This is the second part of an interview with Anna Weatherup. To read the story of how I came to find out about Anna, click here.

In this part we discuss Anna’s album Nearer, which is a beautiful collection of songs of faith, and the connection between music and spirituality. 

When I saw you play I was thinking that to sit in a crowd on your own, playing three sets, people are talking over the top of you – what does it actually take, particularly when you’re starting, to sit there with your guitar and just keep going?
In the beginning?

Or even all through it.
Or now, what does it take?

Both.  What was different in the beginning?
Well in the beginning it was really – I was paying more attention to my guitar because I wasn’t much of a guitarist.  I had that to distract me.  And I really threw myself in the deep end with that because I was not very good at all.  Not to say I’m a maestro now because I’m not, but I really sucked at it so all the focus was more on concentrating on getting that right.  Now it’s okay.  I can just close my eyes and drift off into another stage and try and focus on what I’m singing.  It depends on the venue too.  Small Bar, I’m there, I’d paid to be there, they always have music, people in the crowd know what they’re going to get.  I don’t really feel uncomfortable.  But sometimes when I’m booked to play other gigs or a private party they’re definitely more hard to break the ice.  And you feel really insecure sometimes.  But halfway through it people start to warm up and you start to get a few comments and it’s really nice and you leave the gig feeling like you’ve done a good job or feel positive.  But, yeah, it can be tricky sometimes, just depends, I guess.  Depends on the crowd. You get used to it as well, I think.  I just – it’s what I do.  I just get up there and do it and don’t think about it much any more.  Probably did in the beginning a bit more.

Is it tiring playing three sets?  What a lot of people may not realise is that performing in of itself, quite apart from the singing and the playing, can be quite exhausting.
Yeah, it is, actually.  I’m always bummed the next day.  It does take it out of you just energy-wise.  It is tiring.  It is very tiring, actually.  

And do you have any techniques to put the energy back in or things that you do?
No, unfortunately, I’m very slack.  I did have singing lessons years ago because I was losing my voice.  I went to a teacher and she’d help me to breathe properly and where to breathe from and sing from.  But I don’t really practise it.  So, no, there’s nothing – I mean, nothing that a cup of coffee wouldn’t fix the next day [laughs]. That’s my routine.  Coffee and relax if I don’t have to work.  I get the blues if I have to work the next day – I always like to have a day off after a gig.  I just take it easy and have a sleep0in and chill out.  My best mate who I used to live with, we used to live together in Townsville and she could never understand why I’d sleep in til 10, 11 o’clock in the morning.  She’s one of these early gym-head people.  She get up and go to the gym or whatever.  I didn’t really understand it either until later in life.  I realised, no, it really is hard work; I probably should stop giving myself a hard time.  It really takes it out of you, especially back then when I was singing til 11 o’clock at night.  It’s bloody full-on.

I remember reading somewhere that it takes more muscles to talk than it does to run.  So, therefore, if you’re singing there are a lot of muscles that are working and if you’re doing it for three hours or four hours …
I’ll use that line on her next time.  [Laughs]

Well, it’s true [laughs].
[Laughs] yeah, there you go.  Wow.  That would explain why I’m so exhausted [laughs].

You need, as a performer, to get energy back from your audience.  And if it’s not coming back in the same measure that it’s going out from you then it can be really tiring.  
Absolutely, absolutely.  Yeah, and it really – most crowds, they kind of do their own thing, which is fine.  You can see people, though, you can spot people in the crowd who are listening, and they’ll go in and out of the conversation or whatever.  And that’s nice.  I don’t expect people to sit around and not catch up with their friends or whatever because I’d be doing the same thing, talking, probably. But it does take it out of you.  But it’s always good.  People – I’ve always had people come up and make nice comments and compliments, it’s really encouraging, and it’s nice as well.  So that keeps you going.  

Excellent.  I also wanted to ask about [your album] Nearer  – I think you described it as a gospel album – would you describe it as gospel?

It’s such a beautiful album and I don’t listen to gospel music.  I wasn’t brought up in that tradition – in a religious tradition.  But I do have my own spiritual practice.  So, for me, I was actually listening to it thinking, well, this is just a – this is a beautiful, spiritual album, I think, in the old tradition of negro spirituals, as they were called.  That’s the incorrect term now.  But there was that sense of it being that kind of album.  So I wanted to ask you about how you feel or what you think about the relationship between spirituality and music?
I think music is spiritual.  I don’t think there’s any – personally I feel there’s no music out there that isn’t spiritual.  I think it’s all spiritual in a sense.  Music’s very powerful, very powerful.  It can change your mood when you put it on, turn the radio on and a song can totally change your mood, I think.  And, yeah, doing that album,  I grew up singing those songs and they mean a lot to people because of that as well.  They remind me of a beautiful time.  In my adult years I’ve come back to the church and come back to God.  So it was really important that I did that album because I just really wanted to put it out there, all these beautiful songs that I remember singing as a kid.  And, yeah, just hopefully some people take something away from it – I guess love, love the God I trust, and that we are loved.  Getting back to your question, music is very, very powerful, very spiritual, yeah.

Through that album there is a lot more going on than just the notes that are being played. And love is the correct term.
Well if people can take something away from it, that’s what it’s there for and I hope, yeah, I hope that’s the case when you listen to it.  All those old songs, too, were written in a totally different time.  They really clung onto every word as well and it’s just a different time in the world’s history.  So they weren’t just pop songs that they put out there to get on the charts.  They came from the heart.  They’ve got a lot of meaning in them.  And, hopefully, that comes through as well on the CD.  

So, for you in your religious practice or spiritual practice, and if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine –
No, I don’t mind, that’s fine [laughs].

For some people it’s very private.  But I was wondering whether in the religious practice you grew up with, music was a part of worship more strongly than say, perhaps, in the Anglican church?
Yeah, it was.  I grew up in – actually, I grew up in a bit of a conservative background.  I’m Seventh Day Adventist and a little bit conservative up north where I was from.  But I remember music being a pretty big part of that, definitely.  Yeah, although I’m not conservative myself, all those songs that are on the album I grew up singing in church.  I guess you could say it was a pretty big part of my upbringing, or part of the church, I should say.  And it still continues to be a big part of the church, music.  To sing it, when we go every week, and it’s a huge part.  I think, for me, I think for me music’s probably more powerful than someone getting up there and preaching, sometimes.  Whatever your spiritual beliefs are I think that music is the most powerful form of communication.  But, yeah, sorry, does that answer your question? [Laughs]

Yeah, yeah.  It’s all interesting.  And the notion of a calling is – probably comes from religion but it obviously has secular application.  So I was wondering if you think of music as your calling?
Oh, for sure.  Absolutely, I do.  And that’s why I say I don’t really want to give it up.  I’m just not sure on the direction of where – which way I’m going in life but I hope that music’s part of it.  I’ve always felt that I’m supposed to be a singer.  Music is spiritual no matter what.  I always have that spiritual content in the music but I do hope it is my calling.  I do believe it is so fingers crossed, hey.

Well it sounds like it is to someone who’s heard you play.  But I also think within country music there is actually a place for spiritual songs or songs of faith even.
Oh, definitely.  

More than any other genre.
Absolutely, absolutely.  Yes.  That’s funny, that, isn’t it?  ‘Cause, yeah, you hear a lot of country gospel and it’s totally accepted.  Not that someone would have a go at me for singing any of those newer songs in public.  But it is – you kind of expect to hear country gospel as well, don’t you?

And when I went to Charters Towers we put on a gospel concert and lots of people from the public came to hear country gospel.  I was really surprised, which makes me feel at ease.  Because I’m one of those people who – I’ve never really spoken about my upbringing and my beliefs much, only because I just didn’t want to offend people or make people feel uncomfortable.  And if I can do that through music, if I can still sing music, it’s coming from the heart and feel comfortable, it’s going to be in country music.  You’re right, that was a big – I think there’s a huge market for country gospel.  It’s definitely already a genre that exists.

More so in the United States perhaps than here.  But I think there is a place for it here, definitely.
Well, maybe I can do it in Australia.  [Laughs].

I think it’s what you just said, it’s music coming from the heart, that’s connection between the two genres really.
That’s the most important thing, I think.  Yeah.  I can try and get up there and say what I think I have to say but really it has to come from the heart.  Yeah, at the end of the day.

Well, I look forward to your country gospel album then.
Oh, thanks, hon [laughs].