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Ahead of the release of her debut album, EGO RIDE, Asha Jefferies is reflecting on honesty. “When everything builds up in my head, I create these narratives that spiral around things that happened, but they aren’t always the actual truth. I owe it to myself to be honest with myself, so I always want to come back into my body, to see the reality of things.”

At 24, the Australian songwriter has an uncharacteristically lucid sense of self-awareness. On first listen, EGO RIDE’s titular track seems to lay out the beats of her escape from a failed relationship: “I had to give up to start again”.  In fact, Jefferies is breaking free from herself.

“Looking back, I realised that a lot of the narratives throughout the album are tied to my ego - whether that’s moments where I felt on top of the world, or totally crumbled.”

Jefferies’ first LP is far from the beginning of her artistic output. As a child, she remembers choreographing interpretive dances to whale music, performing concerts at home for her family, and writing songs because she wanted to be like Hillary Duff. She released her first EP, “Queen” while she was still a teenager and making a yearly pilgrimage to the “village of music and creativity and fun” that was the Woodford Folk Festival, with her Dad and her big sister.

“I saw Kate Miller-Heidke play [there] for the first time, and I realised that I didn’t have to be like Lizzie McGuire,” Jefferies says.

“There are real people writing songs, there’s a difference between a celebrity and an artist.”

After finishing her senior schooling in a specialist music program and releasing a further two EPs, she was ready to call it quits.

“The more I tried to climb the industry ladder, the more I realised I wasn’t doing it for myself. It left me tired and unfulfilled.

“I wanted to go back to being curious about myself as an artist, and I didn’t want to think about what I was going to put out into the world.”

So she stopped. Jefferies began singing in a friend’s band, playing gigs for the fun of it, writing for comfort when life felt confusing. She moved into a sharehouse and started going for runs with one of her housemates, who happened to be mates with Sam Cromack (Ball Park Music).

When she was twelve, Jefferies penned a diary entry titled ‘Requirements of the Boy of My Dreams’, which had just two criteria: rides the same bus to school as me, listens to Ball Park Music.

“[Their] songwriting is explosive, it’s so dynamic,” she says, today. “I love how funny and sad a lot of it is, all at the same time.” She and Cromack began to collaborate, recording locally, with a live band in the room.

At its core, EGO RIDE is a self-portrait of Asha Jefferies in motion.

“I think travel and transit are so transformative,” Jefferies says. “When I listen to music, I’m not still - I’m walking, or I’m driving.”

Like filmmaker Greta Gerwig - forcing the camera to keep pace as she dances along New York City streets in Frances Ha - Jefferies harnesses the momentum of kinetic energy to move from scene to scene, to recover from her stumbles quickly.

Haunting opener “Stranger” is propelled by a steady drum track that gives way to glittery,  multi-layered vocals, refracting like beams of light shooting through a mirror maze. She describes the feeling of suffocating in a relationship against the backdrop of misguided travel plans: Darling, sometimes I feel like a stranger / in myself / in my body / when you hold me this close.

On “Keep My Shit Together” and “Baby Don’t Fight It”, Jefferies tests bravery in the face of milestone-induced anxiety - on the former, it’s the first time she’s celebrating Christmas with a new partner, and on the latter, the first time she’s not present for an old flame’s birthday.

The elegiac “Golden Hour” sees her render dull heartache with a stinging verisimilitude: an attempt to go out dancing only serves to split the scar back open, a sunset walk to the local park fails to manufacture a reunion. The track’s chorus reads like a neat photo-album caption: Nothing persists like a love /  that doesn’t exist anymore.

Written in half an hour, the glorious, sun-drenched “Tank Tops” is inspired by Jefferies’ first experience of falling in love with a woman. “It feels like the song of opening and change and light,” she says.

“That relationship was so mind-blowing for me. Without the traditional gender roles, I felt so free and so myself. There wasn’t a certain way that I felt I had to love somebody, the way I would if they were a guy. I just remember thinking, I want to spend time with you. I want to embrace you into my life.”

On “Spinning”, Jefferies pauses to play sage, as if she’s pulling tarot cards for her younger self: you will learn to enjoy your body, you will feel your last breath of his fear, you’ll get so damn good at parking. The track gives way to the adrenaline shot of “Brand New Bitch”, a careening joyride to usher in an age of freedom, pleasure and discovery, with all the vigour of Vanessa Carlton’s “1000 Miles”.

Guitar-led “Reply” recounts a transactional late-night exchange muddied by yearning - the kind of memory you wish you could go back and relive, just to have the last word. The sassy direct address of  “Cruise Control” sees Jefferies do just that, breaking the circuit of an uncomfortable situationship by following her intuition: I trust my body / If it doesn’t want you around me.

It doesn’t take a diploma in Taylor Swift Studies to recognise the power of songwriting to reshape personal narrative.

But for Jefferies, the initial choice to exercise her right of reply felt like breaking a promise. Towards the end of the two-year period that EGO RIDE takes place in, she was able to be honest with herself about how trapped she’d been when it began.

“I was unhappy and if I didn’t get happier, then [this person] told me they were going to break up with me,” Jefferies says. “And it took me a long time to write about because they’d said, please don’t write angry songs about me.

“So all the songs were kind of targeted back at myself. They were about me and what I was going through, I never wrote something that was like, a fuck you, until “Stranger”. It felt like an important moment of transformation for me, to let go and be truthful about what it was like.

“Writing brings comfort and closure and acceptance to everything I’m feeling.”

In early 2023, Jefferies returned to the collection of songs, and penned its titular coda. Measured until it’s not, Jefferies could finally name what she knew: my sister pulls me back / you are explosive, tolling, taxing, controlling.

The sister in question, Tiana, is three years older than Asha.

“She brings out this tough, protective side of me, but also this softness, I think,” she says. “Being the younger sister gives me the ability to rest.”

The two siblings embarked on a road trip together, around the time Asha was putting the final touches on the album. Driving up the stretch of coast between Sydney and Brisbane, they stopped for visits with old friends, and icy-cold beach swims.

“I’ve realised that every ocean swim is different, it’s a spiritual experience,” says Asha. “You really have to connect what the water is doing and saying, in order to have a relationship with it. You have to play with it, in a way.”

Returning to water is one of the ways she reminds herself to listen to her body, along with sunlight and movement.

“I cannot state this enough - I’m such a big believer in walking. You hold emotions in your body, I think, and you can walk things out of your system.”

“It feels like I’m always writing about getting from one place to another,” she says.

As EGO RIDE closes out, soft strings dissolving into the gurgle and zap of static, Jefferies has travelled beyond the boundaries of a past life. Her tiny world continues to spin, offers itself to her imagination, and to her body, wherever it would like to take her. Out 12th April 2024 through Nettwerk Music Group, the collection of ten songs will speak to an audience of deeply feeling listeners searching for the courage to take a step of faith, without knowing where it will lead.