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February 29, 2024

Erin Buku’s music journey

CityMag sits down with musician Erin Buku to discuss her music, first solo album and upcoming performance at WOMADelaide.

  • Words Charlie Gilchrist
  • Main image supplied

Shortly after graduating high school, singer-songwriter Erin Buku stood on her balcony and yelled to the universe: “I can’t do it. You have to get someone else. It’s not gonna happen for me. I don’t know why. I’m never singing again.”

Erin had always dreamt of being a singer, but after believing that she’d failed to get into the Conservatorium of Music at the University of Adelaide, she gave up on that dream.

“Right after school, I had a huge falling out with my mother and dad. I’m good with them now, but we had a big fight after school and I didn’t talk to them for almost seven years,” she says.

“They got the call and never told me. So I didn’t know that I got into the con[servatorium of music].”

It wasn’t until she saw a psychic who told her she was supposed to be a singer that she reconsidered her life path.

“At the end, [the psychic] said the spirit guides wanted me to give you two symbols… and one was a bass clef, and one was a treble clef,” Erin tells CityMag.

As if it were destiny, Erin says that a few weeks later she met her husband Jules, who had a treble clef and a bass clef tattooed behind his ears.

“He got me back into music,” says Erin.

“I stopped singing for about seven years until I met my husband who was a music producer, and then I started off again.”

CityMag recently met with Erin, who is 36, at Ebenezer Place’s Mother Vine Wine Bar to talk about her self-titled new album, as well as her upcoming performance at WOMAelaide.

Arriving fashionably late to our interview, Erin was dressed in her typical brightly coloured outfit, telling CityMag “I like a lot of colour.”

The primarily self-taught musician sings and also plays piano, bass, and some guitar.

Erin has recently released her new single ‘Ley Lines’, and will release her new 9-track album on March 1. The album will be released under Inner Tribe Records, an independent record label created by her and her husband. Erin will also be performing at WOMADelaide on March 8, among other upcoming gigs.

At WOMAD, the band will be playing songs from the whole album, as well as four or five songs from previous releases.

Erin Buku’s self-titled album comes out on March 1. Photo: Charlie Gilchrist.

The new album will be Erin’s first solo venture, after contributing to tracks produced by her husband over several years.

“Over the years working with Jules… he was having these songs already made up and then saying, can you sing? Can you write something to this?” says Erin.

“I had a good 10 years of working with him and kind of doing all these different genres and when it came then to full circle to me going, okay I’ve got stuff I want to say and stuff I want to write, I wanted to make the songs myself as well with the production.”

Erin says the process of creating these songs is not as glamorous as people make it out to be, describing it as “a bit more monotonous”.

“I usually start with a set of chords,” she says.

“Once I’ve found the chord progression, this melody starts coming into my head. So then I’ve got my phone and a book and I’m trying to quickly like, record the melodies before they disappear.

“Once I’ve got the melodies and the keys down, then it’s just a matter of, I just keep hearing the next thing. I’ll be like, oh, I feel like it needs some strings on this chunk here.

“I’ve got a MIDI keyboard at home, so that means I can change the instruments on the computer. So, as long as I can play it on the keyboard, I can then turn it into a string section or a horn or a guitar or bass.”

The politically-charged album has a variety of genres ranging from hip hop to reggae, jazz to RnB. It also uses several instruments, from samples to vocals, guitar, bass and a MIDI keyboard.

In the song ‘Check Your Self’, Erin sings: “[w]e are all one/from the same sun/melt all the colours into one”

“Do the work and make a better world/let’s do it for the children.”

Describing her lyrics, Erin says “Yeah, it’s political. But it’s only because we live in a political world.”

“All I want to do is just help people connect with each other, be kinder to each other.”

“I’m all about freedom. I want the people of our planet to be free… I want people to be free thinkers. I want people to see that we’re one race, it’s the human race – the separation, I think it just causes more pain for everyone.”

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