After a hugely successful 2016 taking out ARIA for Best Country Album, Sara Storer backed it up in January, honoured with the title of “Female Artist of the year” at the Tamworth Country Music awards.
Hi Sara. Tell us about your upbringing and what led to your passion for music …
I grew up on a farm in the Mallee in North West Victoria, with six kids, so I have five siblings. I had a great childhood. Nan and Pop lived across the road; it really was a luxury having our grandparents so close.
There are a lot of really fun, happy memories; Mum played piano, Dad played piano accordion, and he used to play in the town country bands when he was younger before he had kids. He used to play a lot of country music; there was always music playing in our house, from morning ’til night time.
Without me knowing and without him knowing, he was teaching me a lesson about music – about why lyrics are really important, good melodies, and to make a song that can be very powerful, very moving emotionally.
So, when I wrote my first song, I had a lot of inspiration from growing up and loving country music as well. I listened to a lot of John Williamson; I was really inspired by his love of this country, Australia, and how he would use our everyday conversations and our beautiful language, names of towns, our colours, and characters in song, and how proud and passionate he was to sing about that. I was mesmerised by his music and Paul Kelly too. When I started writing, I guess I drew on all that and had a crack at it.
Late 2016 you took out an ARIA for Country Album of the Year. How did you feel when your name was announced, and what was the journey that led you to this success?
It was definitely a highlight. I had been nominated for an ARIA on all my previous albums, but never won one – which was OK. It’s a hard thing to do, it’s a one percenter – it’s our big music awards in Australia. I feel really blessed that I have my hands on one now. I thought to myself if I didn’t win one last year, I’ll just try again.
Sometimes I think it’s about being aware of an artist. The only way people are going to know and hear your songs is to get yourself out there. If you don’t get an opportunity to be played on the mainstream radio – it’s always difficult for country music – you’ve just got to try other methods. Sort of sneak in through the back door! It took quite a few albums for me to say that now I think a lot of people have heard my music because I’ve been around for so long.
I did have a quiet spell there when I had children; I still wrote music and put out a couple of albums throughout that time, but wasn’t touring as much.
I was a bit concerned about that, but you’ve just got to put out albums that are the absolute best you can do, and make sure every song is worthy of being on that album.
And in Tamworth this year, you were announced as Female Artist of the Year … How do you feel not only as an artist but as a woman being honoured with this award?
People tend to say that it’s a male-dominated industry, but I don’t ever see that. For me, I think it’s quite equal across the plain – country music, pop music … I mean, look at Adele! Look at the numbers she has just pulled. I think it comes down to individual talent, your own package and whether that appeals to people; it doesn’t matter whether you’re female or male.
It’s wonderful being a woman and winning that award; I love that I can encourage women to not hold back, to be themselves, to be real.
How do you balance your career and family raising four boys?
It’s challenging, and I think sometimes you can use a lot of excuses. Most of the time the excuses are real; some days I can’t even write one email because there’s a fight or someone’s got my leg … I keep coming back to that same email all day – and it just doesn’t happen!
If there’s a song happening in my head and I really need to get it down, I will do it in between jobs. If someone wants a bottle or a nappy change, I will go straight back to the song and then wait for them to want something else. I just find a way and manage it!
Don’t miss Sara Storer on her “Silos” tour. Friday 26th May, Armidale City Bowling Club. Info: www.armidalebowl.com.au or phone (02) 6772 5666.