On “Mended”, one of her most iconic, most indelible early singles, Vera Blue sang about the torturous process of trying to overcome the heartbreak of a love turned sour. With deft, steely lyricism, the Sydney-based singer and songwriter, real name Celia Pavey, channelled the feeling of losing one’s sense of self during a breakup: “What am I supposed to do?” she sang, “When most of me still belongs to you?”
“Mended” is a song about when a powerful love has ended and can take tremendous effort and time to heal. It’s a relatable feeling for anyone who has ever experienced a breakup, or dramatic loss. Five years and countless beloved singles and collaborations later, Pavey has returned with “The Curse” — another powerful ballad about what happens when true love can feel like torture. Chronicling the experience of falling in love with a friend and having to reckon what that might mean for the friendship itself, it finds Pavey at the height of her powers, writing about difficult subject matter with grace and ingenuity. “It’s been a long time since I’ve put out a song like this,” says Pavey. “I think it’s time to show those raw emotions again, in more of a deep, heavy way, with more sadness.”
“The Curse” might be one of the heaviest Vera Blue songs to date, but it wasn’t born from a place of sadness in Pavey’s own life. “At the moment, my life and my relationship are really beautiful — I’m in love, and I’ve got a really beautiful partner and I have a puppy, I feel settled,” she says. Instead of trying to write about her own life, Pavey took inspiration from a friend, as she did when writing 2021’s “Temper”, who found herself falling for someone she didn’t want to — an experience Pavey herself could relate to completely.
“When I see my friends hurting or going through something, it hurts just as much as it would if it were myself going through it. I am an empath big time so raw emotions immediately come to the surface. When I was writing ‘The Curse’, I’ve found myself inspired by the lives of people that I’m close to, yet all these things that I’m writing about I relate to 100% and have happened to me. It’s almost like it’s happening all over again but my perspective is on the outside.”
With her friend’s struggles at the front of Pavey’s mind, the initial framework for “The Curse” came quickly and easily. Sitting alone at her piano, Pavey started writing the song’s chords and lyrics, unsure if they were worth pursuing. Help finishing the song came from an unlikely source: Billy Johnston, Pavey’s own boyfriend. “Billy came home [one day] I played ‘The Curse’ for him, and he was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’,” she recalls, “So we sat down and finished the song together. I’ve never written with Billy before. I think the most unique thing for me was the trust and openness we had when writing together. I felt a new level of fearlessness to say certain things I normally wouldn’t. His production and recording knowledge along with Andy’s helped me put the song together piece by piece, pushing The Curse into a new world.”
Even as a raw demo, Pavey and Johnston knew that “The Curse” was something special, powerful, and surprising lyrics like “Innocent white lies/Never looking you straight in the eyes/Yet you knew it was all bullshit” revealing the ballad’s resigned intensity. Working closely with Pavey’s long-time musical partners Tom and Andy Mak, as well as Grammy-winning engineer Mark Rankin, they built it into a classic Vera Blue power ballad, complete with live strings and a sweeping, spine-tingling bridge, electronic beats, and vocal harmonies. Some production elements were kept from the demo. It was an arduous, months long process to achieve the right balance of intimacy and grandiosity — a tightrope perfectly walked on the final song. A tantalising taste of a new Vera Blue album, it shows Pavey at the height of her powers, emotive and clear-eyed as ever. “This song was so delicate, and it was a monster to finally finish it,” says Pavey. “Now that it’s finished and mixed, it doesn’t feel like a curse anymore — it feels like a dream.”