Sydney-based singer-songwriter and multiple Golden Guitar winner Amber Lawrence is constantly creating music, whether it’s for her country music albums or her popular songs for children. Recently she released ‘Outrageous’, a single from her forthcoming country music album. It has Amber’s trademark great musical hooks and lyrics that speak straight to the listener, with a dash of outrageous inspiration to go along with it. We spoke recently about the song and how her young son, Ike, fits into his mother’s musical life.
Congratulations on the new song, ‘Outrageous’, which is the first single off your new album. So does that mean the album is already recorded? And, if so, why do we have to wait until June? I’m a fan. I want to hear it now!
[Laughs] That’s just a technical thing of a wedding that I’m having. I decided I wanted to enjoy my wedding and I’m not doing what I always do and try to get everything done all at once. I decided to have the wedding late April and then I’ll be ready to release an album and dedicate to that. It was going to be sooner and then I kind of put it in perspective and thought, you know, I am only going to have one wedding, so let’s not be doing radio interviews the week of my wedding, promoting my album.
And I suppose also there’s the potential of going on the road to support it. So, yes, I would imagine you do need to block out months.
Yes, that’s right. Once it’s out it’s only got that short time to really make a splash. And I’m really, really excited by this album. The single is really an indication of the album – it’s all very uplifting and fun. So I’m proud of it and I want to give it all the attention it deserves, but definitely not at the expense of having a good time at my wedding [laughs].
I imagine it must feel like quite a relief because you’ve done it. There must be this nice sense of, ‘Okay, well, I’ve drawn a line under that and now I can just enjoy the next few months of preparing for the wedding and, and, and know that there’s nothing else to do on, at least on the album front.
Definitely. And that’s different to how I’ve always done it. It’s always been so much more rushed. And it kind of feels a little like, ‘Oh, come on!’ There is that anxiety of ‘why do I have to wait so long?’ Normally I’ve done the album, and then you’re rushing to get the video and the photos done in time for the release date. With this, we’ve kind of got it all already sitting in my computer.
You did have your last solo album a little while ago, but you also worked with Travis Collins on an album in the interim. So you haven’t been idle on the songwriting and recording front.
No, it’s been busy. Happy Ever After came out in 2016. I also released a kids album in that year, then 2017 we did the Travis-Amber project [Our Backyard], which went better than expected. And I also did a kids Christmas album that year. Last year I didn’t actually release any new music. I did one single, actually, ‘A Hundred Year Handshake’, which was the song I wrote for the American-Australian alliance, and there was an amazing journey of events that happened as a result of that song. And then of course I had a baby, so that kept me pretty busy. I guess I knew that once Ike came along I’d probably be a bit distracted. So I planned everything before that. I’d written the songs for the album and I’d booked in that recording time blindly, saying to my producer, ‘Yeah, it’ll be fine. We’ll just come to the studio.’ And so we did.
The theme of ‘Outrageous’ is having dreams and chasing them, and you left a conventional job in an office environment to become a country music artist. Did you feel that that was an outrageous thing to do at the time?
Oh, it’s so outrageous, and people still say that to me. Because I had such a good job – I worked for Qantas and I was a chartered accountant, so I had a really good, paying safe job that I actually enjoyed and to quit that job for a pipedream … I wasn’t even on my first album when I quit. It was outrageous. And some people still say, ‘I can’t believe you left that job.’ My Qantas employee friends, they’re actually really proud of it, they say, ‘Good on you for leaving.’ There is that outrageous dream that a lot of people have and it is hard to just do it. And I still think, Wow, I can’t believe I did it, actually, I can’t believe I left that job, because there is a part of me that’s very sensible. And that’s not a sensible thing to do.
You also mentioned in the song that you have no plan B. After you left that job – and it’s is hard to get established in a different industry, whether it’s music or anything else, you would essentially shifting career in a major way – even in the early days, were there any times when you felt like giving up?
Yes, you go through ups and downs in a creative, self-employed job always. Some days the phone rings and you think, Great, it’s all happening; the next day, everything you had planned gets cancelled or something like that. But I was really never actually that close to giving up and I touch wood now because I don’t want to. The concept of the plan B is, ‘In the back of my mind, sure, you can always go back to accounting.’ That’s only a plan B if you allow it to be a plan B, and for me it was never a plan B. I thought, No way – this is going to work. I’m going to make this happen. I can imagine some people would say, ‘You have got a plan B! You’re a chartered accountant.’ But in my mind I don’t have a plan B, because there is no way I want to go back to sitting behind a desk and looking out the window and looking online at all my other friends travelling around, chasing their dreams.
Your plan A has worked – I think we can agree on that. You have Golden Guitars, you have been touring, you have these great albums. But when someone’s at your level of success in a creative industry or even in sport or something else, it seems like it’s a lot more work maintaining that level of achievement than trying to get there in the first place, in that it’s a constant high standard now that you set for yourself. And that’s a lot of pressure.
Yes. I understand how other creative types worldwide – in acting or anything, really – they do struggle. Because once you have set a benchmark for yourself then you have your internal, Oh my god, am I going to keep meeting that benchmark? Because as you’re rising and growing you’ve set these goals for yourself, but they’re just pipedreams, you know. For me, playing the Gympie Muster in 2006 that was, I’m playing the Gympie Muster! And then once those achievements are made, or you win a Golden Guitar, well, you’re going to have to do it again. And that’s when it gets harder. When you actually achieved those pipedreams you set out for, it’s important to reflect – and I think a lot of us forget to, including me. To say, ‘I’ve achieved so much more than I ever set out to.’ But now all you think about is, How do I do it again? Or how do I have more? So it’s good to try to look back and go, ‘I’ve achieved way more than I ever thought I could.’
Your son, Ike, came along six months ago and you seemed to get back to performing very quickly. So has he taken to the touring life?
He did last year. He’s become such an adaptable, go-with-the-flow little legend. All of the gigs were booked before I even knew I was having Ike, so I wanted to stand by them. So I was at Deni Ute Muster four weeks after having him, and I was on Cruisin’ Country for a few nights while he was eight weeks old, and then we flew up to Brisbane to record the album, because why not? Why make it easy? Why do it in Sydney when there’s a hundred great producers? Let’s go to Brisbane! And he had to sit in the studio at two and a half months listening to me sing over and over again. So he was really great last year. We haven’t travelled yet properly again this year. We went to Tamworth and that was hard because it’s so hot for a little four-month-old. But we’re about to get back on the road with a plane ride that’s two and a half hours long. And now he’s six months I’m concerned it’s going to be harder [laughs].
Well, he’s still portable I guess. So he can’t run up and down the aisle yet.
He’s certainly got his own mind now, you know. Back at three and a half months I could just give him a bottle or the boob and he’s okay. Now it’s, ‘No, that’s not good enough for me – I want something else.’
You’re part of a new-mother cohort that includes Fanny Lumsden and Catherine Britt. I watch with amazement as you all juggle these things – the constant, the constant flow of writing, performing and tucking a baby under your arm. It makes me wonder whether being a musician or being an artist is a good match for motherhood, because you’re already working in a flow, if that makes sense. You’re always flowing in and out of creativity, in and out of performance and that, that means you’re not as rigidly scheduled, so you can work a baby in.
Well, that’s exactly what I think too, because going back to work for me is a decision of, ‘Who comes with me to mind my baby while I’m on stage’, or ‘Will Fanny or Catherine be there to mind Ike while I’m on stage?’ Or can I leave him at home with his dad for one night? So I feel it’s a much better job for a mother than if I had to go back to an office job and then I’d have to put him in childcare or ask my mum to mind him five days a week. I definitely feel privileged to have this job where I can take my baby to work and, in fact, people are disappointed if I don’t.
Fanny has said she just basically hands Walt to whoever in the audience will take him.
[Laughs] There’s a long line of people who will take our babies. And they are all really adaptable like that because they’ve been passed around since they were about four weeks old. So they do go to people really easily, which is a real relief.
As you mentioned, you had some children’s albums out, but now you have a test audience at home. So do you think you’ll do another one at any point?
I will, definitely, and I’ve already started writing songs for that, of course [laughs]. It’s different, though, because we listen to baby songs at the moment and I don’t necessarily want to do an album of baby songs. So I have to wait until he’s about three before I can really write some songs that will resonate with him. Because I like the kids songs that are for older kids who get the joke in the song, like ‘In My Belly’ or ‘My Grandma’. But it’s great because I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’m sitting down on the couch writing songs and he’s sitting in front of me. So I feel like maybe I’m being a good mother. I’m actually educating there with the guitar and things like music. He’s seeing words and that’s like reading a book to him. That’s the juggling act. We’re always trying to do what makes both mother and child happy. But, you know, feeling like a terrible mother is constantly on our minds.
It is really hard. But I don’t know that there’s a solution – you probably want to be with your baby 100% of the time, but you also love your work. And that’s where the rub is.
I believe that he’s well looked after when I leave him with his dad or his grandmother, so if I have to go to work and he doesn’t come, I’m okay with that. If I had him 100% of the time I might go crazy if I didn’t have a moment away [laughs]. But when I’m with him, it’s go, go, go. We’re always doing something. I sing that LMAFO song in my mind all the time: ‘Everyday I’m shuffling, shuffling.’ Every day I’m working out a different way to try to do this motherhood thing.
He looks like a happy, healthy baby, so I think it’s working well. You talked about songwriting with him sitting beside you and the last time we spoke you mentioned that you do songwriting for a range of other people and organisations. So obviously you are writing a lot. Do you have a scheduled way of working? Do you set aside a certain time of day to do it or do you just sort of grab those opportunities, especially now you have Ike.
Writing now definitely needs to be booked in, because I won’t be able to do it otherwise, because Ike’s schedule is kind of crazy – never standard. So with writing these kids songs I booked in a few days where Allan Caswell came over and Ike just sat and played or I put him to sleep while we were singing melodies. I think everything now really for me needs to be scheduled in.
I think I’ll leave it there, apart from saying that the song’s terrific. I’m sure your fans will love it because I am a fan and I love it.
Thank you. I’m really getting blown away by so many young girls connecting with it. Especially young artists, and young singers. That surprised me because you get so buried in the song that you don’t realise that there’s a message in that that might resonate and it seems to be doing that. So I’m really excited.
‘Outrageous’ is out now. Listen on: