Interview: Sara Tindley (part III)

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This is the third of a three-part interview with Sara Tindley. In this part Sara talks about the hard work involved in creative pursuit, and whether or not milking cows has anything to do with it.

For part I of this interview, please go here.
For part II, please go here.


So for you, now, having children and a house to run and other things no doubt in your life, where do you fit creativity in?
That can sometimes be tricky. I have a little studio that’s separate to the house and I take myself up there most days not every day but most days, even if it’s just for an hour or a couple of hours, just to kind of turn up in a sense, turn up to work and just see what comes, and if nothing else comes at least I’ve played my guitar and keep sort of refining what I do, and not all the time that I go up there is productive but it feels good just to go and be there.

Do you believe in the muse, as in you wait for the muse to appear and stimulate you?
No. I think there’s times where I’m definitely more open to whatever might come through, but I feel that to really get a body of work behind me I just need to go up there and work, whether I’m inspired or not. I just need to go up there and do something. And I think sometimes you have to write; maybe I have to write four pretty cruddy songs to get one good one [laughs] so I just keep showing up and hoping that something [laughs] good will come of it.


I think that’s really excellent advice for anyone who is in a creative pursuit, whether it’s writing songs, writing books or painting. A lot of people will wait for inspiration and then get frustrated when it doesn’t happen, but that practice of just turning up and being there and working at it, having talent and application I guess.
Yeah. Well, it does – it’s not all just about sort of a creative moment can happen once every four months [laughs] and if that was all I was doing I’d be hard pressed to come up with an album’s worth of stuff. There’s a lot of hard work involved, in a funny sort of way – not so much in a physical way but in a mental way. You just have to keep applying – I feel like I just have to keep applying myself.


You mentioned sometimes you have to go through four cruddy songs until you get to a good one – do you ever go back to those kind of workman-like songs because they’ve worked through a process and bring them up to the level of the other songs?
No. But sometimes I’ll go back to them and steal a line or a verse or something [laughs]. I find with my work that if it didn’t make the grade, it’s because it really is not good enough, but often there might be a couple of lines in there or it might have a good chorus or something in there that is worth revisiting and stealing for another song.


So when it comes to selecting which songs you record, is it obvious to you which ones are there or do you need to sit down with a list and edit the list?
I have, with each album, gone in with more songs than I needed and pretty much once the process of recording begins there seemed to be almost like a path and some songs just don’t fit into that, for whatever reason – not because they’re necessarily a bad song or they don’t hold up like the other ones did, just in that context they didn’t work as well. So there’s songs that didn’t make it onto this album that possibly will make it onto the next one.

Well, speaking of the next one, do you have plans to record any time soon?
No. Not any time soon. I kind of like a good sort of year or two to let the dust settle from this album and then I’ll probably start. I’ve got a couple of new songs happening now, so I’m hoping that I’ll have a decent collection early next year, but whether I go into the studio with it straightaway, I don’t know yet.


And on a completely different note, I saw on your website in your bio that you’ve milked cows and you’ve been a machinist and a nurse, so I’ve got to ask you about the milking of cows, because I think maybe the discipline of getting up early to milk cows is good for someone to show up every day and write songs.
[Laughs] Yeah, well, I think when I was young I always imagined that I would be a farmer, for some reason. I quite idolised the farming life, having not grown up as a farmer’s daughter or anything. I think I have this romantic view of farming [laughs] and so the little stint – it was a very little stint that I did milking – really brought me back down to earth [laughs]. Yes.


And also you’ve been a nurse and you do a fair bit of training and see a fair few things when you’re a nurse. Do you do any of that anymore?
I have off and on ever since I did my nursing. I don’t particularly like to work in hospitals and stuff, but I like doing home-care type stuff. So at different stages I have done that and I can see that I probably will do that again at some point.

You said you have two daughters. I was wondering if you’d advise either of them to become musicians, if they were called in that direction.
[Laughs] No. Look, I guess I would just hope that whatever they do, they do it wholeheartedly and with passion, and so if it is music, then of course I would say go for it, if that’s really where your heart lies and where your passion lies, go for it. But [laughs] be prepared [laughs].


Do you kind of feel like you don’t have a choice really in that this is kind of what you’ve been called to do, to be a musician, to be a songwriter?
Yes. I do now. I think all the way through I have struggled with that on some level, because it’s financially a very difficult path to take, and so I’ve often thought to myself, oh, should I go back to university – or should I go, not back to university [laughs], should I go to university and do something sensible with my life? But I think now, all these years later, I have just come to terms with the fact that I am just compelled to do this and I just take little casual jobs to kind of pay my way while I work on this less lucrative career.

It is a shame that it is such a struggle in the arts but I do know and I can see it on the faces of everyone at Tamworth and every time I go to a gig that music means so much to people, and so even though it can’t be measured in terms of remuneration all the time, it’s I think what people like you, what you do is really so valuable for other people – for the community. So if that’s any consolation [laughs].
Well, it is. It is. And I think I agree that not everyone can play music just like not everyone can crunch numbers or create fabulous web designs or things like that. So I can see that at some point I had to make a decision that money was not going to drive me and I’ve kind of come to terms with that now [laughs].


Well, as I said, country music in particular, it’s a long career.
[Laughs] That’s right. And there’s always – there’s always sort of little things that happen along the way that really kind of validate what you do as an artist. There’s always some little golden nuggets in there.


Visit Sara Tindley’s website at www.saratindley.com and visit her music at Vitamin Records.

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