Love Letter To A Record: Emma Russack On Cat Power’s ‘You Are Free’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Here are their love letters to records that forever changed their lives.

Emma Russack: Cat Power – ‘You Are Free’

When I was in Year 10, I went to Melbourne to do work experience with a catering company — they catered for TV shows like Skit House and Water Rats (for a girl from a small town in New South Wales, it was all pretty glamorous).

The guys who ran the business took a real shine to me — they even dubbed me the ‘Divine Miss Em’ — and on my last day, this one guy presented me with a mixed CD that he had made especially for me. Little ol’ me! The first track was ‘Sea of Love’ as covered by Cat Power, and on hearing it I nearly died. I literally fell in love. I’d never heard anything like it in my life (I was into The Beatles — what a nerd!).

This all coincided with me falling in love with a 30-year-old from my home town, who, on becoming aware that I knew of Cat Power (we were pretty much the only two people in Narooma who knew of Cat Power), put You Are Free on a tape for me, and oh my god, I was forever changed.

Because I loved the album so much, my parents bought it for me on CD so we could all listen to it in the car (they didn’t know about the 30-year-old at this point). It became a family favourite. We were all hypnotised by this incredible woman and this weird, gift of an album.

I’ll never forget driving in the car with my mum and my friend to some extra-curricular activity, listening to You Are Free, when my friend said “this album sounds like it was recorded in a cardboard box”, to which my mum and I replied, “Yes, and that’s why we love it.”

Everything about it just seemed so ‘real’. It was exactly the album that I needed in my life at that point — all my favourite albums have the tendency to enter my world at the right time.

Three favourite tracks: ‘I Don’t Blame You’, ‘Good Woman’ and ‘Speak For Me’. Oh and Dave Grohl’s drumming is such a great addition, and Warren Ellis’ playing in ‘Werewolf’ just kills me.

Golly gosh, I don’t know who or where I’d be had I never discovered this album. Probably in some corporate suit making the big bucks — seriously….

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Emma Russack is a Melbourne-via-Narooma artist who’s set to release her fourth album ‘Permanent Vacation’ on 25th August through Spunk Records. Watch the new music video for her latest single ‘Body Goals’ here.

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