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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Bertie Blackman

By: Amanda Joy Robb

Whether she is bundled as a fem-rocker with the likes of Patti Smith and Deborah Harry, or seen as one of Australia’s darlings with Sia and Katie Miller Heike, songstress Bertie Blackman will always shine through. Having recently released the album “Secrets and Lies” which has gained outstanding reviews, Bertie Blackman is steadily sitting at the forefront of success within the Australian (and no doubt future) international musical arena.

“Secrets and Lies” is a collaboration of creamy melodic sounds, sexual allusions and strapping vocals. Mix this with a steady base of pop, and you have one of the country's finest albums this year. This is of no surprise, considering Blackman has been in the musical game since she was a teenager, with her first public performance at age seventeen. Belonging to a family lineage draped in creativity, Bertie was born a musician. Her first release, which labelled her indie folk, “Headway”, was no representation of her style. Following her debut was a more grunge guitar rock sound with the release of her second album “Black” in 2006.

Although happy with the end product, Blackman admits she was rather anxious whilst creating Secrets and Lies. She explained, “I put so a much heart and soul into this album which also made me quite anxious. Even though you have an idea of what you want, you still have no idea it would turn out. It was an amazing experience”

Blackman worked with renowned producer Lee Greves, who relocated here from the UK a week before the production began. “Working with Greves was a big first for me as I have never worked with anyone like him before. Secrets and Lies became a song by song process, where I was able to seriously explore pop music, which I also have never been exposed too.”

Blackman’s musical transition over the years was solidified with Secrets and Lies, possessing strong foundations in the pop genre. Wanting already to experiment in this style, Blackman was aided by Greves' musical direction and encouraged to explore her own musical sound. “The album definitely has his stamp on it, which I think is the outcome of working with any good producer. With this album I was able to explore vocals and the use of the keyboards much more. In the past I have primarily let the sound come from within the band. I found whilst producing secrets and lies, the rewards are so much higher if I opened my heart out to these opportunities. It is so lovely to now share this discovery in my music.”

She is an emotion fuelled songwriter. Listening to her lyrics, gives the sense of reading a friend's personal journal. Her ability to capture vulnerability and rawness lyrically is what gives her music that extra sharp intensity. “My songs are far more personal then people who listen to my music will ever know. I feel I have always been an honest songwriter. This album is a combination my thoughts feelings and emotions over the last year and a half”.

Originally from Sydney, and recently located to Melbourne, Blackman has just kicked off a bout of national tours. Together with her own shows, she is amongst the mix of musicians at Parklife this year. “I am definitely looking forward to seeing The Rapture at Parklife. The tour is exciting too. Touring is great because you can finally get your songs out in front of an audience. When people are really into your performance, the energy coming from a crowd is so amazing. The culture of touring and recording is just a big cycle. Playing live can inspire the recording of new music, which you then take into the studio and do all over again.”

Bertie supported international sensation Goldfrapp last year. “I was lucky to support Goldfrapp at the Sydney Opera House last year. This would have to be a highlight of my life. Being on stage and looking out into the audience was such an auspicious special feeling. I don’t think I will ever forget it. And it was such an honour to perform at the Opera House. I have to say it is one of the most beautiful venues in the world.”

The great thing about Blackman is her ability to self express, which she does so honestly though her music. Her reviews within the media industry have been positive, with appraisals describing her music as ‘jaw-dropping’, world class and even a ‘saviour of our sonic day’. However, it is her quirky humour that softly falls into place in her own self evaluations. “Well, I guess if I were to describe myself it would be, ‘the dark is dark and the light is light’. Oh but of course with pop music in between!”

See Bertie on tour as follows:

AUGUST
Thursday 13, The Beach Hotel, Byron Bay NSW
Friday 14, The Hi Fi, Brisbane QLD
Saturday 15, The Woombye Pub, Sunshine Coast QLD
Sunday 16, The Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast QLD
Thursday 20, The Karova Lounge, Ballarat VIC
Friday 21, The Hi Fi, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 22, The National, Geelong VIC
Thursday 27, The Governor Hindmarsh, Adelaide SA
Friday 28, Fly by Night, Fremantle, WA
Saturday 29, The Amplifier, Perth WA