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On The Table Read, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, Melbourne based band President Street talk about their creative process and the inspiration behind their new single, Heal.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

www.jjbarnes.co.uk

I interviewed Pete and Ruby of President Street about their lives and careers, their creative process, and what inspired their new single, Heal.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

Hey! We’re President Street – made up of Pete and Ruby. We’re a duo based out of Melbourne Australia. We write all our songs together and do most of the production and when performing live, Pete plays acoustic guitar, keys, hand percussion and loop pedals and Ruby sings as well as plays a few flourishes on an electric drum pad.

President Street on The Table Read
President Street

At the moment our live footprint is pretty small so we have a few amazing electric guitarists we’re fortunate to call upon to play with us but are excited to be able to get a full band together soon!

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When did you first WANT to write songs?

Ruby: I’ve been writing songs since before I could talk properly and even have some home videos of me singing as a toddler. I realised I wanted to write songs I guess when I started really putting pen to paper – around age 7 or 8 when my brother got an electric piano – I’d run home from school on days when my brother would be at piano lessons and my parents late at work and maximise the 1 and a half hours I had alone and learnt to play piano enough by ear and started writing songs. I’d put all the piano settings back to how they were and always did it in secret!

I guess at that time it was an outlet to express all the dreams and feelings I had and also just very cathartic for me as I was always very sensitive inside and took a lot of things in the world around me to heart. Music was always so helpful for me growing up, you know, to know that at least one other person in the world was feeling a similar depth and a similar way about things as I was – whether it was happy, sad or in-between, so to write songs in the hope that others connect with them and find solace and shared joy listening to them – whether the music, melody or lyrics – is a very special thing and I love to think that our songs can be that for other people!

Pete: Music came to me later in life as an adult. And once it came to me, I couldn’t really escape – it kind of took over my life! For me growing up and losing my family a young age and basically being orphaned, looking back I guess I had no other choice but to go into survival mode. It was either sink or swim. And I swam! So I finished schooling and did my best to establish myself with a solid grounding to give myself that security I didn’t have for a large part of my life.

I guess once I was able to do that enough for myself, I had a moment to really breathe and music started to creep its way into my life in very serendipitous moments. It’s funny because my mum and her side of the family were actually incredibly musical – had she not died when I was a baby, no doubt I’d be exposed to it and be put in music lessons and started from there. Our name, “President Street” is actually the name of the street where I grew up in Perth where I was orphaned – we like to think of it as representative and symbolic of the cathartic coming home within yourself sort of feeling music give us. Plus our first EP is called “Involuntary Actions” – which is what music has been for me once it found its way into my life – or once I found inside myself!

Many of the songs on that first EP highlight breaking away from a previous life and version of yourself which were the cross roads I was at at the time I guess.

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When did you take a step to start writing songs?

Pete: It was a few years ago. At the time I was doing percussion gigs but I realised that the songwriting process was the thing that really grabbed me. So, I grabbed Logic Pro (a music software programme), a guitar and a keyboard and set about learning them all haha.

Ruby: I would say I took the step when I was a baby and was singing little melodies with the first few basic words I learnt and have never really stopped. A couple years ago actually while cleaning out some childhood boxes from a previous house move, I found pages and pages of songs I’d uniformly typed and printed out with my name and © copyright symbol haha – most of them must’ve been written when I was mid teens that I did that in anticipation of turning 18 and of taking them to a record label at the time before other things got the better of me for a few years until I came back around to it as like Pete, music feels like the most natural thing for me – an involuntary action.

It was really cute to find those songs though and read through them and quite amazing as all the melodies and music came flooding back. I can’t say they were masterpieces but some were pretty good considering!!

What was your first song released, and what was it about?

Pete: Our first song we released was ‘Yeah I Know’. It was a song which I wrote at a time when I was hanging out with some movie script writer friends. And being quite intrigued by the three-act structure of movie scripts I attempted to incorporate that idea into songwriting – but built around the verse, chorus pop song structure. So in order to do that I wrote the song with each act representing an emotion – ‘Yeah I Know’ is a song about betrayal so the song is structured around the 3 “acts” of firstly suspicion, secondly acceptance and then, thirdly, anger.

I actually did a demo recording first with a male vocalist before Ruby and I met (I can’t sing to save myself unfortunately!). So it was a totally different sound to what ended up being released – it was originally quite mellow and sombre actually. When Ruby came onboard she listened to a CD of a few other songs I’d written at the time and said she loved “Yeah I Know” specifically and that she couldn’t stop singing it in her head. 

Ruby: Yeah! It’s an amazing song and super catchy. It’s definitely a crowd favourite. Pete and I recorded and wrote some other songs and I asked ‘what about “Yeah I Know”’ and I was dumbfounded when he and a producer we were working with at the time said it wasn’t really working well enough to move forward with it. Mind you it did sound very different energetically with a more sombre vibe lower register male vocal – amazing still but a very different feel.

I’d been singing it obviously in my voice and could hear how great the song was and begged Pete and this producer to just let me to one recording take of it and then decide if they definitely still wanted to can it. Thankfully, we all agreed it came to life being sung in a higher register and a bit more attitude and with a few production changes too it is what it now!

Heal, President Street, The Table Read
Heal

Pete: Yeah and we were stoked for it to chart in some US college radio stations!!

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What was your latest song released, and what was it about?

Ruby: ’Heal’ is our current single! It’s about remembering painful times in life from “family” – family being blood, religion, unfair events in life, governments… – and stepping into that pain rather than avoiding it which is a natural human instinct to avoid unpleasant things right? But by stepping into pain and honouring it for what it is, you can let go of a lot pain and fear and find the deeper meaning to ultimately release yourself from it and heal.

Sometimes pain can hold our greatest gifts and lessons in life to learn and grow from. Ups and downs and change in life are a sure thing so it’s good to look for the lessons in everything as there’s always ‘work to do’ 🙂

Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Heal?

Both: Heal is a deeply personal song and our first version was originally a bit heavy and intense for radio so our biggest challenge was the process of letting go of it to some extent to let the production elements take shape. But we’re so glad that we did and are so proud of the final version that we released as it’s got such a great groove and has a lighter summer vibe that’s so easy to listen to and keep on repeat!

We were so happy to work with the amazing John Reynolds who produced the song and can’t wait to continue working with him to finish our upcoming mini album!

How many songs are you working on right now?

Ruby: We’re working on a bunch of songs at the moment. The mini-album coming out in the next couple months will have probably 5 to 6 songs and that’s our real focus at the moment. It’ll be a good mix of fun pop, a ballad as well as more chill vibes. All connected over different sort of levels or processes of healing as a core theme. Keep an eye out! 🙂

Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?

Pete: We do go with where the mood strikes but interestingly we have written a bit recently about the idea of struggle, challenge and healing and questioning some of the things happening around us. We’re not sure if that’s a reaction to the pandemic and the state of the world but yeah, healing has been a theme as of late! 

What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?

Pete: That’s surely like asking parents to pick a favourite child haha! We do love them all so that’s a tough one. But we do both love ‘Heal’ – its a song that we both became very attached to straight away. We both love the fact that musically its a bit out-of-the-box in terms of typical pop songs that are popular at the moment but we really feel that its still very relevant musically. So we think its got a uniqueness about it that we’re very proud of.

Ruby: Yeah I’m definitely with Pete on this one – Heal has been a song for me that I would play whenever I was feeling a bit down as musically, melodically and lyrically I find it I guess what the name of it is about – healing. It’s very cathartic for me and I always feel lighter after listening to it! My other favourite is the sister song to ‘Heal’ which is ‘Something to Believe’ – again, it’s uplifting and you feel stronger after listening to it and I just love the more orchestral elements to it too!

Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?

Both: Absolutely. To be honest we don’t focus on any one particular artist too much but we’re always listening to what’s happening out there. We are loving so many British artists at the moment like Dua Lipa, Griff, Little Simz, Coldplay, Ed Sheehan, Jessie Ware, Roachford – there are just so many!

Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?

Pete: We write it 🙂 We do bring in session musos to play particular instrument parts from time to time though.

Ruby: Yeah – if anyone’s seen us live you’ll know Pete plays acoustic guitar, keyboards, djembe (hand percussion) as well as loop pedals AND he’s know to put a bass line or or two down on a recording. So if we get anyone in to record anything it’ll be electric guitar and drums mostly! I obviously sing and we transpose a few lines I sing into guitar sometimes or another instrument because I definitely don’t bring as much instrumental talent like Pete does!

Do you play any instruments?

Pete: Yes we play pretty much everything on our tracks. Neither of us have ever had any music lessons and we’re self taught 🙂

Ruby: Yep – as in the previous question Pete’s nearly the one man band haha!

Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?

Ruby: LOVE performing live. It’s taken me a bit of time to step into my own as I had a bit of self doubt in the past and was a bit inhibited when in a live setting but now I just relax and enjoy performing our music so everyone else does too – to feel the energy of people and work off that or try to lift it is so much fun. Seeing poplin the audience smiling and dancing away is amazing because you just want them to enjoy themselves and the music! 

We’ve just wrapped up a fantastic tour around the English O2 venues with legendary U.K. artist Roachford however we’ll definitely have more to come – the best place to stay up to date to come see us live are on our socials and subscribing to our mailing list so jump on board there. In the meantime we have some live videos YouTube and our socials but it’s never the same as in person! 🙂

President Street on The Table Read
President Street

Pete: Absolutely! It’s the ultimate connection with our audience and really it’s the highlight for us. But of course there is an element of it being scary but once the first song starts and we have that connection with the audience the fear quickly goes away. If we’re all feeling prepared then it all flows! 

Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?

Pete: Yes its available on all streaming platforms and YouTube and our website which is www.presidentstreetmusic.com/music

Are you able to make music full time, or do you have day job?

Pete: The eternal challenge! We’ve both prepared ourselves to put time aside to do music full time so we can give it our all but yeah, its a challenge! We are fully independent and it is our dream to be doing what we’re doing but the industry/commercial side of the music industry definitely has its challenges as independent artists.

Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?

Pete: Absolutely! Music is not an easy career and so often it feels like a never-ending mountain that we’re climbing so the support of our friends and family is so so important.

Ruby: Yeah we’re both living in Melbourne and it’s a very creative city so definitely all my friends support everyone to do what they love! My family have come around which is good – at the end of the day it’s nice to be around people who just want you to be happy and not have any negativity in your ear 🙂

What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?

Pete: Interesting question! It’s the fact that sometimes songs just flow straight of you and other times it’s a real struggle. 

Ruby: Ditto – it is definitely quite amazing how we can literally write a whole song in 4 minutes that just flows out effortlessly – music, melody and lyrics – and other times you’re revisiting the same song 5, 10 times because you know you’ve got something good in one section of it but can’t quite get the rest to the same level.

Some of those songs definitely resolve and it’s always an exciting and energising moment of victory but others get left behind because the energy just isn’t there. We sort of feel if it doesn’t immediately grab us then it’s best to not labour over it too long.

Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?

Pete: We released a song during lockdown called ‘Something to Believe’ and it was really touching to hear from fans saying that the song really helped them get through the challenges of covid and all the lockdowns. That was really humbling and affirming – totally gives us the validation of what we do and the sacrifices that we make and makes it feel really worth it!

Ruby: Absolutely – hearing from fans about the ways they connect with our songs and moments in their lives our songs have been part of is incredibly special. Music really is the doctor of the soul so to be able to help others feel happy or comforted in hard times that they’re not alone is magical. We write music within ourselves and I guess for ourselves most of all but it’s always “make it uplifting” to a degree so that people listening walk away feeling better, you know?

Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?

Pete: We have a mini-album coming out in the fall which we’re very excited about so join us on our socials and mailing list to stay in touch!

What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?

Pete: The main advice I’d give is to be unapologetically yourself. It’s your voice and use it however you like. The more authentic your voice the more people will join you on your journey.

Ruby: To write what you feel and think. There’ll always be people out there who’ll connect with you and what you put out there. Definitely have a song you can fully stand behind with confidence and comfort – the next steps of getting it out there are a whole other ball park – but the foundation of the music has to be you.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishments? Was it worth the effort?

Pete: Absolutely! And we’re humbled also. We are so grateful to have had the opportunities that we’ve had and for the fans that are with us on this journey and we’re definitely giving our all to keep things moving forward!

Ruby: Yep, it’s all worth it when you’re living the truest version of yourself and doing what you love and we’re proud of the courage, determination and persistence it takes to achieve what we have and thankful to all the people who’ve supported us along the way.

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