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Stories

Becoming PA777IENCE

Generations
Interview with PA777IENCE by MC Trey 

2023–2024 Generations Fellow PA777IENCE shares their experience of creating new music – and a new artist identity – during their residency at Powerhouse Ultimo.

Listen to the conversation between Powerhouse Program Curator Pacific / First Nations Trey Thomas (MC Trey) and 2023–2024 Powerhouse Ultimo Generations Fellow PA777IENCE – or read the transcript below.

Generations

MC Trey This is MC Trey and we're here talking to Clarissa, who's gonna talk to us about her residency at the Powerhouse Museum as part of the Generations Project. Can I ask you to introduce yourself?

PA777IENCE Hi, my name is Clarissa. Musician, producer, artist. I have been making music for the past eight years and have been learning and playing music for most of my life.

T Very exciting. So eight years and you said you've been making music for most of your life. Tell us about the early days: what were your inspirations or influences or environment, how did you get into music?

P Yeah, so when I first got introduced to music I was really young and as a Filipino, it is, I guess, in our blood to just sing. So my mum put me into singing lessons and piano lessons as well. I think I was maybe about six years old or seven years old. And yeah, so I started learning music and singing and just how to play the keys, which was really fun. And then from there over the next years after that I ended up learning a bit of saxophone and clarinet.

And I was playing in a jazz band in my local area in Glendenning, and then even was in a marching band playing clarinet for a bit. After that I wanted to learn more about writing music, so I picked up the guitar a little bit more.

So I guess the music that I was listening to over that time learning some jazz songs and even with singing sometimes I would even learn like theatre songs and, also how to sing like Mariah and Whitney Houston and all of the soul kind of music.

And yeah, that’s my influences before I started making music and really getting into my own and learning about what I like as an artist or just even, you know, as an adult.

T Love that. Shout out to mum! So all these early experiences – how has that helped shape the music that you create?

P I feel like it's been really important. I guess one of the big things is just music knowledge, in terms of theory and just how to keep rhythm or how to sing on pitch. Even though they're super basic they are super important to really being grounded in the music that I make.

T I love that you’ve had that self-directed experience. So after participating in those early workshops and education sessions, but then doing your own kind of learning as well.

P Yeah, for sure.

When I first got introduced to music I was really young and as a Filipino, it is, I guess in our blood to just sing. So my mum put me into singing lessons and piano lessons as well. I think I was maybe about like six years old or seven years old. And yeah, so I started learning music and singing and just how to play the keys, which was really fun.
OBJECT NO. H8967
Boehm clarinet by Buffet-Crampon

T And then tell us about deciding to start creating your own music.

P When I finished high school I went to a music college and I guess from there is when I really getting into guitar and wanting to make my own songs because I was doing a lot of cover gigs and session kind of things. So I was just really feeling like I wanted to make something of my own and really express myself in that way. So playing the guitar is kind of how I started before doing production.

So yeah, writing poetry and then trying to match it with some chords and then from there it kind of blossomed. And then I was like, okay, I want a beat to go with this guitar and then I want some keys – it just kind of flowed from there. I would say it's just like really having that desire and want to create music that would go along with what I was singing.

T I love it. Do you remember the first song that you created?

P First song... I don’t know if I fully remember it, but I can imagine it was not super fantastic [LAUGHS]. There was a few, I think around a certain time, and it was just like, yeah, it was very probably cheesy and random.

T Was this in high school?

P Yeah, I think so, like the very first little things that you kind of make and that I was just like, yeah, not great.

T Bless. What drove you to start creating your own music?

P Hmm, for me, just music in general feels like a form of expression. And I feel like sometimes I'm not great with my words or conversations in real life. And I feel like music was a way for me to put things that I wanted to say that I weren't able to say very eloquently in real life. So then putting it into song really helped me express and release the things that I was feeling internally. I really just enjoy playing music and making music. So that just doubled up as well.

T I love that. Your voice – finding your voice in music – what would you say drives you now creatively?

P Now? I feel like now, there's a bigger purpose to it rather than just expressing. It's like I kind of understand that there is kind of a level of – not power – but maybe, how do you say it? Responsibility. I feel now to want to help people in any type of way through music. Because it started to happen after a few shows where people come up to me and they'd be like, ‘Your voice is amazing’ or ‘Your music is amazing’, even people being brought to tears. And I'm like, okay, this is powerful, so I think it's now important for me to also be able to not only express myself, but to be able to impact people in some way. And hopefully that helps them on their journey of life.

T Beautiful. And have you always wanted to be involved in music this way, because you know how some musicians will just create or they'll just do covers or they'll make music for themselves, but have you always thought that you'd want to make music for the world and be a professional musician?

P Yeah I definitely, when I first started, I didn't really know the possibilities. So, doing cover gigs and wondering, okay, what is more to this? And then discovering, yeah, I can create music. And I think that ever since discovering that my voice has power as well into the world, I think that was my main drive just in general.

I'm discovering more so that I can do that and I can be multifaceted. Like, that can be my main thing: where I'm sharing my music to the world and wanting to sing and use my voice. But working with other artists or producing or guiding other artists is also something I can do.

OBJECT NO. 2021/70/7
'Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano' designed by Harold Rhodes
I feel like now, there's a bigger purpose to it rather than just expressing, it's like I kind of understand that there is kind of a level of – not power – but maybe, how do you say it? Responsibility. I feel now to want to help people in any type of way through music.

T So you've been a resident here in Generations, part of the Powerhouse Museum Residency Program with Create New South Wales. How have you found it?

P It's been really, really nice to just have this space that we're currently in right now. It's been really, really helpful because I think that's such a huge thing that I've always struggled with, like not being able to have a place to go to that's purely to create. And I think even this space, you know, it took a few weeks to get really settled in. And during that process it was more of a planning kind of stage or really just like making the space kind of my own. So I spent that time chatting with friends that came through, working on the space and also brainstorming and planning, vision planning.

And even for something like funding, that is a huge, huge thing when it comes to making and creating. Even though the creating part is there, and that's what we do. But then there's so much more to execute the vision when it comes to visuals and getting people to be paid for the jobs that they do working on the song, like mixing and mastering. And there's so many other elements towards what we do as artists.

It feels like a freedom in a way to be able to be like, I have this vision and I can execute it and I don't have to worry about money and have that creative freedom. And even having mentorship has been really, really helpful. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming and as an artist you want to just create, create, create and have fun. And there's another side to it which is I guess the more business-y side; a bit more strategy on how to release the music. And to get that music heard by as many people as possible, and having the ability to chat with people with firsthand experience. It's been super helpful to really just get insight into the industry and have that first hand help.

T It's great that you've received that support as well as access to a space to create. So, what have you been creating?

P So I've been creating heaps of songs and just working with musicians and other producers. I've been working on a new project which is gonna be released this year. And it's an EP and it's been really exciting and really fun. And I think it's been a few years since I've got to this point where I'm like okay, I have this whole body of art that's ready to be out.

And it's really exciting because it's been so long. And I love the people that I've been working with and it's really nice to have that excitement again, because I think, you know, we spend so long doing other kind of things within music, but then to be having that joy again and be like, okay, something’s happening and I’m refining my artistry, I'm refining who I am, and now the world gets to see it and it's gonna come off my laptop and into the world.

I think that's really beautiful and exciting to be creating something out of nothing and have that progress into a beautiful project for people to see and hear.

T And so you've got this new body of work and new music, and there's also been a change in your artist's name.

P Yeah, so I've recently decided to change my artist's name. So for those, I guess, eight years, seven/eight years, I've been going by Clarissa Mei, which is my actual name. And recently I just feel as if the music that I was making previously under Clarissa Mei, I think, is just a bit different to what I'm making now. And I feel definitely Clarissa Mei is an era of time which I'm not just throwing it away, I think it's just like I'm moving forward more so than leaving that behind.

I'm wanting to move forward under a new artist's name, which is PA777IENCE. And It's been a long time coming, I guess, for me to be going under a new name. Like I've been wanting to do it for a little while now, and have finally found, I guess, the right fitting name that I feel is for me. And that's also exciting because I feel like it's like a new persona, but it's not really new, it's actually me. And I feel like as a person, I'm constantly evolving and changing, and I feel like this new era of PA777IENCE is more fitting to the current person that I am now.

T Why do you think projects like Generations are important for artists?

P I think it's super important for artists, especially artists like me, who again, all those things that I've been mentioning: not having a space to create, not having money to see the visions through. All of these things that are from Generations Fellowship really help towards being able to do something like creating a body of work or really growing as an artist and improving and in all different aspects.

I'm so grateful to be a part of this Generations Fellowship and it's been the most helpful thing for me to really, really make this project and my artistry just improve tenfold. It's been really nice. I think having the support is just so important for artists. There's so much out there in the world at the moment in terms of artistry. And it can get a little hazy sometimes, and you can get a little lost as an artist. And it can be super discouraging, I feel, like especially after COVID and stuff – I know like that's mentioned a lot – but I feel like it is something that kind of brought down the morale of a lot of artists and that hope. And I feel like something like Generations Fellowship brings that back, and it's like, no I can create, I can work on myself as an artist and it's possible.

T So true. And what's the most useful thing you've discovered here at the Powerhouse that has helped influence your creativity?

P You know, seeing all the different objects at the collections and even just being in the Powerhouse Museum and seeing all the different things that are there. It's very inspirational to see art and culture in all its different forms. I think seeing that makes me feel like I also have the power to create art like that and I think that's beautiful to see people from different walks of life creating – each item, object, is unique in its own self and where it comes from. I think I also have the ability with my background and the things that I make will be art and in the future – that's really amazing. As an artist that's something also to look back at and be like, this is a piece of art that was made at a certain time with certain purpose and it can go in history books. In a way it's all a reflection of the past and a reflection of history. And I think that's really beautiful and amazing.

OBJECT NO. 94/3/1
Filipino Zither
Being in the Powerhouse Museum and seeing all the different things that are there. It's very inspirational to see art and culture in all its different forms. And I think seeing that makes me feel like I also have the power to create art like that.

T Just sitting here, listening to you share your process and your influences and then considering that we're in the Powerhouse Museum, on the other side of the walls are exhibitions and public exhibitions and there's the general public walking around. And we're here in the back where you've been creating these musical masterpieces. That's quite an innovation, isn't it? When you think about it. And you get to go out and look at the exhibition spaces and then come back and create. It's amazing. What has been one of the lessons so far about your creativity and how things have changed or improved while you’ve been in this space?

P I guess redefining something that I've always been learning in a way is just redefining my purpose. And really knuckling down on like, okay, life has so much to it in each individual. I still have to pay bills and work and focus on life things outside of music and what I do as an artist.

So really honing in on what I do in my artistry and music that I want to do that is the most important and let that come to the forefront. I really want to make the most of each moment I have in the studio. Each moment I have in music. Each moment I'm making a song or working with an artist. I want those things to matter and I want them to have value. That's also something I guess that I've been learning is: how can I add value to my life and also to other people's lives as I move through the world. What is important for me in the studio today? When I come and sit here and do things, what is going to help me the most in this moment?

T What advice do you have for musicians out there about improving their creative process?

P Put yourself out there and really be open and experience things in the world. A lot of times we think we need to just cut ourselves off from the world and be on our lonesome. And I think one of the things about being creative is that our creativity and the art that we make and music that we make is influenced by the things that we experience in life.

So if you're not really experiencing what life has to offer, even in terms of the hardships and the down periods, as well as the joys and the excitement, I think experiencing all of the different levels of what life has to offer will really give you the inspiration of what you have to create. And that's where my inspiration I guess comes from: I always try and reflect my life in what I write and what I make.

T I love that. In your application you mentioned some creative goals. How has that been for you? Have you been able to work through some of those goals? Have there been some challenges or some extra wins as you work through your list?

P Yeah. You know, I had goals of writing 50 or having a bank of 50 songs and I'm not all the way at 50. But I think even just writing ... I think I'm at like 20 now or something and I think that's huge and that's amazing for me to be able to look at visually and be like, yeah I created 20 songs.

Another goal of mine that's coming to fruition as we kind of move on through the months is putting out a new project and being able to release the music that I have been making. So that's been really exciting in terms of the goals I've had. Some of the goals was to work with other artists and collaborate and I've been able to do that here and invite people to come in and share the space and create and that's been really lovely and really nice.

T Love that. And what advice would you have for others pursuing a career in music?

P I feel like I'm still learning a lot. So the advice maybe that I would give is just to never stop learning. I know I definitely haven't. Never stop learning and never stop being curious. I think there's always something to learn and I feel like if you if you approach your career with that kind of attitude, you're going to learn so much.

And being open to lessons that others might have to teach that have come before you or lessons from other people that you admire. Just being open to learning and receiving advice in general I think is really cool because I know some people can feel like they might know it all or know everything that you know, is on show, or know everything that they have to know. But I think you can never ever stop learning or growing in whatever stage of your career that you're at.

T Great reminder for all creatives out there. So, what's in store for PA777IENCE?

P So for PA777IENCE, I’m going to be releasing music and I think that's been really exciting to be working on. And I’m going to be collaborating a lot more. And writing a lot. And yeah, just making heaps of music and sharing it with the world, playing a lot of shows and really grace the stage as PA777IENCE, as my new artist name. And, yeah, I'm really excited for that and excited to share who I am, with the world.

T The world is waiting patiently. [BOTH LAUGH] Thank you so much for sharing your words with us and we look forward to hearing the new music soon.

Two portraits of she/they

About

PA777IENCE is a producer/artist/songwriter/musician based on Dharug Country, aka Western Sydney. Their style evokes 90s neo-soul with a glossy coat of future R’n’B. PA777IENCE's lyrics are honest and empowering, chronicling the everyday twists, turns, and reflections of a 20 something finding their feet in the modern world.

Generations

The Generations program connects artists with established industry experts and mentors, to pass on intergenerational knowledge and create pathways in the music industry. Established in 2020, this is a partnership between Create NSW, Powerhouse and Australian music management and touring company.

Valued at $100,000, the Generations program supports three early career solo artists or groups to carry out six months of professional development. Each Fellow is provided with $25,000 in financial support, and in-kind support in the form of studio space at Powerhouse Ultimo or Powerhouse Castle Hill, with industry mentoring and networking facilitated by Astral People throughout each residency.

Generations

Applications Closed

Next Open January 2025

The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.

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