Interview: Sarah Blasko
Australian, two time ARIA award wining singer/songwriter Sarah Blasko enchanted audiences at WOMAD this year kicking off her AUS 2016 tour. We were lucky enough to steal a moment with the musician before the festival to chat self expression, "the David's" and taking the tour uniform a little too far.
BNKR: Can you tell us a little bit about your musical beginnings? When did you really decide you wanted to pursue a career in music?
Sarah: I don’t know when I decided to pursue a career but I remember when I was about sixteen or seventeen that’s when I realised it was something I was passionate about. I had quite a religious upbringing and when I was about sixteen we did an overseas trip with the church. I think it was then that I realised how powerful music is and how it transcends language, when I realised that music was really what I wanted to do. In terms of the industry, I never really thought to myself that a career was what I was heading for. It was more of an elusive thing. I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can do it as a career.
The pop-synth feel present on ‘Eternal Return’ is quite a different sound from your earlier albums. Was this a conscious change or more of a natural progression for you as an artist?
Well I think the beauty of being a solo artist is that you can change the scenery in what you do. Your voice and I suppose the lyrical essence or perspective of what you do is still always going to be there, but I like the idea of being able to go down different paths…The feeling that I get when people ask me questions like that is… I feel like I’ve always had this thing inside of me, it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to do.
You recently paid tribute to David Bowie with your beautiful cover of ‘Life On Mars’ for Triple J’s Like A Version. Was he a big influence for you..or the '80s in general?
Well I was a child of the '80s..the era you’re born in will always be a part of you. But yeah David Bowie, because I was born in the '80s the first music of his that I heard, I suppose was probably stuff like 'Let's Dance'. It took me quite a while to realise he’d actually been around for quite a while before then. But you know I think someone who writes great pop music like that, an artist that does something interesting… I think I’ve always looked up to him. He had a real love for pop music but wanted to do something interesting.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
Well you know I’ve always said David Bowie + David Byrne (Talking Heads), 'The David's’. I’ve often referred them to my favourite David's apart from my partner who is also a David. I think David Byrne for a similar reason to David Bowie, a love for pop music but really a love for all kinds of music, a really diverse appreciation. In terms of women in music, I grew up with Kate Bush, I grew up with PJ Harvey, I grew up with Bjork, so those women have had a real impact on me. But you know, all kinds of things
Lyrically 'Eternal Return' is quite vulnerable. Was this something that was really important for you with this album?
I personally don’t see it like that, because (I think) the last couple of albums have been. I’d say that ‘Day Follows Night’ is potentially more vulnerable than this record but maybe it’s not as obvious...I always called it a ‘hopeful heartbreak’ album because it was somebody who was very heartbroken but was trying to see the positives. Trying to pull out of it and make a beautiful album. But I do feel like the last three records have all been quite heart on the sleeve. I think that for whatever reason it’s just been more important to me to just kind of state things as they are and how I see them, not veil things so much in imagery. I just want to say something… I don’t want to mince my words. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just getting older but you feel a bit more in touch with the idea that maybe you don’t have so much time or something. Generally in my life I’m not somebody who can pretend about the way I’m feeling, so it comes across in my music I guess.
Your track ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ is particularly relevant this week with International Women’s Day happening, which is so important for us as company of roughly 90% women. Was there an exact moment which inspired this song?
The line ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ came was an accident when I was writing... sometimes it happens to me when I’m writing music. I like to follow a certain stream of consciousness in the initial stages and that line kept kind of coming up for me and I decided to follow it. I guess when I did I realised that each time I have played a record, sometimes when I’m touring or getting a band together, there is often this really uncomfortable feeling for me as a woman; expressing what I want and what I’m looking for and what in a room full of men. So I felt that it was important to me to speak about that because I’ve never actually put it into words before and in a lot of ways I think I pretended I didn’t feel that way, when in fact I do. I often feel very exposed and like I’m expressing myself in a way that’s unpalatable or something. The best way I could express it is to say... I want to be just viewed as me. It feels sometimes as a women you’re not sure if you create these things in your mind or whether it’s a reality, so I just really wanted to bring that up.
It’s so exciting to have you on the line up for WOMAD this year! Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or hoping to meet?
I’m sure there’s lots of stuff but to be perfectly honest I haven’t really had a good check to see who’s playing. We’re flying in and out but I’m really hoping to be able to see some stuff after we play but to be honest I don’t know who that’s going to be. I remember playing last time... there was so much interesting stuff from all over the world, so I think for me it’s more about discovering new music.
Is there anything you can tell us about your set? Will it be a lot from the new album? Perhaps come covers in there?
Yeah, I think there will be a lot of stuff from the new record. It’s pretty much a brand new band and I just love them, I feel like they’re probably the strongest band that I’ve put together. I’m really excited, it’s going to be a really good place to start, we’re doing a tour in a few weeks so it’s an exciting way to kick things off.
The first thing you did when you woke up this morning?
Probably complain (laughs). I mean I’ve got a baby, so pretty much the first thing I do these days is give him a cuddle. So that’s pretty nice.
Most recently played on Spotify?
Every night I’m playing him (my baby Jerry) Motown. So The Supremes was yesterday. I’m just trying to give him a quick run down of the last hundred years or music.
What’s your on tour style? Do you have a particular ‘uniform’ you like to wear when you perform?
I’m fan of the tour uniform, you know you find an outfit and you stick to it and wear it till it’s falling apart. Yeah it’s been quite funny actually one of the guys who’s played with me for like the last ten years, I feel like he’s only washed this one particular shirt about four times (laughs). I think he’s taking the band uniform a little too far. It’s just a black shirt but he wears it underneath everything. He’s in it for the music, not for the fashion.
Favourite track to perform off the new album?
I think probably ‘Beyond’ which is in the middle of the album. It means a lot to me. It’s really a song about choosing to look beyond whatever your circumstances are and see the goodness in things and the positivity.
Someone you’d love to collaborate with?
Luke Steel, from Empire Of The Sun. I sang on a couple of the songs on the record called ‘Nations By The River’ which was him and another couple of friends of mine who were in a band… that was more than 10 years ago that we did that. Me and those guys have been talking for a while about how we should do another one. So I always think that, that would be really fun, so maybe that!
Words: Stephanie Dugan