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Kate Ceberano’s Sweet Inspiration

Despite the events of 2020, ARIA award winning singer Kate Ceberano created her 28th album, Sweet Inspiration, released last month. After a year of reimagined (aka streamed) performances, plus a relocation from Melbourne to a seaside shack with her family in New South Wales, she’s joining us in the NT. We caught up with the bona fide national treasure for a chat.

Congratulations on your new album. Number 28! Incredible!
Oh, thank you. My husband and I worked out the other day that this’ll be the fifth decade of my life that I’ve had a top 10 album. I reckon there’s a small handful of us in Australia that’ve had that. I think there’s Kylie, Midnight Oil, AC/DC and probably Barnesy, so I’m like, I’m in great company!

You sure are! And Sweet Inspiration’s debuted at number five on the ARIA charts – how does it feel to still be doing what you love after more than three decades?
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t through planning, and I didn’t have any great visions for my future [laughs] I really didn’t! But the beauty of Australian music – and this really is the beauty of Australian music – in the end, it’s not really about you, it’s about the people who discover you along the way.

I’ve found my joy from hearing how I was the soundtrack to people’s youth, people’s weddings, people coming out, you know? Even babies being born. And these days, I sort of feel like I’ve been a comfort for COVID. Anyway, winner winner, chicken dinner – it’s all good!

Yes, COVID. The entertainment industry has taken a huge hit over the last year – putting out an album was pretty ballsy...
It’s no mean feat, but I’ve got to thank COVID for something. I think Australian music’s never been as important than it is today. We’ve got a tiny little break in the weather – international touring is basically closed down, which is sad, but it means we don’t have global heavy weights competing with our own people, and so maybe we can discover our own sense of Australian industry again? I think it’s proof that music is an essential service, that’s for sure.

How was your experience through the pandemic?
The day it all kind of hit, we had two years’ work fall off overnight. Everyone retracted their support, all gigs cancelled, and I do understand that, but it was sad to me because there was no way to catch up, to recover. I’m certainly not putting this above anyone else’s needs because there are people out there still without jobs.

But I thought about my dad. He’s a very famous martial artist, one of the highest ranked in the world…his form of self-defence is to use the power coming at you from and attacker and turn it around to use that power to defend yourself. I used that concept, turned to my family and said, “okay kids, we’ve got to get really clever about this!”

My husband’s a director and my daughter just knows how we roll, so we started broadcasting from home, delivering concerts every Friday night. We were teaching ourselves how to survive if we were suddenly thrust out in space and broadcasting from a space capsule [laughs].

Was it strange to rework your craft and the way you’ve delivered it for so long?
You’ve got to be nimble! And we actually developed different physiological characteristics… I know I have my Zoom eyes – do you get that? Where you’ve got to focus on a small black circle in the space of a black mirror, and you’re not allowed to look at yourself? [laughs]

Anyway, it’s crazy, but moving forward I got a bit of confidence in my production skills to make a record in this time, and we ended up getting the band together for three days after the last lockdown. We practiced every song and did as many takes as it took, and laid down the exact one that was perfect for all of us on the record. We did it without editing, which was really nice.

Despite the COVID chaos, people have been clutching onto their silver linings. What are yours?
I’ve been connected with my family – the three little bears have been really, really tight! My daughter just turned 17 during the lockdown, and I wrote the original track ‘Hold On’ because I was seated downstairs, thinking of her upstairs, isolated from friends, not going to school. I thought to myself, to my knowledge, that this is a girl who may not have done a lot of firsts – first kiss, first dance, you know what I mean? What are we going to do? It was breaking my heart.

I’ve been able to do a lot in my life – I’ve travelled, I’ve sung for kings and queens, and then there’s my beautiful daughter upstairs waiting to live her life. That was a silver lining, to have her be able to work on this project and feel a part of something. It wasn’t just about her mum – or me – it was about us.

In fact, we had to relocate from Melbourne to News South Wales just to work. We live in a cute but modest little beach shack, and we’re all working together. It’s beautiful.

Kate Ceberano - Up Close and Personal
COST $65

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