Sonic quest,Montaigne scales the heights

The dragons on the cover, designed by US fantasy artist Wes Talbott, represent problems — when you overcome one, another’s on the way.

For Montaigne, the nom de plume Jessica Cerro borrowed from a French Renaissance philosopher, that belief is not cause for despair.

“Life is a cycle of emotions and it’s not all bad or good,” the effervescent 20-year-old explains from a Sydney studio where she’s rehearsing for her national tour. “You’re the hero of your story.”

That sense of self-determination feeds into the short but already impressive tale of Cerro’s sonic quest.

Identified by Triple J’s Unearthed High contest in 2012 as a talent to watch, she delayed her music career to complete high school before dropping out of the University of Sydney during her first year studying French, linguistics and film.

“I wanted to be an ancient history teacher because I loved my ancient history teacher,” she says, before rattling off a list of other potential professions (doctor, zoologist, translator, botanist, forensic anthropologist, video game developer, graphic designer ...) but musician trumped the lot.

“I’m great at music and a bit good at everything else.”

Her Spanish/French father, who grew up in Argentina, was a professional soccer player, while her Filipino/Spanish mother was into fashion design.

“I’m from a family that loves music,” Cerro says. “Music was just always around, so I grew up with an ear for it.”

With her younger sister, she would sing and dance around the house, developing a strong, idiosyncratic but untrained voice.

Cerro’s lack of proper singing technique became one of her dragons when she lost her voice as she was about to record vocals for Glorious Heights.

“It hurt to talk and it hurt to sing,” she recalls. “It was awful.

“I sing a lot and I talk a lot — my whole life is my voice. What Montaigne is, is the voice, so not having the voice was shattering.

“So I just stayed home to make sure my voice was fine.

“The album vocal tracks aren’t 100 per cent,” Cerro adds. “I’d say they’re 80 per cent and they definitely could have been better.”

Which is scary considering the power displayed on songs inspired by Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett, Bat for Lashes and, most significantly, Talking Heads.

Cerro reveals that while working with Tony Buchen, who also produced her 2014 EP Life of Montaigne and has worked with the Preatures, Bob Evans and Megan Washington, the pair would refer to specific songs.

Because I Love You, the fizzy third single off the album following Clip My Wings and In the Dark, was inspired by Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).

“That was actually an accident,” Cerro says. “When I started writing the song I had just been listening to that song a lot and I think it filtered in subconsciously.

“Halfway through writing and pre-producing it with (Buchen), I noticed the similarity and decided to capitalise on that and make it a tribute to that song.”

Other songs refer to an unrequited love. Lonely kicks off with the ear-tugging line “I do not think I have the time for drinking”.

Cerro says that she doesn’t drink at the moment — “everyone has their addictions, mine is social media,” she says — but used to partake so she might “get up the nerve to talk to this person and ask them out”.

“They’re a good friend of mine now,” she adds. “That was when I liked them, but then I got over it.”

Another dragon slain. Our heroine stands tall.

Cerro’s quest sees her return to Perth in September. She was last here in April, singing her vocal hooks on the Hilltop Hoods’ hit single 1955 in front of a packed Perth Arena.

“You’d be surprised but you feel nothing,” Cerro says of performing to thousands of music fans. “It didn’t hit me the way I thought it would. I’m used to performing. It’s my job, I love it and I’m happy to do it. That sort of thing doesn’t faze me or move me to tears. One day, if it’s my headline show and I’m filling up a room that big, I’d probably be a bit weepy.”Read more at:cocktail dresses | short formal dresses