Deena: On musical independence

Posted by Aphra Magazine on 22/12/15.

Deena isn’t bound by the expectations of others, nor does she adhere to mainstream music standards. The indie bluesy-rock musician from Brisbane originally started writing music as an emotional outlet following the death of one of her close friends. And years on it continues to be impassioned, moving and inherently personal. ‘When I write, I just write for myself and be true to myself and be raw and honest… I do tend to write music that isn’t shaped by the trends of the music industry or what people tell me to write,’ she says.

There is an overwhelming darkness within Deena’s newest single ‘Turpentine’ that penetrates the mind, propelled by a powerful and striking authenticity. ‘I just write how I feel and there’s no method to the madness for me… It’s just got to be real and it can’t be put on, it’s got to be how I’m feeling,’ she says. ‘I’m not thinking like, “I should make it sound like this” or “I should do this, people will like that,” like I’d never do that. I just go “write write write write write, oh there it is!” That was reflective of how I’m feeling, yeah I guess that’s how I put it out.’

A private person in her day-to-day life, music has always been an avenue for Deena to express herself. ‘I do wear my heart on my sleeve when I write and I really appreciate the fact that I have the power to connect with people in different ways when I perform and when they listen to my music,’ she says. There are no limitations with her creative approach, either, as she implores listeners to ‘be able to find their own way and experiences to connect with it’.

Deena explores indie rock, blues and old school rock ‘n’ roll in great depth. I’m interested, however, to discover that she didn’t necessarily intend to fall into these genres. ‘When I started, it was obviously just me and my acoustic guitar. You can still write dark acoustically but it just doesn’t have the overall ambience,’ she explains. Along the way, she accumulated a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer, which helped her develop and refine her music. ‘They would have just added the layer to the cake to form a thicker version of my acoustic songs and it just so happened to be that it was kind of bluesy rock. That might change or it might not, but at the moment that’s how we’re expressing ourselves.’

Deena’s willingness to experiment with different types of music also stems from her diverse cultural background. ‘I guess there’s a different variety of music that I’ve grown up with, the different cultures all shape into the type of music I write and I’m not really bound by one genre or one style or one trend that happens within a culture,’ she says. While she asserts that her music doesn’t come from her Japanese and Taiwanese background, her parents have always listened to a lot of different music as she was growing up, exposing her to a wide variety of compositions and genres. ‘My mum’s very much into her classical and her old time classics like Celine Dion and Kenny G and my dad’s the complete polar opposite with old country and really, really diehard country as well. I guess within that there’s influences from those two that fit into my music.’

While Deena enjoys playing internationally, Brisbane remains her core scene. ‘Brisbane’s got a really great music scene and a lot of supporters behind female artists as well, so yeah I’m lucky,’ she says. However, being an independent musician in an ultra competitive industry does pose difficulties. ‘There are some days where I just build up so much angst and hate towards what I’m doing because it’s really frustrating. The worst thing about being an independent artist is the fact that you have to take care of the business and the core products, which is the creativity and the music and writing.’

Having the band for support certainly empowers her music, as each member constantly generates new ideas and adds their own touch to the music. ‘Actually up until this year recently, I write all the songs and then I give it to the band and I let them write their own parts to it, because I want everyone to have their own interpretations of the song and then put their own spin onto it,’ she says.

‘That’s been a great process to push us out of the “Deena” box and let them have a bit more freewill with how the song works.’ Deena is even bringing her guitarist with her on a little getaway, with the intention to co-write and collaborate with new material. ‘I’ve been really lucky to have like a family band around me where we’re all similar on our wavelengths. We’re all capable of discussing ideas and compromising and coming to a decision at the end and [one] we’re all happy with.’

Deena delves into her musical journey, discussing how Lone Wolf is quite different compared to previous album, Black Cat. ‘I put out Lone Wolf when I was in that grieving process and I was in that mindset that I want to preserve everything because life is short.’ She continues, ‘I recorded those tracks without thinking of the overall artistry, you know since I was new as a musician as well, so that was not really in my train of thought.

‘That [album] honed in a little more on who I was as a musician and then I guess ‘Turpentine’ is the next level with that and it’s going to continue shaping that sound and being more sure of what I want to portray.’

As for her future goals, Deena says that she wants to develop the music to a point where it is sustainable. ‘I would love my little music baby to nurture itself, take care of itself and then also extend that to taking care of me comfortably. That would be amazing so that I could pretty much say that I do music full-time without struggling to find ways to make it happen. That’s what I would love, as long as I have an audience that wants to listen, I’d be really happy… that’s what I want in my music.’


‘Turpentine’ is out now via Footstomp Music. For more information visit


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