Music Music interviews Women in Music

Never Let Her Go: Interview with Sarah Blasko.

Back in February upon its release I had earmarked Sarah Blasko’s Depth of Field as my pick for the best album released so far this year. That’s how impressed I am by it. It’s haunting, personal and achingly beautiful across ten tracks, and it’s fair to say that the 41 year-old Blasko hasn’t lost her incredible knack of producing sophisticated pop. Interestingly, I think, Blasko is often at her best when she is performing against expectation. With this album you are left to wonder how much of this album is personal, maybe not necessarily autobiographical in intent, but definitely a showcase of inspired experiences or stories of others.

Like all great albums there are songs that stay with you even after you have stopped listening to them. On Depth of Field, I especially like Phantom and its line “I’m gonna fill my lungs with you/ My phantom heartbeat!” Then there are those deep bass and synth sounds from Everybody Wants To Sin. It’s dreamy and daring. And if we are going to talk about this album being sophisticated pop, the mesmerising and haunting Never Let Me Go, A ShotHeaven Sent and Making It Up are all standout tracks.

My stance on how I feel about Blasko’s sixth solo studio album now a few months later still remains uncompromised. Equally impressive is the uncompromising drive and candor of my current guest Sarah Blasko, whom it seems never fails to engage with fans and critics alike. Though there was a time more recently that Blasko revealed how a long struggle with depression almost saw her quit music. Thank goodness she found the grit and determination to carry on.

Here is some of what we talked about, in particular, her relationship with the music industry, but more importantly that amazing new album.

I remember discovering you Sarah watching rage well into the night with a little song called Your Way. Soon after critics and fans alike fell in love with your first solo record The Overture and the Underscore in 2004. Looking back did you ever think you would find yourself here today releasing album number six Depth of Field?

I definitely hoped I would find myself here but I don’t know if I expected it. The music world is tough & fickle & so I’ve made each record like it might be my last! Well, not entirely, but I’m always been aware of how easily it can all fall apart & so I’m just glad that I still feel inspired & in love with music. That’s the main thing. You see a lot of people who lose the love, discouraged by all the trappings.

What sort of obstacles have you encountered along that journey. Do you still have that love/hate relationship with the music industry?  

I think I’ve often battled with my own confidence, the effort of motivating myself to keep going because no one else can do that for you. I think as a woman you’re often underestimated within the music world & that has felt like an uphill battle at times. I see the need to keep my mind on what it is I actually do (make music!) most of the time & to fight the desire to see what I do through the eyes of a business person. It’s very important to me to try & remain separate from that mindset as much as I can. 

In the lead up to the release of Depth of Field I’ve read that your album had quite searing lyrics. After listening to it for the better part of a week now I’m almost convinced it is true. But if I have noticed anything it is the aching, maybe accusing tone of your voice. Is Depth of Field your answer to those that have let you down? If not, it seems like an exorcism of sorts, maybe both personally and figuratively? Is that a fair comment?

Yes, sure, I think that rings true. ‘Depth Of Field’ came out of a string of disappointments, but also some major joys. It was a confusing time where it was hard to make sense: “how am I experiencing the best & worst time of my life at once?!” The title felt appropriate to express how easily perspectives or experiences can shift. There is such a depth of experiences that are all connected.

You chose to release Phantom late last year as your first single from this new album. I especially like the line “I’m gonna fill my lungs with you/ My phantom heartbeat!” How did you deal with the personal nature of a song like this when you were writing it? Is it hard to distant yourself and not feel vulnerable about it?

For better or worse, I just go for it. But, once you start heightening a song, involving other instruments & people it takes on a dramatic quality that distances it from you somewhat & gives the song a broader reach I think. This in turn removes the vulnerability for me. It’s very active & the song transforms quite a bit. 

My favourite on the album is Everyone Wants To Sin. It’s dreamy and daring in its deep bass sounds. Even your vocals seem creepy and coaxing (in a good way). Can you tell us how this song came about?

At first I was saying “everybody wants to sing” & it was going to be about how everybody thinks they’re a songwriter/producer these days but it felt too cynical! It became more generally about being a follower. “If everybody jumped, would you?” kind of sentiment. It’s also about the vanity & self serving nature of our society. 

What is different here with Depth of Field instrumentally say compared to some of your earlier work?

Most of the parts had to be kind of “anti-parts” as in non melodic, I didn’t want too many “hooks”, I wanted atmosphere, glass breaking, sound effects. We laid down loads of melodic keyboard lines on ‘Eternal Return’ so I didn’t want to do that on this album. I wanted things to swell & envelop you. Lots of things drawing your attention but not melodies per se – apart from the vocal melody of course.

Depth of Field in photographic terms refers to, I believe, the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photograph. Is there a hidden meaning behind the title of your new release that suggests something similar about where you are personally and artistically in your life?

Yes, this is part of why I chose the title, yes. Six albums in there is a distance between me now & me then but also they are so connected. Returning to who I was then in my memory helps to fuel what I do today, it’s a reminder to go into things as though for the first time. To stay fresh, to love the process. Perspective is so important. You can alter your perspective with your mind, it’s malleable. You don’t have to see things in one dimension.

Sarah, you are often held in high regard by a younger generation of female artists for your unflappable artistic nature, especially for not kowtowing to the whims of mainstream expectations. Musicians like Lisa Mitchell, whom I adore artistically, are completely in awe of your celebrated career. How do compliments about your musical influence sit with you?

Hmm, I don’t have perspective on that at all. I guess I don’t flatter myself as to think that a younger generation would give a fuck about who I am or what I’ve done. They’re treading their own path & I think that’s what they’re focusing on but if I’ve encouraged anyone in any way then I’m pleased. I just thank my lucky stars that I had PJ Harvey, Björk, Kate Bush to look up to. What a time! 

I read recently a quote by Melissa Etheridge about how, and I am paraphrasing here, our social shifts are embracing the feminine amongst other things. Even our own Ali Barter touches on the sensitive issue of femininity on her incredible debut album last year. Do you think we are moving forward enough in terms of the validity and respect female artists deserve? I think that you touched on this issue recently?

I think this topic of conversation has been a long time coming & the subject often used to fall on deaf ears, so thank god younger women are having the guts to bring it up & talk about it. I don’t think the power of women is celebrated enough, no. Women are underestimated, for sure. I do feel we can discuss it more openly now, so that in itself is a step forward for which I’m grateful.

In late June you will be playing here in Melbourne as part of your Depth Of Field album national tour. Will you play most of the new album live? And if it’s at all possible to answer, which song do you love playing the most?

Yes, I’ll be endevouring to play most of the new record. I think ‘Never Let Me Go’ will be a blast to play live.

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Sarah Blasko’s new album Depth Of Field is available in all good record stores and digitally. You can connect with Sarah via her website. Follow Sarah via her Facebook page or twitter feed @sarahblasko. Follow her on Instagram. Watch her on You Tube.
Depth Of Field Album Tour dates below:

Friday 11th May                 Great Northern, Byron Bay NSW

Saturday 12th May            The Triffid, Brisbane QLD

Wednesday 23rd May      Canberra Theatre Centre, Canberra ACT

Saturday 26th May            Hobart @ Odeon Theatre, Hobart TAS

Friday 1st June                   Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW

Friday 8th June                   The Gov, Adelaide SA

Friday 15th June                The Rosemount, Perth WA

Thursday 21st June           The Capitol Theatre, Bendigo VIC

Friday 22nd June                170 Russell, Melbourne VIC

Get your tickets here via Sarah Blasko’s website.

Photo credit: The header image of Sarah Blasko is courtesy of the team at Revolutions per minute (PR group). I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.

1 comment on “Never Let Her Go: Interview with Sarah Blasko.

  1. Very groovy. I’ve been a big fan of Sarah for years.

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