In 2020, Australia was introduced to the spectacular voice of Budjerah: a new, homegrown kind of R&B star. Possessing songwriting ingenuity and old-soul wisdom, it quickly became abundantly clear that, for a lot of us, Budjerah was the kind of figure we’d been missing. “When will the moment come? I’m tired of wasting time,” the then-18-year-old Coodjinburra musician sang in the opening strains of his debut single, the earthy R&B jam “Missing You”. He might as well have been talking about his own career: from his earliest releases, Budjerah clearly had spades of talent and a hunger to show just how much he could accomplish.
Now 19, and with a debut EP under his belt — as well as an ARIA Breakthrough Artist award from 5x nominations, previous support slots with Thelma Plum, The Avalanches, and Lime Cordiale, a collaboration with PNAU, and an upcoming world tour lined up with Vance Joy — Budjerah is ready to charge forward, armed with a new set of songs that show off his range, his fire, and, of course, his gossamer, heart-wrenching voice.
On new single “What Should I Do?” Budjerah unites with producer Konstantin Kersting on a track that finds powerful tension in its clash of electro-R&B production and emotive lyricism. “It’s like no one cares about what’s going on / Could it be that I’ve done something wrong?” Budjerah sings, as Kersting’s trademark synths, rendered here with a warped, almost vaporwave-like patina, glide and glissando beneath.
“The lyrics for ‘What Should I Do?’ came really easily,” Budjerah says of the meaning behind the track. “The inspiration came a few weeks earlier — I noticed that my friends weren’t really texting me or calling me; they had sort of pushed me to the side. I was real sad because I didn’t have any friends, and didn’t know what to do. But now it’s over: I got some new friends.” Fittingly, the song sparkles with the knowledge of hindsight.
‘What Should I Do?’ is placed as one of six tracks on Conversations, Budjerah’s second EP set for release 8th April. Which sees Budjerah emerging a clear-eyed young songwriter who’s at turns heartbreaking and heartbroken, lovelorn and headstrong, singing about changing friendships and relationships with the vigour of youth and limpid depth that belies his age.
Reuniting with longtime producers Matt Corby and Chris Collins, as well as new collaborators MAY-A and Konstantin Kersting, the EP — which features previously released singles “Talk”, with MAY-A, and “Wash My Sorrows Away” — reveals a darker, sleeker sound for Budjerah, reflective of the changes that have occurred in his life. “These songs speak about the last year — about me figuring out what’s important. My friends sort of dropped away, the ones I was missing in ‘Missing You’,” Budjerah says.
“This EP is about realizing that this stuff that’s happening is good for me — I’ve learned and I actually have grown up a little bit since the first EP. It’s a lot of feeling — so much has happened and it’s been a lot to process at the same time, good stuff and bad stuff. Conversations is a way to understand those feelings. ”
Conversations also features “Talk”, a collaboration with MAY-A that’s already received widespread acclaim, including adds to triple j and Nova. Dealing with themes of communication and clarity, it’s the perfect prelude to the EP’s themes. “‘Talk’ came about from a conversation with MAY-A [where] we were just talking about how a lot of people would rather text than call,” Budjerah says of he and MAY-A’s inspiration behind the track. “It’s inspired by the fact that a lot of problems in our lives could be solved by talking openly and honestly, face-to-face, instead of hiding behind screens.”