Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Interview with Sarah Carroll (and final post for Melbourne Roots)

This will be the final post for Melbourne Roots. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to and encouraged the blog through reading, putting up with my generally random interview style, and lending magazines, photos, ears, voices or otherwise! It's been a real pleasure getting to know and record some of the wonderful, little known, music that goes on in Melbourne. The blog and its contents will remain online for future readers and who knows, maybe down the track, myself or someone else will pick up where I've left off. Certainly there is a lot more to cover. A special thanks to my regular readers, Peter Scanlon at Big Beat, and those who've contributed their stories through interviews and song. It's been fascinating and fun! H

Sarah Carroll is a songwriter, performer, radio announcer, choir director, ukulele teacher and producer. She has played with well-known Aus. musicians such as: Chris Wilson, Andy baylor, Mick Thomas, Van Walker, Gleny Rae Virus and Suzannah Espie - among others - for sixteen years whilst touring throughout Australia and the US. In addition to playing solo she performs in a duo with her husband, Chris Wilson, as well as part of The Junes who recently appeared on popular ABC TV show Spicks and Specks. Her music covers the broad spectrum of roots, country, rock 'n' roll, gospel, bluegrass, swing and calypso. She has very kindly agreed to be interviewed by email. Melbourne Roots would like to thank Sarah for her great responses.

HT: How did you first get into music and performing? Did your family or the place you grew up have an influence on your direction?

SC: I can't remember a time when I wasn't singing and dancing about. I always had a radio in my room and listened to 3XY as a kid, then 3BO and 3CV in Bendigo. My family was very democratic about music and we had access to an excellent stereo ( my stepfather's) from an early age. My brother and I and our mates used to dress up as KISS and put on shows for our parents and friends. We made platform boots out of roller skates. I did jazz ballet to the Beach Boys before that. And we were totally addicted to Countdown of course. I got my first guitars at about 10 or 11, a six and a twelve string. Got into public radio when I was about 15 and living in Collingwood. 3RRR was very important to me as a budding performer as it gave me my first on-air experiences ( graveyards with my brother in the late 80s). I started going to see bands at 16 or so and fell in love with that, and began performing professionally about 10 years later. My family moved a lot, and I didn't grow up with my father, but have found out recently from him that his side of the family was littered with singers, dancers and performers going back a couple of generations. So my drive to do that makes more sense now!

HT: GIT formed in 1998. Can you talk a bit about how you all got together and what it was like playing with Suzannah and Trish around Melbourne in the late 90s/early 2000s?

SC: I worked with Trish at 3CR and had lost touch with her while she did a music degree at Latrobe. She met Suzannah there and they graduated at the same time. They decided to form a retro-sounding trio based on the Andrews Sisters, just to do some busking or little gigs for fun. I'd met Suzannah at my share house in Fitzroy where she'd been visiting to learn some songs for a country band she'd formed with my housemate Phil McLeod. So both the gals knew me and thought they'd ask if I wanted to have a go at being the 3rd voice. With typical disregard for any parity between my desire and my ability to do things, I said yes. We had a fantastic and fun time time together and did hundreds of gigs. Pretty amazing. Actually our first gigs were in '97, but we recorded our debut cd in '98. It was called Fishburger, named after an item on the menu at a cafe in Byron Bay, I think. We were the only Melbourne band doing that 40s-50s style of country with female voices at the time so we were probably more successful than we deserved to be! We did work bloody hard though and it was tough on our little ones at times. Overall, it made each of us the performer we are today.

HT: After GIT disbanded, yourself and Suzannah teemed up with Glenny Rae Virus to form The Junes. Did you miss performing in an a three-part harmony, all female line-up? What do you each bring to The Junes do you think?

SC: Well, I think Suzannah and I just wanted to keep working together 'cos we have a shitload of fun! It was Phil McLeod's idea to form a band with Gleny, although he wasn't able to continue with us due to huge demand for his lithe body and mad skills...I needed some time, as we all did, including Gleny, to recover from post-breakup stuff, and do our own things for a while. So we have really eased in to the Junes, and each of us is very aware of how fragile and precious the co-dependent relationships in a band are, and we're all totally respectful and gentle with each other. At the same time, expecting completely positive and resilient attitudes from each other. It seems to work well. We all get along fabulously well...the Brokeback Line, a little too well sometimes...

HT: You've played festivals all over the country as well as in the US. What are some of your most memorable festival experiences?

SC: Great times at Woodford, Qld; SXSW in Austin, Folk Alliance in Nashville... meeting like minds all over the place. My first Tamworth was really special; I lived at my friend Leigh Ivin's house with The Re-Mains, Jackie Marshall, Andrew Hull and Neil Murray for a week. My best friend drove us up and she was exhausted at the end of it by me!! and my table-dancing air-guitar reefer-rolling ways.....Dancing at Nymagee is always a blast. Getting the biggest encore at Port Fairy for the band I play in with my husband, The Pirates Of Beer. And Katherine Country Music Muster with The Junes last year was just so great and so Australian. Really there are too many memories to remember!

HT: How important has becoming a mother been to your development as a person (and by extension) as a songwriter and musician?

SC: I didn't have the focus I needed before I had my first baby. It's impossible to describe the difference between pre- and post- natal life, only to say that I went from being two dimensional, to three dimensional...I don't remember what was important before.

HT: There's a strong tradition of female country performers in Melbourne. How important is that community, do you think?

SC: Is there? I reckon there isn't, actually. I think there's a very strong tradition in Sydney, Brissy, the Gold Coast, and in the bush, but Melbourne's only had female country performers I reckon in the last 20 years or so. Lisa Miller was the first I was aware of. I used to see her with Andy Baylor, and with Rick O'Shea and Warren Rough, The Everlovin' O'Sheas they were called. Lisa was the only female act supporting the US guys when they came out. I'm not sure who came next but I'd argue it's a recent thing. That's not to say that it wasn't totally welcome! And since it's been considered cool, there's chicks singing country everywhere!! Which is fantastic. Last year's Nymagee Outback Festival was dominated by ladies, as was Mossvale earlier this year. I'm still the best yodeller though, next to Melinda Schneider. I'd like to mention that Barb Waters, The Gusset Rustlers and The Dirty Hanks were at the forefront of female country in the late 80s and that those ladies are continuing to signify in Melbourne music, one way or another...they were guitar slingers but also writing great songs, playing bass and drums and fiddles and creating a genre of their own.

The Junes are playing at The Union Hotel (Brunswick West) on the 19th of August and at The Corner Hotel (Richmond) on the 20th. For more information visit www.myspace.com/thejunestunes. 'Twelve Golden Greats' can be purchased at www.lastrecordstore.com

Sarah's most recent album 'Wahine' (2008) is available from www.croxtonrecords.com. Or visit her at www.myspace.com/sarahmichelecarroll / www.sarah67comeback.com


  1. Fare thee well and thanks from all at the AussieFrailers blog.

  2. this is great site for those music lover out there. though this is the final post, the site will forever be in every follower / reader this site has.

  3. That's very kind of you all, thank you.

  4. no. Don't quit yer bloggin. then we're stuck with shit music blogs