Girl power at SXSW: All Our Exes Live in Texas' singer opens up

Members of Australian folk band "All Our Exes Live in Texas," from left to right: Georgia Mooney, Hannah Crofts, Katie Wighton and Elana Stone.

Story highlights

  • Mooney said Trump has emboldened Australians who want a more restrictive immigration policy
  • The political climate led the band to write their first protest song, inspired by the women's march in January

Austin, Texas (CNN)A singer of Australian folk band All Our Exes Live in Texas says the rise of President Donald Trump has sparked an increase in activism among young people in Australia on issues such as immigration and women's wrights.

"The President of America is kind of like the leader of the world in so many ways," Georgia Mooney told CNN at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, last weekend. "That's such an incredibly influential position, and from the start, it was really alarming and shocking that he was even running."
Mooney said Trump's immigration policies have emboldened Australians who want more restrictions on immigration by giving them a voice.
    "Australia really takes a lot from the states," she said. "We're really quite a similar Western culture."
    "Australia's treatment of refugees is quite awful," Mooney added, referring in part to the detention of refugees off the coast of the country.
    Last month, Trump got into a heated exchange with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after firing off a tweet days earlier calling an Obama-era agreement with Australia to accept some of those refugees a "dumb deal," sources told CNN.
    Under the agreement, the United States pledged to take 1,250 refugees living in detention centers on islands off mainland Australia, many of whom are from the six Muslim-majority countries targeted by Trump's travel ban.
    Mooney also lamented stricter US visa regulations, which barred several foreign musicians -- some of them Muslim -- from entering the country to perform at the festival.
    In the past, bands have entered the country on B-1 visitors' visas, which are issued to tourists but restrict them from paid work. Since SXSW does not pay performers, that system worked.
    But Customs and Border Protection officials released a statement last week announcing that artists must now apply for P-1 visas, which are typically used by athletes entering the country temporarily to perform at internationally recognized competitions.
    Jonathan Ginsberg, an attorney for SXSW, said the festival is working with US organizations "in an effort to ensure that both the State Department and CBP continue to treat (performances) as a valid activity in B or visa waiver status."
    The CBP did not return requests for comment.
    "It's just awful its really unfair especially when people are doing all the right things and SXSW has got such good intentions," Mooney said of the situation. "It's about music and the arts and community."
    Mooney and her band members, Elana Stone, Katie Wighton and Hannah Crofts, are particularly passionate about women's rights, and the singer said they enjoyed connecting with other female artists from all over the world at the festival.
    "It's been amazing. I think I've really enjoyed watching a lot of female artists, and particularly Lizzo," she said, referring to the Minneapolis-based hip-hop artist. "I loved her. She's just an amazing performer, and she's totally empowering."
    Mooney said the political climate led the band to write their first protest song, which was inspired by the women's march that took place in cities around the world the day after Trump's inauguration.
    "Being an all-female band, we're very aware of the under-representation of women in all areas of the music industry," Mooney said. "We really want to use what voice we have to support women in music."
    The band is named after legendary Texas musician George Strait's country hit "All My Exes Live in Texas," and they say their sound is inspired by American artists like Dolly Parton, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
    "We're very inspired by old American country music and new folk music," Mooney said. "America has just got incredible folk music, especially this traditional harmony singing."