Culture / Music

In conversation with Phoebe Go: honesty, vulnerability and sustainable authenticity

In conversation with Phoebe Go: honesty, vulnerability and sustainable authenticity

Whilst Phoebe Go has over 10 years of music industry experience, having cut her teeth with former bands Snakadaktal and Two People, fans of her unique voice and honest vulnerability will be waiting with bated breath for her debut solo record, Marmalade.

Set for release this May, Marmalade is a record about "losing comfort and the process of finding it again, or at least finding your feet to go looking for it again". Go wants to play with paradoxes on this record, or hold seemingly mutually exclusive ideas in her hands at the same time. "I wanted the songs to be vulnerable and brave at the same time. Life threw some stuff my way. It's a moment in time. I guess my desire to make this album was always bigger than my fear of it".

On a sunny afternoon in Darling Point, with a comfortably relaxed tone, Go tells us that things in her world are good. "I have been settling back into normality since getting back from the States," she tells me. Unsurprisingly, Go tells us that touring the states was "wild, it was so fun! It was exhausting, but amazing". Go feels "really comfy" now, having transitioned into making music as a solo artist, and she has found herself not having to think about her new musical identity.

Whilst she is in the relatively early stages of her new self-titled project, her formative experiences, like stealing her brother’s guitar when she was twelve, or early sonic influences like The Beatles and Bright Eyes still play a role in her writing – "big time". Go reveals to me that "everything I listened to was formative – like Sufjan Stevens and Elliott Smith. Just falling in love with songwriting has been a big part of it". Whilst Go can’t choose a favourite Elliott Smith record (who could?), she explains that his focus on lyricism is what really drew her in to begin with, and that focus on lyricism has "probably informed the place that I come from when I write".


Whilst Go’s songwriting can be perceived as lyrically heavy, there is a sense of humour and levity that offsets her work; a playful attitude to paradoxes. "I think as a person I'm intrigued by opposites: as a thing in life, and in emotions. You know, holding two opposing things in the same hand feels really true to me a lot of the time, I don't think I really feel one thing at any given moment."

Go explains that even in her project name, Marmalade, there is a balancing of lightness and "sad boy songs". "I wanted to capture in the name, who I am, my personality and how I come across, because it's just a part of me. So, you know, some of the songs are pretty heavy, but equally, I'm a pretty happy person. I find so much hope in having the capacity to write a sad song, it helps you move forward."


Whilst some of Go’s songs reveal themselves quickly, she explains others need to sit for a while and that her ability to relinquish control and be guided by the art itself has become a part of her process.

When it came to writing Marmalade, Go explains that she "had more trust in [herself], just having put the first EP out and getting through that first hurdle". For a record that many would perceive as poetic and observationally astute, Go says that "I think I was less concerned when writing this record to be super poetic, and I was a little bit more interested in just being honest at all times and seeing how that felt".

Whilst, like all artists, there can be some discomfort in listening back because her songs are so honest, it can "feel like a journal entry". Go was supported in her honest journey through working with one of her best friends, producer Simon Lam, who helped her with the more emotional vocal recordings and allowed her to sit in that honesty with a really beautiful nature. Lam recognised that Go needed space and oxygen around her songs in order for their nature to come to fruition – and occasionally a long chat with a beer in order to get Go out of her comfort zone in order to "serve the song".


In terms of building the sonic world of Marmalade, Go explains that it was almost like an experiment in minimalism: "We wanted to kind of dive even further into that; strip it back even more. Two or three tracks, no frills". It was an experiment for Go, in not perfecting things, but in "finding that sweet spot that had the right feeling"; an adventure in letting the honesty of her lyricism be reflected in the record’s sound.

Go’s honesty and authenticity is reflected in her visual world too, with a focus on making sure that "it is sustainable". Go has learnt not to over-scrutinise it, and to remember she doesn’t need to hide behind anything.

This genuine authenticity expands into her live shows and performances, as despite being a friend of CHANEL, Go will often not get changed before a show, simply coming as she is. This is not only a comfort thing for Go, but a way of completion, she explains. "I want to be complete. And, I mean, I love pushing the boundaries with different shoots or collaborations, or whatever. I think that's really exciting. But I think it's important that I can own it, whatever it is, and that I can find myself in it."

It is important for Go to step into a world that is her own rather than a foreign one, she says, "because I think that would just make the connection harder. I think part of what I like about music is that it makes me feel like listening to other people's music. It makes me feel like I can be more honest with myself. I guess I would strive to achieve that".

Part of Go’s personal philosophy and perhaps the key to her success is her "ability to say yes to things", which "has led to some really exciting and fun things", like her solo tour in the US, or being in a short film (working alongside a method actor and learning from them), and some exciting support slots. Phoebe Go’s ability to say yes to her own authentic self and to remain consistently honest is no doubt part of the reason why her audience are so trusting of her music and so endeared to her personality. 


Phoebe Go's debut solo LP Marmalade will be out on 17 May 2024.

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