The alias of alternative pop singer, songwriter and producer Carley Austin, SIILA can be described as a hybrid of electronic, soul, with shades of contemporary R&B. With conviction and confidence, she makes a sole sound that is introspective with glittering, dulcet vocal harmonies.
Heavily influenced by artists such as Banks, Alina Baraz, dvsn and The Internet, the Sydney-based songstress has reached over 3 million Spotify streams and has supported artists such as GRAACE, Jess Kent & Samsaruh on their Australian tours.
Why and when did you start your creative journey?
I’ve been drawn to music and the arts for as long as I can remember. I found my love for singing at the ripe age of 7, and distinctly remember writing lyrics, and creating chord progressions at about 9-years-old. My first original song was called ‘The Jar Inside Me’ written on the keyboard (it was about my heart filling up with ‘love’ from my friends and family – bless). After spending my teenage years consistently gigging in the country scene on the weekends, I found myself completely delving into the world of indie / electronic music at 21.
A distinct moment I recall that drove me to create ‘SIILA’, was when I travelled to the states solo. I was in Chicago, completely alone – with limited funds trying to sneak my way into the Lollapalooza festival. I was unsuccessful scoring a ticket, so I found a little sneaky spot by Chicago’s Grant Park Bay, and found myself watching ‘Banks’ through a little hole in the surrounding gate. I was in awe of her performance; the boom of the brooding chords and deep electronic bass gave me chills up my spine. And all I wanted to do in that moment was be on the stage, performing my art.
Fast-track a few years after discovering and exploring this dark electronic / alternative R&B sound, I created the project ‘SIILA’.
How has creative expression allowed you to survive/thrive?
I often come across as being quite a happy and ‘bubbly’ person to those around me, although I personally identify as being innately dark and self-deprecating most of the time – something that others don’t really see I guess.
I didn’t want to identify as myself – so I created the pseudonym ‘SIILA’. There’s a duality to it that acts as an outlet to unleash the darker side of me, but also stimulates a confidence and self-assuredness that doesn’t show so much externally.
That’s why you could say my art is somewhat introspective, drawing from ‘lovesick’ moments and memories. The mix of soulful chords, brooding harmonies and shades of R&B communicates this bittersweet story / sound dynamic of anguish versus confidence. Well, that’s how I interpreted the emotion when writing it… but I know others have adapted a different outlook to my sound – which is what makes music so incredibly special.
How do you get into your creative workflow?
I’ve had ups and downs with music, there are moments when I’m inspired and (sometimes long) periods when I’m not. Over the years, I’ve tried not to put too much pressure on myself – because for me, a really good song is naturally written from my own lived, intense experiences. Honestly, the way I deal with heartbreak is through music… typical, I know. But it’s raw and honest and you can hear it in ‘BYM.’ and ‘Memoirs’. It’s very a personal and sometimes daunting process writing about this, but it’s the best outlet I have to heal, survive and thrive.
My expression has changed as I’ve grown older, and I’ve actually recently gone through a really tough experience which has brought this to light. This time around I’ve dealt with pain differently, and naturally chose to write about the experience in a more ‘idealistic’ setting. Yeah – it stems from heartbreak again, but this new song is a positive reflection of an encounter that captures those unique, distinct moments of happiness and contentment. Writing this has been uplifting and meditative this time around (a good way to deal with it, particularly in lockdown! *eye roll*).
What do you hope the observer/ listener absorbs from your art?
Looking through my music’s playlist additions from around the globe… you’ll find many different moods – we’ve got Cozy Cacao Vibes, Therapy Session, Chill Sunday, ‘So – I’m tripping on Acid’, and many variations of sexy scenarios – (schmexxy, night moods, do not disturb, and one simply labeled ‘wink 😉 ) I love it.
Whatever the mood, I just hope it provides some sort of meditative experience to the listener, whether it empowers, chills you out, mends your heartache – or for some it might be when you’re ‘tripping on acid’ (shout out to that Spotify user from NZ). Whatever the people are feeling, I’m just happy that they’re listening and creating their own individual experience from my art.