Meet Budjerah––a 20-year-old who just took home last year’s ARIA Awards for Breakthrough Artist, and who might be your next musician obsession. Hailing from a small town off the coast of Australia (Fingal Head, New South Wales, to be specific), he shares he was born very early in the morning. And as a result of such occurrence, he was named Budjerah, which directly translates to “First Light” (the type of light that emerges right before sunrise, he explains). And if you get the opportunity to see Budjerah perform live, you’ll understand just how fitting his name is. Onstage, Budjerah is electric. With nothing more than his guitar and voice, he effortlessly commands a room full of people. 

A few days ago, the young artist celebrated the debut of his EP with his first headline show at Baby’s All Right in New York City and brought VMAN along for the occasion. Armed with a Polaroid camera, he captured memories from the night and shared his favorites with us in this Tour Diary. Surrounded by family, friends and an ever-growing fan base, he performed his entire body of work. This included hits from his latest EP, titled Conversations, along with his collaboration with Ed Sheeran, “2step.” 

“New York is very different to home because I grew up in a little small beach town,” he shares. “It feels like I’m in the movie.”

With his newly released EP, the artist takes listeners through his experience in life, thus far. And he shares that the whole project started with “Talk,” a single written with fellow musician and good friend, MAY-A. Much like the title suggests, it’s a song about the power of communicating–a lesson he learned in his own life. A lot of his songs were formed in this way, being lessons and stories Budjerah learned as a teenager. While “What Should I Do” was written after having a falling out with some of his high school friends, Budjerah’s “Higher” distilled one of his really good days into a track. 

“People can really take away anything they want from it,” explains the artist. “I just hope if they need something to pick them up is that my song can do that for them. Or if they need a little bit of love, they could listen to “Talk” and feel love or whatever they need.” 

Each of the songs he crafts tells a very distinct story, something the musician is committed to. Out of all the things that Budjerah is, a storyteller tops the list. Budjerah is among the latest burgeoning artists shaping up to define the sound of the next generation. And his latest project is a testament to this–with each track he weaves together his rich musical influences of soul, hip-hop, R&B, indie and pop into a unique soundscape. He infuses the music of his childhood with more contemporary, dreamy chord progressions. The EP is just the first chapter of Budjerah’s story, a story that will likely have many more pages and chapters to come.  

“I’d sing every day ever since I could make sound so I don’t think it was a surprise that I’d be a singer,” admits Budjerah. 

Right before his epic headline show, we got the chance to sit down with the up-and-coming artist to ask about the EP’s inspirations, touring with Vance Joy and his thoughts on New York pizza. 

VMAN: Congrats on your EP, Conversations! I streamed it this weekend and it’s amazing. How do you usually go about writing your songs?

BUDJERAH: The writing for Conversations was spread out throughout the year. The first song that was written was “Talk,” which I wrote with MAY-A and Chris Collins. It was just after I put out my first single, “Missing You.” The song did a lot better than what anyone thought it was going to do in Australia and so a lot of things started happening. I was on a national tour and then I had all the photoshoots. So during this process, I was writing songs to get through, like the tough things that happened. I had a falling out with some friends and when that happened, I wrote, “What Should I Do?” And that’s sort of how all the songs came about. My writing process is very simple. When I went into the sessions for Conversations, I would just talk through what was happening, and we’d write a song about what was happening. That’s how I got the name Conversations. Anything that is happening to me, you’ll find that in the songs. 

VMAN: We love “My Name” on the EP. What’s the inspiration behind that? 

B: “My Name” is about my name [laughs]. If you’ve got a hard name, you know there’s always people that don’t want to put in the effort to even say it right. Even though it’s quite easy to say. So I wrote it, just to explain who I am. When I do a show, I always spell my name, like 700 times. It sounds so nice you just got to spell it twice. In this song in the background vocals it spells out my name and it’s me. It just tells who I am and it’s one of my favorite songs.

VMAN: And to bring it back a little, how did you initially get into music? 

B: I grew up in church, and my family was the band. My mom was the lead worship singer and my dad played the drums. When I was born, my parents had to go to band practice every day, and I would just come along. I really enjoyed singing. I’d sing every day ever since I could make sound so I don’t think it was a surprise that I’d be a singer. But for a while, when I was like, 12, I wanted to be an archaeologist, which is really odd. But when I was 15, I wrote my first song. I did the musical in high school. It was Hairspray. I don’t really do anything else in my time, besides music. 

VMAN: I understand that you also collaborated with Ed Sheeran, which is so crazy! What was the process of creating the “2step” remix?

B: They sent me the Stems and I don’t know how to use Logic or engineer. I didn’t know what to do with it so I wrote my verse to a karaoke track on YouTube. And I just voice memoed it and sent it to the team. [laughs] There’s not really a lot going on other than me just sitting in my car.

VMAN: And you’re on tour with Vance Joy right now. What’s that like? 

B: On this tour with Vance, it’s been just me on stage with my guitar. I let the music do the talking. I let people hear my voice first before anything else. And hopefully, it’s good enough that it catches people’s attention. 

VMAN: What was the energy of New York when you performed last week? 

B: It was crazy. New York is very different from home because I grew up in a little small beach town. It feels like I’m in the movie. I’m like seeing all these things from the stage. I could see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. And then yesterday, me my mom went to Carlos Bakery. My mom’s a baker and she watched Cake Boss all the time. So we’re seeing all this stuff that we’ve seen on TV and so it feels like I’m in a movie really.

VMAN: We saw on Instagram you tried Joe’s Pizza. How was it? 

B: It was so big. They always say that American food is big but I didn’t think much of it. It was good though. Very greasy, but good. 

VMAN: And as you’re about to headline your own show at Baby’s All Right in a few hours, how do you usually prepare? Do you have any rituals? 

B: I do a lot of warm-ups – for like an hour if I can. But that’s pretty much it. I like to eat. A lot of people don’t like to eat because they get nervous and it makes them feel sick, but I need to eat before I sing. I need the extra energy. So I always make sure I eat something.

VMAN: What do you hope your music does for people? 

B: I said this to someone else. I said I don’t really have a message for anyone in particular. It’s art so it’s subjective. People can really take away anything they want from it. I just hope if they need something to pick them up is that my song can do that for them. Or if they need a little bit of love, they could listen to “Talk” and feel love or whatever they need. I hope it just makes them feel better. Or if they’re sad, maybe they can listen to “Shoulda Coulda.” I was sad too, but the sun comes out again. I hope I can be there for people in need and they can take what they need from the songs. 

VMAN: Do you have any goals for yourself as an artist? 

B: I want to do a proper world tour. I hope I can bring my band over because I love my band to death. I’d love to give you guys the full show. Also maybe win a Grammy. I’d like to win a Grammy. But my focus is touring. I want to sing for people and connect. I’ll get my dancers, I’ll get my fireworks, everything. Maybe even a whole choir. But yeah, hopefully, I can just keep growing the show. 

Stream Conversations below!

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