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May 23, 2024

Shining a light on forced adoption

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Eve Jeffery

Mia Dyson is shining a light on a dark corner of Australia’s history, the practice of forced adoptions, brought to the forefront with the Victorian government’s recent apology to victims.

Her latest single, Jesse, was written last year for her new album The Moment after a fan, Lesley Pearse, approached her after a show to ask whether she could write a song about her plight.

Echonetdaily caught up with Mia earlier this week to ask her about the album and the song that is so passionate and stirring.

How is the new album travelling ?

I’ve been really enjoying the response to the album. Despite being overseas so long, there’ve been so many people excited to hear the album and expressing they’ve been moved by it.

Did you write all of the material?

Yes, I wrote all the songs. I had some help from my friends and producers Erin Sydney and Pat Cupples with the song Two Roads, as originally it was a Robert Frost poem set to music, but I found out just before we went into record that I couldn’t use those words, so I started rewriting the song in my own words but based on his poem, and Erin and Pat helped me out with a few lines in the studio at the last minute.

What is your favourite track ?

Probably Jesse. It’s the story of a woman who was forced to give up her baby for adoption (as told to me by a fan at a gig) in the early 70s when that was common government policy and practice. I was honoured to be asked to write a song about it and it took me a long time to write and to feel I had done the story justice.

Lesley’s story had a profound effect on me. As an unwed mother in the early 70s, she was sent to live out her pregnancy away from family and friends, told she was an unfit parent and coerced by social workers into signing papers to hand her baby over under immense pressure.

The idea that this was not just a one-off, but a systemic atrocity that has affected both mothers and their children for decades after, really shocked me. I was driven to write Jesse as I think that understanding and sharing their story is the best tribute we can give to these brave women as we move towards a national apology in 2013.

What does Lesley Pearse think of the song?

She’s really happy with the song and has come to some gigs to hear it played live. It was very emotional for her and she was particularly anxious to see people’s reaction to it, because she’s had a lifetime of feelings of shame and guilt over the loss of her son.

Is this album a departure from the previous recordings ? 

Stylistically it’s not, but I think lyrically it’s more honest and direct that my previous records. I think the songwriting is more confident and realised.

Were there things you did differently this time around ?

I had an outside producer(s) for the first time and I took critical feedback on the songs long before we went into the studio, which meant I spent more time reworking the songs and leaving no stone unturned in terms of lyrics and arrangements. I also recorded in a ‘proper’ studio for the fist time (as opposed to a home studio, which the first three were recorded in) and that was a fantastic experience.


What has been the highlight and the low point of the last 12 months ? 

Highlight? Bringing the new songs back to the Australian audience with my Australian band. I’ve just loved every show I’ve played with my band since returning in August, particularly the launch shows in the capital cities. The low point – prior to the album’s release, fearing that I wouldn’t have an audience for the album and I wouldn’t have anyone to play to on my tour.


What are you working on now?

Always writing and I am about to make a film clip for Fill Yourself and head out on the road again for more shows in Queensland.


What’s next ?

Keep on keeping on. Writing, touring, US album release in April, UK album release in June, touring to both countries in the middle of the year, then back to Australia for more touring…


Who are you listening to now ?

Daniel Johnston’s Is and always was.


You can catch Mia this Friday at the Currumbin Soundlounge.

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