Stephanie Alexandra Murat grew up in Armidale, has some extremely fond memories of the area, and she’s also used local locations as the backdrop for her latest music singles. Recording and performing under the name Cleo Alexandra, this star on the rise shares some more in depth details about her music – where it all began, and where she hopes to travel next …
Hi Cleo. What are some of your best memories of growing up in the Armidale area?
I’ve always been a very outdoorsy, adventurous country girl at heart, so my best memories would easily have to be with friends and family out at places like Dangars Falls, Point Lookout, or the Blue Hole and Apsley Falls. A day trip to places like these always rejuvenate me when I feel like I need some time out and want to be amongst nature.
You started to sing and write songs when you were young, but describe yourself as a bit of a shy person in your earlier years. How have you progressed as a performer and overcome the nerves when you’re on stage?
I was definitely very shy, to the point where many of my family and friends were unaware I sang and wrote music until into my mid-teens, which is crazy to me now! I only really sang in front of a particular group of friends at school, and at home when I was younger I would often sing in my parents’ walk-in closet, as it was closed off from the rest of the house, so I felt like no-one could hear me. Turns out my voice is so loud, they could hear me anyway ha ha.
However, working within the music industry has definitely given me thicker skin, and in turn I have developed an inner confidence I certainly did not have in my teens. This newfound confidence has also started to translate into my performances, and I hope to perform more frequently in the future, to keep developing that confidence on stage.
2018/2019 have been/are big years for you musically! Some may know you from the release of your first single, Criminal, but recently you’ve been working on two new singles and your self-titled EP. Firstly, tell us a bit about the single Who Can It Be Now, which features Rick Springfield. Where was this filmed … and why did you choose to cover this particular song?
When rummaging through old records, I re-discovered Who Can It Be Now. I remembered it being played around the house when I was younger and always loved knowing it was performed by an Australian band. The song was originally written and performed by Colin Hay from the legendary Aussie band Men At Work. When listening to the song again, the lyrics really struck me. I never noticed how dark and haunting they are. I knew straight away doing a cover of the song to emphasise the eeriness of the lyrics would be really cool, and with Rick’s vocals adding another dimension to the track, it has turned out even better than I could have ever possibly dreamed.
I wanted the accompanying music video to have the same mysterious, moody vibe, so my Videographer Tom Bishop and I chose to film the video in Armidale out at Petersons Winery Guest-house, which has turned out perfectly – especially with Rick making a cameo in the video. I couldn’t be more thrilled with it!
What was it like working with Rick?
Rick is such a generous guy! He recorded the vocals for us when he was busy on a tour in the US. He also filmed footage of himself singing the song for Tom and I to incorporate into the music video, even when dealing with the aftermath of the Californian fires late last year. His vocals work so perfectly with the song, that it’s now hard to imagine them not being there. This experience is definitely something I’ll never forget.
Your second single was also filmed in Armidale. Please share a little about this track with us.
My second single, I’ll Explain Later is an original song I wrote. The music video for this track was filmed out at the local Pine Forest, which sets the scene perfectly for the themes explored in the song. Some really great footage came out of the shoot, and I’m beyond excited for when it will be released later this year.
A huge amount of heart and soul has gone into recording your new EP, which was released late January 2019. What was the process behind the songs you personally penned for this recording?
My melodies come to me very spontaneously, and from there the lyrics form around the melody. The lyrics for these particular songs were taken from my personal note books, where I write down what I call my “mind mess”. It’s where I write down all my unfiltered thoughts, draw images that relate to my music and sometimes also write poetry.
I’ve always been inspired by poets like Sappho and Charles Bukowski or writers like Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Getting everything out of me through music was very powerful in starting to overcome particular struggles I was experiencing at the time. These songs truly helped me to understand emotions I needed to sift through in order to mature and grow. When you’re dealing with some kind of struggle, I know how much of an escape music can be, and to know these songs could be a few minutes of escape for someone else in which they can feel like they are not alone in what they are feeling or thinking – well, to me, that is everything. That is why I write music.
Where next for Cleo Alexandra – what are your future plans?
Gigging more both locally and in Sydney. I’m also hoping to travel to America and start learning more about the music industry.
Where can we follow your musical journey and purchase your music?
My EP is a digital release, so it’s available on all streaming and online music platforms, all of which can be found here: https://www.cleoalexandra.com/musiclinks
You can also find me on all social media and my website: www.cleoalexandra.com
The music video for my single Who Can It Be Now Feat. Rick Springfield can be found on YouTube.
Interview: Jo Robinson.