India alongside Mitch Tambo, Harts and DJ Dena Amy.
On a surface listen, some of Pavey’s biggest hits are full of infectious, heart-swelling buoyant energy, but dig a lil deeper and there’s a whole lot more to the story. Strains of self-doubt, overcoming toxic relationships, and finally coming into your own (as a woman and an individual generally) all weave themselves through her music.
Syrup sat down to chat with the gal behind the Vera Blue project talking growth, healing, and coming into your own. Keep reading for Pavey’s reflections on finding your own identity in the chaotic, halcyon days of being young, her fav Mardi Gras memories and the TikToks she’s currently sinking her time into.
How do you think about the project of Vera Blue versus the person Celia Pavey? Are they two different identities?
It’s all about the music really, for me, and the music I released under my real name was very folky and organic and stripped back. My first moves into electronic music were just through listening to FKA Twigs and Banks and even like people like Beyoncé and Britney Spears. When I started moving more so into that kind of sound, that’s where I thought that the name change made sense.
As an artist Vera Blue there’s definitely a person there, stage-wise. When I’m on stage I feel like I’m… I mean there’s dancing, there’s like, lots of moments where I feel like I’m not really present, I’m kind of just in a different world. So it’s like I’m a different performer, not so much a different personality, I’m still the same person. But there’s definitely a different performance happening there.
Was Vera Blue a persona you created over time or one you had a clear idea of from the beginning?
It’s still kind of changing. I think the more confident I become on stage and through making this kind of music, I feel more comfortable as well. It was more just the change in music that inspired me to feel different on stage and be able to perform differently. It was also working with different producers, I found my producer Andy Mac, and we kind of just worked really well together and wanted to explore the sound. But me as a person is still the same, still the same character!
How do you think about your own identity, especially as an artist evolving in the public eye?
There is a little bit of pressure sometimes to be able to keep creating music that, first I feel really connected to, but is also a sound that keeps changing and evolving. I’ve released my first album, and that you know, meant so much to me. That [album] was a bit of a storyline in itself, it had a sound.
After releasing that it’s almost like I have to recreate that, but still keep those essential parts of who I am, and the story that I want to tell in the music. It’s nice to be able to make music that people can connect to as well, that means a lot me so yeah
Do you still wear the fragrance that inspired part of your project’s name, Princess by Vera Wang? And can you tell us some of your current fav scents and any special meanings or nostalgia behind them?
I don’t wear that one anymore, that was like my first perfume and I was wearing it kind of through high school and I would just like drench myself in it. When I was younger my mom always used to wear really beautiful perfumes and that I had a really strong sense of smell and I still kind of do.
Whenever I smell something that I haven’t smelled for years, it like takes me back to certain moments. I haven’t actually smelt Vera Wang for maybe like every year, [laughs] it’s so weird being like, “I haven’t smelt this for a long time.”
But it’s so true! Sometimes you smell something and you go back in time, like, ‘Oh… this is me in high school.’
Yeah, completely it takes you way back. At the moment I wear Gucci Bloom which is really really beautiful and I just love florals and flowers and a sweeter kind of smell. And I was wearing Flowerbomb for a while by Viktor and Rolf and it’s really beautiful. But yeah [Vera] was my first perfume. I think it was a Christmas present. And I love the name, Vera Wang, so I was like, oh I think “Vera” could be a cool name for a project.
You address some weighty social topics in your music, like leaving bad relationships and “not begging for respect” as a woman in “Lady Powers”, can you tell us how you think about your music in relation to what’s going on in the world and any messaging you put in there?
Totally, yeah, in the last few years of making music and releasing it all, for me been about relationships. Everyone has relationships in their life, and how they can go wrong or how things can break your heart, or even friendships as well. So my music is very inspired by relationships and how you’re treated by the other person.
For “Lady Powers,” it was definitely about being in a relationship with someone who maybe disrespected you, made you feel like you weren’t worthy or made you feel like you were incapable of doing things. Also feeling like you needed them to have purpose or identity. “Lady Powers” was kind of about coming out of that and being like, “Hang on, no, I feel like I am strong and independent and confident and know who I am.”
That was a moment of going “okay, I’m going to break out,” and same as “Regular Touch”, there’s a couple of songs that are more about like female empowerment: building strength and figuring out who you are and not having to kind of depend on someone else to make you feel worthy.
Did you figure that out before you wrote the songs, or writing the songs was the process itself?
Writing songs was the process. Some of the songs were about wanting to feel like that. When we were writing “Lady Powers” I didn’t necessarily in that moment feel empowered or feel strong, but the crazy thing about it was once the songs had been time to breathe and after the song was written and produced, I felt that, that kind of power.
I also had that time to mend after all the things that I’d been through in relationships. In my music life at the moment, I am now being open to other things that are happening rather than just my own relationships. My friends’ relationships and things that they’re going through, mental health issues, things like that, that I’m connecting to a lot of at the moment. I’m slowly just branching out into different parts of the world, whatever’s happening at the time rather than just what’s inside and what I’m feeling.
Right, like moving from a slightly more internal focus to an empathic external one?
Yeah, the last record was very much just heartbreak and coming out of that. I fell in love so young, and I kind of was holding on to that. And then the minute I mended and got over that I was like, “oh, there’s so much going on in the world apart from just me and this other person.” And now I can I feel inspired to write about other stuff. And also just learning about yourself, how strong you are without knowing you are.
Do you have any tips for people who are struggling with their sense of identity and finding their own strength?
I think the main thing is having people around you that you trust and that you feel confident and comfortable with. Having strong people that you feel like you can talk to all the time. Also, I think just trusting the process being young is like, is yeah, it’s crazy. You go through so many different emotions, but just try and trust the process of being young and and and try and enjoy every minute of it.
Can you tell us about your relationship to Mardi Gras?
This is like so exciting for me because I’ve been to a lot of Mardi Gras parades and things. It’s always such a special and like crazy experiences, there’s so much energy and so much excitement.
My first really, really good time at Mardi Gras was when I went with one of my best friends who is in the LGBTQI+ community. We went with a few of our friends and we all kind of dressed up in like wigs and like coloured skirts and were like little fairies. For us, it just about being able to feel comfortable and vibe off the energy. I think it’s going to be really special to be part of the float with W Hotels and being on the float the Love Out Loud, it’s just gonna be like, “Oh my goood, this is crazy, look how far we’ve come!”
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working on new music, just trying to figure out what I want to do. At the moment, just doing lots of writing, lots of experimenting sounds. Just in the studio doing, doing the thing that I love, being busy.
How do you want to be remembered (if at all)?
I want to be able to make a difference in a way of helping people, obviously connect to my music, but also get through relationships or get through whatever they’re going through. When I’m writing and making music, at the moment, I like to think about how the audience will connect with this and how it’ll make them feel.
Connection is the main thing that’s really important to me. I want to be able to connect people and hopefully make them feel nice. Music’s really powerful and awesome.
How are you practising self-care in 2020?
At the moment, I’m really enjoying dancing. I love dancing, I grew up dancing, which is why I’m super keen to do this float too, because we’re always going to be having a really good time dancing.
I go for walks, actually, I broke my toe like a month ago, my third toe so I just been like chilling out and not putting too much pressure on it. But in the last week, I’ve been able to do things normally, which is really cool.
I’ve kind of just been chilling out, you know, go get a massage every week. Well, not every week. That’s a bit ridiculous, but I can dream.
What are you manifesting?
I have trouble doing that kind of thing, I look too far in the future because I have anxiety. So I kind of start freaking out about what could potentially happen. I like to live in the moment and let things happen as they are, but I guess being able to tour overseas a lot more is a really special thing for me and, and being part of different collaborations.
What’s your fav place on the internet?
Obviously, I love Instagram, but I find that I’m constantly falling onto accounts of dogs. I have fallen in love with sausage dogs. They’re, like, the cutest things ever. I also love accounts that have lots of glitter and lots of colourful stuff and makeup and things like that. I can’t think of any in particular, I think they’ve got really particular names. Mostly animals, dogs and fashion.
Are you on TikTok at all?
I just got a TikTok account and I have been, like, obsessively scrolling through.
Do you have a favourite TikTok?
All the ones I scroll through are just animals. Because I started watching re-watch them I think the algorithm knows. Everything is just dogs and things that are really funny, I like that one that’s like, “I can put it in a bun,” and then the dogs and the cat’s ears are like in scrunchies and stuff.
You can catch Vera Blue on the W Hotels Love Out Loud float this Saturday the 28th of February. Happy Mardi Gras everyone.
Lead image via @billyzammit.