Organisers of the Environmental Music Prize have revealed the list of finalists for its first-ever edition, including Jack River (nominated for ‘We Are The Youth’), Lime Cordiale (‘Addicted To The Sunshine’), Briggs and Tim Minchin (‘Housefyre’), In Hearts Wake (‘Worldwide Suicide’), King Stingray (‘Hey Wanhaka’) and more.
A total of 24 songs are in contention, with just one act, Holy Holy, receiving two separate nominations. They’ve earned nods for ‘Port Road’ and ‘Hello My Beautiful World’, both pulled from their 2021 album named for the latter song.
To be eligible for the Environmental Music Prize – which sports a $20,000 prize – prospective artists needed to fit the initiative’s criteria of “creat[ing] powerful music videos that celebrate nature and encourage us to defend it”.
The list of finalists was whittled down from over 200 entries, and was selected by a council of artists and industry figures including Montaigne, Anna Lunoe and ex-Cloud Control member Heidi Lenffer, as well as members of environmental agencies like Greenpeace, WWF, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and the Ocean Impact Organisation.
With all finalists now locked in, voting for the Environmental Music Prize has been expanded to the public. Punters will be able to cast votes for their three favourite songs and videos, with voting open here until midnight on Sunday May 15.
In a press release, EMP founder Edwina Floch said: “The incredible calibre of [these] finalists highlights the passion our country has for the planet… We need messages of hope – ones that touch us deeply, capture our imagination and enable us to dream big.
“By focusing the creative genius of many songwriters, singers, musicians and content creators on environmental issues, and by partnering with aligned organisations and community groups, we hope to propel a few climate anthems into the mainstream and empower a diverse group of artists to activate their audiences.”
Several artists also spoke up about the significance of their entries’ environmental slants. Among them were King Stingray, who explained: “The lorrpu (white cockatoo) holds great significance in Yolngu culture. But it extends far beyond just one animal – it’s a concept really; a way of life, a balanced life that is synonymous with caring for our environment and the relationship between humans and living creatures.
“The ancient songline (lorrpu manikay) sung in [‘Hey Wanhaka’] represents nature celebration and the Yolngu way of life, a way of life that is one with planet earth. In this song the lorrpu is sending out a message to the world and that is essentially what we’re doing in our own lives. We are advocates for change, and through our music we are having a platform to speak.
“We are too, just like the lorrpu, sending a message to the world through music. We are story tellers and so is the lorrpu. It’s basically a cheeky and playful spin on nature celebration through a metaphor (the lorrpu / human relationship) and the connection to country that we have. It’s about knowing your roots, who you are, and the duty of care for country, caring for each other and the role/responsibility we have to care for our environment.”
Jack River, on the other hand, was driven more by her frustration towards the federal government in writing ‘We Are The Youth’. She said: “I wrote this song to express the anger and frustration of my generation in the face of government inaction on climate, First Nations peoples rights, and integrity.
“I also wrote it to celebrate the people who ARE standing up to our governments lack of action – and all of those people are quite young, and mostly women. They are people like Anjali Sharma, Chanel Contos, Grace Tame, Brittany Higgins and the leaders of the Black Deaths In Custody movement here in Australia.”
For his part, Rory Phillips – nominated for his 2020 song ‘The Truth’ – said he was inspired by the vocal activism of Greta Thunberg. “I co-wrote this song when I was 12 years old and released it as a 13-year-old in 2020,” he said, noting that such was “around the same time that Greta Thunberg (then aged 15) started her ‘School Strike for Climate’ and her protests were gaining momentum and attention around the world”.
He continued: “I was so inspired by Greta, to see a young person making such a difference, such an impact, that I wanted to do something too. Music is the best tool I had, so I set out to write a song which stood for something.”
Meanwhile, EMP finalists In Hearts Wake recently debuted their own environmental documentary, Green Is The New Black, earlier this month. Speaking to NME about the film, frontman Jake Taylor said he hoped viewers “not only feel inspired in some way, but like they have a sense of awareness around what’s happening to the world, and how they’re able to be part of that change in their own lives, in their own way”.
The full list of finalists for the inaugural Environmental Music Prize is:
Billy Otto – ‘Can’t Take The Ocean Out Of Me’
Briggs and Tim Minchin – ‘Housefyre’
Ciaran Gribbin – ‘What If’
Eskimo Joe – ‘Say Something’
Holy Holy – ‘Port Road’ (ft. Queen P) / ‘Hello My Beautiful World’
In Hearts Wake – ‘Worldwide Suicide’
Jack River – ‘We Are The Youth’
Jess Ribeiro – ‘In love With This Place’
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard – ‘If Not Now, Then When?’
King Stingray – ‘Hey Wanhaka’
L-Fresh The Lion – ‘Mother’
Lime Cordiale – ‘Addicted To The Sunshine’
Little Green – ‘The Night’
Paul Kelly – ‘Sleep Australia Sleep’
Reverend Bones – ‘The Sky Was Blue (The Bushfire Song)’
Rory Phillips – ‘The Truth’
Sage Roadknight – ‘Voices’
Small Island Big Song – ‘Ta’u Tama’
Tambah Project – ‘Our Song’
The Boy Of Many Colors – ‘When A Tree Falls’ (ft. Emily Wurramara)
Virtual Choir by The Bowerbird Collective – ‘World Migratory Bird Day’
What So Not – ‘Messin’ Me Up’ (ft. Evan Giia)
William Crighton – ‘Your Country’ (ft. William Barton and Julieanne Crighton)