Meet 18-year-old singer-songwriter Budjerah, who's taking the classic elements of gospel and soul music, and combining them with the contemporary sounds of pop and R&B - it's like Frank Ocean meets Sam Cooke. He's always had an affinity for gospel music, saying, "It's very freeing to sing gospel; if I'm feeling down, it really picks me up."
He grew up in a home full of instruments, playing in family bands. In many ways, playing music was an inevitability, and he says, "I grew up singing Sam Cooke and listening to gospel singers like The Clark Sisters. My dad taught me how to sing and that's the kind of music that has been around since I was little." He plays guitar and piano, often taking on covers of Moses Sumney or Tash Sultana over on his Instagram.
Budjerah's someone that feeds off the energy of those around him, and he found a like-minded soul in Matt Corby, who produced his upcoming debut EP. Matt helped him to push his sound further than he might have been able to on his own. Matt's studio is located close to Budjerah's home in Fingal Head, traditionally the land of the Bundjalung people, Budjerah's ancestors.
Reflecting on the experience of working with Matt, Budjerah says, "We're both singers. In my music, I think of how I'm going to use my voice as an instrument before the melody and anything else. Matt is classically trained, so he pushed me vocally. We both really like the real, organic sounds of instruments instead of synthesisers or anything too produced."
His debut single Missing You captures the feeling of isolation that many of us have experienced this year, and some may continue to experience as the world slowly returns back to normal.
There's a soulful R&B vibe to his music, and it's reminiscent of the likes of Daniel Caesar and Miguel. There's a strong sense of longing in every note Budjerah sings, and you'll feel it in your bones. There's wisdom and pain beyond his years.
Missing You is a song designed to tell a story, something that he's passionate about conveying. He loves telling stories. "When people listen to my music, they'll hear my experience. A song like Missing You is honest, and I hope it brings them comfort and shows they're not alone."
Speaking about making the EP, Budjerah says that he's learnt a lot about himself along the way. "I think that I think too much. And making my EP, sometimes with time limits in the studio, has taught me that I need to relax more and trust my instincts. I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes." Missing You is just the first chapter of Budjerah's story - and we're confident his story will be able to fill pages and pages.