INTERVIEW - Sarah Belkner
Updated: May 10, 2019
After years of writing, touring, and performing with world class artists such as Sarah Blasko, Missy Higgins and most recently Tim Minchin - Sarah Belkner is once again claiming her own spot in the musical world. We were lucky enough to speak to Sarah between her recent tour and upcoming releases to talk all things from music to family and get an insight into what she has in store for us this year.
Thanks so much for taking the time out of your schedule to chat Sarah! To be a singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist and touring musician is an incredible title! Obviously, this requires a lot from you mentally, emotionally and physically. How do you find the time to unwind and break away from your busy lifestyle?
I always try to spend time where I love. I love all facets of my music career, there’s nothing I would ever stop doing but the danger in that is forgetting to stop and take a moment to slow down for a second. I try to avoid social media for weeks at a time to break away from the constant buzz and make the time to just hang out with my dog and my husband. Touring especially can get quite manic so I try to go for walks and do exercise to keep myself grounded.
Speaking of touring, how do you find that affects your lifestyle? Is it something you have adapted to?
I actually love touring and it’s something I’m quite grateful for. Touring is not for everyone, I’ve seen it really take a toll on people and it can be a really challenging part of being a musician. I’ve just had to really accept the fact that a routine doesn’t exist when it comes to touring. There is never a day that will be the same as the next and that’s what I’ve had to remember when going on the road. But within that, you still need to make sure you keep doing things that make you happy, you need balance. You have to remember not to throw all the things that are good for you out the window haha.
It’s so great that you enjoy touring.. How was your experience touring with Tim Minchin and where you a fan before you came on board?
It’s been amazing! It has just been an incredible experience working with Tim. He honestly has one of the best brains I’ve ever met. His commitment to evolving a show is inspiring and truly encapsulates so many aspects of unique performance.
And to be honest, I knew of his work and some of his songs before touring but didn’t know much… I hadn’t been to a show before but people around me would rave about how amazing he was. Once I knew I was touring with him I checked out his work and was truly blown away by how much territory he covers as a creative being.
When it comes to your music now, what has been the inspiration behind your work from when you started to where you are now?
The new album and songs are really interesting. I’ve actually taken great inspiration from being on the road and have incorporated that sense of constant movement in my new music. I started predominantly with writing lyrics in planes, cars and hotel rooms and because sometimes I physically wasn’t able to sit at a piano, the way I would write started to change. What I’ve been writing about (being creatively challenged) has been a little esoteric but I think it’s clear.
It’s just been really cool to work and craft with the lyrics I’ve written and by the end I just felt like moving so I’d find myself on a ferry, cruising down the harbour and this freedom became and integral part of how these new songs were written.
From this, what do you think has been the highlight of your career so far?
Oh wow… This is a tricky one. I think on a personal note, just releasing my brand new record and having a really nice response to that and now looking down the barrel of releasing a second one is amazing. It’s that perseverance and ability to release music myself has been a real highlight for me.
On a career front, producing EP’s and full length records for other artists such as Brendan Mclean, whose album went to number 2 on the iTunes chart has been a really amazing way of entering another world via someone else’s brain and I guess see them grow. The tours of course have also been a highlight. Working with Tim and musically directing a tour with NGAIIRE supporting Sit Down Steven a couple of years ago was a huge tick on the bucket-list. There’s a few things now that I think of it haha
What can we expect from the next album and what are you most excited about with your new music?
For me it’s more of a band record. The process of how we made this record in comparison to my other one has changed. I wanted to get closer to my band, who are basically like my brothers, and wanted to strip it back. We would get together once a week for a few months and would just jam songs I brought to the table and it evolved from there. The previous record was quite a layering process with backing vocals but this new record just sounds the way we would live. It’s just striped back and just straight up band.
When writing lyrics for your songs, have there been any causes or social issues you have tried to incorporate to support a message you’re passionate about?
I just generally try to live my life as a kind person with empathy and I think that spills over into what I sing about in general. I’ve always been passionate about talking about those grey areas in life and all the stuff in between and highlight the fact that life isn’t just black and white. I think I seem to comment a lot on mental health and try to encourage people to get out of situations we find ourselves stuck in and to keep moving forward.
And Sarah, my last final question for you is: What can we expect from you in the near and far future?
I just want to produce more for other people. I’m currently working on Leah Flanagan’s next album, which is very exciting. I just want to keep touring and to make another album. It’s quite simple for me, it takes a lot of work and focus but in terms of what I want to do, I just want to keep it simple. I also want to continue working with the incredible community of musicians Sydney has and just keep working with the studio my husband and I have.
And just before we end, any words of wisdom for aspiring musicians?
Yes, talent is great, but you also have to work. You need to learn how to take your finger out and learn how to do it. You can’t do things half assed, you need to go hard and push to get where you want to go.
Sarah's new single 'Animals' is set for release on Friday May 10th, stay tuned for our review on the day. The single will be officially launched at Brendan Maclean’s album launch for And The Boyfriends on Thursday 16th May at the Gasometer in Melbourne. Tickets available here.