Sarah McLeod: One Electric Lady

Down-to-earth The Superjesus frontwoman, solo artist and Aussie rock royalty Sarah McLeod is heading to the Gold Coast for her solo show entitled One Electric Lady.

We caught up with the always-fun Sarah for a quick chat in between rehearsals for her latest show, which she was on the verge of performing at Adelaide Fringe Festival.

“It’s like riding a bike,” she says of returning to live performance in a post-lockdown time. “You go “aha! Here I go again.”

Things are a little different this time, however, with Sarah having taught herself to play piano during 2020’s major COVID lockdown period.

“I always wanted to play piano, but I don’t have time to sit there and put in the hard yards to start from the beginning,” she tells us. “I wish I had done it before I became a working musician. I feel like if I have time off I should be writing a new song or working on stuff, I can’t sit there and block off a year to learn a new instrument.

“But then suddenly in 2020 I could, so I thought ‘Now’s the time baby’. I bought a baby grand! I thought I’d get something sexy looking so I’d want to sit at it.”

Of course, it’s all very well feeling excited about her newfound skills as a pianist, but she’s not about to launch herself on an unsuspecting audience cold. Sarah is still the feisty, powerful, magnetic rock guitarist and performer, and that was the side she’d intended to showcase on that aborted 2020 electric tour, with herself up first on piano as the supporting act, and then her one-woman band rock show, complete with her modified six string guitar that now doubles as a bass.

“I just sort of did it by trial and error,” she laughs about her musical invention. “I spent time cutting holes and putting in pickups and wiring things, it took a few months and almost a few electrocutions, and then it just worked. Now I can make myself sound like a loud rock trio.”

Of course the opening set, comprised of stripped-back piano versions of existing songs plus a couple of newbies, has a totally different and much more personal vibe to Sarah’s normal super-charged, high energy rock persona. I wonder how she feels about making herself vulnerable in front of a crowd.

“I really like it,” she enthuses. “The feeling when it’s pin drop quiet… and the piano seems to really support my voice better.”

I sing better when I’m at the piano and I can hear the texture, feel nuance, it suits me.

The most challenging part of writing at the piano came for Sarah when her beloved canine companion Chachi passed away during lockdown.

Chachi wasn’t any old dog. She was Sarah’s one constant in a life lived more on the road than off. For fifteen years, Chachi was there on the road with her. When she headed across the rainbow bridge in July, there really was only one way to deal with her loss – to sit at the piano and find the words to express her feelings, the end result of which was ‘Chachi’s Theme’.

“It was hard to write but I had to give her the message on how to meet me when I die,” says Sarah.

“Music transcends through dimensions and I thought if I sing it every night for the rest of my life, she won’t miss it. And as hard as it was, I really had to push through. I gave myself two or three days after she died – I just got drunk for a couple of days and then I sat at the piano and cried all over myself and my jeans.

“It was so hard, but when it was done I felt like I had fast tracked my grieving a bit. I feel like I connected with her and we made a deal, and I didn’t feel so alone in this world.”

Her legion of fans will be seeing and hearing a whole other side of Sarah McLeod when she hits the road for her One Electric Lady tour.

“For some reason, every word counts now,” she says about her current lyrical process.

“Every time I open my mouth to say something, I feel like it’s high-class real estate and I only have a certain number of lines that I can put in a song. It’s not like a novel, so every line has to count; every line has to help deliver the story in its most imaginative and descriptive way to take the listener on a journey.

“So, I find myself blabbing less and being more to the point and more colourful.”

Catch this new side of Sarah when she headlines Mudgeeraba’s Wallaby Hotel on Sunday 7 March, with… well… Sarah McLeod in support. Entry is FREE, amazingly.

IMAGE: Nix Cartel

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