"Bek-Jean Stewart is a real songwriter, a songwriter who demands to be listened to " - The AGE
"Stewart should not be a Sydney secret, she should be a worldwide star" - JB Insider
"She is a force of nature... on a stage doing what she was born to do" - Larry Writer
Bek-Jean Stewart is a songwriter and recording artist living on unceded Gumbaynggirr land in NSW. A master of performance, Stewart has been romancing audiences with their idiosyncratic songwriting since the early 1990’s with the Indie band, Eva Trout, reaching critical acclaim in the US.
Stewart has crafted something wondrously their own from the raw authentic materials of their life’s experience, melding the story-telling of country, the heartbreak of blues and the brutality of rock across six albums and a 15-year solo career.
Stewart is a world class act, and commands their audiences through the storytelling nature of the songs. With their raw and honest accounts of living authentically as a non-binary person, the songs are dynamically woven; a telling of intimacy whilst being playful and deeply cinematic. Turbulent yet tender songwriting showcases an increasing maturity, courage and complexity of Stewart’s musicianship. Their gritty unrestrained vocal contrasts with the vulnerable, fragile emotion of the lyrics, jolting the storytelling to life. This is an artist who consistently honours the storytelling beyond magnitude, who does exactly what art is meant to: elevate the soul.
Bek-Jean Stewart first entered the Australian music scene in the early 90s as songwriter and vocalist for indie-pop band, Eva Trout. Their band was signed by US label Trauma Records and toured both Australia and the United States during 1997 and 1998. During that time their song, ‘Beautiful South’ received significant radio play and the band appeared on GNW, VH1 and numerous US TV programs. Eva Trout went on to make four LPs and numerous EPs from 1993 through to 2003. With Grant Shanahan (who played bass in Eva Trout and whose other credits include The Catherine Wheel and The Honeys) they create and produce their own records. Their solo albums expose their inner truth without compromise. Shanahan has engineered and mixed all Stewart’s solo records. There is an undeniable connection between these two artists. They share a deep musical bond that speaks loudly through the work, including a shared understanding of song. With Shanahan, Stewart allows themself to be vulnerable; as a result their solo records are raw and lyrically tender, expressing impassioned heartbreak through complex stories of the human condition. At the same time they declare that, like a beginner I don’t know who I am. Bek-Jean describes songwriting as an inexplicable force: "It’s true that I am an extremely sensitive person who most of the time has no clue where I fit in to this majestic and hostile world. All I know is that the songs that come out of me are a way of communicating. They are the reason I get dressed every day, put my shoes on and walk outside. Other than that, I know nothing about anything." Stewart has a powerful narrative style. They have been influenced by the storytelling approach of artists such as Suzanne Vega, Liz Phair, Aimee Mann and The Go-Betweens, while simultaneously having a deep affection for albums such as AC/DC’s Back in Black and Split Enz’s True Colours: "I love rock. There is something so powerful yet simple about Back in Black that transforms my body into a shocking mess of movement. Being able to move people like that is enviable." Like many of the artists who have inspired them, Bek-Jean uses vivid, haunting melodies to tell stories of loss, love and redemption. The spirited and even jubilant style of their music starkly contrasts with the deeply-felt emotions of their lyrics. Often referred to as desolate or raw, their words nonetheless transport listeners to a place inside the song. Stewart refers to their songs as poetry set to music. As a sensitive and empathic soul, Stewart often struggles with touring and being away from home for extended periods: "I’d rather spend my time writing and making records, sitting in nature & staring at ants, than putting myself out there in this over-saturated world we live in. I have to honour what makes me peaceful." Stewart’s dedication to their music is undeniable. Since 2007, they has produced and toured six solo albums, showcasing the depth and range of their musicianship. Their fifth album, Songs from the North, was released in July 2019. Stewart launched her solo career with Junior Years (2007). Released internationally through Laughing Outlaw, the album was lauded by critics as ‘a superb female rejoinder to Ryan Adam's Heartbreaker’ (David Cowling, Americana UK, June 2007). In their second solo album, Winter, Summer, Suburban Exile (2010), Stewart grapples with the complexity and dysfunction of loving someone who no longer exists, and maybe never did. These stories expose as much about their youth, including the urban streets they grew up on, as they do the anger and sadness inside all of us: the loss that always lingers, despite the light being on. In Amos v Ann (2015) they tell their father’s story through their own words. They say of their father: "Here was a man who was full of story, but void of words. So, as a result, I would get fucking this, fucking that because that was all he was capable of. The discomposure that came out of him was palpable so I decided to give his experiences words, to make them come to life. Probably more of a cathartic undertaking for me than him I suspect." Stewart’s fourth solo release, Records Are Written In The Bones (2017) explores fear and solicitation, the importance of the animal bond, the beauty of the natural world, living by rivers, and the transformation of one’s soul, while not hiding from the loneliness and isolation that is ever-present in their songs. Stewart is unafraid to examine difficult thoughts and feelings, from the challenge of being born into the ‘wrong’ body, to fantasies of murder, or suicide. Records Are Written in the Bones confirms Stewart’s prodigious ability to make the listener’s heart ache with emotion. Stewart describes their forthcoming album, Songs from the North (2019) as a response to: "... the push me / pull you of a fucked-up, ultimately destructive love. Sometimes, I fear that the only way I can truly love someone is to walk away, and love them from a distance." Shanahan’s expert musicality is showcased on this record. His skill is heard on drum tracks that hark back to the ‘80s, while his innovative layering of string sounds creates a complex soundscape. Glenn Thomson, who played piano and synth sounds, writes of playing on the record: "I ended up at a light night dance party where, for a small cover charge, I was drugged and then encouraged to dive deep into Smithdom, but not before just saying no to any further offerings." Over the course of more than a decade as a solo artist, Stewart’s turbulent yet tender songwriting has showcased the increasing maturity, courage, and complexity of their musicianship. Bek-Jean Stewart’s albums demonstrate, time and time again, their capacity for astonishing and moving songwriting.
NEW DOUBLE ALBUM RELEASE 'Fierce Attachments'
Bek-Jean Stewart’s 6th studio offering ‘Fierce Attachments’ delivers an impressive 18 song collection marked by their characteristic Americana flair. The double album, recorded at Leisure Suit Studios with long-time collaborator and mixing engineer Grant Shanahan, is a remarkable collection of women’s stories bringing to focus the uniquely feminine struggles to find their place in society, and the daily battle faced by ordinary women living in a seemingly unchanging male dominated society.
The fierce honesty of Stewart’s lyrics reveals a vulnerability that in previous albums ‘Records Are Written In The Bones’ and ‘Songs From The North’ has been lurking, always present, waiting to be truly seen.
Overall this is a more reflective album than Stewart’s last, delving deeper into their state of innerness, showcasing an increasing maturity, courage and complexity of songwriting.
“My arms are full of pictures of my failures ... it’s the only way I can show my vulnerabilities” opens the first track Seeking Love, quickly exposing Stewart’s quest for a deeper truth of the inner self. With a voice that aches, Stewart sings about patterns of broken relationships, in Fragile Bones Will Break, about trying hard to be a better human by owning your shit and changing it. They are stories of losing a child, being a single mother and the judgement that comes with it, echoed in Song Without A Voice.
Stewart is a wordsmith who manages to gracefully and effortlessly challenge the status quo with blistering compulsion. “I’m angry and I’m tender and I won’t apologise” muses Stewart in Price Of A Free Soul, before launching into a passionate spoken verse to challenge the patriarchy, the distractions and addictions of the human condition, and finally a gracious ode to the prominent women who have inspired movements toward change.
‘Fierce Attachments’ proceeds with a stamina matched by its classic production style, clear, raw vocals, transcendent slide guitars, nostalgic and rocking pianos that at once fractures and challenges the listener. Tempered melodies and uninhibited yodelling breathes life into the lyrics while there is an unyielding quality to the way Stewart delivers the stories, seemingly with a precise knowledge of who they are and their patterns within intimate relationships.
The album is completed with the heartbreak of Song For A, a song that yearns with a deep sense of missed opportunity. “If these words had feelings this page would cry tears of sadness” reveals an intimacy that is interior to all of Stewart’s writings. This album appears to peel back the layers, revealing an artist who is becoming increasingly comfortable in their own skin.