Australia’s Next Superstar Budjerah, Modernising the Sound of R’n’b and Soul

Performing live at This That Festival, Newcastle, NSW, 2021. Courtesy of Budjerah Facebook (jordankmunns), 2021.

Another young First Nations artist making waves on home soil and overseas is 19-year-old Coodjinburra man and singer-songwriter, Budjerah. The Coodjinburra artist hails from the Bundjalung nation in the small north-east New South Wales town of Fingal Head/Booninybah. Between signing to the major label Warner Records US, winning an ARIA Award and being selected for Youtube’s #YouTubeBlack Voices Artist Class of 2022 - all in this year alone - the young performer from humble beginnings is definitely going places! (Cool Accidents, 2020).

In many ways, Budjerah’s musical career was an inevitability, as he grew up in a musical household, where his family’s time was split between leading worship services in church and playing in family bands. “I grew up singing Sam Cooke and listening to gospel singers like The Clark Sisters. My dad taught me how to sing and that's the kind of music that has been around since I was little,” Budjerah told Australian music platform Cool Accidents (2020). When you listen to Budjerah’s music, it’s no surprise that you can hear these influences as he combines classic elements of Soul and Gospel music with references to modern R’n’B and Pop. One could describe Budjerah’s music as sounding like Frank Ocean and Miguel meets Sam Cooke (Cool Accidents, 2021). 

So, how did Budjerah rise to national fame in an extremely short period of time at such a young age? Budjerah made his first musical appearance on television in 2019, where he auditioned for The Voice (Australian season 8), singing "Climb Every Mountain,” which of course impressed judge Guy Sebastian who sung this song on Australian Idol in 2003. Even though he didn’t progress past the blind auditions, it didn’t stop Budjerah from pursuing his musical career. At the age of 16, Budjerah opened at a gig in Brisbane for Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby. The established musician Corby was so impressed with Budjerah’s set that he invited him to write some songs together. After hanging out, jamming and writing music over several months in Corby’s studio, he took the budding artist under his wing (NME, 2021).

In an interview with Cool Accidents (2020), Budjerah reflected on this  experience producing music with Corby: 

"We're both singers. In my music, I think of how I'm going to use my voice as an instrument before the melody and anything else. Matt is classically trained, so he pushed me vocally. We both really like the real, organic sounds of instruments instead of synthesisers or anything too produced."

The singer-songwriter also told the British music, film and culture website, New Musical Express (2021), about the writing process for his self-titled EP, which was released in March this year:

“I did two sessions with Matt where we wrote [‘Shoulda Coulda’ and ‘Pyro’], then we had a week where we wrote ‘Higher’ and the next day we wrote ‘Missing You’...The afternoon we went home from ‘Missing You’, we were like ‘Oh, is this the EP? I guess so!’”

Budjerah’s hard work and dedication to his music has paid off and has seen his career hit the ground running! Going from strength to strength, Budjerah's debut single ‘Missing You,’ released in October last year, topped the Triple J Airplay Chart, and Apple Music announced him as their latest local ‘Up Next Artist,’. Most recently his single ‘Talk’ (feat. MAY-A) received over 100K streams on Spotify within its first week! Already so early in his career, the young singer has also warmed the stage for some of the biggest acts in Australia, including The Avalanches, Lime Cordiale and Thelma Plum (NME, 2021). 

To read more about Budjerah’s success at the ARIA Awards this year, check out our previous article Newcomer First Nations Hip-Hop and R&B Artists dominate the ARIAs.

At Yarn, we are passionate about sharing the stories of First Nations artists, shining a light on their creative journeys and how they give back to their communities. So, as Budjerah’s success continues to reach even greater heights, we hope that his story inspires a new generation of young mob to get out there and pursue their music career dreams, embracing their culture and heritage through music.