Defiant resilience rising from turbulent waves of emotion, the magnetism of connecting with nature and delving deep into internal darkness. For 26-year-old ILUKA AKA Nikki Thorburn, these things and so many more led to the end result of her latest musical output with the release of an EP, Ritual. With the EP bursting at the seams with messages of standing tall and spreading your wings, Thorburn’s ability to command the fire in her belly and funnel it through her musical output is no accident. Last week, as her east coast tour wound towards the tail end, Thorburn took some time to chat to me about how this recent quirky Motownesque pop delicacy came together, where her heads at and why we are stronger together.
“[At the time of writing] There was a lot of stuff going on politically, with women’s rights, marriage equality… It all felt like we were really alive and finally coming together and speaking up. That was the place that I was writing a lot of these songs from. I was feeling really firey, I felt that as a person and as an artist I really had come into my own. I felt really strong in who I was and empowered in both my sound and what it is that I wanted to say to the world.”
With some of the songs from her recent release coming from more sombre and raw places, Thorburn reflected on how the musical process shifted and how she saw her own lyrical narrative.
“Ritual – the most recent single I released – came from a place where I was feeling really lost and really low… I was broken hearted. For me to listen back to the first demo is heartbreaking… As I started taking it to the band, I started to find a place in myself that was a lot more empowered and inspired. That’s been a really interesting learning curb for me. That you can turn sadness or longing into hope and into a message that you can use to empower people. For myself too – especially Ritual – when I sing it I feel so defiant and strong and it really has taken on this whole new meaning for me.”
Like many musicians, Thorburn’s creative exports aren’t limited to the confines of her voice. Following the recent release of her video clip for Ritual, it’s obvious that Thorburn has a knack for seamlessly interweaving mediums of storytelling.
“Every song that I write – from the get-go – has some sort of visual concept that comes with it. It all comes fairly naturally to me and it’s all about creating the world that I saw when I wrote the song. I feel like with the visual medium, you can really bring someone into your world which is really powerful. Yes, with music you can still transport someone somewhere, but with video, you can literally take someone out of their life in that moment and pull them into your mind – showing them the meaning behind the song. It really is powerful in creating your world and inviting the audience to feel what you feel and see what you see.”
For Thorburn, performing confidently on stage and paving the way for success in the music industry are synonymous in that they both command an appreciation of the complexities in being human, whilst keeping a sturdy mind as a core focus.
“I find that with performing, for me it’s not about putting on this persona. It’s more like I’m channelling everything that’s going on inside me. It’s not only about being this empowered badass who’s going to take over the world. I often feel very raw and vulnerable while at other times I feel like a very silly child and at other times I feel playful. I think it’s about being able to access this well of emotions that lie within me.”
“Most close friends would describe me as headstrong and I think that you have to be in this industry because things just don’t happen if you don’t fucking push for it! No matter how talented someone is, how good someone’s songs are, unless you really push for it and really work hard and are really headstrong it won’t happen.”
Furthering the conversation on mental health, Thorburn draws on her sensitivities to the world as a vessel for her creativity.
“I am someone who feels a lot…I feel you have to be if you’re going to tap into those darker emotions. I’ve always had this fascination of artists who harness this really dark side and was interested about that in my own mind – sometimes going a little bit far but I’ve learnt to embrace the dark side in an uplifting way. I’m not afraid of what I might find, I think I’m far less afraid of feeling a lot of things.
“We’re told too much in society that we have to be happy and that if we’re not happy we have to “do this or take that medication,” and I think that’s really scary because we’re humans and we’re meant to feel a lot of things. It’s hard not to constantly compare yourself to others and to feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re not enough because we’re always being exposed to the best bits of other peoples lives through social media… We have to keep remembering that it’s okay to feel all the things and to tap out and reconnect with nature… It’s so simple, but its something this generation so often forgets to do.”
With the release of this EP punching another notch in the belt of her musical career, Thorburn has more than made a point of not seeing her artistic journey in isolation. Performing for the second consecutive year at the Women’s March, Thorburn shared why camaraderie in the music industry – especially among women – is so important.
“Community is everything. I feel like that has been really important with this women’s movement in the music industry, is women feeling they are being supported by other women. In the past, it has been very male-dominated and not just in artists, but in agents, managers and label people. In the past women have been encouraged to be more competitive seeing as there was less space for us, so you did have to be competitive. Now, these conversations are opening up… women have realised it takes women supporting other women to actually make a change and bring more women into the music industry. Women don’t want to enter an industry that they don’t feel supported in.”
“When you do have that support and you do have that sense of community, you want to put out a record or you want to work hard to become the top of the label or you want to work hard to become the greatest artist manager in the country and I think it all comes down to feeling supported. It’s so important that these conversations are opening up and that communities of women are being built. I think right now is a really exciting time for women.”
Thorburn’s unbridled drive and devotion towards making waves in the music industry shines through her new record with a rhythmic optimism that is completely her own. Mind over matter and together is better seems to be her message as the curtains of her latest tour drew to a close. For those who are unacquainted with Thorburn, check out her latest EP Ritual and keep a close eye on what the future has in store for this legend.
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