We had a chat to Sarah Blasko, an Australian sweetheart. The two-time ARIA award winner gave us fifteen minutes of her time on the eve of touring with English group Mumford and Sons. Sarah gave us an up-to-date insight of what she has been doing, along with her upcoming plans.
MF: Tell us about your influences for the new album.
SB: My time in Brighton, England really heavily influenced the album. I had quite a luxurious amount of time to kind of spend walking, writing and reading: you know, just living a very quiet existence down there by the ocean. I think all those times of thinking a lot about home and being a bit homesick, and I suppose your previous life at home, takes on a heightened reality in your mind when you are spending so much time on your own.
Sound wise, particularly with deciding to go on the orchestra road, I was listening to stuff like Serge Gainsbourg. His Histoire de Melody Nelson record has very simple band arrangements with very strong strings that just kind of come in and out like bursts of colour. Also, I was listening to Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate, where it is very simple guitar and voice and then it is this big force of a string arrangement. I went to Ennio Morricone in London, and that sort of 100-piece orchestra/100-piece choir popped into my mind.
MF: What are your favourite tracks on the album?
SB: I guess I am most proud of Here and Not Yet. Lyrically, I am most proud of New Country. Bury This is a significant song for me because it was the first song that I wrote for the album. Whenever I play or hear that, I can just picture myself in Brighton. I think that when I start to write an album, I feel like I’m always looking for the kind of key that unlocks where everything is going to head. For me, that song is unlocking where I wanted to go.
MF: How did you come up with the idea of a short film for I Awake?
SB: I’ve known Mike Daly for a few years and have wanted to work with him for a while. He’s done a lot of video arts for dance and theatre. I’ve just always really loved his simplicity and his visual taste. Mike and I talked a lot about what the album meant and that feeling of what is underlying everything in the everyday world: the power and mystery beneath the surface, you know, the connection between everything and everyone in the natural world, between humans and animals. Everything is just interconnected. We talked a lot about those kinds of things. Basically, from there I was keen to see what Mike could come up with. I think when you respect someone that you want to work with, you don’t want to dictate too much. They have their own style and take on things.
MF: What made you create an album instalation?
SB: It is something that I wanted to do for a little while. It’s been wonderful and has turned out to be what I exactly wanted it to be. I wanted people to feel like they are physically stepping into the album and to preview it in a different way. People often hear music for the first time on the Internet. I think it’s nice to have a space where people can come to. I would have loved to do it all around the country. It’s been very special so far and I am doing a couple of small shows in there. It’s nice to have something up close and personal.
MF: How did you like self–producing the album?
SB: I told myself that so many people do this; it’s not a big deal. I think that the double pressure of it was when I decided that I wanted to do it with an orchestra. I don’t know why I decided to take on most of it with an orchestra, but I guess I like to test myself in some way. It makes me feel like I want to produce my albums from now on. If I hadn’t had these people that I know really well and that I really respect working on it with me, it would’ve felt very different. They helped carry the album with me by being good collaborators. It’s really important … people I know well and can be honest with.
MF: Why did you decide to release I Awake as a first single?
SB: I usually like to put out a song to start with that captures the range of what the album is, in a sense. It is something that the orchestra very slowly flows into the song. It is not just hitting people straight away. I really don’t want people to think about it too much as an orchestral album, because I think that colours the way people come into it, like it may be off-putting in some way. The strength of that song is that it has a very strong element of the orchestra, but it is very much a band. The way that the orchestra is used in that song is sort of like maximum impact. I wanted it to have very strong elements that were similar to the last record. I really wanted it to carry on from that. The song is quite similar to the core of the last album, but the orchestral elements push it over the edge.
MF: What can people expect from your upcoming tour in February?
SB: I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. There is an element of the unexpected in the whole thing because it’s always going to sound that little bit different every night. I’m looking forward to touring with the conductor! That will be interesting. People can expect the bulk of this album to be played, as well as different arrangements from the songs of other records, because I’ve had strings on a few records now. It’s going to give those a chance to be heard with bigger sounding arrangements. I want it to be really dynamic. When pop music and orchestras come together, I often find it to be sedate and polite. I want it to be rambunctious (laughs) and just full of life and passion. It will be an exciting concert. I don’t want it to be this polite affair.
I Awake is out October 26.
I Awake national tour:
Friday, 1 February – Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
Monday, 4 February – Wrest Point Casino, Hobart
Saturday, 9 February – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane
Thursday, 14 February – Hamer Hall, Melbourne
Sunday, 17 February – Sydney Opera House, Sydney
Saturday, 23 February – Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth