RR LogoMelbourne's Kate Slaney Leaves Little Notes for Music Fans

kate slaney photo 1For solo artist Kate Slaney who is a singer-songwriter from St. Kilda, a seaside resort that is also a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, it seems like a natural question to ask what direction her career has taken since she amiably parted ways with the Rock band Vicious Soir, which also featured her songwriting and guitarist brother Robert Slaney.

“I think that definitely it has taken on a new direction and one of the reasons that I wanted to do the album is because I had a number of songs kicking around for years and I had an idea of how I wanted to sound. This has really made me stretch my arms and my legs in every direction. I have come to grips with who I am as an artist, so I think the music places the lyric more centrally. The lyric is less cryptic, even though I was responsible for lyrics on the last album (a Vicious Soir release). It can be more personal when you are writing for yourself and you are not writing for the band, so you can write about topics that are less self-indulgent. Before I was always writing with my brother Robert Slaney in Vicious Soir and it was limiting in that environment.  He was more the music guy and I was more the lyric girl. I am stretching myself now musically as well.”

The listener is treated to the versatility of Kate Slaney, while listening to two songs from her yet to be named album, the songs being “Primates,” and “Little Notes.”  The former is a funky and up-tempo song that takes a playful look at romance.  The song “Little Notes,” is slower, reflective, as the singer looks hopefully for some little sign from the one with whom she is in love that tells her he is thinking of her and gives her the assurance that she is still indeed the lady he thinks about throughout the day. Michael Oliphant’s keys provide a sensitive accompaniment. 

“It is the kind of music that I like to write, up close and personal. I buy and listen to music that makes me feel like someone is singing to me, not that they are singing to a huge audience, but that they are literally standing and singing to me. They are giving me that message and whispering in my ear about something that they feel and I am feeling their feelings. That is the music that really grabs me,” she says, acknowledging that she feels that it is also easier for the listener to hear the connection between the words and the singer.

“I am someone who tries to melt your heart,” she says, ending in light laughter.

About the song “Little Notes,” Kate Slaney says, “I think that it is very hard to write a song that is about the reality of a relationship in a digital world, which seems pretty nonromantic when we are constantly communicating with people as we are, with texting and email. None of it seems very romantic, so I was trying to find a way and I was trying to be clever about (describing) how all of these things communicate with one another.  I (thought about) how the little notes that you find are the text messages and I am trying to draw upon that experiences that people have. (Then quoting from the song)  “I clutch my phone, like I’m holding your hand / And I hope you forget, some little thing that you need me to do / Something that excuses you / Got me looking for little notes, little signs /I know how you feel /But it doesn’t seem real.” It is trying to bring that experience into a romantic setting and into a romantic song, which I find difficult to do sometimes.  It is when love really undoes you and you feel like a child and you don’t really know where it is going. The song talks about feeling like a child and you don’t really know. This song “Little Notes,” is about the other person and not knowing how it is going to go. You are looking for little signs around the house that he or she may have left you and when they come home you want to play like a child (she laughs).  It is all those feelings of Christmas or whatever holiday season that you are celebrating. That is the other take that is running through the lyric and hopefully it is coming out and supporting the music which is sparse purposely. I think Michael Oliphant does a beautiful little solo.”


“It is a song that was written a couple of years ago and that was at the very beginning of that relationship and that was what I felt, ‘Are you feeling what I’m feeling?’  I tend to go for the strong, silent types (she laughs).  If I didn’t I would have nothing to write about (more laughter),” she says, while still talking about the song “Little Notes.”


Kate Slaney is supported on her new album that has a tentative title When I Stole You and You Stole Me, by an “A” group of musicians including bass guitarist Roger McLachlan (Little River Band, John Farnham), drummer Gerry Pantazis (Tommy Emmanuel, Bachelor Girl), keyboardist (and producer) Michael Oliphant (Late For Breakfast, Tina Turner), guitarist and mandolin player Michael Doyle (Atlantis, Claymore) and saxophonist Greg Clarkson (Jersey Boys, Don Burrows). Kate Slaney met all of the musicians in one way or another through being a part of the burgeoning Melbourne music scene.


“I have worked in a number of bands and Australia is a small place. Melbourne is like a Mecca and this is where there are the greatest opportunities to play, so everyone knows everyone. Michael was my first contact and I started playing with him.  It has been a labor of love and I keep tripping into more wonderful people and more wonderful players and some strange and wonderful characters as well,” she says.


About Michael Oliphant’s contributions as the producer, she says, “He is very generous as a producer and he is somebody who will allow you to be involved in the process. If you ask a question, he will let you know what is going on. I have learned more in the last two years with him, while doing this album than I have ever learned in my life.  My ears have just got bigger and bigger.” 


Music has always been a part of Kate Slaney’s life, “When I was a tiny kid (is when I first thought I would like to make music a career). I would say the relationship between writing and performing was not until I hit school and the teachers pushed me up on the stage. It was a little painful at first and I had to get over that little bump, but as a kid I was also rhyming everything and writing limericks. I blame Dr. Seuss. It was fun and I think there is natural music in rhyme and poetry.  Before I knew it I had a guitar in my hand and I was locking myself in the bathroom where it had the best reverb. I (started) writing songs.  That seemed just magical to be able to create something out of nothing. I was probably twelve when I was writing songs and when I was thirteen when I got up in front of my first audience, about 1,000 people at Toorack College. At 14 years old I found myself in a new school called Woodleigh which was very progressive in terms of the environment and the arts. Every week was Bush Week. It seemed like every teacher had a guitar and a degree in pottery making and you sang Credence and all the other greats. Folk is what I grew up with and what I understood. They would go around in turns and everyone would sing their new song. That was the environment that I was in since I was fourteen. It was a natural progression. I just found it to be a little bit painful until I became stronger as a singer.  I think that is natural. Little kids are shy and I was a shy kid.”


For those artists still looking to becoming established in the music industry they would be very wise to check out a series of podcasts available both on YouTube and I-Tunes, put together by Kate Slaney, Michael Oliphant and Roger McLachlan.  Michael Oliphant, Roger and McLachlan and me decided just for fun to talk about singing, music making and everything from what microphone to choose and how to set it up.

You can listen to some of Kate Slaney's music here including songs for her new album.

Interviewed by Joe Montague

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