From the Southern-Coast of New South Wales, Helena Massey is a perfectly poised folk-songwriter, as much influenced by the English folk-tradition as she is by her Antipodean contemporaries. Signed to New Zealand label, Home Alone, alongside the likes of French For Rabbits and WHIM, Helena released her third album, Brothers Puffins & Half Skulls earlier this year.
Written in 2018, and recorded with co-producer Rafael Lima the following year, Brothers Puffins & Half Skulls is a record that contrasts Helena’s take on the state of the modern world, with elements of mythology and her ancestral tradition. The result is an album that’s both personal and universal in its scope. Musically, the record harks back to the 90’s music that inspired Helena, from Jeff Buckley to Tori Amos, as well as more traditional folk performers like Pentangle and Anne Briggs. The result is a sound that sits neatly alongside contemporaries like Shannon Lay or Laura Marling, proving that despite being as old as music itself, folk music can still resonate in 2020 with a sound that’s both fresh and very exciting to hear.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Helena Massey?
I’m a songwriter from the Illawarra region of New South Wales, south of Sydney.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I was about 17, and played in a small bar under the name Haloumi Girl, singing over the top of pre-recorded tracks on my phone. The two other artists playing were really traditional folk. I was writing guitar music and the kind of songs I write now back then, but I was too nervous to play those songs for people so I did Haloumi Girl as a way to start performing with something that was fun and a bit carefree, It was kind of performative and that was useful to feel more comfortable singing in front of people.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
It feels like my closest language and the one I understand best. I come from a big family of visual artists and craftspersons, I get that creative world but at the same time I don’t feel called in that way, at least not at this time in my life.
FTR: What can people expect from the Helena Massey live show?
I gained more insight into people’s feelings about my live performances in the past year, people usually say they feel very relaxed or ‘blissed out’ which is beautiful and something I would love for people to feel, It’s just not what I expected. I think a lot of artists or musicians get that though, you might be coming from a place of severe anxiety or existential dread, and some really sweet person comes up to you to say they felt relaxed by it. On a more practical level it’s just me playing guitar and singing, so that’s what you can expect.
FTR: What’s next for Helena Massey?
I don’t know right now, I have new songs and ideas brewing, trying to get better at my instrument, that is usually where my focus is at. I would love to play shows but I don’t have any plans to right now with the covid situation.
They Listen To…
Chris Whitley – Scrapyard Lullaby
Anne Briggs – Living By The Water
Brighde Chaimbeul – An Léimras / Harris Dance
Sheila Chandra – Waiting
Tim Buckley – I Must Have Been Blind