Let’s take it way back to the beginning, what inspired your love of music?
Initially it was my dad’s record collection – lots of Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, The Elephant Man soundtrack, loads of classical music (which I actually hated at the time). It all seeped into my unconscious! Plus I was a child of the 80s so there was so much great pop music around. I can’t really explain it, I just adored music and responded to it from an early age. I used to sing in my room all of the time and we used to sing in church so it evolved very naturally.
You are widely regarded as one of Australia’s most successful singer-songwriters, with seven albums and three ARIA awards under your belt. What do you consider your proudest achievement to date?
I think working on I Awake with the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra. It really and truly felt like a dream. To hear my music with an orchestra was a lifelong desire and to have that fulfilled was unbelievable.
What does your songwriting process look like?
The melody comes first with some gibberish and chords. The feeling comes first and then I struggle my way through to the finished lyrics.
We still get teary remembering your brilliant rendition of ‘Life On Mars’ following the news of David Bowie’s passing and you recently recorded a version of GANGajang’s ‘Sounds Of Then (This is Australia)’, which is obviously a pretty iconic Australian song. How does it feel to take on such beloved songs? Are there any other well-known songs you’d love to cover?
It feels pretty scary to take on a well-loved song, but then I think I’ve just always made sure I only do covers of things I really love or that I feel I could interpret in a way that feels natural. It’s a really interesting lesson to take a look at the structure, the chords, the lyrics and get some further insight into the way a song was made. It’s increased my admiration for the ones I’ve tackled. My golden rule is to try not to fuck with the melody, because I really hate it when people do covers and change the melody. I see no point in this at all! Change the chords a little, change the pace but don’t touch the melody people! I’ve got a cover of ‘Ocean Eyes’ by Billie Eilish that I’d like to perform sometime. It’s such a beautiful, pure song.
What was the first thought that ran through your mind when you heard that Sir Elton John mentioned you by name in his Carpool Karaoke segment with James Corden?
Disbelief. I still can’t quite believe it to be honest. It’s just such an inconceivable thing. Someone you’ve grown up listening to hearing your music and saying your name. It honestly really lifted my spirits at the time too, as I was doubting myself and feeling a bit past it. Elton referring to me as young only further added to the gloriousness of the mention, haha!
At the time of this interview, Sydney is currently in the midst of another lockdown. How have you stayed busy in isolation?
I’ve had my hands pretty full with children, so yes! I’ve had a wonderful day of writing songs today. I’m trying to write a new album these days.
What does self-care look like for you?
Doing all I can to look after my mental health first and foremost – exercising, sleep, giving myself a moment or two to breathe and re-group!
Image credit: Kylie Coutts