Goldheist aka Hester Fraser believes her mission is to bring people together through the power of music. Her songs share topics that invite communication – whether it’s about the struggles faced by people living on the land, mental health issues or the plight of immigrants. Goldheist brings her unique and beautiful blend of folk, pop and classical to the Armidale Golf Club this month …
Hi Hester. By the time this interview goes to print, you would have just launched your new album, REALM, at the Sydney Opera House. Leading into this moment – how does it feel to be a woman with rural roots, about to perform at such an iconic metropolitan venue?
The Sydney Opera House has always felt like home to me. I performed there on a couple of occasions with Gondwana Voices when I was young, and the warm glow of that experience has never left me. There is a familiarity to the beautiful, iconic concrete walls, and the whole building resonates with a creative spirit – something I felt even as a young girl from the country visiting the big smoke. The opportunity to showcase my own music in these hallowed halls has been an absolute honour.
What’s a bit of the background/process behind writing the songs on REALM … was it a long-term project?
These songs have been written and recorded over the last few years, and reflect some of the stories and experiences I’ve collected in the course of my adventures during that time. I spend a lot of time on the road; a couple of the tracks from REALM were actually written in my head whilst driving long trips! Once I had chosen the songs for the album, I took them to my producer and we worked on them together, developing the arrangements and recording all the elements.
Your songs touch on many issues faced by Aussies – and indeed – people from around the world. Topics like mining in rural areas, mental health, the plight of refugees, are sure to be conversation starters! Why is it important for you as a singer-songwriter to write about issues like these? What do you feel is your mission – purpose – as an entertainer?
I feel that my mission as a performer is to bring people together through the power of music. As an artist, music is my medium – my method of communication, which is why I like to explore these important topics through my work. Through this process, I find that as much as I share my songs and stories with my audience, they are equally inspired to share their stories and experiences with me and with each other. Music is an incredible catalyst for this exchange.
Many may not know you’re the grand-daughter of the late Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser. You released a single, The Camellia Tree ,as a tribute to him – and with the airplay this song has received, funds have been raised to support the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Why is this cause close to your heart?
When we decided to record The Camellia Tree for charity in my grandfather’s name, I asked my grandmother, Tamie, to whom we should donate the funds. She suggested the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, as it was an organisation to which my grandfather had given his sustained support over the years.
Throughout the campaign, I grew to have a newfound understanding and appreciation for the vital work the ASRC undertake to assist people seeking asylum. I learnt about the very real challenges faced by people fleeing their homelands in search of safety and a new life, and the difficulties they have to overcome when they arrive in Australia and have no familiar infrastructure as they negotiate our immigration system.
What is the lasting legacy you feel your grandfather has contributed to your life?
My grandfather taught me the importance of integrity, and of being prepared to voice an opinion because it is right and decent, regardless of how popular that may or may not be to others around you.
Apart from The Camellia Tree, what song on REALM are you most moved by when singing – and why?
You Were There, the song I wrote in support of Suicide Prevention Australia, is, in my view, one of the most powerful pieces on the album. Overwhelming, it invites people to share their experiences with mental health issues, providing an opening to a conversation which may prove to be a lifeline for someone in need.
From your education years at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to present day … what are a few words you’d use to describe your musical journey?
My musical journey has been a marvellous fusion of my classical music education, my country heritage, and my interest in humanitarian issues, social commentary and conservation. The songs on REALM are a real demonstration of the way these elements have come together over the years, as I’ve developed my own style and musical direction.
We’ll be looking forward to seeing you perform in Port Macquarie and Armidale over coming months. How much are you looking forward to being on the road touring your album?
I’m thrilled to be bringing my album to magnificent concert spaces around the country. My music has taken me to many marvellous and unprecedented locations, and I never tire of meeting new people and performing in new venues, as much as I also love returning to my New England heartland. These are the experiences that fuel the fire!
Photo (right) courtesy of Belinda Hedges.
GOLDHEIST // REALM: Album Launch. Friday 17 November, The Armidale Golf Club.