Ladyhawke on depression, drinking and getting the joy back

Ladyhawke's third album, Wild Things, is released today
Ladyhawke's third album, Wild Things, is released today

There's a joyful exuberance to the new Ladyhawke album, Wild Things.

It's not that the singer-songwriter's two previous offerings weren't full of energy too. It's just that there's a different feeling about this third record.

From the kick-ass attitude of 'Let It Roll', the soaring pop choruses of 'A Love Song' and 'The River', to the smoldering opening moments of the title track, this record's a winner.

It's the sound of an artist brimming with confidence; glowing in the knowledge that this is a damn fine body of work. And the woman behind the Ladyhawke moniker, Pip Brown, agrees -- albeit in a modest Kiwi kind of way.

"I feel like I've got myself into a good head space. I feel productive and I feel like I've got the joy back in making music," she says.

The struggles that plagued Brown following the release of her critically acclaimed 2009 debut have been well documented. She has spoken publically about her Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis, as well as her lifelong shyness.

Looking back, she says she wasn't prepared for success and the public profile that came with it.

"I think it took quite a toll on me. People would come up to me and talk to me. I wasn't used to it and it really had an effect on me. It made me retract into myself even more and I became a little bit of a hermit."

When it came time to making her second record, aptly titled Anxiety and released in 2012, Brown was over it.

"I was exhausted because I'd toured the first record for two years and I just felt like getting away. I didn't want to be in it anymore."

It's an honest take on fame, which Brown makes no apologies for.

"I have heard a lot of people say, 'Well, you put yourself out there', and I hate that because I can't help -- and this probably makes me sound like I'm a douchebag, and I don't want to sound like that -- but I can't help that I happen to be good at music," she says.

"I'm a creative person and that's one thing in my life I'm good at. It's something I know I can do. It's great performing for people and knowing they've spent their hard earned money on buying an album or a ticket to your show. I love that. I really do. And I love meeting fans.

"The thing I struggle with is people having an opinion on your personality and thinking that you're asking for criticism because you are putting yourself out there."

That's a tough place to be in a world where everyone is now a critic thanks to social media.

So, how does Brown cope with it? Does she read the comments?

"Oh, God no! That would send me into a downward spiral," she says.

"The only place I read the comments is on Instagram because my fans there are really nice. I really love the fact that it's me on my phone just posting photos."

It's not only anxiety and depression that Brown's grappled with. She's also dealt with a drinking problem and up until around two years ago, when she gave up alcohol, she'd never performed sober -- because she was just too nervous to get on stage without a drink.

"It had reached the point where I was drinking way too much and I wasn't even drinking for a reason. I was sort of messing up a little bit. I was cancelling appointments and writing sessions -- yucky flaky behavior, because I was too hung-over basically," she says.

"I'd get in a circle of despair and it would be a chicken and egg scenario of depression and drinking."

Ladyhawke on depression, drinking and getting the joy back

Brown remembers lying on the couch one morning with a hangover when things came to a head.

"It's almost like I had an out-of-body experience and I saw myself and thought 'You're horrendous'. What was fuelling everything was the depression.

"I just wanted to do anything that I could possibly do to make myself feel better and if that meant cutting out alcohol, I was 100 percent willing to do that."

She acknowledges it's a bold move for someone who struggles with keeping her nerves in check. But so far, so good.

"The first couple of shows were hard, and I was so nervous. But it was also because I haven't played in three years. And then, I played the Auckland City Limits show and I was really excited and had a really good time. I felt confident onstage and the crowd was amazing."

And it's this newfound confidence that oozes from Wild Things.

There was never any doubt that Ladyhawke had talent, but this third offering solidifies her place as one New Zealand's finest.

Wild Things is released today and Ladyhawke is touring New Zealand, with performances on July 21 at the CPSA in Christchurch, July 22 at Bodega in Wellington and July 23 at the Powerstation in Auckland.