Rave It Up recently had a chat to Australian singer Sarah Belkner about her latest single TIME.
Sarah, since this is your first time on Rave It Up, we’d love to get to know you a bit better. Firstly we’d all love to know, how did you originally get started in the industry?
I have played music my whole life, but I guess moving into what I am doing now came from taking a bit of a leap and moving to Sydney from Auckland 10 years ago and starting to play my own songs more and more live. Then opportunities started to form from that, just being out doing it, little step by little step.
Were they any other careers that you wanted to pursuit in your life, or was it always music?
I always knew I would pursue music. There was one point when I was little that I wanted to be a marine biologist but that was quite obvious to me I might not actually do that. I just love whales and dolphins and the ocean. I was quite obsessed and would record anything off the TV that had any sort of marine life in it. Like how incredible are Jellyfish? They are really magnificent creatures.
Throughout your career, what have you found the hardest thing about the industry?
It can feel like you are trying to knock on a very heavy sound proof iron door sometimes, but then I always find with patience and stalwart perseverance that door eventually opens to reveal…. the next door! And you have to keep knocking calmly too so when it opens you are not all bitter and grumpy.
It’s easy to feel quite exhausted and like you are on the outside of something that you feel you need to be inside in order to see your dreams come to fruition, but I’m starting to understand most people feel like that anyway so I just started not caring about any of that anymore. You make your own barriers sometimes.
If you are going to be doing this forever, then you just have to do it forever. The magical, the tough and the boring. It’s actually quite simple, and then you just start focussing on making really great work and doing what you need to do to release it, regardless of the outcome.
Have you had any problems with haters or bullying?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by great people and have met some impeccable humans in what I do. I’m also lucky with the people that like my music, they seem to be a really great bunch.
But I was bullied at school up until high school. I was never a cool kid and I found it very upsetting. I never spoke about it much but it came out in various ways. I was miserable. Then interestingly I had a turning point where I got up at a school assembly when I was probably 12 I guess and sang True Colours by Cyndi Lauper (Lord knows what I was thinking haha) playing piano and singing. It’s the first time I had ever done that and I thought I would be humiliated, but I wasn’t. I weirdly went from all the names and feelings of being uncool to ‘the girl who sang at assembly’ and that became this weird magical power. It disabled the negativity towards me. I got to experience what I know now to be music’s greatest pacifier – emotional communication and empathy through music to whoever is listening. I love that communication to my bones.
What advice would you give to the readers who might be getting bullied?
Don’t ever believe what they are saying about you is true. If you think it is bullying then it probably is so hold your space. No-one has the right to make another person feel less than them. TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST! And get some lovely people on your side because it’s never ok. Bullying stems from a power struggle and the bully wanting to make themselves feel bigger by diminishing someone else. It can even be quite subtle just sucking someones energy out. But they are internally uncomfortable so if you can see that in them and really look at that part of them, you will start to see where it is coming from and it is often not even to do with you at all. And if you can just get yourself stronger and calm, you will be able to be ok.
Your new song TIME is out now for everyone to check out and it’s incredible. Can you tell us more about it? What was the inspiration behind Time?
Thank you so much. I like to explain more the larger sentiment.
When I write, it is often spurred from quite a specific event of my own or someone else’s but I would love for people to hear their own lives in it. TIME is I guess that moment when you are so incredibly stuck you just feel like there is no where to go, you feel like you can never get anywhere. Sometimes have to completely stop to start moving again. Then somehow a little spark will eventually come. You have to look out for it sometimes. That movement is always what comes next if you allow it to. That is a definite. There is always momentum and hope available to us even in terrible, terrible times. That’s what people are going on about when they talk about ‘trusting’. Knowledge that you can always change your perspective and that will create movement.
The song was produced by you and your husband. What is it like working with a partner?
It’s easy when they are very talented haha! I love working with Richie. We actually worked together in the studio before we were together so that relationship was established first, which might be a thing why it works, I’m not sure. We have different, complimentary skills too.
We also do a lot of music separately, so working together is often really nice. We can butt heads like any one, but we are not into playing each other off or guilt tripping or manipulating so I guess that’s why we can do it too. We both believe in whatever is best for the music, not for ourselves.
Do you try to separate your work and personal life as much as possible, or is it all quite combined?
It’s all pretty tied in for us. Music is our life. A lot of the people we work and play and create music with are our family. I think it’s pretty impossible for this kind of work to not be personal, and I love that it is. That’s the community aspect we both love. We tend to sort sh*t out as it happens anyway on all levels.
The music video is just beautiful but also quite heartbreaking in a way. What did you want to create with the video? What was your vision?
Thank you. I wanted an abstraction more than a literal take on the song, and Brian and Karl devised this beautiful treatment. Again, I just wanted something people could feel and relate to without us spelling it out in narrative, but still emotional and conceptual. The crew and Brendan O’Rourke who features did such a wonderful job of it too.
The video was filmed in London whilst you were touring the UK and Europe supporting Sarah Blasko. How did you juggle it all?
Well miraculously we had this one weird gap of a weekend free and I knew if I was going over, I wanted to work with Brian and Karl of course, so it just all worked out beautifully. I couldn’t think of any better way to spend my time “off” haha.
How long did filming take?
This one took a day of setting up and a day of filming.
Your debut album comes out later this year. What can we expect from it?
A very textural, colourful, emotional ride. We uncovered some really exciting avenues making it and I can’t wait for people to hear the whole thing. I feel it is it’s own universe so I’m proud of that.
Did you have any difficulty coming up with song ideas for the album?
No, song ideas are never the tricky thing. Finishing them sometimes, but I had a big bag of songs to choose from. We went through quite a demo process where we recorded proper demos in the studio, chose what felt like a great bunch and then set about recording and uncovering the final versions which did end up naturally taking a bit of time. They became both the Humans EP and then this album. There were lots of digestion gaps between organised spurts of working on it. Just with life and all it’s challenges and adventures, you know. The only real challenge was just patience I guess, but I feel this album has completely got me over that and taught me some very incredible insights.
Even though you have already achieved so much in your career, what else can we expect from you in the future?
Well I have just started writing more focussed again so that means another album, and I just hope to keep building and playing bigger audiences and meeting more great people. Make more to understand more. I’d love to get back to the UK and Europe as soon as physically possible too, and do more arranging and producing work for others in our studio here in Sydney. Work with some more amazing musicians and make some great music.
What advice would you give to the readers who want to follow their dreams of becoming a singer?
Practise heaps and get out in the world to other people’s shows. Find your community. Find what makes you sound like you, not what you think people want to hear or what you think will be popular. Don’t compete or ever feel you might have to compete or be harsh to be successful. Ask people for advice but know what you are asking them. Don’t be desperate. Be specific and calm and you will find help. Be patient and don’t ever think because things are not moving ‘fast enough’ that means you shouldn’t be doing it. If that’s what you want, then just do it, little step, little fail, big step, big fail, it‘s all part of it.
And as a closing statement and what is probably the most important question, knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 14-year-old self?
That you are already doing exactly what you love most in the world and that time is not running out. Create and be brave with your steps. And that great piece of advice that no one is actually thinking about what you have and haven’t done right now. They are mostly very busy thinking about themselves! I love that.
If the listeners would like to contact you or find out what you are up to, where should they go?
Thank you so much for having a chat to us Sarah.
Thanks for having me.