Melbourne pop artist NELSØNN paired up with his sister to write ‘Try’, a vibrant and buoyant track that acts as a pillow of hope during periods of anxiety and loneliness. ‘Try’ became NELSØNN’s debut single, proceeded by a short film entitled ‘I Am Not Alone.’ The multi-talented artist seems to have strong feelings on anxiety and depression, which he expresses through his art, as captured in this interview where NELSØNN exclusively reveals his feelings on hard-hitting issues in pop music, depression amongst our generation and who he would be if he wasn’t himself.
Where did your name come from?
My grandmother’s name was Nell, and when my parents were thinking of a name for me, Nelson (An Anglo-Saxon surname, meaning ‘Son of Nell’) was the one they liked most.
I decided to spell my name as NELSØNN for my artist name, mainly because I discovered that ‘Nelson’ already exists as an American Glam Rock band, and unfortunately, I don’t think that my hair is quite long enough to audition… yet. As for ‘Sønn’, This is a Norwegian word, meaning son— an homage to the Scandinavian artists that my music is inspired by. The Ø reminds me of a drumstick resting on a drum, which is the instrument that I grew up playing.
Ø is also the Danish word for island, and I grew up on an island; Australia.
What do you think has the most profound impact on your music?
I started music at a very early age, and I believe it was because of a heart condition. I was born with a life-threatening hole in my heart, and in the first months of my life I was raced to the hospital and desperately needed open heart surgery. Throughout the pain and discomfort I was experiencing, my father would pat complex rhythms on my back, which was the only thing that would get me to fall asleep. Little did he know that a few years later, I would develop an intense interest in drumming.
By the age of two, I was setting up little drum kits out of pots and pans. I could already play actual drum beats, so my grandmother finally convinced my parents to buy me a drum kit. It arrived on my third birthday, and I’ve been playing music ever since!
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I think I would be either an artist or a filmmaker. I love painting so much; the therapeutic side to it. I can spend hours painting and not even realise how long it has been. You just kind of lose yourself. It’s very cathartic.
On the other hand, I love making films. I’ve been filming and editing for about ten years now, and each time you finish a clip, there is something so rewarding about watching something that you have created. I guess it all relates back to music in some way or another. It’s like that quote by Alex Clay Hutchings “Art is how we decorate space; Music is how we decorate time.”
Do you have any non-music related artists you’re a fan of?
Absolutely; Van Gogh. I adore his paintings, but more so I get heartbroken whenever I read about his story. It’s so sad how this incredible artist’s mental health isolated him from society. His one connection to the world was through his brother, Theo. When you read about his compassion for the outcasts, you realise that he had a truly kind heart.
‘Try’ is about coping with anxiety and depression. Is this a theme you’re particularly keen to explore in your music?
Renée and I wrote ‘Try’ while we were both in a bit of a mental slump. It was something we needed to do. I often write about things that I need to get off my chest, but in this case, we wrote a song to motivate us; to draw us out of our mental state at the time.
I’m not sure if we will write more songs about anxiety and depression, but writing ‘Try’ definitely helped us when we needed it most.
Do you think that music that addresses hard-hitting themes such as mental health is just a hot topic and the real meaning gets lost in the fight to have your music simply heard?
It’s a really good question, and a very important one too.
I honestly believe it’s a good thing that an increasing amount of people are talking about it. The way I experience depression is often by feeling intense loneliness. The more people who are opening up and talking about their own experiences really does help me to feel less isolated. I don’t have to feel like I’m going through this alone anymore, because I can see that there are so many of us going through similar things. If the world was instead remaining silent about mental health, imagine how much more of a negative impact that would have on our society; The isolation that would cause.
It’s something that is really close to my heart. It’s awful to think of people having to go through depression and anxiety alone.
Why do you think this generation battles so much more with mental health and self-doubt?
I’m not sure if this generation battles more with mental health than previous generations, or whether it just seems that way because we are all much more connected now with social media, and technology. I do think that social media can agitate a feeling of isolation; We, as humans, need genuine human interaction.
Also, there is certainly less stigma than there was before, at least in western society. With less social stigma, and more avenues for people to seek help with their mental health, it would appear as an increasing amount, but that just means people in need are finally asking for help with something that previous generations were unfortunately ashamed of. Which is amazing!
Wow, how optimistic of me!
What are your favorite lyrics that you’ve written?
“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with tea; a pot of gold you will find at the end of the bow, but first you must have the rain.”
It’s actually from a song I wrote for Renée! I don’t know if it’s my favorite lyric I’ve ever written, but there is a childlike nature that I really like about it… And I love drinking tea, especially lavender and chamomile tea!
What are your favorite lyrics that someone else has written?
“Darker times will come and go; Times you need to see her smile; And mothers hearts are warm and mild… I would rather see this world through the eyes of a child”
It’s from ‘Through the Eyes of a Child’ by AURORA. It’s such a beautiful song—so pure and honest; the whole thing. Also, I love my mother so much! She gives the best hugs.
Who would you be if you weren’t you?
My father. There is no question about it! He has lived such an amazing life and achieved so many amazing things. He has performed one of his own arrangements in front of the Queen of England, and also performed three times for Prince Charles and Princess Diana during their first Australian visit after being married, he had a pilot’s license and flew planes, he can speak fluent French, he’s an incredible music teacher, but more importantly, he and my mother raised an amazingly close family, and the sacrifice that he made for me and my siblings is enormous.
He gave up his career for his family, and I will never be able to understand how he was able to do that, nor will I ever be able to thank him enough for it.