The Sunshine Coast’s Sahara Beck has been singing for her supper since she was just 12 years old. By 13 she’d released her first album, now at the age of 20 with a slew of other releases behind her, a couple of Queensland Music Awards and a bunch of big name festivals to her credit she’s about to add another to that list with the Mullum Music Festival. Trevor Jackson spoke to Sahara ahead of her Mullum dates.
I’ve watched you perform and hold an audience spellbound, while at the same time you seem to have been transported to a place of your own. Can you articulate what it feels like to be in that space when you’re playing live?
I think it comes from playing so much that I’ve found a way to get into my own headspace – it’s almost a meditative experience for me. It still surprises me sometimes when people say how much they enjoyed the show, because for me it’s just about getting up there and having a good time – I’m not always aware that others are too.
You can move effortlessly from delivering a beautiful melodic song like Brother Sister, into a soaring vocal with that can keep audience hanging on waiting for the drop in a song like Oh Little Boy. You make it look so easy, but it’s not. Does performing come naturally to you or is it something you had to work on?
Definitely something I had to work on – it takes years of performing experience to build up to this kind of naturalness! I’ve been playing to audiences since I was twelve years old and occasionally I’ll look back at some video footage and just cringe at how awful my voice was and how awkwardly I moved on stage. In those days I was so terrified that I was basically shitting my pants! Thankfully it gets easier with experience.
Music has been a big part of your life since pretty much day one, but how did you manage to release your debut album at the tender age of 13?
At the time I was performing a lot with a professional musician called Harri Bandhu and after the shows people would ask me where they could buy a CD but I didn’t have one, so I pretty much recorded one for that reason. Obviously it was nice to make some extra money from it too! (laughs).
Was there a particular point in your young life when you knew that being a professional musician was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?
My Mum was always taking me to concerts and festivals and I always remember being amazed by those performers on stage that could keep the audience in the moment with them, having complete control. It just looked like they were having the best time and I knew then that I wanted to do that too.
You later enrolled at the Music Industry College in Brisbane which, to put it in Jack Black’s parlance is basically a school of rock. How did that experience shape your development into the world of professional musicianship?
I was always asking a lot of questions there because I wanted to know as much as possible about the industry. They taught us a lot of practical stuff, like making us partner up with other students to write songs together. That taught me a lot about collaboration and also about other genres that I hadn’t written in before, because certain genres didn’t fit my style. It wasn’t just about the music either, for instance we were taught the basics of tour budgeting and how to plan an itinerary and that opened my eyes to a lot of stuff, like how expensive it is!
Your current album Panacea was one of the last records made at the legendary 301 Studios in Byron before the studio closed for good. Was there a sense of knowing that this was something special during the recording of that album?
When we got there they told us that this was the very last album that would ever be recorded there and the day after we finished they shut the studio down. Believe it or not this has actually happened to us before, so we’re beginning to wonder if we might have some sort of curse on us!
What was the other studio that closed down?
I don’t think you should mention that to too many people, you might never get another studio booking again!
I know! But it was lovely making the album at 301. We got to record direct to tape and it had such a beautiful sound. The studio had a lovely ambience and it also had plenty of room so that we could record the tracks live, which is really what I wanted to do. I wanted the music to be as raw and live as we could get it so it was perfect for us.
Will you be playing solo this weekend at Mullum or will you have the band with you?
Definitely the whole band, I want as many players on stage as I can get! As I said, touring is expensive – fortunately Mullum isn’t too far from home, so I can afford to play with the whole band. I’m really looking forward to it.