So I’m sitting in the green room of one of Sydney’s most prestigious music venues, about to go on stage with the city’s most revered musicians and they’re talking about one of the world’s most influential pop bands. And I completely put my foot in it.
I don’t know if it’s the same in your city, but in Sydney, in fact all around Australia, tribute shows are big business. So we’re about to do a ‘White Album’ tribute, where a dozen or so very different indie artists do their own versions of songs from the Beatles’ famous album. None of us were planning on dressing up as John, Paul, Ringo or George or impersonating anyone – we were there to pay our homage in our own musical style. The producer of this show had gathered together a backing band of top class ‘real’ musicians. All session and touring dudes with impressive credits to their names. I was brand new on the scene. This was my opportunity to work with and even become one of the cool kids so I was nervous and super keen to make a good first impression.
Back in the green room the boys in the band are extolling the Fab Four’s innovative song structures, unequaled guitar tones and ‘in the pocket’ drumming genius. Honestly, my eyes were glazing over. I’ve always been one to judge a song by the way it makes me feel and I’ve never been good at describing why I feel that way from a technical standpoint. I wanted in on the conversation but had nothing to add regarding Aeolian cadences, so I piped in with my little joke, ‘Oh I always thought The Beatles were just cartoon characters’.
I had grown up with ‘The Beatles’ cartoons on the telly so my first experience of this much venerated band was a group of animated boys with funny accents being chased by monsters and herds of rabid fans to a soundtrack of annoyingly catchy songs like ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. I was probably expected to follow up my (intended) humorous comment with something intelligent but my audience’s shocked stony silence was met with the same from me. Well if I wanted the musical elite of Sydney to remember my name then I succeeded. For all the wrong reasons. In one fell swoop my comment managed to lose me complete respect from the city’s most respected and I was instantly tarred with the ‘ignorant chick singer’ brush.
I feel like I was born with glitter in my veins. I admit to drama queen tendencies and I like to channel them into my music and performances. I adore David Bowie, Lady Gaga and Goldfrapp. Flannelette-wearing shoe gazers are not for me. I like costume, make-up, lights and theatre in my music. I don’t think these things replace well-written music, I think they bring it to life. My parents loved opera and classical music so that was what I heard growing up, alongside the Top 40 radio hits the kids at school were into and thankfully, a lot of David Bowie via an obsessive cousin. Nowadays I try to keep an ear out for new music of all genres, it’s a joy to do it, but I’ve always felt very uncool and out of my depth when it comes to discussing music with ‘real musos’. I’ve played the piano since I was 7 so I do actually understand music theory, it’s just that I care more about the sound of the synths (I love Portishead, Moloko and Massive Attack) than the inversion of the chord that is used. And give me epic production with emotional strings and eerie mellotrons over a solo jangly guitar anyday.
No doubt I am still uncool but I do now have a better musical education. Oh and many of those green room musicians I now count among my best musical friends and colleagues. I actually do love George Harrison and I also appreciate a lot of different music to which in the past I would have turned a deaf ear. This is thanks partly to the tribute shows I’ve been involved with (Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, Jeff Buckley, Fleetwood Mac and even Lady Gaga, to name but a few) as well as access to the wondrous word wide web that far surpasses the reach of the am/fm choices of my youth.
I’m even thinking of putting a song on the next album that features just me and the piano, oh my!
But if you’d like to hear my current album in all its theatrical synth-laden glory, please check out ‘Disco Disconnected’.
All the best,
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