Sarah Blasko

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Sarah Blasko is preparing to embark on a winter tour taking in rural and regional NSW. Taking place throughout July and August, the tour will include numerous destinations including Port Macquarie. We talk to Sarah about her upcoming visit.

> Sarah, this is your second performance in Port Macquarie, are you looking forward to the trip back here?

Yes. Last time we played Port, we played on the “Festival of the Sun” bill. That was back in November 2005. Thanks to the organisers, we were able to spend a week in a rented house  leading up to the festival. This was actually where we began some of the demo recordings of songs that ended up featuring on “What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have”, so in that regard the show is a kind of homecoming for a couple of songs.

This time around we will be playing our own show, so it will be slightly different. We’ll be able to make a bit more noise, in the absence of outdoor noise restrictions and we’ll be able to take over the space a bit more and play a longer set.

> The new tour “Amazing Things” is visiting rural and regional towns throughout Australia in July and August.

Tell us about your tour.

This tour is the most extensive regional tour that we’ve undertaken to date. There is a certain thrill in taking your music to new places. Playing music also provides a great opportunity to travel and see a lot of places you might not ordinarily see. We always do a lot of Op shopping on the road and regional Australia, particularly the North Coast of NSW, is great for that kind of thing. This tour will take us to a lot of places for the first time, including Toukley and Sawtell. We are also playing Atherton, just south of Cairns which is supposed to be beautiful.

> What is the inspiration behind your latest album “What The Sea Wants The Sea Will Have”?

I wanted it to be a quite emotional record. I guess the parts with the choir and the strings  was a way to bring it open. We played a lot of it live together, and I think that’s what gives it a real feel. The last [album] was mainly keyboards and drums, this time I took a band over to Auckland and we had more people in there.

Musically, we endeavoured to make WTSW a simpler, more stripped back record. And although some of the choral and string arrangements are quite detailed in parts, we did keep the raw elements of the recording down to a sonic palette of real instruments: piano, organ, harmonium, strings, guitars, percussion. This was facilitated greatly by having Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios at our disposal, as he happened to own one of nearly everything we required. Thematically, we used the sea, its strength and unpredictability, to symbolise what many would call fate. It wasn’t something we set out to do prescriptively, we just found we were drawing on a lot of imagery and literary precedents where the ocean was a figure.

> You have been nominated for a few ARIA awards for your albums which is a great achievement what do you attribute your success to?

It is always great to know that your music is being heard, and it is something I appreciate greatly. A lot of it comes from good fortune, which you just have to take. A lot of it also comes from having good people around you. The band we are touring with in July has had the same line up for a while now and everyone is very comfortable in their respective role. This gives us the opportunity to change or add to things quickly and easily. It also meant this time that we could keep rehearsals down to a minimum as everyone knew pretty much what to do. That is a great advantage, as it means that the songs will be really fresh during the tour.

> What was it like going to the ARIA Awards?

We enjoyed a seat on the Bernard Fanning table last year, which allowed me to feel the glory and adulation vicariously. With he and Claire both winning and with the induction of Midnight Oil into the Hall of Fame, the night had a rather adult, civilised feel. ‘What the Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have’ had only just come out so we have to wait until this year to see what happens.

> When you perform at Panthers, what can we expect?

Having recently toured the major cities with a five-piece string ensemble in tow, this show gives us the opportunity to strip things back to a five-piece band format and to really concentrate on the essential elements of the songs. We have rehearsed most of the material from both albums, so hopefully we’ll be able to play what people want to hear.

Why did you get involved with the tribute recorded for The Go Betweens?

The Go-Betweens are a legendary Australian band and it is always a privilege to be able to pay tribute to Australian bands who paved the way. I was also honoured to have Robert Forster (of the Go-Bs) perform as a special guest on my recent tour. It was the first time he’d played out in over a year, so I was glad to have been the spur.

> You also performed at the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, how did it feel to be a part of something so iconically Australian?

It was a very special experience to perform in front of such a huge audience. I was involved with the design of the set and costumes so it was very interesting to work with some of the huge team of people who work to bring such a huge event together.

> You have toured extensively since going solo, with the likes of James Blunt what was that like?

Playing overseas, in support of other acts, is a great way to remember what it is like when you are first starting out. A lot of the time you are playing to complete strangers who are lucky to have an inkling of who you are. It also means that you only have small budgets with which to put on a show. This often means performing with only one or two instruments. This can really make you focus on the absolutely essential parts of your songs and bring them out. It is often satisfying to play a song without the layers of production you embellish it with in other settings. It is a real test of song.

> Thank you for your time Sarah.

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