After putting out her full-length debut, Not All Bad Or Good, in May 2020, folk-punk luminary Maddy Jane was in dire need of mellowing out. Her sudden rise to stardom clashed with the pressures of a debut album, and it sure didn’t help that Not All Bad Or Good landed in the midst of the most chaotic time in recent history. So Jane ditched the mainland and headed back home to Bruny Island, a coastal small-town paradise just off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania – an island, off an island, off an island. A good place to escape the malaise of city living, for sure.
Like most of us in mid-2020, though, Jane wasn’t exactly able to find her zen. The months that should have been some of her most exciting – those that followed the release of album she’d spent years slaving away on – were instead defined by existential crises, personal dramas and the looming question of whether she’d ever release music again. She kept writing, of course, and wound up penning some of the most intensely personal, soul-baring material she’d ever committed to paper. Naturally, Jane headed straight to the studio.
But while Island Time is the product of turbulence and uncertainty, it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like the natural next step in Jane’s musical trajectory, building on the twang and tang of Not All Bad Or Good with its own wallop of flavour. So with the EP out in the wild, Australian Guitar gave Jane a call to get the lowdown on why it’s such a crucial instalment in her saga.
In announcing the Island Time EP, you said that returning to Bruny Island forced you “to go back to what is truly me and understand what’s truly important”. What is it that you discovered in that process, and how did you channel that into the record?
It reminded me how much I value modesty and being grounded, remembering to connect with my roots and always come from a really genuine place. I find that all super important, but I think I just forgot to keep myself grounded a little bit. So that was one of the biggest things I worked out.
Do you think it was important for your growth as an artist, especially after putting out your debut album in 2020, to reconnect with your origins and take stock of where you came from?
Yeah, I think that’s it. It’s such a thing for a muso to do, to kind of freak out after they’ve released their first album. It’s like, “Righto, I’ve done the first album… Now, what even am I?” All that kind of existential stuff. But coming back home, I think it definitely did just make me go, “It’s really not that complicated.”
So do you see this EP as the next “chapter” in your journey as an artist – like the follow-up to Not All Bad Or Good – or is it more of a detour on the way to your second album?
Yeah, I’m not sure, hey? I mean, not knowing exactly what the next project is, I guess it’s hard to say right now. I think it only really becomes clear after all these things come to fruition, and it’s like, “Ah, yes, that’s what that was.” But I think this is a bit of a tangent, for sure. That’s why it’s an EP. And because I made it in such a weird time as well, I think [the nature of the project] reflects that a little bit. But it means a lot to me, and it’s something that I’m really proud of. Y’know, for a time, I was wondering if I was even going to write more music, so to have these songs at all… Yeah, that’s pretty relieving as well. If anything, it’s got some answers to some of the questions I guess I was asking in my first album.
It definitely is a product of its time.
Yeah. And I think I’m still coming to terms with that now, y’know? [The EP is] just about to come out, and I’m still kind of saying to myself, “It’s okay that the world was weird, and therefore the music reflects a weird time that you’ve gone through.” Accepting that was a big thing on its own, and it’s all a part of that project as well.
Let’s chat gear! Is your go-to guitar still that stunning cherry red Tele?
It is indeed! I’m a very “hold onto one thing and one thing only” kind of musician. Whenever I’m wondering what to do, the sound of my Tele brings me back to that feeling of, “Ah, yes, that’s the sound we love.” So yeah, the Tele is featured on this EP a lot as well. But I’ve just recently bought a Stat, too.
Oh shit, dude!
I know. This is huge. It’s actually huge for me that I’ve bought a Strat. So y’know, who knows where the Tele journey will go from here? Especially because I’m so hyper-focused on one thing at a time. Other than the Tele, gear-wise, I think one of the most common things throughout this EP is my personalised overdrive pedal.
I need to know everything, Maddy.
Red Sun Music made it in 2017 when I was on tour with Polish Club. That was all thanks to [frontman David] Novak, he literally called me before we did the soundcheck at the Melbourne show, and he was like, “Hey, you have to get down to the venue now.” I was so confused, so I sprinted down there, and they had the Red Sun guys there to make them a pedal. It was kind of Polish Club’s doing that I got involved as well. I got to pick all the frequencies out from an overdrive pedal, and they made it into my own little thing that I’ve used nonstop ever since.
F*** yeah, shoutout to Red Sun! Winding it back a bit, though, what drew you to the Strat?
It was just one of those things – I picked it up, and it was magic. I’m very feel-based, I guess. It was in my friend’s secondhand guitar shop – he gets all these cool, fun things in, and it was just on the wall one day, and it was beautiful. And then I played it, and I was just like, “…Yeah.” It’s really funny though, because it’s like twangy Strat, so it’s still got that Tele-esque quality to it. I was like, “This is the Maddy Jane strat.” It’s still got that familiarity to it. And I just love a bit of a twang.