Mei Lai Swan
Gig Seeker Pro

Mei Lai Swan

Band Alternative Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




'A little cello-playing songstress', five words from Mei Lai Swan's myspace page, sum her up succinctly. By day, cellist and singer Mei Lai works as a community development officer for the Central Land Council. By night (and in any other spare time) she is writing songs, playing gigs, applying for grants, selling her debut EP 'The Morning Tree', promoting her songs and, when she can, touring the country. The September launch of Mei Lai's EP was sold out, and the crowd, when they reluctantly left, left in awe of this little cellist with the gorgeous voice. Her influences range from Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos to Bach, but she has a sound that is truly her own - haunting and pretty, her tone can canvass anything from sweet melancholy to upbeat quirkiness. Mid way through the year Mei Lai was a featured unearthed artist on Triple J, after she uploaded her information onto the Unearthed page, and was featured on the station for a week. In August/September she took off on a successful tour that covered the Territory, Queensland, and her home state of Victoria. Mei Lai moved to Alice Springs from Melbourne nearly two years ago. "I moved up to live in the desert for a while. I'd been wanting to come to the Territory for years. There were opportunities here for me at the right time, so I moved, and I stayed." The desert surrounds have influenced her sound. "It has influenced it, but it's evolving anyway. The creative space you get up here is different. The lifestyle allows you to do more of hte things you want to."
Head to to hear the pretty yet haunting sounds of this unique, creative young lady. And make sure you catch her live performance when she plays near you - you won't be disappointed! - Resident Magazine

"Mei Lai Swan - The Morning Tree Review Rave Magazine"

This small collection is enough to capture your heartstrings…

When you are in the centre of the Australian desert the last thing you expect to find is the smooth effortless sounds of Mei Lai Swan. The Alice Springs songstress journeys between genres and effortlessly creates unique arrangements using full strings, horns and cello. The six-and-a-half track album captures the essence of instrumentation with the echoing-passion of the cello mixed with jazz and blues influences. Track four, All That Falls, has a haunting resonance, which reveals the mystique of the strings. While Remember The Circus sports a laid-back groove exposing her sultry, sassy low tones. With a Tori Amos-meets-Björk feel, the hypnotic music transports you to a melodic heaven. This album is not your standard pick-me-up to accompany the chirping birds outside your window. It’s a myriad of cavernous tracks with heart-felt lyrics that are truly captivating.
- Jane Armistead

"Mei Lai Swan - The Morning Tree Review Drum Media"

Some other reviewer suggested this young singer/songwriter from Alice Springs is "as unique as Joanna Newsom". I suppose there's something in that, if only in the sense that here's another woman who revels in her quirky delivery and opts to accompany herself with an instrument that isn't an acoustic guitar or piano but a cello instead - and very effectively she does it too. There's a little Kate Bush in there too, on All That Falls particularly, and I suppose it was Bush that set the original template for the "unique female singer/songwriter".

- Michael Smith

"Mei Lai Swan - "Paint A Picture""

Looking out to sea, a simple boat with mast, sail and an oriental twist to the keel, glides across a moody horizon painted in dark blues and deep red washes. A siren’s song emanates from the boat forming soft ripples across the still waters. You are mesmerised by haunting melodies that reach your ears as gentle waves lap the shore. As the boat nears the shore the figure of a woman can be seen standing in the tiny boat playing cello. Whilst contemplating this amazing act of balance the landscape melts before your eyes. You become aware you are in a dark room with many other people around you, all are transfixed by the cello playing songstress that resides in the Alice desert.

For full interview go to: - Franca Barraclough, Red Hot Arts

"Calling The Sky single review"

‘Cello playing songstress’ Mei Lai Swan moved from Melbourne to Alice Springs two years ago and you can certainly hear the influence of the desert in her new
The sparse sound on Calling the Sky is evident right from the beginning of the song with a sample of the wind (perhaps recorded somewhere in the Central
Australian Desert). This flows into a minimalistic piano arrangement and Swan’s folky, distinctly aussie vocals. The song builds with stripped back cello, violin
and percussion while keeping its simplistic intensity.
There is a fun quality to the song as well. The lyrics are catchy “I’m calling the sky… stars come tumbling… my belly is rumbling” and bouncy piano parts break
up the verses.
“For me it's a simple tune with a few twists and quirks that celebrates the expansiveness of finding one's little heart of joy and setting it free... doing whatever it is
you do to let go of all the trappings and pressures of the external world,” Swan says.
Swan wrote the song while working in very challenging conditions as a community development worker. “In some ways writing this song was a way for me to
escape it and remember what was important to me. A friend said to me once it's like the feeling you get when you roll out your swag in a creek bed somewhere
(the desert, where there's no water!), happily alone, and finally look up at the stars.
Mei Lei Swan is just setting out on her song writing journey. Just like the trip from Melbourne to Alice, there are a lot of hard miles ahead. But judging from
Calling the Sky, the road looks full of promise and it will be fascinating to see which desert tracks she takes on the way.

by Lee Kindler - The Dwarf

"Fuse Festival: Possible Future"

But if anyone needed any proof as to the vibrancy of the music industry, they need only have walked into the Adelaide night and chosen from any one of the numerous bands on offer. Trying to find something (anything) outside of the ‘rock and funk’ vein that littered the accompanying Brochure, I followed a recommendation to the other side of town, way past the Sports bar and Red Light district, to a little bar called The Grace Emily and an artist called Mei Lai Swan. Here, in a tiny back room with an audience I could count on my fingers and toes, a miniature epiphany took place. Here - from seemingly out of nowhere - was an artist that I think has all the confidence, talent and originality to make it as a major artist. That’s a big call, I know - but when you see it, you have to call it. With cello, sampler and a voice that channeled Lou Rhodes and Beth Gibbons, Mei Lai took Andrew Bird’s route of recording live loops as she played, building vocals and strings into a multi-layered production - ably assisted, it has to be said, by friends on keyboard and percussion. This was a little glimpse into a possible future - and if Mei Lai sticks to her guns, and further develops along the lines of her influences such as Mum, Boards Of Canada and Joanna Newsom, then it’s a future that we should all be glad to see arrive.

- Stuart Buchanan -

"Interview with Christie Eliezer"

If she had her way, Alice Springs singer songwriter Mei Lai Swan could have been the kid that ran away to join the circus. As a matter of fact, she did audition to join Circus Oz - but only to play in their band. "But it would have been so much fun," she says. This was back in the days when she grew up in Melbourne. Then she decided she wanted to live in the desert for a time, and now she teaches local Alice Springs kids circus training.

There's a track called Remember The Circus on Swan's new EP The Morning Tree. It has a jazzy swing feel about, and no way recalls any of circus ambitions of her younger days. "It was actually written in Newcastle, when I was forming at This Is Not Art Festival (TINA)... I was walking down the street, and there was this sculpture of an elephant, with the sign 'Remember The Circus'. The melody and lyrics formed as I walked down the street. A lot of my music comes very instinctively that way."

Take the title track of the EP. There is a real life morning tree. "It's a ghost gum which lives under a hill in alice Springs. I used to walk up there every day. When the sun comes out in the morning, the light hits the top of the tree. I was starting to think of a name for the EP at the time, and (the imagery) had a beautiful sense to it. It matched the music on my EP, I can't explain how. It was just a feeling."

Mei Lai Swan's music is not what you can comfortably put into a pigeonhole. Her influences include Bjork, Joni Mitchell, Portishead, Gotan Project, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos, Massive Attack and Jeff Buckley - folks whose own muse was freewheeling. Her own background has thrown some angular shapes on her music. Her father is a Malaysian Chinese, and she spent a lot of time travelling in the region and live in Thailand for a time. She listened to a lot of Chinese and world music in her day. She hasn't studied music so she has a tendency to break the rules.

She began as violinist in a Melbourne celtic fusion band Lothlorien, and as a session musician with the likes of Carl Pannuzzo, Ned Collette and Love Outside Andromeda. She performed on the international stage with Chamber Made Opera and composes for theatre, circus and film, but in 2005, she moved to Alice Springs, partly to go into remote communitie and do some music workshops with the locals. "I think Alice Springs has given myself - and my music - greater freedom," Swan says. "There's always been space in my music, and possibly this has given me more space. I've always wanted to live in the desert. I didn't expect to stay here as long, though. I miss the buzz of the big cities but I don't think I'll be going back there for awhile. Alice Springs attracts certain types of people and nurtures them in a different way from the city."

- Beat Magazine


The Morning Tree: Debut EP 2007

Tracks from The Morning Tree have had airplay on Triple J, PBS, RRR, 4ZZZ, ABC Darwin and Alice Springs, and many other community radio stations.

Calling The Sky: single 2008

As above, including live recording for ABC Radio National



The branding ‘unique’ is bandied about far too often when it comes to musicians and the art they practice – but in the case of cellist and songstress Mei Lai Swan it’s entirely appropriate. Originally from Melbourne, she moved to Alice Springs for what was supposed to be a brief stint in the desert and more than three years later found the red dirt stuck under her fingernails and can’t quite seem to leave. Instead she emerged onto the national music scene with her stunning debut EP titled ‘The Morning Tree’. With arrangements including full strings, horns and breakbeats, ‘it is the lush sound of the cello and her unique captivating voice that make Mei Lai’s music so enticing’ (Triple J Unearthed). The depth and enchanting quality of her lyrical music is grounded in a love of songwriting, a gift for the unexpected and a keen sense for just being human.

Mei Lai cut her musical teeth as celtic fusion band Lothlorien’s violinist and as a session musician with acclaimed Melbourne artists such as Ned Collette, Carl Pannuzzo, and Love Outside Andromeda. She has performed on the international stage with Chamber Made Opera and composed for theatre, circus and film.

With this wealth of experience behind her, in 2006 Mei Lai moved to Alice Springs to escape the big city and delve into community development work with remote Aboriginal communities. In her spare time she started performing as a solo cellist-singer-songwriter and very quickly impressed the locals, supporting Tecoma’s Live At The Lane recording and receiving press and radio interviews. She happily secured grants from both the Australia Council and Arts NT to record her debut EP, The Morning Tree.

Released independently in September 2007, and accompanied by a national tour that kicked off with a stand-out gig at the Darwin Festival, ‘The Morning Tree’ has since received national and local airplay, reviews and interviews all around the country and is distributed through Vitamin Records.

2008 saw this busy young lady go from strength to strength. She won Triple J Unearthed’s Top Song competition for the NT, was singled out from the crowd to perform key showcase events and festivals across the country, including Brisbane’s Big Sound, and was chosen to attend select industry workshops including the JB Seed Management Workshop.

Amongst this she still found time to head back into the studio, releasing and touring nationally a new single ‘Calling The Sky’ in November last year. Expanding her songwriting to guitar, piano and more electronica, she’s now getting ready to head back into the studio again to work on her debut album, with plans in the making for more touring in Australia and Europe.

What others have said:

“With a Tori Amos-meets-Björk feel, the hypnotic music transports you to a melodic heaven. ” Jane Armistead- Rave Magazine

“Here – from seemingly out of nowhere – was a musician that I think has all the confidence, talent and originality to make it as a major artist.” – Stuart Buchanan, Fat Planet

“Absolutely beautiful.” - Jacinta Parsons, Triple R

A “one-of-a-kind multi-skilled iceberg.” - Time Off Magazine

“The quality of Mei Lai’s work apparent in her song writing and performance has led me to regard her as a true artist.” - Amira Pyliotis, aka Tecoma