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Leaving Behind 'Bullshit Commercial Stuff' And Just Loving The Craft

17 June 2016 | 4:40 pm | Annabel Maclean

"Having that near death experience two-three years ago was probably the best thing that happened to me..."

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"The industry of music is not easy," Abbe May begins, speaking of the pressures which ultimately led to her seizure in 2013. "At times it can be likened to being an elderly man with a Zimmer frame carrying eight bags of groceries with an old, fat dog in a wagon on wheels tethered to that Zimmer frame and attempting to push all of that uphill." Having had great success with her 2013 record Kiss My Apocalypse, being nominated for Best Female Artist at the ARIA Awards, taking home several WAMi Awards among others and trying to tour as an independent artist with no manager and limited financial backing, the pressure mounted. "All that bullshit commercial stuff, that started to get to me," she says. "I was also coordinating logistics of the touring, I was racing around like a mad woman, and it stressed me out so much that I had a seizure. And I think what happened really was I just had to stop."

The seizure pummelled May into a serious health crisis, in which she re-evaluated her habits, attitudes and lifestyle. "The trouble with stress is that it builds and builds and builds and you become used to it," she says. "Really, a year before the seizure the levels of stress I was under were unacceptable and I didn't know it… When I finally did have the seizure, it wasn't like — 'seizure, everything is done and now I can get back to work'. It took two years to actually re-train my body to not freak out at anything. My adrenals were completely shot. My serotonin levels were massively diminished. I had massive depression to work through. All the colour in my life had gone. I think in many ways it was a huge blessing… because it removed me from the industry treadmill which was so ultimately devastating.

"It took two years to actually re-train my body to not freak out at anything. My adrenals were completely shot. My serotonin levels were massively diminished."

"And it returned me to the point of 'make music because you love making music' rather than 'make music because you have to and there's a deadline' and 'what if the radio plays it or doesn't play it'. I decided to just fuck off all of that because I reckon what's cool is making awesome music, not actually getting involved in the industry. You have to employ other people to do that stuff. Now I just make music and I let my amazing team take care of the rest."

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Pulling her focus back into the creative music making realm, May has found her work is no longer dark. "It's fun," she says. "The themes are definitely dark… but ultimately I'm a very, very happy and content person. Also just focusing on the music has made me much more open to collaborations and I'm absolutely loving the influence that Matt Gio [producer] is having on the music. You may have come to my shows before and you may expect to have a very moody experience but I think you're just going to dance now. It's a real party atmosphere."

Nine songs into recording her forthcoming record Bitchcraft, May is aiming for 13 lucky tracks before it'll be complete. "You could describe it as like a pop, punk, soul, hip hop record without rapping," she says. "It is pretty much a pop-punk record, that's what it's shaped out to be. I'm working with a new producer Matt Gio who has really influenced the sound. I work with drum beats to create melody and Matt is a really great percussionist, so we've fallen into a really great partnership like that. I've also started involving my brother Doug. He writes these really great songs and he's been giving me access to some of his catalogue so I've been twisting and turning that. You can expect a very upbeat and funky record, much more upbeat than anything I've ever made."

May embarks on her first national tour in three years next month, kicking off in Sydney. She'll be bringing along a bunch of talented support acts for the ride too, including gospel ladies Joni Hogan and Odette Mercy for the Perth and Melbourne shows and the brilliant Bec Sandridge. "It's a pretty exciting live show to be a part of," May continues. "We're playing a lot of the songs from the forthcoming record Bitchcraft but we are also playing the singles from Design Desire and Kiss My Apocalypse. So if you've been following the band for a while, you're going to get everything you want."

May has a new band for the tour too whom she says she's extremely proud of. "I'm excited for you to see this new band, they blow my mind," she says, almost still in awe. Jazz musician extraordinaire Luke Minness and drummer Matt Wright are part of the fresh line-up as is May's brother KT, however, KT won't be joining for this tour. May's producer Matt Gio will be stepping in on bass in his absence.

Aside from the tour, the rest of the year remains all about making music. "I'm going to finish the album this year. I know the album will be finished shortly and then somebody else is going to decide for me when it comes out," she says. "And you know, just remembering to be grateful to be alive. Having that near death experience two-three years ago was probably the best thing that happened to me in terms of making me content with how absolutely blessed I am to just be alive. It's outrageous to think that we all forget that we are really lucky."