Sarah Blasko has long deserved wider attention outside of her native Australia, and with this week’s release of her third album As Day Follows Night in Europe – her first LP to receive such a widespread distribution – she finally has the chance to charm a whole new audience. We first interviewed Sarah about the album upon its Australian release last summer. Here we catch up with her to see how she’s finding her new adopted home of London, her hopes for success in Europe, and what she’s planning for the rest of 2010.
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Since we last spoke, you’ve moved to South London from Australia. How are you finding your new surroundings? You must be craving some sunshine by now!
There’s actually been a little bit of sunshine while I’ve been here, but yeah, I can see how it gets people down. It is very grey! I’m really liking living here. I’m living in between two very different neighbourhoods so depending on how I’m feeling I can go to the slightly rougher end of town or the more gentrified part of town. I like that. I like being able to partake in a few different worlds and how there’s lots of little neighbourhoods around London.
Have you had time to soak up much London culture? Been to any good gigs?
I’ve been to some good gigs. I went up to Cambridge and saw Thom Yorke, I saw Midlake play at Shepherds Bush and Air play at The Roundhouse, so I’ve seen a bit of music. I don’t know if I’ve really got into any London or English cultural kind of things yet. I’ve had some pints in English pubs, but I’m yet to have fish and chips, and although I had a roast dinner I didn’t go to the right kind of place.
Any amusing culture-clash stories to share yet? I liked the tweet/twat mixup the other day!
Yes, that’s been my main one. I used the word twat which I didn’t realise meant c**t here. Where I come from it just means ‘silly’. That was the main mix up. Sometimes I can’t quite understand the odd word but nothing big.
You’ve acquired quite a following for your fashion sense as well as your music. Any favourite places for clothes in London?
I don’t really know yet but I’ve been to Brick Lane a few times. I’m trying to find a good market but I haven’t struck on one just yet.
Have you tried the new London attempt at a flat white coffee? Pales in comparison, I think.
Hahaha, no I haven’t, but I have heard that it’s new here. Before, asking for a flat white here used to be a bit strange. It’s not that different to a latte but it’s in a shorter glass. We have very good coffee in Australia and I have found that it’s hard to find a good coffee here because it’s hard to find a place where they take care with it. There are a lot of snobby people in Australia when it comes to coffee, particularly in Melbourne. We’re very particular about it and I haven’t found anywhere yet.
I’ve been trying not to drink so much coffee anyway – the caffeine’s not great for me.
How did you come to sign with Mike Batt’s label for the European release of As Day Follows Night? You’re working with a classic British eccentric!
Basically I was struggling to find a label to put the record out, to be honest, and it just wasn’t getting anywhere. Then out of the blue we heard from Dramatico who were really enthusiastic about the record and wanted to put it out almost immediately. I think that kind of enthusiasm is worth so much. In the past it sometimes felt that people aren’t treating the record with the care that it deserves.
It can be hard sometimes with major record companies because it feels like you have to convince them to work hard on your records, which really isn’t the way it should be. It has really been a breath of fresh air to work with Dramatico who are so enthusiastic and really want to put all their time and their work into something that I have put all of my time and all of my work into. It’s been really great timing because I was ready to give up, but everything slotted into place.
How are you finding the promotional treadmill here? Is it little strange to find yourself performing showcases as an almost unknown quantity again?
It’s strange but at the same time it’s not that strange. It’s familiar, and in a way it’s good to know what the process is like because you appreciate it takes its time.
I don’t go into things thinking ‘why do these people not know who I am?’ I don’t see it like that at all because Australia is a long way away and I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything. As long as people get a chance to hear the record and see me play, that’s only everything you can really ask for. The unjust feeling is when you feel like people don’t get the opportunity to hear the record. I would much rather do all of these things than to feel like people simply don’t get a chance to hear it. It’s important to me to have these kinds of opportunities.
What does it mean to you to finally have an album coming out in Europe?
It means a lot. In the past it wasn’t so much of an emphasis but in the last year or so I’ve realised that I would really regret it if I didn’t have the opportunity to play my music to a broader range of people. It is something that has become more important and I don’t want to feel that there have been things that I haven’t been able to try.
You’re going on tour with fellow Aussies Temper Trap soon. How does playing as the opening act feel to you these days? It must be quite freeing, in a way.
Yeah, it is. I enjoy supporting because it is a challenge. You don’t know if people are even going to listen to you and I enjoy that challenge of trying to ‘win people over’. On the other hand, it’s really liberating because there are so many fewer worries: you just have to turn up, play and leave. You don’t have to worry about other stuff that can be really stressful. You can just enjoy the ride.
I noticed you’ve picked a different lead single this time around. Was that a label-led decision?
Yes, it sort of was. It’s something I’ve tried to remain open to as there is a new bunch of perspectives. In a sense it doesn’t matter to me what comes first because in a way it is all out there anyway. People can go on YouTube and to my website and see it, so it’s not such a big deal to me what comes first. It’s such a big population and market here that it’s going to take a while for people to hear my music anyway: a slow filter over time and through doing shows. In Australia my music hasn’t been so much about singles; it’s more about the album. Maybe if you’re making more mainstream pop music it is more focused on singles but it hasn’t been so much like that with my music in Australia.
‘We Won’t Run’ has been playlisted by Radio 2, which is great news, and presenter Janice Long has been very supportive of you. Are you pleased with the reaction to the song?
Yes, definitely. It’s great to have that kind of support happen so soon after getting here and you really do rely on these people early on. When I think about my career in Australia the people that really mattered to me were the people early on that loved my music or could see potential in it, because they’re not just liking it because other people are telling them to like it; they can see a spark of something interesting. Those things are really important and it’s a nice thing to happen.
No doubt you have heard about the proposed closure of BBC 6Music radio, and I know you’ve been a very vocal supporter of independent radio back in Australia. What are your thoughts on the BBC’s plans?
It reminds me of Triple J in Australia, which is similar. I think it’s important that there are always music stations that play a diverse range of music and give an opportunity to musicians because it becomes too much of a corporate struggle otherwise. The stations become so tied in with the major record companies and it becomes a case of ‘what can you do for me, if I do this for you’. I like the idea that there are stations honestly seeking out and wanting new music because without that you don’t discover anything genuine, I don’t think. I think there’s a definite place for stations that love diversity.
A few people commented that the decision by the ARIA organisers to cram you, Kate Miller-Heidke and Lisa Mitchell into a joint performance at last year’s awards was at worst demeaning of your individual talents and at best a little awkward. What did you make of the whole thing?
It was definitely a strange thing to be a part of and it wasn’t ideal, I don’t think, for anybody. I suppose we just tried to have fun and have a good attitude about it and see it as an opportunity. It’s just what unfortunately happens when people lump female singers together. It’s done now and in the end it came out a lot better than I thought it would.
You’ve been nominated again for the Australian Music Prize. How representative of Australian music is that award?
I think it’s similar to a Mercury Prize over here, from what I can tell. The ARIA awards are more commercially driven awards whereas the AMP awards are about artistic merit. In the past the winners have been about their song writing and their individuality. A band called The Drones has won twice and, to me, they’re people who are inventive and original and to me it highlights the best of Australian writing.
The artists are nominated by the music industry but then they’re voted on by a panel of people and a lot of those people are song writers so it’s very different to other kinds of awards.
Aside from the European release and plenty of touring, do you have any exciting creative plans for 2010?
Yeah, I’m going to make an album with some friends of mine in a couple of months. I’m going to start writing the new album, but probably won’t start recording it until next year. I’m going back to Australia in October, but hopefully if everything goes well here, I’ll be back about a month later.
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As Day Follows Night is out today through Dramatico Entertainment. Sarah plays a headline show at the Islington Academy on April 15, supported by fellow Wears The Trousers favourites, The Tiny.
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