Montaigne endures Glorious Heights to Complex lows to emerge a stronger person and artist

FEELING FREE: ARIA Award winner Montaigne, aka Jessica Cerro, has delivered another mesmerising slice of theatrical art-pop with her second album Complex.
FEELING FREE: ARIA Award winner Montaigne, aka Jessica Cerro, has delivered another mesmerising slice of theatrical art-pop with her second album Complex.

MONTAIGNE approaches music like an athlete gearing up for the big game. Focus, fitness, and most importantly, discipline.

The "D" word isn't traditionally a mainstay of the popular music industry, which has historically attracted wild men and women seduced by the party and rock'n'roll lifestyle.

Montaigne, real name Jessica Cerro, certainly doesn't fit the typical pop star mould.

She doesn't like drinking alcohol, has never taken drugs, is vegan, and lists reading, politics and playing Dungeons and Dragons as favourite pastimes.

Cerro is also a talented soccer player, having been a central mid-fielder in the NSW Premier League as a teenager and at one stage she was focused on earning a US college scholarship. Her father Gus Cerro is a former National Soccer League footballer.

While her rising music career - which has already resulted in an ARIA award for Breakthrough Artist in 2016 for her debut album Glorious Heights - means soccer is only a casual pursuit these days, she still practices the lessons learnt from sport.

"I'm a very disciplined organised person, more or less," Cerro says. "I allow myself to slack off sometimes, but generally the being-in-sport thing has taught me a lot about that kind of behaviour.

"I think that's where my strength lies, at the intersection of those two points."

Montaigne - Ready

However, Cerro admits her obsession with maintaining an athlete's body and her insecurity led to a mental burn out following the success of her ARIA No.4 debut Glorious Heights.

"It was a big confluence of things," she says. "Definitely the working and saying yes to too many things and not giving myself a break was a big part of it.

"I was over-exercising and under-eating, a lot of stressful relationship stuff was happening, a whole gamut of stuff. The whole thing was a really valuable experience as it taught me everything I now know that keeps me sane and healthy and fulfilled."

Not surprisingly, much of the stress and relationship drama Cerro has endured in recent years was channelled into Montaigne's second album Complex, released last Friday.

Like the title suggests, it's a complex mix of synth-driven art-pop where Cerro's voice rises and falls with the theatrical flair of Freddie Mercury or Kate Miller-Heidke.

And lyrically the album is no less complex. It examines issues of relationship abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, and in the case of the tracks For Your Love and Stockton Syndrome, possession.

HEALTHY AGAIN: Montaigne says she experienced a mental burnout following her debut Glorious Heights.

HEALTHY AGAIN: Montaigne says she experienced a mental burnout following her debut Glorious Heights.

Through the process Cerro says she's emerged a more confident artist in control of her own destiny.

"At the beginning of the process I was very insecure in a way that wasn't manageable and I didn't see a way out of it and I was feeling like I needed to lay myself down before people all the time," she says.

"The thing is I wasn't entirely like that either, there was this tug in one direction of wanting to be entirely independent and self-confident, but it was always a wrestle and an uncomfortable conflict within me.

"Whereas now in the last year or few months, I feel less internal conflict. Now I feel like I have the tools to be able to maintain equilibrium more or less mentally and psychologically in my life and relationships."

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