Writer Sosefina Fuamoli: "We are in a media climate that has kowtowed too easily to a shorter attention span for meaningless content that is discarded as quickly as it is made."
Words: Julie Kerr
Sosefina Fuamoli is a music writer who has been published in Rolling Stone, Beat and is the editor of music, arts and culture website, The AU Review. The Adelaide born music lover is also a radio host, dancer, and a judge for the coveted Australian Music Prize. A seasoned writer and arts advocate, Fuamoli has written about festivals, bands, albums and awards for the better part of a decade. She's a regular and important face and voice in the Australian music scene, and took some time before hopping on a plane to have a chat to Music Love. With cracking advice, and a demonstration of her love of music and the business, this interview is sure to fill you with hope that the music industry is in good hands because of people like Sosefina Fuamoli.
What does music mean to you?
I still love that music can be an escape from a sh**y day, it can be a total mood shifter. I used to think working in music would in some ways kill my love for it (kinda like how my English degree killed off my love for some classics for a while there), but there's always a joy I get in discovering something new or being exposed to new music. The memories we attach to certain albums or live show experiences are some of the most vivid we can have, I believe. And I love that music - in its different forms - means completely different things to each different ear. Some of my best friends are rock and hip hop musicians, my partner is a jazz musician - I enjoy having conversations with them and seeing live music with them because I know we're all listening to things differently and we come at these experiences from different points of view. It's a very fluid medium and I love that aspect of it.
How did you get into music writing?
I was at uni, navigating my way through an Arts degree, the usual story. I'd come from an arts background and I knew I wanted to write about the music I was into, plus the free tickets to shows (on a uni student's budget) was a bonus. The first few interviews I did completely had me hooked however; I like to tell stories that haven't necessarily been told or delved into much before. Whether it was profiling my friends' bands or going off tangent with a big-name musician from a genre I didn't really know much about prior, there's something in making an artist feel totally comfortable in sharing their opinions with you in a space that isn't going to be usurped or taken advantage of, that really gave me an early buzz.
How important is arts criticism, and is it a dying format?
Oh god, extremely important because it is a dying format. I believe in a healthy conversation surrounding the arts and music in particular; not everything is going to be amazing, as much as there is always going to be artists out there who have created really special works deserving of coverage and discussion. We should still be able to be constructive about it, right? The good thing is, the good writers and critics stand out more today than they have before, purely because there is so much garbage out there.
Who are your favourite women in music - be they artists or industry folk?
I'm lucky to work with so many amazing women, artists and industry individuals across the board. I would go on all day if I could but I can't so here's a sample...!
Leanne De Souza, Helen Marcou & Kirsty Rivers (Our podcast interview with Leanne here)
I like to refer to these three as my 'industry mums' but in the best and most endearing way possible; LdS, Helen and Kirsty are the success stories I remind myself of each time I read or overhear something remotely sexist or misogynistic about women in music. Strong, fiercely intelligent, hilarious and generous with their time, I honestly would have quit being in this industry so many times if it wasn't for a kind word or a read of what they were doing in artist management, with The Bakehouse or Creative Victoria respectively.
Michelle Grace Hunder (Our podcast interview with Michelle here)
One of my best friends and a constant source of inspiration. She pushes and pushes each project she's involved with to meet its greatest potential but never loses her empathy or sense of self throughout.
Sampa the Great
Another woman I often find myself floored by each time I see perform. She is a warm and kind individual with talent in spades. She's only just getting started too, which is exciting to watch.
I love the way she defies genre and injects ferocity into each performance. Moreover, this is a ferocity that has translated beautifully onto her debut album. Another wickedly smart woman who has carved out her own space and owns it marvellously.
Bridget Hustwaite (Our interview with Bridget here)
One of the best voices in Australian music media at the moment. Bridge and I have worked together for years now but it's been excellent to watch this chicken grow and flourish in a space that often stifled passionate female voices. A champion of Aussie music like no other, it's not surprising she's gotten her job on the primetime triple j roster, but the hard yards she put in to get there is a work ethic many aspiring radio hosts should look to.
Easily one of the best publicists in the country. Her no bullshit approach and constant honesty makes her not only a memorable personality, but a trusted person to come to each time.
What advice would you give budding music journalists?
Always maintain your unique voice in your writing. We are in a media climate that has unfortunately kowtowed way too easily to a shorter attention span for meaningless content that is discarded as quickly as it is made. If you want to write about music, continue the stories musicians have started with their art, then always keep that in mind as you take your first steps into making this a career. It's very easy to lose sight of that, especially when you begin to see where the money is going these days, but I know when I have down days about the state of it all - I just remember why I got into it in the first place and it brings me back.
What is the tension between publicity/artist promotion and journalism?
At the end of the day, both want to ensure that music they really champion reaches as many people as possible. Where the tension comes in, I believe, is that publicists obviously have demands to meet (both personal and from their client), and a lot of journalists/media publications are running off their own back. Having worked both sides now, I can see the ups and downs of both, and understand each role more.
As a journalist, I'm flooded with pitches from publicists regularly and sadly, there's just not enough room to run everything. I'm not paid enough in that role to facilitate each thing that comes through (I doubt many of us are), and I feel like that's an element of our jobs that sometimes gets forgotten by other sectors. However I understand the demands publicists have to meet to ensure their campaigns are fulfilled and their artists' music is out there and promoted properly. It's a funny one. We're all on our grind and the tension comes into play when we're all pushing stuff up a hill to make our plans work.
What was the last thing you saw that blew your mind?
Sampa's Birds and the Bee9 experience at The Night Cat in Fitzroy. In terms of live show experiences, that was definitely one of the best I've seen this year. She (and the band) turned the venue into such a cool environment that was completely their own and really brought that record to life. Colourful, evocative and so pure in its delivery, it was an unforgettable soul-tugging experience.
Most played song on your phone?
It's a tie between Scared Money by NxWorries and Atlas Drowned by Gang of Youths.
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