Fresh from the release of ‘Shades Of Yellow,’ we had the pleasure of sitting down with Sadie to delve into her musical journey, influences, and creative process.
Happy: What are you up to today?
Sadie: Started the day with some clothes shopping which I haven’t done in a very long time! Now I’m heading to a rehearsal for a show I’ve got coming up, and tonight I’ve got another rehearsal for the Celtic band I’m in.
Happy: Tell us about where you are from? What’s the music scene like in your neck of the woods?
Sadie: I grew up in Belgrave Heights, in the Dandenong Ranges which from the moment I decided I wanted to do music, inspired and helped me. The Dandenong Ranges has a really vibrant community of songwriters and music makers and from around the age of 11, I was doing open mics, playing at some great venues, and supporting other artists in this community.
I always felt really welcome, even as a child writing songs that were maybe not the most impressive, and have only recently begun to think about how important that was.
Happy: I now live in Croydon which has less of a music scene, but it’s closer to the city! And closer to the high school I went to that has a great music program.
Happy: Describe an average day?
Sadie: An average day has me going to either work where I teach violin or to Uni where I study music composition. I almost always have a rehearsal in the evening, whether that be for Musical Theatre, my Celtic band, my solo stuff, or some project with friends.
I try to see my family as much as possible and when I get home, my brother Charlie and I have a habit of spending ages sitting at the piano singing songs together.
Happy: What about your ultimate day?
Sadie: The ultimate day is actually quite similar to what I do now. Spend the day teaching or in co-writing sessions, composing for musical theatre, film, classical, other artists. Have a rehearsal or a gig in the evening. See my friends and family and then have a great sleep.
Happy: What did you listen to growing up that fueled your passion for music?
Sadie: I had a few different influences as a kid. My mum is a classical pianist and from a young age, I’ve played violin so have always had a love for classical music. Being a Brit himself, my dad is a huge fan of Brit-pop. Bands like Blur, Pulp, Elbow, and Morcheeba.
I grew up listening almost exclusively to this type of music from my dad’s playlists. Of course, I was also the biggest Swiftie from the moment I first heard Fearless. I used to print out photos of Taylor Swift and stick them on my wall.
It was like a shrine. She has influenced me a lot. As well as that, I’ve grown up going to folk festivals around Australia and listening to Celtic music.
Happy: How has your classical training influenced your unique pop-indie-folk style?
Sadie: Learning violin helped a lot with music theory. Chord structures, how important tempo and dynamics are and structure. I also think being exposed to incredible melodies and expressive harmonies has shaped the way I write a chorus or a verse.
I have a tendency to want to use less “conventional” chords and really try to make the melody itself as emotive as possible.
Happy: Can you describe the inspiration behind your latest single, “I’ll Be Alright,” and how it relates to overcoming challenging times?
Sadie: To put it simply, my parents separated. It was as nice a separation as I could have imagined but there are still challenges with how much change it causes. It also came at a time when I turned into an adult.
Suddenly I had so much more independence, I was going out and not seeing as much of my family as I was used to and that really threw me off guard. The song was part of my acceptance process. Acknowledging the change, talking with people I trust and then accepting.
Happy: What was the creative process like for your EP ‘Shades of Yellow,’ and how does it represent your artistic growth?
Sadie: ‘Shades of Yellow’ was a lot of fun to make. David Carr and I started working together in 2017 and we knew that this EP was going to be something we were the most proud of. We started by gathering some influences, listening to lots of artists such as Madison Cunningham, Jeff Buckley, and Ashe who are artists that I love the sounds of.
Then we chose the songs and were in the studio. We had a saying “what would Maddison do?” which was us referring back to Madison Cunningham’s ‘Revealer’ album and picking apart her techniques and sounds.
Sadie: I think the EP represents my artistic growth because I allowed myself a lot more creative freedom. The EP that David and I released in 2018, I was 14 and shy and didn’t have the guts to say what I thought.
I also didn’t know if I wanted to create pop music or folk music or rock/indie music. Now that I’m a bit older and have tried being fully pop and fully indie, I knew I wanted to be all those genres and knew how to make it happen.
‘Shades of Yellow’ has songs like Understand My Hand which we based off a demo I created myself last year and I recorded all the strings and a lot of the backing vocals in my home studio so those are all my ideas.
But David and I did a lot of work on creating specific sounds, using organic and analog instruments instead of MIDI and digital ones and showing that this sound is not just one thing. I think I still have some growing to do before I fully form my “sound” but it is a step in the right direction.
Happy: Tell us about your collaboration with producer Anna Laverty on the single “Midnight” and how it contributed to the song’s sound and message.
Sadie: Working with Anna Laverty was incredible. She’s an incredible producer and an intimidatingly cool person! It was a very different process than what I’m used to; we had the song finished in a day.
We’d chatted on the phone a few times beforehand to work out what we wanted the song to sound like, settling on acoustic folky poppy vibes, which made it easy to head into the studio and record. I think one of Anna’s talents is picking apart someone’s voice and choosing what equipment and production techniques to use in order to draw out the qualities of that voice.
‘Midnight’ is reliant on its lyrics and I think having the tremendously mixed vocals that sit so well on top of the texture really forces people to listen and understand the lyrics and message.
Happy: How did co-producing your EP with David Carr enhance the overall vision and sound of your music?
Sadie: We didn’t know the EP was going to end up being a co-produced effort. But it was an unspoken agreement from the very beginning that it was going to be a collaborative effort. This was really important to both of us. Every sound we chose together.
For example, in ‘Please’ after an instrumental interlude there’s a fun synth and string slide down into the second verse. We spent at least an hour working on the synth sound, the chord, and the movement. It’s such a small thing that became integral to the song.
David also has an incredible array of guitar amps, microphones, pedals, and keyboards that I wanted to make the most of! David said he hadn’t actually used a lot of them in a while, just doing things digitally, but I knew I wanted to use acoustic and organic instruments.
We used David’s extensive knowledge of all things music tech and I think there’s something so nice about using organic sounds that is different where I want to go with my music. But I think co-producing this EP made it so that the vision I had for each sound and song was achieved because we had two brains on it.
View this post on Instagram
Happy: What motivated you to co-write with Ellie Dean and how did that collaboration shape your songwriting approach?
Sadie: I have always loved musical theatre and in high school after my drama teacher made a comment about there not being enough women writing shows, I wrote my first musical. In my first year of Uni, I knew I wanted to get straight into the musical theatre world so applied to direct a show run through Uni.
Ellie was assistant director and from the moment we met, we clicked. On the night of the last show I asked her if she wanted to write a musical with me and she said yes!
Sadie: We decided early on that this project would be highly collaborative so I did have to change my previous songwriting process. Ellie and I would both come up with lyrics and then I’d brainstorm melodies and themes and she’d tell me what she liked or didn’t.
I had someone to bounce ideas off as well as get feedback from. When I write songs for my singer-songwriter brain, I think of those songs as starting from scratch. Pen to a blank page. But each song in this musical was shaped around multiple ideas. I had to write lyrics around themes and use chord progressions and melodies that connect to other songs and progress the storyline.
Happy: Could you share the story behind your musical theatre show ‘Two Sisters’ and how it differs from your solo work?
Sadie: Ellie and I decided to work together mid-2022 and over the next few months spent days together brainstorming ideas. We both love fairytales and Celtic music so we settled on writing a mystical, magical musical based on two sisters in a made-up land where Ellie could use her fairytale knowledge and I could use my Celtic music roots.
We performed 20 minutes of it at a showcase at the start of this year and have plans to hopefully take it a step further in the coming years.
Sadie: Working on Two Sisters is very different from my solo work. They live in two different sections of my mind. My solo work consists of songs I write about my life, my experiences, and things I need to get off my chest.
The musical is a fun way of building a world and writing a bunch of songs that are all related. It’s also a much longer process. This musical has already been in development for over a year and we’re nowhere near done. Whereas, my solo songs take a very short time to create.
Happy: How did it feel to be the runner-up for the 2021 Folk Alliance Australia ‘Youth Folk Artist of the Year’ award, and how has that recognition impacted your career?
Sadie: It was honestly amazing. The nominees are all incredible artists and I am so grateful to have been nominated beside them. I was not expecting to place at all. The winner’s ‘Charm of Finches’ are a band I have known since I first started playing at folk festivals and are spectacular musicians, performers, and songwriters and it was an honor to be runner-up to them.
Having that recognition I think solidified that I belong in the folk scene. As I mentioned a little earlier, I’ve had trouble finding my musical identity because I love doing so many different music-related things. Sometimes I felt I wasn’t quite a right fit in the folk music industry. Being runner-up made me feel more at home in this world and I’m very happy to be here.
Happy: Winning the 2022 Queenscliff Music Festival Foot-in-the-Door competition must have been exciting. What opportunities and experiences did that open up for you?
Sadie: It was very exciting! I was meant to play at By the Pier musical festival this year as a prize but unfortunately the festival didn’t go ahead. I’m hoping that I’ll get to play Queenscliff Music Festival in the next few years instead. Otherwise, it’s a great thing to have in the bio!
Happy: Looking ahead, what can your fans expect from your future music releases and live performances?
Sadie: I think they can expect more of the combined pop and rock genres. I’m going to England for a few months at the end of this year and will be scoping out people to work with in order to solidify that pop-rock music. As I mentioned, I love brit-pop and big synth string sounds and chugging rhythms so I want to include this more English sound in my music.
Sadie: In terms of live performances, I’ve got a killer band to perform with (including David Carr on bass) and we have had a blast playing the songs from the EP as well as some boppier songs with the intent to make people dance. I perform pop-rock music and then do solo folk sets.
Happy: What makes you happy?