Carla Geneve ready to confront her teenage feelings on debut album Learn To Like It

BREAK THROUGH: Carla Geneve releases her debut album Learn To Like It on Friday.
BREAK THROUGH: Carla Geneve releases her debut album Learn To Like It on Friday.

FROM the moment Carla Geneve walked off the nondescript stage at her Albany high school after performing James Taylor's Sweet Baby James, she knew where her life was headed.

"I was petrified," Geneve says. "I did a school concert where I sang a song, when I was 13, and I was like, 'I think I should probably do this'.

"Everyone was like, 'That was cool' and I was like, 'Was it?' I thought, I did my first singing performance and now I know what I want to do with my life."

Fast forward a decade and the 23-year-old Perth-based singer-songwriter is preparing to finally release her debut album, Learn To Like It.

Expectations are high. Since releasing her 2018 debut single Greg's Discount Chemist - possibly the best song ever written about buying pseudoephedrine - Geneve's blend of '90s alternative rock and '70s Americana has attracted a growing legion of fans.

Her self-titled 2019 EP then dominated the WA Music Awards with four trophies. Music listeners outside WA have also been tuning into Geneve's mature, yet explosive, brand of songwriting.

Carla Geneve - Dog Eared

Learn To Like It was initially due for release in April 2021, but Geneve says it was delayed due to supply issues and because "the last couple years have been very messy."

The album was predominantly written when Geneve was 18. There's the pure teenage rage in the exhilarating alt-rock blast of Dog Eared and Don't Wanna Be Your Lover, but there's also tracks like I Never Noticed The Weight, Brighter Than Blue and Brisbane which display Geneve's canny combination of heartfelt story-telling and atmospheric guitar-playing that's well beyond her years.

"I'm sure everyone goes through this with the process, but you write them, you love them, you record them, you're excited, then you hate it and then you come to terms with it," Geneve says of the album.

"I think because they're so old, it's a pretty special record to make, although I'd say the songwriting isn't as mature, perhaps, as the stuff I'm writing now for obvious reasons.

"It captures my younger self which I think is lovely. It'll put everything I'll release in the future into perspective. I'm distanced from them, but I'm still proud of what I achieved back then."

Geneve has almost completed recording a second album and has written a batch of songs for her a third.

"It's fairly different," she says of the new material. "I got the mixes back yesterday and it's much more subtle.

The story-telling aspect and exploring the human condition, for me is an important part, but live music is also incredible and irreplaceable.

Carla Geneve

"I like it more and I wrote those songs when I was 21 or 22, so that's the part of my brain it's tapping into. I'm working on the next one, which is 23 me.

"I like to keep it moving and keep pumping them out."

Music was a constant in Geneve's family home growing up in Albany on WA's southern coast. She'd listen to Australian alt-rock bands Violent Soho and The Drones as well as classic Americana acts Lucinda Williams and Neil Young.

Geneve left Albany at 18 and moved to Perth were she quickly established a reputation as a fierce live performer, reminiscent of Mia Dyson and Liz Stringer.

Geneve is fascinated by the exhibitionist nature of live music, and has always felt more comfortable being vulnerable on stage than off.

"It gets more daunting as I get older as I realise what that really means and being a public person," she says.

Carla Geneve - The Right Reasons

"I've always felt way more at ease on stage. I'm sure a lot of other artists would say the same thing.

"We don't think about the daunting side, because every day we're thinking about when can we do it again.

"The older I get I feel like I get to create a moment with other musicians on stage and share that moment with people, which is so crazy and magical and everyone is on the same page, even in a half-hour set.

"Everyone is there in the same room, doing the same thing, feeling hopefully some way similar. That doesn't happen much any more.

"The story-telling aspect and exploring the human condition, for me, is an important part, but live music is also incredible and irreplaceable."

For the past two years Geneve has been restricted to performances in WA. She'll perform her first show on the east coast since March 2020 at the Gum Ball at the Hunter Valley's Dashville on April 24.

Geneve says WA's strict border restrictions allowed the Perth music scene to continue, but the lack of outside influences has delivered negative results.

"To be brutally honest, it's getting pretty stale over here," she says. "I haven't seen a band that's not from WA, except Ricky Albeck and the Belair Line Band, since 2020. Artists need to witness other people doing their thing.

"You need people to push you. You need to watch something and think, that was awesome. Then you get that fire under you and you say, 'I wanna do that'."

Carla Geneve's debut album Learn To Like It is released on Friday. Gum Ball comes to Dashville on April 22 to 24.

This story Carla Geneve has learnt to let it go first appeared on Newcastle Herald.