Artist info

Genre

Hip Hop, Pop


Sounds like

Jhene Aiko, Jorja Smith


band members

Thavy Ear Singer, Songwriter


Influences

Aaliyah, Sia


Unearthed artists we like

Sampa The Great, Tones And I


Website

Bio

Thavy Ear is making music that thematises resilience and release – her latest single, 'So Bad', a break-up song with a sublime vocal delivery, pop melody and healing hip-hop soul groove.

The versatile Melbourne artist – currently based in Sydney – has pursued a career of transformation, emerging as an in-demand singer/songwriter in the hip-hop and electronic spheres. Now she's coming into her own as a solo auteur. "I love hip-hop, soul, drum 'n' bass and dance music," Thavy says. "I think I have just made it hard on myself and people don't know where to fit me in… My songwriting is more refined these days. But I have learnt to let go of perfection. I'm more confident with my singing."

Thavy was born in Australia to parents who'd fled Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge in Cambodia – the regime responsible for genocide, human rights violations, and intergenerational trauma. The migrant family's new life in blue-collar Dandenong was challenging, Thavy's father holding down a job at Metro Trains by day and sewing with her mother at night. However, music provided constant comfort to Thavy, Mum singing to her in Cambodian. "My parents loved music and we always had records playing: English music, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, of course, and Cambodian '70s rock. We had the latest hi-fi system – even though we were poor. My mother was a free spirit and loved to have fun."

Thavy's older brother tuned her into the '80s hip-hop culture and electro. But, soon, she discovered music herself – '90s rap, R&B and soul, Thavy's favourite acts Lauryn Hill and Aaliyah. Her sensibilities expanded yet again as she embraced trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack and the nu-jazz Cinematic Orchestra. (Today she enjoys everyone from Kendrick Lamar to the homegrown Hiatus Kaiyote and Kllo.) "I was really into the songwriting aspect – and I was open to all genres. I also loved '90s dance music and started getting into the raving and clubbing scene."

Thavy's world unravelled after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. "She died when I was nine and my dad had to take care of me, my brother and baby sister, who was just one." For her father, it revived painful memories of profound personal loss in Cambodia. Thavy and her siblings would be cared for in foster homes and by relatives in Sydney; their extended family themselves living on rough public estates. She returned home when her dad remarried, but the household's financial struggles necessitated sacrifice – a family consistently trying their best now running a sewing factory. "Mum, Dad and I sewed crazy long hours just to make ends meet," Thavy says. "I ended up falling behind in school really bad and failed Year 10."

Thavy expressed her emotions by writing songs – and, at school, teachers had encouraged this rare gift. "I used to always love making songs when I was young – like in Grade 2." She penned the song 'Believe' while sitting on a bottom bunk bed, gazing through the window, her baby sister sleeping beside her. "'Believe' came from the desperation of wanting to be, and do, more in life than just work at the factory."

In her teens, Thavy found herself in even greater difficulty, experiencing homelessness and insecurity. "I got myself into the biggest mess ever for years," she reveals. "I was a major introvert and naive, so it didn't help. Just everything was so crazy." But Thavy didn't stop songwriting. "I just kept writing the whole time; obsessively writing hundreds of songs, because I felt it was the only way I could cope. It gave me a high I needed when I wrote something good, so I never got into hard drugs like everybody else around me."

Thanks to that creativity, Thavy gradually built a new community for herself. She won a scholarship to study music for a BA degree at RMIT University. ("They gave me my own apartment, living with all the rich kids at RMIT village for free. Pretty cool, hey?") In her second year, Thavy began working at APRA AMCOS, acquiring vital industry skills. The self-described introvert freely liaised with other musicians. "I learnt so much and somehow made heaps of music friends," she says. "It was just so good to be out and meet all these different talented people – and we gigged outside of uni, too." Next, Thavy moved to Sydney, landing a position at PPCA ARIA.

Meanwhile, Thavy collaborated with Midnite Sleaze and Danny Merx on their 2009 deep house anthem 'Useless', an ARIA Club hit. But she'd forge even deeper into drum 'n' bass, teaming with Perth trailblazer Greg Packer for the soulful 'Rainstorm EP'. Thavy then linked up with Royalston, the Sydney DJ/producer signed to the UK's prestigious Hospital Records. She fronted his 2017 liquid funk opus 'Strobes', popular on Spotify and Hospital's #2 track of that year. ("I wrote a song about how I felt when I was singing at a drum 'n' bass gig on stage.")

Still, Thavy never abandoned her hip-hop roots – connecting with Brisbane's DJ Katch and joining Resin Dogs on the road. She worked with Dave Atkins as producer on her 2013 mini-album, 'For Your Ears Only'. In turn, she's featured prominently on the Resin Dogs' comeback, 'Notorious DOG'. Through Resin Dogs, Thavy was introduced to the mythic Def Wish Cast, bonding with Sereck (aka Paul Westgate). "We got along straight away – just clicked. He really taught me a lot about hip-hop. I thought I knew a lot until I met him!" Thavy guested on the Western Sydney group's 2012 album 'Evolution Machine'.

During her uni stint, Thavy had composed the symbolic 'New Day' – then entitled 'Sunny Day'. One rainy evening, she was feeling particularly "down", crying herself to sleep. "When I woke up, it was the first day of Spring and the sun was shining into my bedroom," Thavy remembers. "I felt refreshed after getting some sleep and I had a new outlook." She assembled a band (complete with "mad conga player") to perform 'New Day' at Dizzy's Jazz Club for her course, receiving a high distinction. Later, Def Wish Cast resolved to not only officially record 'New Day' with Thavy, but also to release it as the lead single from their upcoming DWC album.

In late 2020, Thavy relaunched her solo career with 'Diamond In The Rough' – "a lo-fi, raw, cool track to chill to," featuring Thundamentals MC Jeswon. 'So Bad' is the beguiling follow-up, Thavy reuniting with 'New Day' producers Sereck and DJ SING. "'So Bad' is part of my new solo project – writing cool and catchy toplines and singing them over infectious hip-hop loops and beats," she explains. "'So Bad' is about missing the person you broke up with, but you can't tell them that. All you can do is write and pour your feelings in a song… It's minimal, but catchy. It is a tune to just zone out to and vibe with."

Esteemed by music industry figures such as Warner A&R consultant David Caplice, Thavy continues to write and record with a lexicon of hip-hop and dance names – internationals included. In addition to prepping fresh material alongside Royalston, she mentions collabs with Hospital Records boss London Elektricity, The Pharcyde's Bootie Brown, Sydney future breaks DJ Kid Kenobi, and Chris Corby. "I'm working on about 10 songs at the moment in total with everyone," Thavy shares. "It's more leaning towards dance anthems at the moment. I look up to Sia and one day want to write big tracks like her for other big artists." That day is near.

Review

Diamond In The Rough featur...

Thavy Ear

Review by Dave Ruby Howe Dave Ruby Howe

19 Oct 2020

Triple J
35

Yeah I can definitely hear the trip hop influence working on this track! Cool that Thavy Ear got some helping hands from some big names too.

Yeah I can definitely hear the trip hop influence working on this track! Cool that Thavy Ear got some helping hands from some big names too.