Category: sara storer

Interview: Sara Storer on Cruisin’ Country

StorerCruisin’ Country 8 is taking place in October this year, and features a cavalcade of Australian country music stars. I was fortunate to be able to interview a few of them, including the always delightful Sara Storer. A favourite with fans as well as other artists, she will no doubt be a popular act on the cruise. We spoke towards the end of June, while she was still on the road with The Sunny Cowgirls.

I’ve noticed, looking on your website, you’re doing quite a bit of touring with The Sunny Cowgirls at the moment. And have you toured with them before?

No touring as such. We have done a show together in Tamworth one year. We combined, and it was great fun then. And I’ve always got along with the Sunnies. We’ve done a duet – I don’t know what you call it – a tri-et – a collaboration, I should say, with the Sunnies. So we just thought it was about time. We both sing about similar things, the love of the land, and just thought it was about time we got together and did some shows together. And it’s been a lot of fun, a lot of laughs, but for me it’s just been wonderful to really sit down and listen to their songs, rather than just rushing through albums. When you hear a song over and over, you realise how some people’s writing – it’s just very, very clever. And that’s what I think I’ve got most out of touring with the Sunnies, so it’s been great.

I think that’s also part of the secret of performing a song over and over again. I know for people who aren’t performers, the idea of performing the same song night after night, year after year – you think, well, how do you do it? But I think it is what you say: when the songwriting is a certain way, there’s a lot to discover in that song any different way you hear it.

Absolutely. And some of their lines, you just go, wow, it’s just so clever. They’re very clever with their writing. And they’re the artists that I sit back and probably go, you know, I couldn’t have done that how they did it. To have written it like that. And it’s good, they’re inspiring. So I come away always inspired from the girls thinking – they write a lot of light-hearted, fun, pub songs, and I think sometimes that’s where I lack. And I try to find that bit of inner youth pub fun time inside me, and it never comes out, I don’t know why.

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Album review: Silos by Sara Storer

Over the course of her five solo albums Sara Storer has chronicled stories of the land and the people who live on it. She has sung of heartbreak: the kind caused by droughts and by people. Sometimes she sounds like she’s from another time – sitting around a campfire in the eighteenth century, perhaps, preserving stories by singing them, her voice strong and true.
Storer’s sixth album, Purple Cockies, is faithful to her personal tradition, but it also sounds like an album of love songs. These are not the sorts of love songs that crowd charts with their similar-sounding promises of eternal fidelity: Storer’s songs are of love in all its messy, glorious forms. Love of parents, of children, of partners and place. Love that fulfils and breaks. It is also about love of life, and as Storer’s tone turns almost jaunty on ‘Here I Go Again’, for example, it sounds like she’s having fun even as she acknowledges that life isn’t perfect.
I took a long time to appreciate Sara Storer. I realise now that I used to find her voice too raw – not because she’s an unaccomplished singer but because she’s so willing to lay herself bare. Depending on where a listener is in their own life, that kind of exposure can be hard to hear.
Now it’s clear that Storer’s rawness has always been bravery. She has not been afraid to show us who she is and what’s important to her. She has not been afraid to show us her heart, and it’s never been more beautifully shown than on Silos. From the opening track, ‘My Diamond’, which is about her father and sung with her brother, Greg Storer, Sara Storer captivates. This is an album that holds you in its embrace and makes you want to stay there. 
Silos is out now through ABC Music/Universal.

Sara Storer headlines the Murwillumbah Country Roots Festival 2-5 October

The inaugural Murwillumbah Country Roots Festival takes place this long weekend on the New South Wales north coast. Organised by local country music artist Lou Bradley, the festival is headlined by Kasey Chambers, Sara Storer, The Audreys and Archie Roach, with over 60 all-Australian acts taking part across four stages. Late last week I had the chance to chat to Sara Storer about the festival – which also features her brother Greg. For the full line-up and other details, visit www.MCRFest.com.

When did you sign on to the festival?
Last year I remember [organiser] Lou [Bradley] talking about whether I’d be keen to be a part of it and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I said, ‘Why don’t I bring my brother Greg Storer as well?’ We’re sort of like a package, which is great, because Greg’s heading up with his family, I’m heading up with mine, and it’s sort of turned into a family gig with all the kids, and everything’s going to be so much fun.
So when you say ‘all the kids’, are you pressing any of them into service?
Often I head off and say goodbye  and they’ve sort of got no idea – because they’re still so young – what I do. But they’re at a great age now – well, two of them – where they can come and watch and see what Mum does. My brother’s got four kids and I’ve got four. They’ll probably watch for about five seconds and then want to go and play in the dirt [laughs] and I don’t care anyway because I’m not looking after them – my husband has to do that.
Are you still living in the Territory?
No, we’ve moved. We’re down just out of Albury.
That makes a bit more sense, because I thought coming from the Territory would be a big commitment for the festival.
No, we’re not coming from Darwin any more. Too hard. And as much as the lifestyle’s pretty unique, living up there, it’s too far. We love Albury. Great people and it’s so central to both Sydney and Melbourne.
Quite a bit colder, though.
Yes. The blood hasn’t really thickened up yet either. It was freezing. We’re in this little farmhouse – there’s no insulation, the kids all whinging. I said, ‘This is what it was like in the olden days, kids, so just zip it’ [laughs].
Hopefully it will be a bit warmer in the north of New South Wales over the October long weekend. It might be wet though – it can sometimes rain a bit up that way.
Okay, there might be a bit of rain – thanks for that little tip, because I am hopeless at what to pack. We’re going to need a trailer, that’s the worrying thing. To put the kids in the trailer [laughs].
So you’re obviously planning to stay the length of the festival.
We’re going to try. I’m going to try to be there on the Saturday – my brother’s on the main stage that day. Then we’ve got Sunday off and of course we’ll do the festival thing. And then I’m not performing until the Monday night. So it’s really great. Normally you fly in and you fly out and you just don’t have time to see anything. So this has worked kind of as ‘I’m going to a festival’ – it’s a bit of both, so it’ll be great.
Does it mean – I’m just thinking from a technical point of view – that if you’re not singing until the Monday night and you’ve been seeing friends, talking to people at shows, so you’ve been shouting a bit, do you have to really think about how to save your voice?
I don’t have that problem. Because I write my own songs and sing, my voice is never pushed too hard because I sing naturally where my voice takes me. Whereas if I sing a cover, I get off stage and my throat really hurts – it’s a different melody and it probably pushes me a bit. But with my own stuff I’m pretty right – it’s not that hard on my throat. I’m not like a Jimmy Barnes – I’d love to [be], though. It would take a fair bit out of me. I do probably have to watch I don’t have late nights. Catching up with everyone, you have one too many and then you’ve got to do a pretty good job the next day, so you have to be careful of that one. Socialising.
Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing perform?
Well, Kasey [Chambers] – I do love her music. We’re friends, but put that aside – I’ve got all her albums. I’m a bit of a fan. So I’m looking forward to Kasey. And I love Mustered Courage. They’re just constantly on in the car, so I’ll be able to sing along. Not where they could see me – because that would be quite embarrassing.
They might be quite pleased, though, if you wanted to join them for a number.
[Laughs] Maybe. Or maybe they might tell me to get off! I have jumped up with [them] at Tamworth. It was after the [Golden Guitar] awards – it was on the Sunday. The last Sunday in Tamworth is the day I go and just have a great time – catch up with people. So I jumped up and sang a couple of songs with them. They’re just awesome.
You’ve also just given a tip for anyone heading to Tamworth, to hang around for the Sunday in case there are any interesting collaborations going on.
Oh, absolutely. And Shane Howard – he’s just an unbelievable songwriter – can’t wait to see him [at Murwillumbah]. Archie Roach is on. It’s going to be terrific.
I noted that the festival is being MC’d by Ben Sorensen but also by Buddy Goode – and I have to say that makes me a little afraid for all of you!
[laughs] You don’t sit down in the front row, maybe.
Yes. But I do think it will be highly entertaining.
Oh, he’s hilarious. For ages I didn’t know who he was and then I worked out how it was and I was kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know.
I still don’t know who he is.
Oh, okay. Well, that’s what happens, I guess, when you’re having a family – you sort of get left behind a bit and you don’t catch up on all this stuff. It’ll be good. It’ll be an awesome festival. Can’t wait.
And the festival is all Australian – how important is that to you?
I guess that is a great thing. Music’s music – it doesn’t  matter where it comes from – but it’s kinda cool in that it showcases our talents here in Australia and I think that’s a great idea. I love that stance – all Aussie. Great. Bring it on.
I should have said this at the top when you mentioned Lou, but Lou is one of these quiet figures who seems to know everyone, so you must have known her for quite a while.
Lou came on the country music scene – I was sort of new as well. She was probably a couple of years after me. And there was talk in the town of this Lou Bradley. And it’s always great – we always need some new talent in country music world. So I went and had a look and she’s just a brilliant songwriter and entertainer, and we became mates. We’ve done many gigs together and last year she rang me and asked if I wanted to be a part of [the festival] and I said, ‘Yes! Make sure I’m counted.’ So I think she’s gone through and picked all the music she likes – it’s pretty much who she’d have in her back yard. And I was just so lucky I was picked – otherwise I’d be ringing her saying, ‘Hey, where’s my name?’
Talking of festivals: what are your Tamworth plans and are you working on a new album?
Well, I am. I’m recording it within the next few months, so it will be completed by the end of the year to release my first single and video clip at Tamworth next year. And I’ve got two shows at Tamworth – one is my own show at Blazes and the second gig is the gig that I absolutely love, where I pair up with my brother, Greg Storer. We call it the Kitchen Sessions and we’re doing that at the pub on the Saturday.

Interview: Sara Storer

Sara Storer is one of our most beloved country music artists – a multiple Golden Guitar award winner and perennial fan favourite, she has written and performed some amazing songs. Sara took a break, though, as her children started to arrive. She is now the mother of three boys and she lives in Darwin. Just before the birth of her youngest son, Sara wrote and her recorded her new album, Lovegrass, which she launched at the Gympie Muster this past weekend. Ahead of the launch, and her appearance at the muster, I spoke to this delightful country music icon.

I started by asking Sara how she would prepare to play at the Muster when she’s in Darwin and, presumably, her band are not.

‘It’s always a tricky thing,’ she said, ‘but I’m getting there early and we’re all going to catch up prior to the Muster for a rehearsal, which is a must especially when I’m releasing a new album and playing the songs with the band for the first time, really. We need a little practice run otherwise we could end up a train smash.’
At the time of speaking to Sara I had not heard the album, so I asked her to describe it for someone who had never heard it, using any terms she liked – not just descriptive terms for the music.
‘There’s a lot of energy,’ she said, ‘and it’s quite uplifting. And I always knew that this album would be a happy album because of how I feel where I’m at in this stage of my life. I’ve met Dave, we’ve had three children within five years and we’ve settled in Darwin, and just really happy. And I knew that there’s not too much to complain about. As in, sometimes when you’re in a bad relationship you tend to write sad songs and they can be great songs, but my album of course has happy love songs. 
‘I knew that I’d have to go searching for other things to write about,’ she continued. Other people’s stories. There are a few stories on the album, there’s a few theme songs back to my roots, which is rural life and farming; so there’s a harvest song, there’s a rain song, there’s another farmer song, which I’m very passionate about because that’s my upbringing and that’s what my family still do. I find people on the land are very strong and hard-working people, so I love to write about them. I’m really excited about this album – there’s such a lovely energy to [the songs] I can’t wait to get out and sing them on stage.
The conundrum that a lot of singer-songwriters face when they’re happy is that they feel like they have to draw on the darker side of life to write songs. I asked Sara if she found that happiness in her home life has pushed her to write differently, given that she can’t really draw on darkness any more.
‘I think that happier songs are harder to write but I  think just writing the songs – it had been such a long gap for me, such a long spell between my last album and this – that I was just happy that the songs were coming again and coming to me in a relatively short time, which was great. Once I got that first song, the excitement and the relief that I still had that in me sparked off the next song. 
‘I wouldn’t say that being happy makes you write differently – I still write those stories, I’ve still got to hear or see or feel something myself, and if it doesn’t come from me, it’s got to come from someone else and it’s got to be a true story, because I just find that that’s what makes a song stand out compared to other songs. As soon as you try to make up a song it gets a bit clichéd and it’s just not right. 
‘So I love writing other people’s stories as well. I just have my ears wide open, basically, and every time I heard something that moved me and that I could turn inot a song, I did. And it was a great seven months. It was just like one [song] after another.
‘I always do it – after every album I always say, “That’s it – there’ll be no more songs. I can’t do that again.” And then all of a sudden they’re there, on paper, and you’re, like, “Oh right! I can go and record now.”‘
Sara had, of course, produced several albums in a row before she took a break, and I wondered if it wasn’t that after that peak of creative activity that she must have when she’s writing songs and then recording them and then performing them, there’s a necessary fallow period. She has also had the big energetic peaks having children.
‘That’s very true,’ she said. ‘You do – you have these humongous peaks of things going on in your life – it doesn’t necessarily have to do with music, it’s about having family and all those things, and you tend to write – once those highs are over, whether you release an album or singing all the songs for the first time, and then they go through the awards of whatever, and then there’s that clearing process, and that’s when you should be writing again for the next album. So you sort of go into that lull and if the songs don’t come in that time, that’s when you start to panic and to worry. 
‘But I didn’t have time to panic and worry – I was pregnant and having another baby, so I was still on a high with the family, because my personal life was running at a crazy mile an hour and still is. I had Billy six months ago, so I got that album out just before he was born. But I think in the back of my mind, even though my family life was wonderful and it was all going great, it had been just that bit too long musically between albums and it was really starting to eat away at me and I had to get in and be serious and say, “You either  get this done or you somehow have to put it behind you – you just can’t keep thinking about it every day and doing your head in.” 
‘It took a little trip to Tamworth and I just came back really inspired – 2012 after Tamworth, came home and wrote a song straightaway and that’s pretty much set up the flow of songs. It tumbled out then, which is great.’
In terms of which songs – which stories – she chooses for an album, I asked if her selection process was a matter of instinct.

‘It’s hearing a story that you know probably hasn’t been said before … It’s like you can have – this is a really stupid way of looking at it it, but you can have apple pie every night but every now and then apple pie is really, really good. It’s the same with songs: you’ll just know a story hasn’t been said that way before, or you haven’t heard it said the way it is, and it can even be someone saying it from their own words and it’s really just a simple line that has never been put into song before. You hear lots of lots and stories – I think it comes down to knowing, to a personal vibe that you know that’s going to make a beautiful song.’
In her songwriting Sara has tackled big themes and issues – for example, in the song ‘Tears’. When asked if she feels she has a responsibility,  almost, to address those sorts of subjects in her work, Sara said, ‘”Tears” was just – I was moved on the day and thought, “I’ve just got to write a song about that”. It wasn’t for any purpose; I hadn’t been thinking about it for ages. I was actually watching TV and saw her on TV and was really affected. Most of the songs will come like that – just moved at the moment.
Sara is known as a singer-songwriter but it seems as though she also naturally inhabits the mantle of ‘storyteller’. When asked which occupation she’d put on her passport – storyteller, performer, singer-songwriter – she said, ‘I find I’m a bit of all of those. “Singer-songwriter” has that nice individual sort of sound. It sort of keeps you separated from everyone else – it gives you your own identity, saying that. Once you start putting yourself into a genre you then become like everyone else. 
‘I love “storyteller” because I do love writing a song that tells a story as well. 
‘The other one you mentioned was “performer” – some people can write great songs and they can really go unnoticed if you can’t get up there and perform it as well. You’ve got to have a bit of stage presence and I’m always working at that. And I’ll tell you who’s brilliant at it – Beccy Cole, she’s an amazing performer. And it’s always something I worry about – I get up on stage and think I sound boring. But it’s true – you’ve got to have a bit of the X factor otherwise you can lose a crowd. So it’s always very important. Little bit of that on top, like salt and pepper, is good in the mix.
‘I think the storytelling is one of my strengths and I do like a little yarn in between songs. Sometimes I think anything can happen with my show – I forget lines, so there’s always that unexpected thing – maybe that’s what keeps people listening. That’s how I got through it when I first started – I was so nervous, and I didn’t know what to say, what was the right thing to say, so I just had to be me and sometimes I think that really worked.’ 
By any measure, it is safe to say that is has definitely worked, and country music fans will welcome Sara back with wide open arms as she releases her first new album in over three years and her first original album since 2007.
Lovegrass is out now from ABC Music/Universal.