Amber Farnan is an indie pop, folk singer-songwriter based in Cairns.
An emerging folk-pop singer-songwriter based in Cairns, FNQ artist Amber Farnan has recently released her newest single, a break-up anthem titled 'Over & Out'.
Although only 18, Amber's original music belies her youth with a sound that fits somewhere between Benee and Missy Higgins.
Amber has also been a finalist at the 2020 Queensland Music Awards and was part of the Big Sky Girls 2018 class, a programme that unearths and spotlights the musical talents of young women in Queensland's regional and remote communities.
If 'Over & Out' is any indication, you can expect to hear a lot more from Amber Farnan in the coming years.
Here's your chance to jump on at the ground level, as Amber sits down for an in-depth chat about her own music, influences and inspirations, a childhood stuck (literally) listening to Crowded House and her desire to continue collaborating with other artists.
Give us a snapshot of your musical style and the types of songs you like/ want to create? A mixture of Mallrat, Missy Higgins and Vance Joy. I’ve always listened to a lot of indie pop and folk artists, especially at folk music festivals over the past 13 years, which has greatly influenced my writing and musical style.
I am a bit of a Middle Kids fan at the moment; I love their carefree vibe. I’d like to expand and explore a bit more in the indie/ soft rock direction, while still creating folk and pop.
You have the microphone; tell us about your new song ‘Over & Out’? ‘Over & Out’ depicts the testing vulnerability felt after a break-up and the voyage of finding ourselves and recognising our strengths and liberations during a tough period of time.
This is an anthem of empowerment; it preaches and shouts from the roof tops that “YOU” are enough. ‘Over & Out’ incorporates the subtle reality of feeling isolated during a break-up in the lockdown, into a pop track, normalising self-empowerment.
The song also touches on the world of isolation that societal pressures and injustices can make one feel, as well as feeling secluded from the rest of the world, just because you might be a little bit different.
How does ‘Over & Out’ showcase your current incarnation as an artist? ‘Over & Out’ has opened a new door for me to explore as an artist, as it has a different sound and vibe to what I typically write. I usually write more folk/ pop style music, whereas ‘Over & Out’ has a real modern pop sound.
Can we expect more new music from you in 2021; an EP or album perhaps? I carry around a notebook and a pocket thesaurus with me in case inspiration sparks at any moment, resulting in a lot of unfinished songs and lost, unnamed voice memos. I am hoping to finish off the songs and create new content to record an EP this year in Brisbane.
Let’s talk personal musical influences, inspirations – are there particular artists that have shaped your own music? Growing up I was greatly influenced by Crowded House. The cassette got stuck in the tape player while travelling across the isolated Nullarbor Plain all the way to Broome in 2005. The trip was done over a year and the Crowded House cassette was all we had to listen to, so two-year-old me knew all the words to all the bangers!
When I was nine, I discovered Missy Higgins and was immediately enthralled by the way she could effortlessly captivate an audience through the means of music, with her compelling lyricism, authentic Aussie accent and honest, raw storytelling.
There are so many musicians who shaped my music; I was exposed to a great variety of artists as my parents listened to everything and anything from The Beatles, Queen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, David Bowie to Paul Kelly, Hunters & Collectors and Madness. They all have played a huge part in shaping my own music.
Your songwriting; do you delve into personal and raw emotions to extract lyrics and explore issues relevant to yourself as well as the wider community? Yes, absolutely. I don’t usually write break-up songs, but I wanted to write a song that the majority of youth could relate to.
When writing I usually take inspiration from my personal experiences and issues significant in society, I have written a lot of political songs; my song ‘Symphony For Tomorrow’ was written about coming together as a country and uniting as one to tackle issues such as climate change, racism and inequality – it was then performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra to a community audience of over 3,000 people.
Collaborations – do you actively seek out creative partnerships with your own music? I am very new too collaborations, as ‘Over & Out’ is the first song I’ve collaboratively written.
The lyrics to ‘Over & Out’ were written with internationally honoured songwriter, Donna Dyson. We wrote ‘Over & Out’ during the lockdown, over four Zoom sessions. I also had my twin brother Jake make the drum track; he pulled a few all-nighters to get it finished in time.
I’d love to collaborate with other songwriters in the future, I think it’s a great way to expand and grow as an artist and gives songwriters an opportunity to share and learn different writing techniques.
Live performances; do you have any shows planned in the short term? The year is packed with shows as majority of them were cancelled last year due to COVID, so they are all piling up on each other.
I am super keen to be playing at multiple music festivals this year. I will be playing at Palm Creek Folk Festival, 10-13 June in Townsville.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career as a musician; and what steps have you taken to achieve your goals? There was never a specific moment; the decision was accumulated over several moments.
The earliest one that sticks out to me was when I was 11 my sister, Holly, dragged me into the local talent show and cast me as the guy in a duet and her the girl (so she could be the main character haha). I had this sick as routine where I walked downstairs as I sang.
We ended up winning and scored ourselves a set at a local music festival, which was such a thrilling experience getting to perform and share my own music with a live audience for the first time. I feel like this was one of the first moments I realised that music was something I wanted to do; from then on, I started writing more and applying to play at other music festivals.
You’ve been a Queensland Music Awards finalist multiple times; that must be invigorating to receive that type of music industry validation? I am so grateful to have my music recognised by industry professionals. It’s so validating and refreshing to know that all the hard work, time and energy I have spent on my music has been worth it.
You were part of the Big Sky Girls class of 2018; how vital was that experience to your own creative and professional development? Being a part of the Big Sky Girls project was such a rewarding and phenomenal experience. I really benefited from the continuous support and mentoring from the incredible team and the networks made between myself and the other regional young women.
The project gave me the incredible opportunity to record and release a single as a regional female artist. It has been very vital to my personal growth and professional development as it has helped and guided me to pursue a musical career.
You’re a Far North Queensland artist; can you share with us ‘southerners’ just how fertile the local music scene is in FNQ? And a couple of acts we should add to our next playlist. Far North Queensland has a lot of outstanding artists; you can catch live music every night of the week.
There are multiple great venues in Cairns: The Tanks, Munro Martin Park and CPAC, which are continuously showcasing impressive local acts such as Roz Pappalardo, Leanne Tennant, Jelly Oshen and Greta Stanley.
What’s your favourite app at the moment? Night Sky. It’s a stargazing app that locates and identifies the constellations and planets. There’s a foot bridge and a river near my house so I like to go down there late at night and lay in the middle of it and look at the stars (small weird, I know haha).
When it comes to pets are you a lover or hater of our furry friends? I may be slightly obsessed with animals, having made a pet of any animal I found when I was little, from peacocks, blue tongued lizards, caterpillars, baby wallabies and fruit bats eek. I grew up with a dog and recently just got a new Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy named Astra.
What's the one chore you dislike the most? Taking the puppy to the toilet at 5am every morning haha.
Last show you binge-watched (and what kept you glued to the screen)? 'Upright'. I love a good road trip, especially one that includes dragging a piano across the Nullarbor Plain. I actually watched it when I was on a road trip myself, from Cairns through the Red Centre to Adelaide. Also, Tim Minchin is a legend, great composer, lyricist and actor.