Wafia is one of Australia's national treasures. Despite not being born here, or even living here at the moment, the Brisbane-bred singer/songwriter has moved from strength to strength over the years and it's amazing to see how far she's come. From the darker moments of Heartburn, Window Seat and Bodies back in 2016-17, Wafia has now come to a place where she's delivering one of the brightest, poppiest collection of songs she has in a while.
Good Things EP is a 6-track EP full of songs we've already heard like Pick Me and Flowers & Superpowers, along with a couple of new numbers that show an even more vulnerable side of the 27-year-old. While she speaks of the importance of "duality" in her music, Wafia seeks to tap into the positive nuances of situations on the Good Things EP (which is why we had tell us one good thing that happened while writing each song on Good Things) - when she wrote about having only $70 to live off on Butterflies, she focused on the art of being creative. When she'd gone through a break-up with an ex on Hurricane, she wrote about how amazing her friends were instead.
It's not all peaches and cream, obviously - Wafia explains she's homesick for her family in Brisbane but has come to terms with the fact that she has to be in LA right now, waiting the pandemic out. She explains she's lost touring work and doesn't get to see her friends very much. But when listening to Good Things, all of that falls away and we realise that Wafia's ability to hone in on the good parts of this crazy world we live in and package it up in a fun, joyous way is why we love her in the first place.
How are you? Man, things are different in the world since I saw you last. How is being in LA through all of this?
It's been okay. It's just where I need to be right now. I've made my peace with that, my family's made their peace with that. I really miss home. But I think I know what being home feels like it was even without quarantine. There's no work for me [there]. Aside from like, when I tour once every six months and no one's touring. So there's a little bit more variation to my day here than if I was home. Even though I miss home so much.
It must be hard being away from your family in Brisbane, how have you guys been staying connected, do you talk a lot?
I talk to my mum and dad every day, I talk to my sisters pretty often. We sometimes watch movies together, like Princess Diaries and we just like texted the whole way through. So that’s been really fun.
I guess having a strong friend support system in LA would be really important to you right now away from them.
Yeah, but also like, we can't really hang out. So, even that I don't have as much. My partner lives here and that's been really great. I have a couple of friends that I see but like, not really my close ones, they live on the other side of town and like, I don't really drive and I don't want to take an Uber. I'm trying to take this as seriously as I know that I can control. You know, how can I expect other people to take it seriously if I don’t? So these are just the sacrifices we have to make.
It’s been a while since you’ve dropped an EP! How are you feeling about Good Things coming out? Are you nervous or super ready?
I'm definitely nervous. It's just like the poppiest thing I've ever done. And also the most... I say this every release, but it is the most honest that I've been, gradually. We just want to be as transparent as possible. It just hit me that this is coming out. And then like, the last song on the EP is about how to lose a friend and like, my friend that song is about doesn't even know that that's coming out because we're not friends anymore. I'm like, so anxious, but I have to realise that the worst has already happened. She doesn't want to be my friend. So that's fine. But also I have to write about my feelings. There’s no way I can write music and not deal with that head on.
It's so rough, because it's like, I've been analysing this a lot. And it's like, why does my friendship break-up hurt more than my break-up? Because you think that these people are gonna be in your life forever. Like when you meet someone you like, we're going to be friends forever. And you think that this person is going to be a part of your wedding party, and suddenly, they just decided that they don't want to be part of that. And they don't really have to give you an explanation as to why, you could just look one day and they've unfollowed you on everything. It hurts! It also goes back to being in primary school and feeling like no one wants to sit at your table. You're like thinking, ‘Man, my table is pink and fun! Why don’t you wanna sit at my table?’
Well, who knows? She may reach out when she hears the song?
I don't know that she's going to love the line “can’t even tell you I don't like your boyfriend.” But it’s like, I wrote that because I’m hurt.
You’ve spoken about shedding heaviness with this EP and grieving, does it feel like a fresh slate or rebirth in a way?
No, I think there's still so much more to unpack. This is like, I think a taste of what's to come but like, there's so much minutiae that I'm excited to get into. Like, I feel like I live in those moments, that's where my songwriting thrives, that little attention to detail and I'm excited to unpack that more, I think. With music, I don't just address the thing and then move on to the next project. Like those are the themes that set me up for the next record and the record after that and I think it all informs itself. I view it as my whole career being this body of work as opposed to just one record project.
It's storytelling, and it shows how far I’ve come. This is a lot brighter than anything I've ever done, you can only say that because I've done work that came out in like 2016 that was absolutely not that bright. I feel so fortunate to be able to be growing so much with my audience, with my fans and for them to see these changes within me. I feel like I’m living and breathing it at the same time the music comes out.
We’re all going through the heaviness of the world on top of personal stuff so how do you think everything that’s happened this year will affect your writing moving forward? Is stuff you’re writing this year a lot darker?
It's hard to say - all of this stuff was written before all of this, but if I'm approaching the pandemic in the same light that I would approach my personal life, no, I wouldn't sit on it as like this negative thing. Obviously, there’s space for that. Duality is so important and like, this is a heartbreaking time, and I can only speak for myself personally and even this is from such a place of privilege, but I can choose to look at this positive side. I have more time to work on the visuals of my record, or I have more time to finish my album. And again, like I said, that's such a place of privilege to even say that out loud when people are losing their jobs and, you know, to some degree I've lost my job in terms of touring, you know, but I'm trying my best to just not tread water. And the best way I know how to do that is just to keep moving forward and control what I can control and try to add some variation to my day.
Butterflies feels very early 2000s to me somehow, I can’t pinpoint what it is but I think it reminds me of early JoJo or Hilary Duff. Was that era the inspo?
It wasn't intentional, but it definitely feels that way. Something about it, even that bridge is like, a little cheesy, but I love that. And the title and everything it definitely feels that way. And even like a lot of the visuals around this record have been very, like scrapbook-feel, very ‘90s, early ‘00s, but that song has crept up on me. I did not think I would like that song as much as I have. It's also a breath of fresh air. It's a song about creativity, and about like honouring those moments when you feel low, and just waiting for it to come, which I think very much speaks to how I approach songwriting.
Alright, can you please share with us one good thing that happened while writing each song on the Good Things EP?
A fun memory of making that song is that we worked in Santa Monica. It was with Sarah Aarons, Australian icon, legend, and me and this incredible producer called Digi. He does all the Khalid stuff. So it was the three of us in the session. Oh, I have so many stories. I was going to tell a story about how an intern baked us cookies. But I'll share a story about how that song is actually the song that broke up my last relationship. So that session was the session where my ex was like, ‘don't go to that session.’ And I was like, ‘what are you even saying?’ Like it took that moment for me to process that this relationship was not serving me. Obviously, I went to that session and then I wrote Hurricane that day. I remember showing it to him, and he was like, ‘this is not a good song.’
So what I'm saying is, this is a very good thing because, in this session, it just woke me up from this toxic thing that I was in that I didn't even like, realise how much it wasn't serving me and it took him making me pick between my music and him to wake up. I could have gone into that session that day and write a song about ‘I hate you’, but I wrote his beautiful thing to my friends instead. That to me encompasses what this whole EP is about.
I mean, that song wouldn’t have even happened if it wasn't for what happened with Hurricane. So Pick Me is just the story about how Hurricane came to be. Also, I associate food with music and my life so much, and that was the day that I discovered forbidden rice when we got poke bowls.
Oh my god. I was gonna say another food thing. I have synesthesia but with food and music! For Butterflies, the good thing about that was taking a very real situation - like, I think, I want to say I had $70 in my account. And like, I have no idea when I'm going to be able to afford to go back to Australia. I was in between record deals. I knew that it wouldn't be this way forever, but then like, having to show up and write songs and make yourself feel creative, when you are also really stressed out about money is so difficult. My favourite line in that song is basically this line that talks about going to university and like, “Bs is for bullshit because it's garbage. But that Bs means Bachelor of Science. Every little thing was like a little spin on feeling like, “oh I should have finished my degree. I should have gotten into medicine. If I was a doctor right now you’d have way more than $70.”
Flowers & Superpowers
I was listening to Shania Twain the day I wrote that. I love the way she did key changes and the way she talked through the song, and when she talked it would change key. And then it would modulate back when she would start singing. I thought that was genius and I was like, I need a song that modulates; I need a song that has like, an epic key change. And what better song to do that than for a song that’s about edibles!
That song was originally titled Enemy. And it was very, it didn't sit right with me. Like, it was very clear that song needed to focus on… not that person, not that ex, that ex could’ve been anyone that fulfilled that role in my life at that point. What I wanted to focus on was good things. I mean, that to me is like the embodiment of this entire record, of just choosing that, even though this enemy lives in the same world, it's part of the same thing. Choosing to acknowledge the positive – it’s like responding to someone who sends you a really nice DM as opposed to someone who sends you something nasty, like why do that? For me and my mental health it's better to focus on the better thing than dwell on someone else.
Lose A Friend
A good thing about Lose A Friend is just that I made a friend that day. Maggie, the girl I wrote the song with. She's become someone that I really love and admire, that was very pivotal.