No Turning Back

Annie Sebel | 14 February 2011


We had a chat to Sarah Blasko about living in London, being a closet Jane Austen fan and liking old things.

The quiet achiever of the music world, Sarah Blasko has racked up quite a few years in the biz. For those not in the know, her musical CV goes a little something like this: singing in church and starting a jazz-blues group with her sister at fifteen, joining Sydney band Acquiesce in the ’90s, and going solo in 2002. While the last few years have seen the cheers of critical acclaim catch up with her devoted fan group – culminating in 2009 when she won the Best Female Artist ARIA and was nominated for four other ARIA awards. This year saw her pack her bags for London, tour Europe, enjoy the wonders of Swedish morning TV and come October, she’ll be heading home for her As Day Follows Night tour.

There may have been a few changes along the way (solo, London and no longer religious), but the past still influences her music. She has previously said, “I think that, like a lot of people who grew up with a Christian upbringing, I have quite an unbalanced view on life. Deep down, I guess, there’s always this pervading sense that things are either really, really good or really, really bad. There’s not much in-between. I think that tends to come through in my music.” That indeed, does sum up what’s so wonderfully poignant about her songs – the mixture of light and dark, the ups and downs. And though she may have changed, she says musically, “You’re always trying to work it out anyway, and it changes with each thing you do.”

ON MOVING TO LONDON:
It seemed like the right time because I’ve found a label that’s super enthusiastic about the album and we thought if I was going to put the most into it, that it would make sense to move. The album is getting released throughout Europe so it’s a lot of work to go to so many countries. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, you want to feel that you’ve got a reason to go but I think I would have moved anyway as it was time to experience something else.

ON HER FAVOURITE LONDON HIDEAWAY:
I’ve found a really great café that I like to go to, it’s an art café. They run all kinds of art courses and they’ve got this cute little café upstairs and it’s really quiet place. I like East London. It’s in the Islington area.

ON WORKING IN EUROPE:
It’s been really exciting, I’ve been to France quite a bit and the experience of working in Paris is really wonderful because I’ve been there before as a tourist and that’s great as well, but feeling like you meet people and get a different vibe. It’s a really huge learning curve, doing interviews where people are translating, TV shows and not really understanding what the hell is going on.

ON SWEDISH MORNING TV:
It’s pretty funny, I had a really nice interview on Swedish morning television but I had a real out of body experience because they said they were going to do an interview at some point and I was like, “Oh okay great” . I was waiting in the wings and watching the different segments on the show and there was a chef on. They were interviewing him and starting to make this recipe and then when it came time for my interview they ushered me to the spot where the TV chef was. It was literally me and the two hosts and the chef standing around the kitchen bench and they were interviewing me while they were making the dish I had to taste the soup and comment about what kind of food I liked. I had to try really hard not to laugh because the other guys in my band were watching from the sides. But they were really sweet people it was just such an odd thing to do.

ON CHANGING AS A MUSICIAN:
When I think back to making the first album I didn’t really know what I was doing and in some ways I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing [laughs]. In a sense nothing has changed, but I guess I feel like I know what kind of sounds I’m going for where in the beginning I wasn’t so sure.

ON WRITING:
I think I’ve just become more comfortable with the process, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s hard and complicated and it’s not an easy thing to do and at first that really kind of freaked me out. But once you realise that it is difficult, you learn to not put so much pressure on yourself. It’s so up and down the whole musical life. One minute you feel like you totally know what you’re doing and the next you feel like you don’t have a clue.

ON STYLE:
I mostly wear things that either are really old, you can call them vintage or second-hand, or things that look like they’re old fashioned. I like things that have either stood the test of time or things that are well crafted, that are comfortable and dirty. I like the way that clothes can affect the way that you present yourself or how you feel. They can really shift your mood and make you feel happier. The way that you dress can make you feel really comfortable in your own skin or can make you feel self-conscious. I like wearing things that make me feel good.

ON BUYING OLD STUFF:
I haven’t really gotten into the collecting phase of my life yet. At the moment, because I’ve been travelling, I’m trying not to accumulate, which is hard for me. If I settle down and have a house then I’m sure I’ll have lots of furniture and clothes and all kinds of odd things. I always seem to accumulate weird little knick-knacks and I don’t even know what they’re for. Even at the place that I’m staying I’ve just bought a few little things to make it feel like it’s home. I bought a little porcelain bird figurine and a couple of these little ornate dishes, which I put jewellery and coins in. Then I kept going to all these jumble sales and buying household appliance that are slightly useless. I bought a really cheap juicer, then we discovered we needed literally a bag of oranges for two glasses of juice. But I bought it for one pound and I bought a mirror for two pounds.

ON WHAT SHE’S READING:
I’ve been reading a lot about the brain, there’s a book called Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks and I started reading a book at my friend’s house called, The Brain That Changes Itself [about] how the brain can completely restructure itself, if you have a brain injury in a certain part of the brain it can restructure itself so that you can learn how to speak and walk. There are some really fascinating and heartbreaking stories.

ON HER FAVOURITE BOOKS:
The Road is one of the books that really affected me the most in the last five years, it’s by Cormac McCarthy. There’s not really a book that has affected me in such an extreme way, so emotional and completely absorbed. I’m actually a closet Jane Austen fan. I really do think there are some gems in her writing and my favourite is Persuasion, I think it’s a really clever book. I’m kinda a sucker for some older literature like that and I really love Shakespeare as well.

ON WHAT SHE’D DO IF SHE WASN’T A MUSO:
I think I’d do something like nursing. Sometimes I feel the real impracticality of music. I think there’s a really strong side of myself that wants to do something very practical to really use my hands. I mean music does feel like that to an extent but it’s very hard to see the kind of results of what you do and to feel like you’re helping anybody or doing anything practical for anyone else in the world. People always say to me, “Of course it is, music really touches people and has an important affect.” Which of course it does but I do think to do something really tangible and practical would be what I’d do.

Head to sarahblasko.com/shows for details of upcoming tours.

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