Fashion / On Set

Our September digital cover star, Budjerah, on why he’s not afraid to get old

The first time I met Budjerah was in early 2021. The then 18-year-old was dialling in from his family home in Fingal Head, the land of the Bundjalung people, and as I frantically answered the Zoom call from my car, there was a quiet but confident knowing that instantly greeted me on the other side. It’s a composure that I have come to expect from Budjerah – an ease with which he navigates conversations, connects with a crowd and unsurprisingly, nails karaoke (his song of choice, The Temptations’ My Girl).

Now, fresh off a flight from Los Angeles and after spending a day on set with RUSSH at Kyeemagh Beach in Sydney, Budjerah and I are catching up on familiar territory; the backdrop of his family home serving as a reminder to us both of how much has changed since our first conversation.


Left: BARRIE jumper and vest; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch; CHANEL COCO CRUSH rings. Right: BARRIE jumper; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch; talent’s own shoes.


“I can definitely say that the Budjerah I am today, well, he is a lot smarter now. I look back at the artist I was then, and I’ve really learnt more than ever to relax into what I do and really own that,” he tells me.

As I sat there marvelling at how quickly the last two years had passed, Budjerah (always wise beyond his years), aptly reminded me that it’s not the passing of time that is important, but rather how we spend it. In his case, the now 21-year-old two-time ARIA award winning musician has barely wasted a second since his debut single, Missing You, landed in our ears in late 2020. With two albums under his belt and his 2023 hit Therapy continuing to impress, Budjerah is now learning to take his own advice.

Left: BARRIE top; CHANEL COCO CRUSH necklace, bracelet and rings. Right: Vintage cardigan; BARRIE top and beanie; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch.


“This year, I learnt a lot about my relationships with my family and the people I hold close, and how I balance that with my work and my schedule. It was a real adjustment for me, going from having constant access to those I love, to suddenly barely being able to find half an hour to nurture the connections that were important to me.”

“I’m still learning and navigating how I keep that synergy alive now that I feel like I’m finally getting it back again. But it’s too important to me to let it slip away.”

Admirably, Budjerah has never pretended to have it all figured out. If anything, much of his work has been led by the type of growing pains many of us would rather keep tucked away. It’s a testament to the honesty and authenticity he’s always championed – committed in many ways to offering a piece of himself to others. While much of our conversation so far had focused on his evolution, this characteristic is innately one that will never change.

So, with many of his experiences laid bare, it’s how Budjerah spends his alone time that really interests me.

BARRIE jumper and vest; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch; CHANEL COCO CRUSH rings.


“Surfing and skateboarding have always offered me a reprieve from the ‘real world’, even before I was a professional musician. It’s interesting to me when I look at them both side by side, because in many ways they’re yin and yang.”

“On the one hand, surfing is unpredictable. You never really know what the surf is going to be like – it can be messy, choppy, cold. Whereas skateboarding is a constant, I can do it almost anywhere. One way or another, whichever practice I need tends to find me at the right time.”

Whether he realises it or not, it’s this exact dichotomy that best describes Budjerah. Both playful and equally measured, he is acutely aware of the need to make every second count, but assured enough in his journey to trust that he’s exactly where he needs to be. Again, what did I say about being wise beyond his years? It’s a spirit that he shares with CHANEL’s J12 timepiece; a now icon within the luxury French fashion House that is just as much a keeper of memories, as it is a keeper of time.

Left: BARRIE top; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch; CHANEL COCO CRUSH necklace, bracelet and rings. Right: Budjerah wears BARRIE shirt. Namaala Slabb wears BARRIE jumper and CHANEL COCO CRUSH necklace.


“I don’t usually wear a watch every day, but when I do, there’s this new energy that emerges, and I was really reminded of that confidence on set. The different colourways and variations really allowed me to find my own identity in each piece.”

“Growing up, I didn’t have much access to ‘fancy’ things, so seeing someone wear a beautiful watch… to me, was always a marker of success. Businessmen, people in movies, the stars I looked up to all wore beautiful watches. Shooting this cover with CHANEL J12, well the inner child in me truly felt like a superstar.”

Left: BARRIE collar and vest; CHANEL J12 watch. Right: BARRIE shirt; stylist's own jeans; CHANEL J12 watch; CHANEL COCO CRUSH necklace, bracelet and rings.


It’s this wholistic experience that inspired the creation of the J12; emotive in its ethos of living deeply in every moment, paired with a practical sensibility that finds its roots in luxury sports watches. A reminder to be present and patient. Though, like anyone, this hasn’t stopped Budjerah from dreaming of the future.

“I can’t wait to be an old man and look back at everything I’ve achieved, I’m not afraid of time passing in the way that others might be. I’ve always really embraced it, rather than felt confronted by it.”

So, what does that future look like exactly? More music, (most notably an album) thankfully, with Budjerah teasing that despite slowing down this year due to the success of Therapy and now Video Game, he’s ready to give us “everything our hearts desire” in 2024. And while I’m looking forward to having my Budjerah-shaped cup filled to the brim with his blissful blend of gospel and R’n’B sound, I wonder what it is that he is still searching for.

Interestingly, our conversation comes back to a dream he shared with me in 2021 – a deep desire to be remembered. “My relationship with legacy is still the same, I want to be remembered as a legend,” he shares, an unwavering passion lighting up behind his eyes.

“I grew up watching DVD’s and YouTube videos of my favourite artists on tour, or on their journey, and this year, I was meeting and touring with some of those very same people. I want to be that for someone, I want to be their hero.”


Left: BARRIE vest; CHANEL J12 watch; CHANEL COCO CRUSH bracelet. Right: BARRIE shirt and scarf; stylist's own jeans; talent’s own shoes.

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FASHION Charlotte Agnew
TALENT Budjerah
HAIR Pete Lennon @ AP—REPS
MAKEUP Filomena Natoli @ Vivien’s Creative
VIDEO Olivia Repaci