Melbourne singer-songwriter Gretta Ziller has a voice that makes you feel like she’s known you forever and is going to tell you secrets – she has the ability to really make the listener feel like they are right up next to her, and that the warmth in her voice is for you alone. She also sings with a sense of command that is reassuring for that same up-close listener: we can sit back and let her tell us a story.
These are abilities that Ziller has displayed across all her recorded material, including the 2014 EP Hell’s Half Acre and her 2017 album Queen of Boomtown, and which has contributed to her two Golden Guitar nominations, amongst other accolades. And it also appears on her new single, ‘Unlikely Believer’, which is her first release on ABC Music.
The song is about faith in love but, more broadly, in humanity. It is also, therefore, about resilience – the commitment to not giving up on that faith.
Says Ziller, ‘I wrote “Unlikely Believer” to remind myself that although I’ve been through a lot in life that it’s harder but so much more rewarding to keep believing in things, rather than dwelling on the hurt and hardship.’
Given her signing to ABC Music, hopefully the single heralds an album in the near future. Meanwhile, she’s released a video to accompany the song, filmed at the Westgarth Palais Cinemas in Northcote, Victoria, and featuring Ziller’s live band along with keyboardist Clint Wilson.
Melbourne singer-songwriter Dom Italiano debuted in the iTunes top 30 Country chart with his new single, ‘The Italiano’, which also features one of Australia country music’s great voices, Gretta Ziller.
Italiano says that the song is ‘about how we exist in conflict with everything and that’s why we struggle through life and we don’t understand why that is.’
Yet, as a line in the song goes, ‘nothing lifts the gaze as much as hope. The miracle it seems is that so many learn to cope’.
‘It’s about understanding that that’s what happens everywhere anyway,’ says Italiano, ‘and it is something to be embraced, whether you like it or not; that’s how stuff is.’
While Italiano would be more than capable of singing the song alone, the addition of Ziller enhances the idea of opposites expressed in the lyrics – and also implies that we are not alone with the paradoxes of life, just as neither singer is alone in the song.
With gigs a little thin on the ground at the moment, Italiano has been playing two online gigs a day and taking supporters on a virtual world tour. He is currently writing and recording a new song each week in 2020, and has a new album, The Hurt Party, due for release in June.
Andrew Swift and Gretta Ziller are two of Australia’s most compelling solo artists, singer-songwriters who excel at both roles. Ziller is in possession of one of the great voices of Australian country and is the creator of the exceptional album Queen of Boomtown and its equally wonderful predecessor, the EP Hell’s Half Acre. Swift’s album Call Out for the Cavalry won the Golden Guitar for Alt Country Album of the Year and also won him New Talent of the Year, deserved recognition for his talent and achievement.
Ziller and Swift have been doing shows and tours together for several years, but they’ve only recently recorded together for the first time. Not surprisingly, the result is outstanding: the song ‘Second Hand’ was written by Ziller several years ago but it sounds as if it was created for the two of them, each singer playing off the other and uniting to make the song even stronger. If they ever decide to record an album together it will likely be something that only enhances their already powerful reputations, just as this short, perfect song does.
‘Second Hand’ is out now through Social Family Records.
Victorian singer-songwriter Gretta Ziller released her first EP, Hell’s Half Acre, in late 2014. There was great talent, and great promise, in it – and, consequently, her fans (including me) have had an impatient wait for her first album, Queen of Boomtown. The wait has been worth it, not that there was much doubt: the talent and promise of Hell’s Half Acre were not of the fleeting kind.
On Queen of Boomtown Ziller has resisted making another version of Hell’s Half Acre. The songs on both are distinctively hers, but the album is a progression. These songs are the work of someone with more life behind her – more wistfulness, by the sound of it, and perhaps some cynicism that gives her voice even more of a knowing tone than it had before. And what a voice it is: Ziller has long sounded like she could emit the battle cry of an outlaw queen and follow it with a torch song, and that mix of mellow tone and strident edge is even better balanced on this album.
There is some melancholy on this album, most notably in ‘This is Gonna Hurt’ and ‘Alright with Me’, but that is not the predominant tone, for even ‘Go On’, which could be a song about a broken heart, is more about independence and self-determination. The lyrics of the title track could suggest hard times but no one could really call herself a queen if she wasn’t feeling something close to assured about what she’s doing. And Ziller does sound assured throughout this album – as well she should. These songs are great stories and musically wonderful, and at the centre of it all is Ziller’s majestic voice and her commanding presence, which is clear in each note. This may be a debut album but Ziller doesn’t sound like a beginner. If this were a third or sixth album she could be proud of it – for a debut, well, let’s just say it sounds a lot like a queen claiming her throne. Queen of Boomtown is out now from Social Family Records.
In 2014 Victorian singer-songwriter Gretta Ziller released the excellent EP Hell’s Half Acreand announced herself as a dynamic new talent in Australian country music. While her fans (including me) were probably impatient for new music, Ziller has only recently completed her debut album, Queen of Boomtown, which will be released on 1 September by Social Family Records.
The first single from that album is ‘Slaughterhouse Blues’, and you can watch the video – shot in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg – below and buy the song on .
Gretta Ziller’s debut EP, Hell’s Half Acre, which opens with a cracker of a track, ‘Hunt for Love’. Now Gretta is on the the hunt for Pozible sponsors so she can create her first album. If the LP merely produces ten songs of the same standard as the songs on the EP, it will be fantastic, but there’s every chance Gretta will do more than that.
One of the great things about crowd-funding campaigns for albums is that it’s essentially just a pre-order – so you know you’ll get something tangible at the end of the process.
Since releasing her EP, Hell’s Half Acre, Victorian Gretta Ziller has become a finalist in the 2015 Toyota Star Maker competition, which reaches its conclusion each year during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. If the EP is anything to go by – and, of course, it is – Ziller belongs there. Her songs are developed, even if the emotions they express are raw; her voice is the right balance of polished, commanding and explosive, and her songs are modern while evoking hard-worn trails over cold southern mountains and nights spent wishing for a warm bed and a warmer embrace.
The opening track, ‘Hunt for Love’, is the siren song of a woman who knows her mind and is determined to get what she wants, on her terms. She might describe herself as a ‘little lady’ but this usage seems ironic. The title track, ‘Hell’s Half Acre’, sounds like a battle song born of ennui and the desire for a better life. The other three songs on the EP are just as interesting – and mostly in minor keys – and mark Ziller as an artist to watch. She describes herself as ‘alt country’ but she fits right within the musical and storytelling traditions of country music. Increasingly, that ‘alt’ seems to be standing for ‘Australian’ – there are so many outstanding Australian artists who are taking those country traditions from their own and other lands, and using them to craft songs that aren’t like anything emerging from any other country music scene. Ziller is a great example of what makes alt/Australian country so interesting and vibrant; whether or not she wins Star Maker will not change that.
Hell’s Half Acre is out now. Gretta Ziller is playing several shows at Tamworth 2015. For details on the shows and to buy the EP, visit grettaziller.com.
Reviews and interviews, with a focus on Australian artists