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Enjoy Darcy Stockdale's interview with the immensely talented musician, Bumpy - a proud Noongar woman raised on Gunaikurnai Country.

Apr 30, 2023

Words: Darcy Stockdale
Images: Max Roux

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A proud Noongar woman raised on Gunaikurnai Country, Bumpy is the name on everyone’s lips – including rock legend Jimmy Barnes – and it won’t be long until it’s on yours too.

Moving to Naarm straight out of high school, Bumpy studied jazz improvisation at the Victorian College of the Arts. She found her start as a part of Squid Nebula with her fellow classmates. “We kind of started a bit more of a soul, disco, groove band as a bit of a relief from the jazz we were learning.” Squid Nebula has been together ever since, making their recording debut in 2019 with their single ‘Golden Lovers’ and this year releasing their debut album, From Here to You.

Bumpy made her recording debut as a solo artist in 2020 with ‘Falling’ and has been wowing audiences ever since. Bumpy received nothing but praise following the release of her 2022 singles ‘Return Home’, ‘Leave It All Behind’ and ‘Hide & Seek’. These three singles earned her the Archie Roach Foundation Award for Emerging Talent 2022 at the Music Victoria Awards and the Triple J Unearthed National Indigenous Winner at the 2022 National Indigenous Music Awards.

Following the 2023 release of her first EP, Morning Sun, Bumpy received nominations for three more awards and won Best Soul, Funk, RnB or Gospel Work at the Music Victoria Awards and New Talent of the Year at the National Indigenous Music Awards.

If that weren’t enough for the year, Bumpy continued her success with a feature on the cover of the Coles Health and Beauty winter issue alongside Emily Wurramara, and was the First Nations artist-in-residence for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the First Nations artist-in-residence for the Australian Arts Orchestra across 2023 and into 2024.

I had the privilege to speak with the Naarm-based singer-songwriter in December about all things Bumpy and what we can expect next; here’s what she had to say.

"I feel strong enough in my experience that I want to go out there and share my stories and also be that representation that I didn’t get to see when I was growing up."

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Darcy: How do you think growing up in Gippsland shaped you and your music?

In Sale, there wasn’t really much music going on. You couldn’t really see yourself anywhere in Sale and I guess I really wanted to find a place where I belonged outside of that. I guess it helped me strive for something a little more that I couldn’t see represented.

Do you feel that breaking off from Squid Nebula and having your solo releases has helped you tell more of your personal story?

Yeah, absolutely, it was one of the main reasons I went and released under Bumpy. I was ready to tell my own story and have a project where I was making the calls on everything and fully representing myself as a First Nations woman… After doing a bit of touring with DRMNGNOW and with Squids and some individually hired work, I was like, okay I think I know what I want to say now and I think I feel strong enough in my experience that I want to go out there and share my stories and also be that representation that I didn’t get to see when I was growing up. I want to be that for the other First Nations women and girls growing up in regional Victoria, to say, ‘Hey, we are here and we are real’ It’s very important to me to give back to my community as well, so I want to make sure somebody else is there for the new generation.

Not only are you the cover of Spotify’s Blak Australia 2023 highlights, but you’ve also received an incredible number of nominations and awards in the past couple of years. How does it feel to have such recognition with only seven songs released under Bumpy?

It’s so unexpected, hey. Like you obviously don’t write and release – especially in a music and creative world – to gain this kind of recognition. I mean it feels really, really special [for my] contribution to be acknowledged and noticed and that there are people out there supporting [my] vision. That external support is a really nice reminder that those times when you’re grinding away and putting all of your resources – emotionally and financially – into this thing [are worth it].

You worked with Aaron Wyatt, the first-ever First Nations conductor of an Australian state orchestra. How important is it to work with other First Nations people to tell such powerful stories?

It’s so, so special. I felt honoured to work with Aaron. He is so amazing, and I think there’s just a further understanding and a further spiritual connection we can share when talking about this music. When I brought this song to him, he instantly understood what I was talking about and he really could respect what I was trying to achieve. I really try to maintain those kinds of collaborations – whether it’s First Nations or people of colour or just really grassroots community contributions. With ‘Return Home’, the dancers in the music video [were First Nations] and the ensemble that recorded in the strings section was a First Nations collective called Ensemble Dutala. It was really special to share a vulnerable story and feel like it was turning into something really powerful by providing space for so many black fellas.

You’ve said performing at Meredith was a dream come true – what’s your next big dream? And when can we expect new music?

We’ve been in the studio and we have some things up our sleeves. But next year I want to dive right in and start on a body of work, so hopefully an album will be on the horizon. I definitely know how much time and money it costs, so [it’s] one little bit at a time at the moment. I’ve always just wanted my own vinyl in my hands that has my stories – that’s really what I’m focusing on next and hopefully, with that album, we can go on a tour. I guess the big dream is to hopefully go international at some point – it would be really fun if music could take me overseas – so I guess for now it’s an album and whatever exciting things that album brings.

You can follow Bumpy at @bumpymusic_ on Instagram and YouTube.

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