Montaigne releases second album
A lot can happen in nine months.
And for quirky Aussie alt-pop singer Montaigne, a short-term albeit toxic relationship inspired enough material to fill two albums.
For the follow up to hallowed 2016 debut Glorious Heights – influenced by her brief time with a bloke with a “Messiah” complex – the 23-year-old planned to go back to the well for album number two.
“It was going to be all about him (the ex). Then things moved on,” Montaigne aka Jess Cerro, who won the 2016 ARIA for Breathrough Artist for Glorious Heights, tells Music Confidential. But hardly on to greener pastures.
Written during a particularly grim period in her life, Montaigne’s second LP Complex also touches on gender pay imbalance, environmental issues, loneliness, body image and even sex robots.
“I was extremely down on myself, not just because of my own insecurities, but I got very ill in a way I couldn’t understand and no specialist could understand,” she says.
“It’s now medically recognised as burnout... at the time I didn’t have that diagnosis which really messed me up.
“I was writing about everything I perceived as wrong in my life, I was festering in that for a while, so that’s what ended up being on the album.” The record’s production was a way of “recalibrating my pscyhe”, Montaigne says, to the point where she feels like a completely different person to the one who wrote Complex.
“I have a lot of compassion for the person that wrote that album. I still see that person in me,” she says.
Fortunately, she’s managed to “temper” a number of limiting behaviours over the past three years: pushing herself too hard, not having any boundaries and people pleasing. “I had issues with all of those things,” Montaigne says. “Now I feel much healthier and saner and I’ve got a lot more energy for things I actually want to do.
“There were a lot of self esteem issues.”
A proud “big journaler”in her younger years, both Glorious Heights and Complex have become “touchstones and milestones” of Montaigne’s emotional journey to reflect on.
“They’re not just markers... (more) like warning signs. I do really like having these records of periodic sentiment and inner feeling,” she says.
First single off Complex, For Your Love, returned to familiar territory, though.
Montaigne admits it was only until months after the split with her ex – she left after falling for another person – that she realised the relationship had been mostly “bad”.
“I had a bit more space... all the chemicals had washed away,” she says.
“He was just a bit of a misogynist... in the way he treated me and the way he talked to me. (There were) a lot of things sexually as well, which were pretty dubious.”
Another key single, Ready, was written “impersonally” and closes the album with a sense of hope. While it contains the lyrics: “I’m frustrated, thinking about all the places I should’ve been by now”, it wasn’t coming from her own view point.
“I’m a big goal-setter but I’m not necessarily in a rush to be anywhere,” she says.
“The way things are going presently, I think I’m on a path that I would describe as ‘right’.
“I’m in a pretty content place right now. I think I’m living the happy ending of that song.”
Despite her personal growth, Montaigne can still relate to the spirit of her breakthrough single, 2014’s I’m A Fantastic Wreck. “I think everyone should identify with that tune to an extent, because that song is about wanting to be more than human,” she says.
“And waiting to be free of errors. I had this feeling (when I wrote it) that I didn’t have strong character because I hadn’t gone through enough hard times (laughs).”
It’s why Montaigne’s teenage mindset at the time feels “strange” to her now.
“The idea of ‘I want to taste tears’... I want to have something to cry about,” she says.
“I was in total denial about what was happening in my life.
“That’s been another thing I’ve overcome... stopping emotionally suppressing, repressing things.”
Montaigne is well equipped to deal with the next heartbreak: she’s a proud vegan, meditates regularly, eschews booze and would rather shoot hoops than do shots.
Don’t take her for a complete “straight edge” though.
“I’m constantly walking the line of... what is too much control and what isn’t,” she says.
“I feel like I can be a pretty spontaneous person, but I do also know I can be quite a control freak.”
Far from stressed over how Complex might be received – “I feel very confident with the songs...I think I’ve done some good work” – she pours herself into other pursuits too.
She digs sport – from ice skating, soccer to basketball – and is mad keen on rock climbing and learning languages.
She taught herself Portuguese this year, already knows French, a little Spanish, while German will be tackled in 2020.
Can we expect the next record to be bilingual in places?
“It’s on the radar, I would like to,” she says.
SEE: Montaigne, The Governor Hindmarsh, November 7 Complex is out now