Wild, Fearless, Free: Stella Angelico heads a powerhouse performance for International Women's Day 2018

A lot of the time, a woman’s primary worth is placed on her physical appearance...The more we can shake it off, the better.”

“Societally, it’s a really interesting time for women. Women are gaining strength, and obviously over the last few years there’s been a lot of conversation around feminism and what that means, around women in music and around equality,” says Stella Angelico.

“[Equality has] always been important to me but the older I get, the more I’ve reflected on my responsibility as an artist. I became more conscious of the place that I occupy, and all those intersections. Like anyone, as we get older our politics evolve, and that’s happening for me all the time.”

Almost any description of Angelico’s stage presence includes the words strong, powerful, and feminine. Though it’s easy to do so, it’s important to take a step back and not take those adjectives being listed together for granted. Unfortunately, for many, and for a long time, the idea of a performer being both feminine and strong was unheard of. Yet Angelico radiates that presence in every breath. 

For Angelico, maintaining this strong, feminine energy in her music and career has not been so much of a conscious choice, rather her upbringing saw it become a deep part of her.

“I was really fortunate because I grew up in a family of all women,” Angelico says. 

“I have two younger sisters, and a single mum. And my mum was an incredible musician and songwriter. Both my sisters are creatives. One's a visual artist and the other is an actor. I’ve grown up in a family of independent, passionate women who make art, so it’s very organic. And once I started performing publically, I’ve been described that way.”

Since she began performing in public, Angelico has witnessed a shift in the treatment women are subjected to in the Australian music industry.

“A lot of the time, a woman’s primary worth is placed on her physical appearance, and it’s really yuck and really old. The more we can shake it off, the better. We can just be humans together.”

“When I first started out, I felt more of an obligation to be entertaining, to look pretty, to be decoration. Whereas now I feel like there’s a bit more room for substance. I don’t feel pressure to look a certain way, and that says so much.

“I feel like I’m more respected. I feel like I’m less often seen as a caricature, or a character. I used to feel more pushed into a role, but now I feel like there’s a lot more room for a lot of different expressions. Before, the opportunities were narrower.

Angelico is fresh off the back of an “exciting and busy” 2017, that saw her perform and tour extensively across Australia. The highlight for the singer-songwriter though, was touring across Australia and Europe with fellow Melburnian soul-trio Cookin’ on 3 Burners, with whom she co-wrote the track ‘Sweet Talker’.

Angelico’s collaboration with the group was a result of Melbourne’s passionate music community. Angelico took part in the Women of Soul compilation album, at the request of Brunswick Music Festival programmer Chelsea Wilson. Wilson also enlisted Angelico for the Brunswick Music Festival lineup – for the second year in a row – to take part in a special International Women’s Day event, Wild, Fearless and Free.

The stripped back acoustic event, featuring only guitar, piano and vocals, will showcase an impressive array of female musicians telling stories and singing songs that hold profound meaning to each individual.

“I think it’s going to be a really nice combination of personal and political music. And all the women I met feel fearless. I’m really happy to be part of it, and such an honour to be asked,” says Angelico.

She will perform alongside the likes of Sophie Koh, Jessica Hitchock, The Black Sistaz and Kathleen Halloran at Brunswick Mechanics Institute, which this year serves as the festival’s hub. The eclectic, historical venue selection is just part of the charm of Australia’s longest running music festival, now celebrating its 30th year.

For Angelico, the event is a recharge. A reminder of the best parts of her job.

“Sometimes I can get a bit tired, and wonder why I’m doing this again. But when I witness other performers whose music really moves me and lifts me, whenever I get together with other women doing the same stuff, I remember ‘oh that's why we have music, that's what it’s all about'.”

Wild, Fearless and Free will take place at Brunswick Mechanics Institute on International Women’s Day, Thursday March 8, as part of Brunswick Music Festival.