'I Stopped Holding Back': Keelan Mak & Vetta Borne Interview Each Other

31 October 2022 | 12:05 pm | Vetta BorneKeelan Mak

To celebrate the release of their respective new EPs, Keelan Mak ('Brave Face') sits down with friend and fellow artist Vetta Borne ('Rose Avenue Vol .1') to chat about new music, building a brand and more.


V: What’s your favourite song off your EP, and why?

K: Who Am I To You? would be my favourite. I think it felt like a different direction and sound to what I’m used to making. I was listening to a lot of Billie Eilish at the time, and I wanted to sing a little softer for once. That song also goes to a lot of different places. The outro was really, really fun to make.

V: What do you enjoy more: being in the studio or being on stage?

K: I’m more of a studio dweller than a performer. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on stage, but I think it’s something I’m still getting comfortable with. My personality is a lot shyer than what it should be for that stuff.

V: What’s your favourite album (or song) of all time?

K: My favourite album is Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman - hands down. Absolute pop excellence. She don’t miss a single beat the whole way through. Touch It, Into You, Greedy!!! The production as well, obviously would expect nothing less from the Max Martin team.

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V: As a fellow queer artist, would you say this industry is easier/harder to navigate for us?

K: I think there are pros and cons. Sometimes I find that being queer can pigeonhole my music and stop it from reaching a broader audience. At the same time, belonging to such a supportive, loving community, why would I want to exist anywhere else.

V: What does a Keelan Mak live show look like?

K: There are different levels of Keelan Mak live. Sometimes I love rocking it solo, I have my keys and my drum pad and just play and sing, and everything feels more personal. Other times I play with a live band, those shows are really fun because every song just gets elevated and hits SO much harder.

V: Who’s an Australian artist we should be listening to right now?

K: Budjerah is easily my favourite Australian artist right now. That kid has some pipes. Probably one of the best live performances I’ve seen in a while. The musicality was so impressive. That band is tight.

V: When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

K: I wanted to be a baker only because I was super into those easy bake packets and my parents gassed me up hard, what an absolute lie.

V: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote? What was it about?

K: This song is so embarrassing. It was called Heart Undone, and I wrote it when I was 15. It was about this girl I was in love with who was being treated poorly by her boyfriend. The chorus went, “You’re a rocket to the moon, a heart undone. It’s like you’re running in a race you’ve already won.” The production had a lot of sitar (a questionable instrument choice). We filmed a fucking music video and everything. It didn’t win Unearthed High, which makes a lot of sense in hindsight.

V: What’s your ideal first date?

K: Honestly, a home-cooked meal and some wine. I think cooking for someone is really vulnerable and honest. Plus - if you’re a great cook, then it can really help your chances.

V: Referencing your song Brave Face, when’s the last time you felt you were being brave?

K: All. the. time. These 20-something-year-old men continue to disappoint me. I like to keep myself ready and guarded, so bad news doesn’t rock me as much, but at the end of the day, it always results in a big brave face on my end.


K: Top 5 fave Australian artists right now?

V: Wafia, Milan Ring, KYE, CD, Pania. I’m absolutely here for the WOC killing it right now!

K: Producing vs Songwriting, do you prefer one over the other?

V: Honestly, it depends on the day I’m having. If I’m working for other artists, I definitely prefer to be the songwriter, just because production can be so tedious. But if I’m working for myself, I feel less pressure and can stay on my laptop geeking out and producing for days on end.

K: Ultimate blunt rotation?

V: This is going to sound so random, but, Rihanna, Kris Jenner, Bretman Rock and Paris Hilton. Outside of music, I love entrepreneurs, I’m very interested in people who know how to build a brand, and I think they’re all geniuses at it in very different ways. I would be so interested to know their views on anything and just to learn a little more how their minds work and outlooks on life. I also just think it would be hilarious.

K: What’s it like writing in other countries vs Australia? Fave writing trip?

V: It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure. I love meeting new people all over the world who are just as passionate about writing music as I am. My favourite writing trip has to be my most recent in South Korea, writing for YG Entertainment. I was so out of my comfort zone, but I find that’s the best way I can push myself to become a better writer. Some of the producers couldn’t speak English, so realising that you don’t even need to speak the same language to write a good song together was a really cool experience, although challenging.

K: What song of yours has become your favourite so far, whether from the Vetta Borne project or from others artists you’ve written for?

V: There’s a song on my latest EP called Wasn’t It Good, which has become one of my favourites. I wrote the chorus of it like 6 years ago, about a love who moved overseas to chase their dreams. We still keep in touch every now and then and laugh about old times, so it’s just a really special song to me.

K: Does Rose Avenue, Vol 1. (your latest EP) have any central themes? Is it about someone or something specific?

V: It’s about the stages of grief you feel after a breakup. There’s that bittersweetness when all you can remember are the good times, then there’s deep sadness, then anger, then into the “I’m single, I’ll do what I want” phase and finally, moving on. I was going through all of these emotions when I was going through my heartbreak.

K: How did you find your artistic voice as a queer woman, and what advice would you give to aspiring queer creatives?

V: I stopped holding back writing about my truths. I used to swap the pronouns for whatever reason, turning my songs about girls into what I thought were “relatable” songs about guys. I stopped thinking about how other people perceived me and started moving for myself. That’s how I found my voice. I stopped taking in outside advice on what I “should” be making and just started presenting songs as I saw fit. I have my vision, and other people can either get on board or not. I realised that I don’t need the approval elsewhere.

K: Go-to meal when you’re trying to impress a hottie?

V: Besides me being a full-course meal, I make a really good Laksa, so there’s that. Otherwise, I don’t have any go-to’s, I like trying new recipes always, so I’ll always search up fun recipes beforehand and hope to god it tastes delicious. 

K: What does the rest of the year look like for you?

V: Touring, bigger and better live shows, and maybe another single later in the year to prepare for next year's festivals!

K: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

V: I see myself doing things bigger and better. I still see myself writing music, travelling more to write and having more success which will lead to me having my own property, with the financial freedom to take more holidays. I see myself starting to take the steps to settle down, that’s what I’m working so hard for now, so I can do that eventually.

Keelan Mak's EP 'Brave Face' and Vetta Borne's 'Rose Avenue Vol .1' are available now.