Sarah Blasko: ‘This felt like something I had never done before’

Sarah Blasko chats about what led her to carry out the very first solo tour in her long career and what to expect from her next album.

“The first show I felt pretty sick,” Blasko says from the passenger seat of a car, occasionally pausing between sentences to give directions as she zips around Sydney. It’s a role she’s used to by now, having been surrounded by various a suites of musicians and collaborators for her entire career as one of Australia’s most respected solo artists. So much so that Blasko only recently performed her first truly solo show, a threshold almost bewilderingly uncrossed even after 15 years. Hence the surprise bout of nerves for this seasoned performer.

So how did this happen?

“I haven’t really thought about doing shows on my own seriously,” she explains. “I’ve really enjoyed playing with the people I’ve been playing with for the last 10 years.” One could speculate that it also speaks to the ambition of Blasko’s work. With each of her five albums typically including an orchestra or at the very least a singing saw, faithfully recreating her catalogue for the stage tends to become quite a grand affair.

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A gap between albums however has allowed Blasko the neat opportunity to shake up the usual model. “For a few years a couple of friends have encouraged me to do it, they’ve been saying to me ‘you should do it, that would be great to see’. With the last record I didn’t really do that much touring, and I kind of felt I hadn’t quite finished off that record.

“I really wanted to do some shows outside the cities, but I didn’t want to wait until I put another record out, I just wanted to do it for myself and the people who listen to my music,” she explains. “This kind of felt like something I had never done before – it made sense to do something different.”

Along with some older favourites that been nudged out of her setlists over the years, Blasko will also explore new tracks from an album only recently completed, with final vocal tracking polished off at Neil Finn’s studio in Auckland mere weeks ago. Blasko avoids divulging too much, but drops references to “old school” RnB and blues, and organic sounds that temper the recurring synths of last year’s Eternal Return.

However that record ends up sounding, elements of its creation suggest it will sit perfectly at home with Blasko alone on a stage. “I did this artist in residence thing in November in Campbelltown, and I just had two weeks to write,” she explains. “Because I had this theatre space I thought it would be a shame to not use it, so I set it up like we were doing a show – there were lights and projections on a screen behind the stage. I’ve always enjoyed trying to write something during a sound check, so I wanted to create that ambience of a live show and see what it was like to write.”

Having conquered the hump of that first show, Blakso has enjoyed the opportunity to survey the at times vast terrain covered by her five solo albums, boiling down some key cuts to find a degree of clarity divorced from the lavish surrounds of the studio. “It becomes apparent when you try and work out a sort of solo set which things work well, and it’s not necessarily things that are stripped down in their recorded version. There are some pretty full songs that seem to work really great – I guess they’re the songs that have the strongest message or strongest melodies.

“[They] seem to be the ones that I’ve gravitated towards, and things that I suppose feel really relevant.”

Sarah Blasko: The Soloist Tour
Adelaide Town Hall
Wednesday, July 5, 7pm
Tickets via BASS

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