Theia on collaboration, catharsis and the importance of honesty
For some musicians, the press junket is torture; the very worst aspect of the album cycle.
All they want to do is play their music, talk to fans, have a good time and start writing their next record – but instead they have to endure journalists, those plonkers with their irritating, odd questions and not-so-subtle agendas.
Consider Theia the exception to that particular rule then. It’s not only that the rising star (real name Em-Haley Walker) doesn’t mind chatting to journos: she actively enjoys it. “I really enjoy talking about my music,” Walker says with a laugh. “I love talking about music generally. It’s really cool. It’s amazing that I can do this, because it means that people are really interested.”
And that’s not the only way she breaks the mould either. Walker’s poppy, earwormy tunes – chief among them her biggest hit, Roam – have a distinct sound and style all of their own, and although she has her clear influences, she never panders to them or apes the work of others. She might love Lorde, but she’s not Lorde 2.0, and her approach to making music yields distinct results indeed.
“There’s no linear process to making music for me,” Walker says. “Often I’ll go in with a hook or an idea and then there are other times that I don’t. Like for Roam, I came up for a studio session in Sydney. I was so anxious at the time and I didn’t go in with any plan. But as soon as I got in there I was like, ‘Okay, I’ve just got to do this.’ That was a really spontaneous track.”
Having such vision and ingenuity is one thing, but being able to work well for others is something else entirely. After all, modern pop is nothing if not a collaborative effort, and relying on a veritable small army of other creatives – from other writers to stylists to music video directors – is part of the game for any contemporary star. Luckily for Walker, she’s surrounded by true talents, and relishes every opportunity to work with her peers.
“Whenever I make music it’s almost always a collaborative thing. I know what I want, but I also love collaborating and getting the best out of the other people involved as well. I always know what I want it to sound like, even though that might change from track to track.”
Indeed, an ability to change is key to Theia’s sound. Though many have tried to pigeonhole her, she breaks more genre boundaries than she adheres to: there are touches of everything in her music from R&B and contemporary pop to indie and electro. Roam might be the song for which she is best known, but its glossy sharpness is a far cry from a tune like Silver Second, her dreamy exploration of angst and burgeoning adulthood.
She is also up front about the personal nature of her music. She derives much of her material from her lived experience, and hopes that such honesty can create a closeness between audience and artist. But that said, Walker doesn’t want the songs to be treated like snapshots or diary entries: they might be of her, but they’re not for her, and she always has her audience in mind.
“I write mostly from personal experiences. That’s very important for me. I mean, music is definitely a cathartic process. It’s a vehicle to deal with a lot of things in my life. But also at the same time I know that music has an impact on other people’s lives as well. A song may start with an experience I’ve had, and that’s what enabled me to write it, but at the same time I put that aside and hope that other people will be able to relate to it in their own way.
“Sometimes people will really want to know what songs are about,” she says. “I’m always like, ‘Well, it’s personal and hopefully you can get what you need out of it, and get your own meaning out of it.’ I definitely think that’s so special – that people can really take away what they want.”
By Joseph Earp
Theia’s new single Treat You is out now through Warner Music.