We Chat to Montaigne About Playing Games and Writing Music on Twitch

Montaigne, photographed by Jess Gleeson.
Jess Gleeson

Singer-songwriter, Eurovision contestant, activist and gamer — Montaigne is one of Australia’s most multi-talented stars. The “Because I Love You” singer is known for her energetic songs and incredible, anthemic vocals just as much as the bold, sometimes theatrical outfits she wears on stage. Her second album, Complex, featured a call to arms for support of the #SchoolStrike4Climate movement. She’s starring in a musical comedy on SBS called Time to Buy and is currently touring Australia. But when the first lockdown hit in 2020, Montaigne was streaming on Twitch.

Lots of musicians and other artists began streaming as a way to stay connected with their audience in lockdown. Some put on intimate online shows, others played games and some even streamed themselves doing music production. Montaigne specialises in the last two and has built a small but committed fan base of people who tune in to watch her streams.

We chatted to Montaigne about playing games and sharing her songwriting process on Twitch, like the rush she gets when she has a breakthrough on a song with fans watching. She told us how she’s built her “super lovely” audience and shared some advice for other women who want to start streaming on Twitch.

POPSUGAR Australia: Hello! Most people know you as a very successful musician, but you’re also a keen gamer and stream on Twitch. How did you get into streaming?

Montaigne: I learned about Twitch around 2016 when I did some one-off streams with Gang of Youths and my label helped me acquire a bunch of equipment to set up streaming at the same time. I never used it because my internet connection was never good enough, I was living in sharehouses without enough space to stream and I was just kinda busy. When the pandemic hit in 2020 is when I finally had time to do it, so I began to do a combo of music production and gaming on stream. I learnt on the fly — I still don’t know what’s going on most of the time but I’ve got a handle on the bare necessities at least!

PS: A lot of local musicians started streaming when live music stopped in lockdown — is this how you started as well? Do you want to keep streaming even when this is all over?

M: I never really did performance streams! I don’t really have the setup and I don’t play an instrument well enough to perform on my own (I mean, I could play well enough, I just don’t practise and don’t really have the desire or will to). My favourite thing to do on stream is music production. I find it so exciting to be creative in front of people, to have a breakthrough with fans watching. And doing it continuously on stream has helped me get better at it. I definitely plan on continuing to do it after the pandemic though I might not have the time to do it as much as I did during the pandemic.

PS: You do everything from play games to making music and doing your makeup in your streams. How do you decide what to stream when you go live?

M: It’s purely spontaneous — I don’t have an organised bone in my body and Twitch gets some of my most chaotic scheduling. It just depends on what I’m in the mood for at any given time.

PS: What’s your favourite game to play on stream and why? How does your Twitch community respond to your streaming?

M: My partner and I played The Sims 4 together on stream for a time, which was quite fun. I think the community really enjoyed that because we got to make abominations and give them backstories and I feel like my audience really enjoys story/world-building (because I enjoy that too). They also got to participate in their own way. They also love it when my partner, Pat, is there. As I settle into more music production streaming, people are a little less active in their engagement in chat, preferring to have it on in the background (it would be a tedious active watch). I do have a handful of people who also do production who are really absorbed in those streams and like to ask questions and offer suggestions about what to do.

PS: What’s your favourite game of all time, and why?

M: Ooh, tough. Look, I’ve just started playing Stardew Valley and before I started I didn’t understand people’s fervour for it but now I totally do. It’s so fun, kind of hypnotic, really beautiful, a marvellous feat from a single creator. But otherwise like, damn how do I choose!

PS: What’s your favourite game of the year so far? Or the game you’re most looking forward to this year?

M: I’ve been really enjoying Horizon Forbidden West I was so entranced with the world and history and the character of Aloy, and am very glad to be able to hang out there more. OlliOlli World was also cute and fun.

PS: Who’s your favourite female character in a game? Why do you think it’s so important that games feature good female characters?

M: I mean, it’s probably Aloy! I think she’s very well-written and it doesn’t feel like the writers are trying to be like, look, a tough woman! She’s nuanced and interesting and funny which I think are adjectives that don’t get ascribed to women much by the more toxic corners of the gaming community. You need well-written women in video games so that young people have great models to internalise. All young people need demonstrations of how to be in the world and if girls/women only see meek waifs then they’re gonna feel like that’s all they have and if boys/men only see those characters then they’re gonna feel like that’s what their relationship to women in real life should be like. I feel like this topic naturally extends to people beyond the gender binary as well but I’ll leave my answer there.

PS: What advice do you have for other women who want to start gaming or streaming?

M: I would advise that you project the kind of personality and make the kind of content that attracts the kind of audience you want. My audience is super lovely and I rarely attract assholes because I set hard boundaries and try not to encourage parasocial relationships. It means my audience doesn’t grow quickly and there are no fanatics willing to drop heaps of money on me but also I feel very mentally healthy on twitch and the fans that do care about me really appreciate the atmosphere I’ve created. I guess that’s advice for people who don’t necessarily want meteoric growth though — if you do, I don’t think I’m the right person to ask about that!

Montaigne streams as @actualmontaigne. Watch her Twitch stream here.

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