Yarning with an Artist: Sally-Anne Whitten

by Anna Blanch on March 30, 2012

This week it seems appropriate that i’m writing about a fellow Aussie.  Fellow Tamworth gal, (and clarinettist back in the day (yes, all the cool kids played clarinet in high school)), Sally-Anne Whitten has definitely moved on from back then. Now an award-winning singer songwriter, forget everything you thought you didn’t like about country music, Sally-Anne steamrolls the boundaries between musical genres to create her very own sound — one she calls ‘funky country.’ You can find out more about Sally-Anne and her music on her website and listen to some of her music at reverbnation.

 

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When did you first realize you were artistic?

My Dad and Nan were both musicians, so even from a toddler I was picking notes out on a piano.  I didn’t really get the nerve to get serious about singing until I was about 14.  I played the piano and clarinet before that and only sang with the hairbrush in front of the mirror!

Could you tell us some more about your work? what are you working on at the moment?

I’m a contemporary singer- I hate pigeon holing, but I’m told I’m somewhere between blues and country- I’m into blurring the genre lines!  I call it funky country for promotions sake.   I’m working on a new album as we speak- the first single was released in December- “The other side Of me” and is slowly creeping up the charts, and is getting more popular on itunes.   I made a promise to myself that this album would be bubblegum free and excruciatingly honest- I admire that in other artists and I strive to keep the bar high.

[you can listen to The Other Side of Me right here!]
Describe yourself as a sandwich/lunch.

Hmmmm…… perhaps a Muffaletta (New Orleans specialty sandwich)- Lots of layers, and influences from all over-and hopefully that people enjoy!

[a girl after my own heart. I have so many good food related memories of New Orleans! the hashbrowns, jambalaya, gumbo, oysters….man alive. the praline…so good!]

 

What is it that inspires you to create a piece of/on a particular subject?
Emotion. I’m not a prolific songwriter-I just can’t sit down and write songs everyday.  I find it takes a particular strong emotion to get me started on writing about something.  It’s almost like purging I guess- good to get it out!  Songwriting is great therapy!

What famous artists have influenced you, and how?
I have been  in musical love with Sheryl Crow since I was a teenager- as a musician and a writer and performer, she is incredible- always changing and evolving and has such high standards.  I find myself being inspired as a songwriter by Don Henley (always ready to flip the bird to those in society who need it!), and writers like Rodney Crowell and John Hiatt, who aren’t afraid to rip their hearts right out and wear them proudly on their sleeve.  They are  melody men too, which I love in songs.   I’m really moved by both of them.  I am also a massive Bonnie Raitt Fan.  Gorgeous voice, great slide player, hot band, beautiful songs, and wow- she just gets better with age!  And I have never seen another performer just stand there and sing and have such incredible presence- she is hypnotising. I could sing her entire repertoire at every gig and be happy.

What about an artist/creative person I may not have come across but that you think the world needs to know about?
My Husband Alwyn Aurisch- brilliant slide player and guitarist, arranger, musical director, producer, engineer, teacher and the most generous and enthusiastic musician I have ever met.  I love songwriting with him too- he is on the same page as me most of the time, so we make a great team.  He is just ridiculously talented.  That he’s not rich and famous is a travesty really.
What do you do for fun/other interests besides make make art?

I am a mad keen home cook- My husband and I are big foodies.  When we’re not working we love to stay home and cook up a storm.  Travel is also a passion of mine- I’m always thinking about the next trip away somewhere.

I do like a good book- I’m a history buff, so I read a lot of books about ancient civilisations, and when we travel I make a beeline for whatever museums I can find.  God I just read that back and I sound like a 70 year old boring  snob!  I’m not, I promise!  I like a good night out and lots of  wine too!
What inspires you to create and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

I need to have the right people around me.  I’m very lucky in that way, I have a wonderful team of musicians and people around who really care about me and my music, and that inspire me to do better all the time to make them proud.  Inspiration comes in fits and starts for me- usually motivated by particular emotions or events that affect me.  It can be a long spell between bouts of inspiration too, which can be tough.  One thing I’ve learned is that getting uptight and worried about it is the worst thing you can do. It will happen, but you can’t force it or worry it into happening!  A glass of good wine goes a long way too!

How have you handled the business side of being an artist/musician/writer?
Badly- I’m unabashedly terrible as self promotion.  I can’t bring myself to toot my own horn and I find it hard to even ask other people to do it for me.  I am a proud person and I find it hard to ask for help.  I have this thing that I don’t want to be known as one of those pushy annoying self promoting types who spam the crap out of everyone.  I know you really have to be at least a bit that way to be successful,  but I struggle with that stuff.  I’m working on that though!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Healthy, happy,  more well known and making a proper living out of my art.  Being  Sheryl Crow’s back up singer would be fine too.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Don’t be a musician!  Get a real job!  It only ends in heartache!!  (haha)… But if you insist on being one- try to be the best you can be- learn your craft, and for singers, don’t be just a singer who can’t name the key of your song, learn to be a musician too.  Never stop learning.  And remember although it feels like a competition all the time, it’s not really.  Forget about what everyone else is doing and focus on creating your own sound.

What/Where is the most inspiring place in the world for you?
New Orleans.  The history, the sounds, the sights, the people, the food… the place just fills every one of my senses.  I love the hell out of it and I could move there tomorrow.  I feel very at home there. Last visit there I wrote 2 songs in one sitting.  Unheard of for me!

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This artist spotlight interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with emerging artists. It is about celebrating artists and the work they are creating and sharing. If you have a suggestion for an artist to be featured in this series, send an email to enquiries@goannatree.com

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