It’s not like soul music has ever gone away. It’s still a vital music force the way it was back when there were no labels hotter than Stax and Motown. But many will be aware of the new vanguard of soul artists that has risen in the past few years.
No, we’re not talking about the neo-soul movement, these are the children of neo-soul, if you will. They take inspiration from everywhere, they honour their roots, they break the rules, they inject new unique soundscapes and personalities into the genre, and best of all, all of them are Aussie.
With Australia becoming a veritable hotbed of awesome soul talent over the past few years, we decided to put together a list of the best and brightest Australian soul artists working today. So, without further ado, here’s the 16 acts putting the soul back into Aussie music.
Hiatus KaiyoteHiatus Kaiyote have become one of the Australian music press' go-to success stories and it's not hard to see why. From their start as a small Melbourne soul group diligently gigging across Australia, Hiatus Kaiyote are now a hot property with countless accolades and even Grammy nominations to their name.
While the Grammy nomination, as well as props from the likes of Questlove, Erykah Badu, Q-Tip, and Prince, has certainly helped give the band a more prominent global profile, we reckon big things would've happened for this talented four-piece regardless. Just check out their latest album, Choose Your Weapon.
Mojo JujuThis dynamic Melbourne native is "5'3" of wise crackin', sass mouthin', jump jivin' attitude, wrapped up in a zoot suit and propped up on a Cuban heel" and her eclectic and ever-evolving career has seen her taking on whatever genre takes her fancy.
The one thing that's always remained consistent, whether she's working her way through blues, jazz, noir, roots, or rock and roll, is the soul. With 15 years of sublime albums and acclaimed live performances under her belt, Mojo Juju is a bonafide Aussie soul star.
Tim Rogers & The BamboosWhile it seems an unlikely combination, the uncanny pairing of Australia's foremost rock and roll kingpin with one of the bands most responsible for bringing Australian soul back to the forefront of our local music scene.
The collab's recently unveiled debut album, The Rules of Attraction, was a Double J feature album and sees both acts in full command of their powers. The album is a soul journey through a wide array of genres, taking inspiration from rock, country, jazz, and blues.
The HarpoonsWhat's with all of these incredible Australian soul artists coming from Melbourne? Never mind, it must be something in the water. If it is, it looks like The Harpoons have had plenty to drink. This acclaimed four-piece have garnered praise for their ‘genre-bending melodies’ and ‘old-school soul vocals’.
What the band do best is channeling the best of R&B, soul, and pop music whilst bringing their own unforgettable charm. Theirs is a respectful approach that acknowledges a rich history of soul and R&B, but resides in the hybrid musical landscape of today.
InigoBrisbane's Inigo don't just beg for your attention, they demand it, and it's hard to not give it up, full and undivided. This party of seven hail from Brisbane, where they've developed a loyal following for their undeniable alt-pop stylings, which are firmly rooted in old-school soul.
The project was founded by Brisbane-based singer Erin Fitzsimon, beginning as a duo and then rapidly expanding into a seven piece lineup of talented local musicians. Combining a killer rhythm section with a tight three-piece horn line, if they're coming to your town, make sure you get out and see them.
Stella AngelicoSimply put, Stella Angelico is the neo-soul queen of Melbourne and is beloved by her people. It's not hard to see why, since the release of her first single, 'Mister', back in 2012, Angelico has developed a loyal fan base through a steady stream of dynamic live shows.
From playing the swampy depths of iconic city haunts, such as Cherry Bar and the Old Bar, to the big stages of Boogie Festival and MONA FOMA, Stella has been doing the hard yards and it’s paying off.
The Cactus ChannelSoul doesn't just come deep down from an amazing vocalist, it's a spirit that lives within unique, passionate musicians, too, and emphatically exemplifying this notion are instrumental soulsters, The Cactus Channel.
Revered for their energetic live performance, if you ever get the chance to catch these guys in the flesh - we implore you to do so.
NgaiirePapua New Guinea native Ngaiire has managed to pack an incredible amount of achievement into a relatively short career. From rubbing shoulders with the likes of R&B veterans John Legend and Alicia Keys, to selling out shows across Australia, you can't stop this talented young singer's momentum.
In addition to her obvious vocal talents, Ngaiire has been praised for her unique, deftly crafted aesthetic, which comprises everything from her lush neo-soul productions, to her eye-catching visuals and costumes.
The Bombay RoyaleMelbourne-based, world-conquering originators of vintage Bollywood-inspired surf, spy, disco, funk and a whole lotta soul, The Bombay Royale are without doubt one of the freshest crews breathing pure soul back into Aussie music.
The loveable collective have taken their unique sound to audiences throughout Europe, UK and the USA, where their performances have been met with astonishment and critical acclaim.
Cookin' On 3 BurnersWhat made the world fall in love with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Mary J Blige and Amy Winehouse? Their voices, duh, but digging deeper, it was their fiery spirit and sass-fuelled passion within their vocal delivery that truly set these legends from the rest - which is exactly the case of Kylie Auldist, whose inspiring vocals paired with funk-soul instrumentalists, Cookin' On 3 Burners, creates a thing of beauty.
Ainslie WillsHaving recently signed to Wondercore Island management, the home of such luminaries as Oscar key Sung and Hiatus Kaiyote, Melbourne native Ainslie Wills is finally getting the attention she’s long deserved.
Wills released the stunning Australian Music Prize and Melbourne Music Prize-nominated LP You’ll Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine back in 2013 and has kept busy since then by dropping stunningly crafted progressive soul-pop tunes like this year’s ‘Drive’.
Kira PuruMelancholic, confessional, powerful, and utterly glorious, Kira Puru make vital soul music that will stick in your heart like a dagger and leave you on the floor searching for that last glass of wine.
The band cut their teeth playing sweaty dive bars along the East Coast of Australia and have spent the last few years holed up in recording studios and clocking up a long list of colourful collaborators, including The Preatures, Caitlin Park, Paul Mac, Illy, M-Phazes, Blackfella Films, and Mark Opitz.
Emma Donovan & The PutbacksIf Australian soul music needed a figurehead, you could well make an argument that Emma Donovan ought to be it. A passionate singer, songwriter, and collaborative vocal artist, Donovon's unique style relies on a deft fusion of roots, reggae, and soul music.
Widely known for her distinctive husky vocals, her diary-like lyrics tell important stories and personal accounts, each sung with confidence and pride. Having played with a raft of ensembles, including The Black Arm Band and Barefoot Divas, she recently embarked on an exciting and acclaimed collaboration with Melbourne's The Putbacks.
SilentJaySee, the thing about soul music is that, much like any other important musical movement, whether it be rock and roll, jazz, or hip-hop, it can encompass many different styles within its own framework. Artists like Otis Redding, Booker T, and Michael Jackson couldn't be more different, and yet each was undeniably soul.
Similarly, SilentJay, a one-man production powerhouse makes tunes that span a range of electronic styles, like chillwave, hip-hop, and house, but each possesses the hallmarks of true soul music, consistently making references and sampling old-school soul and R&B tunes.
EMRSNThis supremely talented young Melbourne vocalist has been making the rounds and paying his dues for a little while now. He first came to our attention when he was tapped as one of the local additions to the inaugural Soulfest last year and as support for neo-soul icon D'Angelo's Melbourne sideshow.
He blew us away with his undeniable vocal chops and magnetic stage presence. The performance was by no means a high-flying affair, just EMRSN and three backup singers, but the palpable energy of the singer was nothing short of explosive. We're sure to hear big things from EMRSN in the future.
Electric EmpireThe special thing about soul is just how uplifting it can make listeners feel, and boy, these guys most definitely instil that kind of sentiment with their stunning music.
From the gorgeous vocals to their beautiful backing harmonies, Electric Empire are a rich, soulful experience, and a definite go-to whenever we need a pick-me-up. We know you'll love 'em too.