Following the release of her most recent single, Grok had a chat with Taryn Woods-Spurling—the woman behind hip hop project MissGenius—about her inspirations, the therapeutic nature of music and working with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
Your new single I Don’t Wanna Be recently came out. What’s the story behind it?
I wrote it in reflection of how many people in the world have these fashion trends and whatnot going on—basically what the celebrities have been posting, what they’re wearing, what products they use and how a lot of us get drawn in. It can also bring up depression because you’re trying to be something that you’re not, which is completely hard. It brings up more bad feelings than us taking a look at ourselves and being happy with what we have. So, it’s basically just me thinking about how I had my struggles, how I wanted to look and what I wanted to be. Then, I thought, ‘No,’ I don’t want to be anybody else. I don’t want the personality of someone who can pay their way out. I want people who feel the same to have a voice and to be able to feel like they’re not alone in that situation, and take time to see our inner beauty as well as our outer beauty—being comfortable in our own skin and not being drawn into social media and standards that other people think that we need to be at.
How long have you been making music for?
I started writing when I was 15. I recorded and shared my first song when I was 18 or 19. Then, I did my first live gig last year in April, so I was twenty-something. I’m 25 now, just to put it out there.
So, it’s been a gradual process.
I think since the first live performance, things have been happening so much faster than they were. I didn’t actually think anything was going to happen. To me, it was just a tool that I’d use as therapy to release the way that I think and to release the way that I feel. It just happened to be that a lot of people could relate to the sort of stuff I was talking about. So, it feels like I’ve been doing it for ages.
That’s beautiful I like the idea of using music as therapy and having this meaningful air to it.
I find it hard sometimes, but it’s good. It’s good. The more I feel as if I can give a voice to my songs, I’m maybe giving somebody that voice or something they can relate to.
So, you grew up in Perth and Broome, how do you think your upbringing has influenced your music?
The majority of my songs, I write about my life—experiences in life or other peoples’ stories that I grew up watching. I wouldn’t have any of my music if I had not been through the struggles that I’d been through in my childhood and overcome them. Most of the time, I wouldn’t talk about certain things, but it was very rough. In Broome, it was pretty rough, but more stuff happened in Perth when I was younger, and we didn’t have much money and stuff like that. There were kids who used to laugh at the things I had to wear to school and what not. All these things were used and put into the music. I do that for the kids that have felt like that, the teenagers that go through the struggles that they have with themselves, and I do it for everyone. All the different stuff that I write are different stories that relate to different people in different situations. If I didn’t go through anything or didn’t struggle as a child, and as a teenager, and as an adult, I wouldn’t have [anything] to tell, and nobody to relate to.
Your music has a smooth soul texture to it with sharp lyrics as well. How have you developed your sound as a musician?
It’s all by ear. Every time I make a song, I think for a day or two straight. I listen to it constantly and I take notes. I constantly write down these notes, and every time I get into a new song or a new vibe, I start picking up things and I fill in the gaps. I need to do that every single time I do a song. There’s always room for improvement and I’ll always be my biggest critic. I like to write in my bedroom [laughs] with just me, my laptop, a padded pen and a microphone. That’s pretty much how it happens.
Who inspires your music?
I have so many different people, I can’t just pinpoint one person. Eminem, Tracy Chapman, Etta James. I don’t know there are so many people [laughs]. Peoples’ stories are what inspire me to keep going. It doesn’t even have to be someone that’s in the music industry.
You’re also an AIME mentor. How important is that to you and what does it involve?
I’m the lead mentor here in Kalgoorlie and I am a huge advocate for youth and mental health issues. I’ve always got my hand up to join in because it’s something I struggled with as a young teenager and I didn’t have any support there. Whatever strategies I have, and I’ve learnt to get through that stuff, I want to pass those tools on to who I can. Working with AIME has given me that opportunity to work closely with the kids and show that you can step out of your comfort zone and try new things. If you have a voice, and you want to show it, do it. The best part of the job is being able to guide the kids to a place where they’re able to do that for themselves and pass that on themselves like a chain reaction.
Does your music tie into your AIME work?
Definitely. It helps a lot because I can share my story—what I did have, what I didn’t have and how I got to where I am. It was myself and whatever support I had around me, I took it because a lot of people are afraid to say, ‘Hey, I need help,’ or accept somebody’s token of kindness. I just wanted to show that I didn’t want to reach out or get help from anybody, but this is how I did it. My music is the thing that feeds the strategies. I’m able to show people how I did it—now you’ve got to create your own.
What can listeners next expect from you?
Let’s just say I’ll be at Nannup Music Festival, and the rest is a surprise. You’ll just have to stay tuned.