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Abbe May on sexuality, honesty and the Clam Jam


Abbe May will give audiences a taste of what she considers her most honest and accomplished album yet when she joins local female musicians for a Clam Jam at the Adelaide Guitar Festival this weekend.

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“I’ve always been painfully honest,” the plain-speaking singer-songwriter tells InDaily.

“As an artist, I’m not really interested in manufacturing stories – I don’t think it makes for good art.”

Nonetheless, she describes her much-lauded latest album, Fruit, as her most open yet – a “declaration of identity” and “way of showing my face without shame”.

Released earlier this year, the melodic pop collection discusses sexuality and May’s own journey as a gay person from a very early age.

The song “Seventeen” was actually written as a love letter for her little niece to read when she becomes a young woman, detailing both the “stupid and wonderful things” May has done as a kind of reminder of the importance of finding a purpose in life.

“It took five years between the last release and this one [Fruit], so it was a good chunk of my life recording and living and growing, and as a culmination of that I’m very proud of it,” she says.

“I think it’s my most honest, most accomplished work yet and I really enjoy playing it live.”

In a media release issued at the time of the album’s release, May said she had had industry collaborators suggesting she be more ambiguous about her sexuality to avoid alienating fans. However, she says now that since its release, Fruit has been predominantly greeted with respect and understanding.

“I think it’s very different to how it was 10 years ago, that’s for certain.

“It’s getting to the point, which I’m delighted with, where really your sexuality is about as exciting as your shoe size. So that’s a really wonderful thing to see evolve over my 10 or 12-year career.”

May will be joined at this Saturday’s all-female Adelaide Guitar Festival gig by South Australian musicians The Limpettes, Hana and Jessie-Lee (from Hana and Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits), Alana Jagt, Cookie Baker, W.M.N. and Sour Trout.

There is a distinct lack of opportunities for female talent 

She has been involved in about six Clam Jams in recent years, and says the concept originated from a tour she did in late 2016.

“I was coming home to perform the single launch in my home town and I had deliberately chosen female-dominated acts to support me and I was just having a laugh about how it’s usually caused a ‘sausage fest’ and I just termed it ‘clam jam’ and promoted it as such and it ended up becoming a bit of a feature of the work that I do.

“There is a distinct lack of opportunities for female talent – and it’s not a lack of talent,” she adds, explaining why she generally chooses female support acts.

“I just think you’re better off being proactive about it, and so I am.”

As for her own performance at the Adelaide Clam Jam, fans can expect to hear both new songs from Fruit and tracks from her earlier releases such as Kiss My Apocalypse (2013) and Design Desire (2011).

“It’s always a mixture for me … if people like a song, I’m not precious about playing it.

“I’m really grateful to have the job that I have. If you ask me nicely, I generally will play whatever you want.”

Abbe May with Clam Jam, recommended for ages 18+, will be performed at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Dunstan Playhouse this Saturday. The Adelaide Guitar Festival opens on Friday.

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