If you’ve been impatiently waiting for Montaigne’s debut album Glorious Heights, you’re not alone.
“I’m more than ready,” 21 year old Sydney singer/songwriter Montaigne (aka Jessica Cerro) says. “It feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this point.”
It’s actually been a short but colourful ride. In 2012 Montaigne with her song Anyone But Me was a triple j Unearthed finalist. Slight problem – she was still 16 years old and in high school. She signed a publishing deal (with Alberts, no less) and juggled her higher education with a musical one. The teenager celebrated getting her HSC by finishing her first EP Life of Montaigne.
There’s been a string of impressive songs leading up to Glorious Heights – I Am Not an End, I’m a Fantastic Wreck and, more recently, Clip My Wings (one of the #1 most played songs on triple j) and In the Dark. The last two find a home on Glorious Heights, which fortuitously also arrives after Montaigne’s star-making guest role on Hilltop Hoods’ double platinum No.2 hit 1955. “That song put me on the radar of people that wouldn’t ordinarily be into my music,” she says. Her stunning cover of Sia’s Chandelier for Triple J’s Like A Version was so powerful that Sia herself tweeted in admiration of the vocal chops on display.
Glorious Heights continues the beautiful musical partnership with producer Tony Buchen (The Preatures/Andy Bull), who also co-writes a number of songs on the album.
“I have a billion songs I’ve written by myself but Tony and I have this energy between us that works really well.” On Glorious Heights Montaigne and Buchen have created a sound that is unique yet still laden with ear inviting hooks. There are unapologetic tips of the hat to some of the great pop acts of decades past, but these are cleverly interwoven into what feels like a very fresh sonic landscape.
Much has already been made of Montaigne’s powerful voice – regularly compared to Regina Spektor, Marina and the Diamonds, Bjork, Florence & the Machine and St Vincent. That’s good company, and, Montaigne points out, accurate comparisons. “They are some of my influences, especially vocally. I’ve been compared to The National once, I was very happy with that. And Owen Pallett, I was so happy with that, he’s in my Top 5 favourite artists.
There are a lot of artists that influence me: Arcade Fire, Everything Everything, Coldplay, SigurRos, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads…it’s a long list.”
Glorious Heights is also about to introduce Montaigne as one of this country’s most interesting young lyricists. Her vocabulary is exemplary, her subject matter diverse.
The album cover, featuring Montaigne and two dragons, was created by American illustrator Wes Talbott, also touches on Montaigne’s love of medieval video games as well as being a metaphor wrapped in some really cool artwork. “The two dragons represent problems or adversity,” She says. “I’m slaying one dragon, or one problem, and over my shoulder unbeknownst to me is another dragon, or another problem, just about to eat me. I’ve just defeated one, but I can barely bask in my victory because I have another problem on the horizon. It can be demoralising and draining but the reason the sword is glowing and I’m dressed like Lara Croft is because you are the hero of your own life and you have to keep going with that unrealistic optimism, but use your endurance. It’s character building. It makes you who you are.”
After choice opening slots for San Cisco, Japanese Wallpaper, Boy & Bear and Megan Washington, and playing sold out arenas with Hilltop Hoods this year, not to mention her own sold out national tour, Montaigne is ready to showcase Glorious Heights live. She’s also appeared at many of the nations favourite festivals including Groovin’ The Moo, Come Together, Secret Garden and Splendour in the Grass, with appearances booked in for later in the year at Lost Paradise and Beyond The Valley. Her own ‘Because I Love You’ October national tour ran to sold out dates in 2016.
“I enjoy connecting with the audience, I love looking everyone in the eyes,” she says. “I want to feel as close to them as possible. I thrive on being on stage.”
Montaigne received her fair share of nominations this year including the National Live Music Awards, the Cosmopolitan ‘Fearless Woman of the Year’, triple j ‘J Award’ and of course the ARIAS where she won Breakthrough Artist and was further nominated for Best Female Artist and Apple Song of the Year/Best Video for her feature on the Hilltop Hoods ‘1955’.
2017 is set to be a huge year for her and is off to a great start coming in at #25 with ‘Because I Love You’, and #4 for ‘1955’ (which she featured on with Hilltop Hoods) on the triple j Hottest 100.