Delilah Montagu is a name which keeps cropping up in music publications, perhaps in tandem with her stunning video for ‘Gold’, or her performance on the Gaga-organised One World: Together At Home.
Her intimate piano-driven songs were what first caught the eye of the public, and after a wildly successful collaboration with David Guetta and Black Coffee for ‘Drive’, it seemed her star was set to rise.
Now with the release of an EP [In Gold] and her latest single ‘Version of Me’ under her belt, we sat down with Montagu to talk influences, songwriting techniques and messages to your past self.
We know Leonard Cohen has a big influence on your music. Who are the non-musical influences who inspired you when finding your sound?
Great question. I have always loved art and books when I was younger; I would speed through 3 books every week sometimes. But my biggest non-musical influence is my mum who inspires me every day and always encouraged my creativity.
What were you writing about when you first started writing songs? Tell us some of the lyrics.
I was writing about the heartbreak that my mum was experiencing. People used to always ask me ‘How do you know what love and heartbreak feel like? You’re only 12,’ and I never told them, but it was all my mum really! One of the lines was, ‘don’t you realise how many little lies it takes to be human? why don’t you open your eyes to the world outside of your window’. I’m quite proud of that one actually… I might be using it at some point. [laughs]
It seems like your songwriting process is incredibly spontaneous which is amazing and really impressive! Do you think there are ever any drawbacks to this? Would you write a different way if you could or is this the only way that works for you?
Thank you! Interestingly, the music I’ve been creating recently since meeting Robin Hannibal [record producer and songwriter] has been a very different process. I have been experimenting with what it’s like to write from a more considered place; I’ve always just written what’s in my head whereas now I think more about what I’m trying to say and how to convey my feelings properly. It’s been an incredible process and resulted in very honest work.
How do you go about arranging a song like ‘Next to Me’? You have a full band and flute parts and a Talking Heads sample if I’m not mistaken. How does this compare to the more stripped-back, intimate songs with just you and a piano?
‘Next to Me’ was a fun one to record and to write. I actually wrote that in a different way than how I’ve written a lot of my more stripped-back songs. The music came first, and I was jamming out with live musicians in the room and then after that I constructed the melody and lyrics. Usually, they both come at the same time or the lyrics come first. It was then a process of taking away rather than adding because we had so much going on musically. It was super fun.
How do you find working with producers after crafting songs on your own for so long?
It’s been a journey for sure. I think that over time I have learned how to collaborate in a way that suits me; I think when I was first doing it, I was so young and impressionable that I didn’t realise how much power I actually have over my own music. I find it so rewarding and eye-opening collaborating now that I have a stronger voice and am more confident in my own ideas and musical vision.
Your new single, ‘Version of Me’ has recently been released and is about searching for the best version of yourself. How does this bridge across from and build upon the songwriting on your previous EP In Gold?
It is much more vulnerable and exposing. It’s the most honestly I’ve ever written about how I feel which is terrifying, but also now that it’s been released I feel so proud of it in a way that is different to any music I’ve ever released.
You have a collaboration with Black Coffee and David Guetta for the song ‘Drive’ which is the most streamed on South African Spotify EVER! Can you tell us a little bit more about it and how it feels to have that landmark under your name?
It’s an honour. They’re both such wonderful human beings and it’s an experience that I will never forget. I feel truly lucky to be included in such a special and important track.
How did you find filming your music videos in the beginning? Are you comfortable in front of the camera? I’m thinking especially of ‘Gold’ which is incredibly intimate in how it was filmed.
To be honest, in day-to-day life I’m not usually comfortable in front of a camera but somehow when it comes to my music and expressing my art in the form of videos and photos, I feel like it’s just an extension of what I’m trying to say in my lyrics. I actually find it really fun and I can’t wait for the next one!
What are the best 3 music videos of all time?
Björk – ‘Big Time Sensuality’
Kendrick Lamar – ‘HUMBLE.’
Bowie – Life on Mars?’
How was it to take part in One World: Together At Home? How has COVID-19 been impacting you and your career?
It was one of the most memorable moments of my whole life. The reaction from it was beautiful, and I feel so much love for the course and for Black Coffee and for the world being together at home at the moment.
What is something you wish you could go back and tell yourself when you first started working towards your career as a musician?
‘You have the power. You’re beautiful. There is no right or wrong as long as you’re telling your truth.’
What message or question would you have for your future self?
‘Are you still being as honest as you are at 22?’
interview by Rosie Solomon
Check out Delilah Montagu’s latest single ‘Version of Me’ below!