This is the second of a three-part interview with Sara Tindley, whose most recent album is Time (Vitamin Records). The first part of the interview is here.
Sara has recently returned from playing in Nashville and Memphis, so we talked about that, and about whether or not she is really an ‘ageing housewife’.
Did you go further afield than Nashville or was that your main destination?
No. I started in Memphis and played at the International Folk Alliance Conference. That was sort of a five-day extravaganza [laughs] of lots of shows and, yeah, a very hectic kind of schedule. And then [I] drove to Nashville and did the dig with Audrey [Auld] at the Bluebird and another gig at a venue called the Twelfth Importer and then went to Alabama and did a gig in Birmingham in Alabama.
And how does one organise a gig in Alabama?
[Laughs] Well, basically it’s a matter of sort of seeing where people are playing that are, I guess, working in a similar independent way and then just contacting those venues and hoping they say yes.
And obviously they did.
I’m really fascinated at the idea of a folk alliance. So is that an organisation in the United States?
It is, and they have this conference every year. This is the first time that I’ve been and basically it’s all run within – this year it was in the Marriot Hotel in Memphis. And so basically there’s two floors of a hotel rooms that are turned into mini venues for five days and there are probably, I don’t know, upwards of 1000 musicians playing and doing their thing. And there’s festival bookers and radio DJs and it’s kind of where the industry, I suppose, meets the artist or something.
So it’s not for the public to come and see you play?
No. No. Not so much. No. It’s more a kind of in-house sort of thing.
Did you feel that you made some good connections and that it was worthwhile going?
Yeah. A lot of people were saying Australians are really bad at selling themselves. When you go there do not – in a sort of humorous way – belittle what you do because the Americans do not get it [laughs]. That is not part of their nature. They’re very good at sort of speaking highly of themselves and believing in what they do and projecting that out, whereas I think, as Australians, we’re much more self-deprecating than that [laughs]. So that was good advice because I’m the world’s worst networker so [laughs] it was quite challenging.
Well, from what I heard from Audrey, you should just stick with her because she says she’s quite a forthright person and she probably bowls up to people and says ‘Hello’ [laughs].
[Laughs] Yeah, she’s incredible in her sort of capacity to just keep pushing it out there, just to keep going hard and keep those gigs coming in, and I’m pretty sure she does it basically single-handedly and it’s incredible – an incredibly gruelling kind of career path to do it that way.
I thinkyou need a lot of time because for all the things that come off you’d be spending a lot more time on things that don’t come off.
Yes. That is exactly what I think.
In terms of the self-deprecating thing, I noticed in something I was reading on the Vitamin Records website, you refer to yourself as an ‘ageing housewife and I would never have ever thought of you like that until you put the phrase out there. I was thinking, ‘What does she mean, “ageing housewife”, like she’s just – she’s a musician’ [laughs].
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s funny that that’s kind of what has been picked up on it and I probably just said it quite lightly in passing, but at times in the lead-up to this album, I did really feel like that and did feel sort of slightly irrelevant in this youth-focused [laughs] caper of the music industry and I – yeah, I just was feeling kind of irrelevant.
Except when I was at Tamworth this year I saw Harmony James play and I was looking at her band and I thought there was a 20 year old, there was a 38 year old, a 50 year old, probably a 55 year old in the band, and I thought country is the one genre where age doesn’t matter and you can keep having a career until you drop dead, basically, like Slim Dusty. But also it’s a genre where women are really at the forefront and no one bats an eyelid, nothing is made of it, like, ‘Oooh, there are so many women putting out albums or leading bands or whatever’. I think the genre is what people are attracted to and then beyond that whoever is there is great and they want to listen to them. So therefore, being an ageing housewife in country music is completely irrelevant.
[Laughs] Great. I’ll take that with me [laughs].
I also think it’s a story-telling genre and people want to hear your stories when you’re a songwriter.
Yes. Well, that’s true and when I was younger I don’t think I was very … I feel like I’m kind of coming into it. I’m a late bloomer in a sense and I feel like I’m coming into it with much more or less to talk about and much more to say because I have lived a life and am living a life kind of thing, rather than, I don’t know, sort of clutching at straws, trying to find a story that is not resonating with me.
Yeah. And it’s, again, the audiences I find in country, they’re looking for that, it’s like they want to hear stories that can tell them something about their own lives and that they can relate to, and also just other people’s lives they find interesting. Whereas, in pop and rock it’s repetition of that theme of ‘That girl doesn’t like me, I think I’m going to walk on a train track or something’. [Laughs] I don’t know.
[Laughs] Yes, all done with a sort of sexy bum wiggle or something [laughs].
In the last part of the interview, to be published very soon, Sara talks about fitting in creativity in everyday life.