Taranaki-based Australian artist Renee Millner has the gift of imbuing her songs with an engagingly simple sincerity and depth of meaning that is masterful and moving. With a smoky, soulful voice reminiscent of the likes of Beth Orton tempered with the earthiness of Courtney Barnett, she writes in a fluid style hovering on the borders of the folk-acoustic and folk-pop genres.
Born and raised in Sydney, Renee’s childhood furnished her with the opportunity to learn classical clarinet and piano. But the magic really happened after she left school, when, excited by the acoustic ballads some Japanese friends would play, she began to teach herself guitar. Already accustomed to visiting family in New Zealand regularly, the following years saw her adopt a nomadic lifestyle, living between the likes of Melbourne, Sydney, rural NSW, Japan and China. These experiences abroad flow into her music making, as she feels that her “heart is everywhere”.
As she says, “Travelling is one thing that really connects me to the present moment, and music does the same thing. When you’re engrossed in creating a song, or putting on a show, you are fully present. That, to me, makes the experience of travel and music very similar. It’s like you have a heightened sense of awareness.”
This sense of presence is one of the strong drawcards to Renee’s music: the songs are uncontrived and real, providing a space for her listeners to locate themselves within.
With several standout releases under her belt already, Renee is a rising artist carving out her own niche within the Australasian music scene. 2018 saw the songstress transition from her previous moniker Renny M to writing under her own name, releasing her raw and moving EP In The World in October 2018, produced by Graeme Woller (Into the East). Following on from 2016’s debut EP Everywhere I Turn (released as Renny M), In The World showcases songs dealing with various complexities of life, in which Renee demonstrates an aptitude for both her signature acoustic guitar work and a more driving folk-rock, where textural layers of instrumentation add depth and richness.
Renee’s two emotive new singles “Out Their Windows” and “Fly Me Back”, released in February and March of 2021 respectively, see the artist begin to move into a new territory, and it’s one to be excited about. With a fondness for 80s pop and such acts as Roxette, The Police, INXS, Womack and Womack and George Michael, it’s no surprise that more of a pop-electronic sound is beginning to emerge. With both tracks produced by Sam Johnson out of Taranaki’s Rhythm Ace Studios, Renee credits Sam as being monumental in creating this particular sound in his introduction of multiple electronic instruments to the production palette.
Pushing further into this new direction, a third single “So Much” is lined up for release in September 2021. This will be accompanied by a music video that Renee is currently working on with local videographer Hugo Eaton, who was also behind the beautifully stirring video for “Out Their Windows”, featuring dancer Sophie Gargan. Hugo’s knack for a directional take on a song’s narrative means that this will be one to watch out for!
No stranger to the rigours of live shows and all they entail, Renee performs regularly, naming sharing the stage with international Latin star Mireya Ramos at New Plymouth’s Festival of Lights a highlight.
Hoping to travel further afield with her touring throughout the remainder of 2021, she is setting her sights on shows in locations throughout both New Zealand and Australia in support of her new releases as opportunity opens up.
By Katie Brown - The May Magazine