WARNING: This piece contains sensitive subject matter that will discuss mental health concerns such as eating disorders, suicide and depression. This content may be triggering and we advise you to proceed with caution and seek the appropriate support if in need - we are always here to help.
It’s crazy how time flies when you’re having fun right? In August (2017), Rachel Maria Cox was one of my very first interviews for Newcastle Mirage. When the interview happened to make it into the print edition, I was elated. I have to admit that this interview is still one of my favourites to date. What I love about Cox is that their responses to any question thrown their way is always met by a whole lot of honesty, passion and heart - so when I saw the opportunity to speak to Cox again, I was thrilled!
A lot has happened between our first chat, with the songster going on to adore festival stages, release their EP ‘Untidy Lines’, manage Sad Grrrls Club and work on some fresh new poppy tunes, like the one being released officially for y’all to enjoy TODAY! A new EP is in the works too * WOOHOO *
If you haven’t heard it already, you are missing out. * Cue you going off to listen to it immediately - go, go, go! *
Cox has definitely gone and done it again, releasing yet another epic tune that I like to describe as what happens when “Daria Morgendorffer meets Carly Rae Jepsen” - it’s only three degrees of separation between Daria, Carly & Cox and it’s pure magic.
‘Time’ shifts gears a bit from the previous sounds of Cox, with a more poppy production (produced by Amos Wellings a.k.a Skyepaint) that brings with it diary entry honesty about battling with an eating disorder and trying to find happiness with one’s self.
Never shying away from the opportunity to talk about the array of mental health issues that perplex this society, Rachel Maria Cox offers to audiences a therapy session that needn’t come at a hefty price - an anecdotal trip in the form of pure pop bliss. Mind you, we are not at all saying to stop seeing a therapist or stop considering to do so - just to be clear.
With the track officially out today, I got the opportunity to have a good chat to Cox all about the record, the creative process behind ‘Time’ and the importance of talking about mental health and being honest when you’re not doing ok.
Check out the full interview below…
Rachel Maria Cox
It’s been a long time between our last chat & a lot has happened since then, as you had just released ‘Untidy Lines’ and now you’ve got your newest single ‘Time’ coming out on Friday - how are you feeling about it all? *we encourage complete gut-wrenching honesty, always*
It has been a long time! I have been writing a bit since the start of the year – after ‘Untidy Lines’ came out I didn’t write anything for a while, but I got that creative urge again around the start of this year, which is where ‘Time’ (and a few of my other new songs) came from.
Initially I was really nervous about this song, I knew it was a lot more pop in the production than anything on ‘Untidy Lines’, and I was worried that because it had been so long since I released anything I was scared it would alienate people.
I’ve been really grateful so far with how people have received it, but there is always that element of fear when you’re doing something that’s both so different from what you’ve done in the past, but also so emotionally raw and honest.
What inspired you to write ‘Time’? What was that creative process like?
So, I wrote time after I came back from Perth last year. I went to visit my sister and I was in this period of like, dieting and flirting with an eating disorder relapse, and I felt really stuck. I saw my sister and how she lives and eats – she eats intuitively but in a way that not only takes herself into consideration but also in a way that reflects her values about the environment and animals. It’s something I was really envious of. I came back and I was in Newcastle in that limbo period between Christmas and New Years and I felt really stuck in a limbo period in my own mental health.
It was like “either this is my life, re-lapsing and never really recovering and relapsing again, or something has to really change”. I found a lot of information about body positivity, fat positivity and intuitive eating, and I remember hearing in a podcast something that just really profoundly changed me;
Creatively, I didn’t write this song straight away. But I was thinking over these ideas, jotting down little bits and pieces of lyrics, and then I got lined up with an acoustic test session at studios 301 and realised I had to pull something together really quickly that I could record with just me and a piano.
So I sat down at a piano in an hour gap I had at work and it came out pretty much fully formed. I remember sending the demo to my sister and she said she loved it and that really gave me the push I needed to keep going.
After it was written and I had done an acoustic version of it, I took it to Amos (Skyepaint) and we I think sat down and got most of the arrangement and vocals done in about two hours. Over the course of a couple of weeks we tracked drums and guitar at Sawtooth Studios, then did bass and some extra vocals in little home recording sessions, and that’s basically how it ended up where it is now!
Now, I want to take a moment to talk about the cover art for this single. It’s a beautiful shot of you taken by Diego Esquivel, but what I want to know is the significance of the tattooed dates on your back & why you chose that to be the cover... ?
The photo was taken at our first sort of test shoots for the music video, and it struck me as soon as I saw it as being a great cover photo for this song. I like that it being a picture of my back draws parallels to the cover of ‘Untidy Lines’, but it’s more colourful as well.
Plus, it captures that tattoo really well. It’s a tattoo of the dates of birth of my immediate family members. Given that the song’s chorus is about my sister and my mum, and the song is a reminder of how much my family support me, it seemed to just all tie in really nicely.
For anybody that follows you online or knows you personally, they will know that you battle with mental health issues daily and that you openly discuss this in the public sphere. Why do you think it’s important to be so open and talk about these things?
Yeah, I’m definitely not shy about it! It’s funny, the release of this song has actually come right as I leave a psychiatric hospital, I’ve spent the best part of the last month and a bit in and out of hospitals after I had essentially a mental breakdown. So the timing is really good for me to talk about mental health because it’s something that’s really a priority in my life right now.
I have said that the message of this song is to accept yourself as you are right now – forget about ‘should’s and just accept where you are right this second. And I think that’s something that it’s important to talk about because it’s so easy to forget in day to day life, and over time it can really be draining to never feel like you’re good enough as you are. I think that’s universal but I think mental illnesses can really exacerbate it.
I also think it’s important to talk openly about mental health because there is still a lot of stigma around it. Particularly mental illnesses that aren’t necessarily as simple as a single depressive episode or general anxiety. And we need to talk about the reality of it, cause stigma creates shame, and shame creates silence, and we know that silence on these issues eventually kills people.
The reality of having an eating disorder for me is that my long term health is seriously affected, particularly my digestive health. I currently have liver damage from a recent suicide attempt. I had to take 5 or so weeks off work to get treatment and even then I’m still not 100% better. The reality is that this sucks and it’s complicated and often the systems that are in place to help are inadequately funded and staffed, but the reality also is that it is not permanent and it is something you can live through and learn to live with. That’s why I talk about it and I hope that it encourages other people to do the same as well.
If you feel like you need to talk to someone or want to seek help/support - there will be helplines & support networks linked down the bottom of this article.
Would you say that your music has changed a lot since ‘Untidy Lines’, ‘cause personally I find this track to be more raw - like we are really starting to get a sense of who Rachel Maria Cox is for the first time...?
I’ve actually got a lot more pop I think! This song is really raw, but I think the big focus for me has been on making more pop music, which is I think music that is truer to who I am right now. I love pop, I’ve always wanted to be a pop star and I think this is finally getting closer to that.
I think lyrically ‘Time’ actually is closer to some of the songs on my EP, ‘I Just Have A Lot Of Feelings’, in the way it was really raw and there wasn’t a lot of editing went on with the lyrics – it felt like a very stream of consciousness writing process. ‘Untidy Lines’ [sic] was definitely a lot more editing [going on] with those lyrics, and I’m not saying either is a better or worse thing, it’s just how I opted to write at the time.
I also think I wrote this song out of a happy period of my life – I really felt like I was happy and fulfilled and had a strong sense of self when I wrote this, and that is something different, and I think makes the song a bit more self-assured and hopeful in tone.
Should people be geared up to hear a lot more of this honesty and ‘Daria-esque’ vibe on your next record? Tbh, I’m jealous that you’re able to channel both Carly Rae Jepsen and Daria Morgendorffer in your sound - you’re a true lyrical wonder.
I think people should definitely be ready to hear more pop stuff from me especially next year. I’ve started working on an EP and there’s definitely elements of that Carly Rae Jepsen Pop and Daria Morgendorffer attitude in the stuff I’m working on at the moment. But yeah, definitely expect to hear more and more pop stuff coming from me in the future.
You signed with a new label this year, The Harbour Agency, how did that opportunity come about and what led you to sign?
Signing to the Harbour Agency as a booking agent was really cool and exciting for me!
They book a lot of my favourite artists so I’m super stoked with that. It came about after BIGSOUND, I went to BIGSOUND with my then very new manager Damien (Platt, of Palms Management) and we both met with Jess and Clinton from Harbour Agency, and they were really amazing and easy to get along with.
They both were genuinely keen to work with us on creating super cool opportunities that went beyond the typical sorts of genres or line ups that I think people might expect for us, which was something that really aligned with what I was hoping for as well. I’m super excited to see what it can bring!
Speaking of incredible labels, we can’t forget Sad Grrrls Club, the amazing record label that you founded in 2015. Any new acts added to the ‘club’ that we should be checking out?
Sad Grrrls Club has been quiet as a label this year but I’ve focused heaps on growing our work as more of a promoter through Not Just Grrrls Events and stages – we have Not Fest in Melbourne coming up as well as Mountain Sounds Festival next year which I am so excited for.
Honestly if you’re ever looking for something new to listen to I recommend you go through our past events and check out any of the artists who have played because they are always amazing.
You’ve already started to create such an amazing fan base (including me), all of which are eager to hear of your future plans - what’s in the pipeline going forward?
I mentioned an EP next year so that’s probably the thing you can most look forward to. I think other than that the next couple of months will be spent focusing on my mental health but I’m still going to be playing shows and I have lots of shows coming up that I’m super keen to play!
I’ve also just joined a new band, so I will be soon be creating more music than ever and it’s an exciting time to be looking ahead to the future.
Any events that you’re particularly excited about playing at soon? Any Newy dates that we should be putting in your calendar notifications?
YES! We are playing a single launch show for ‘Time’ on the 23rd of November at the Hamilton Station Hotel, and then our single launch in Melbourne is going to also be the Not Just Grrrls stage at Not Fest on the 24th November, so I’m super keen for both of those.
Then we’re supporting La Dispute in Sydney on December 12th - I literally cried when we got that offer, I’ve loved that band for such a long time and I can’t wait to play with them AND Sports Bra!
Then we’ve got our final Newy date of the year at Turn Up The Sun Festival in December which should be an awesome show, and the Not Just Grrrls Stage at Mountain Sounds Festival on the Central Coast next Feb is going to be HUGE!
All upcoming shows can be sourced here!
To wrap everything up, what would you - the unbridled, emotionally raw music disruptor, Rachel Maria Cox, like to say to their fans about their music and what they can do to be a disruptor too in this industry and in life?
If there’s one thing I could pass on to anyone right now, it’s to take a second to ask yourself what would change if you stopped trying to change everything in your life right now and just accepted it as it is?
If you stopped trying to lose weight, stopped trying to deny how you felt, and just focused on shifting the things that matter to you and that you have the power to change?
Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is just to accept you exactly as you are right now. You don’t need to lose weight, or pretend you’re happy when you’re not, or anything like that. It’s only when you’re honest and accepting of yourself that you can start to make meaningful change.
Facebook // Instagram: @rachelmariacox // Twitter: @rachelmariacox // Website
If this article has been a trigger for you or if you just need some support or someone to talk to: Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636. Know that you’re not alone and that there will always be someone who will pick up your call.