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Activist singer: Interview with Rachael Brady

Rachael_Brady2Rachael Brady's unique voice and emotional performances have earned her a place as one of the most exciting independent performers in her genre. Her sultry, velvet tones, coupled with inspirational lyrics with a humanitarian edge, make for a pleasurable listening experience that replenishes the soul. A vegan and passionate advocate for animal rights, Rachael doesn’t just perform her art; she lives it. She spoke with Natalie Becquet.

When did you get started in music? 

I spent the better part of 92/93 living in Japan and then returned to Australia to resume my University (Journalism/Japanese) studies which I'd deferred whilst away, but by the end of 94 I'd dropped out of Uni and was modeling and pulling beers in a Brisbane pub.

It was at this time, not really having a clear idea about what I wanted to do that the bar manager suggested I get up in the  middle of my shift and sing a few tunes with the resident acoustic covers duo. I did (reluctantly and nervously) and that became a regular part of my weekly bar shift which was something of a novelty for the patrons.

So from there, bitten by the bug, I met my (then) partner who was a musician in another covers band. We started a band together and played the Brisbane covers circuit for 8 years until our relationship ended, and with it, the band. I was at a crossroads again - I was in my early 30's, I'd sung party covers for the bulk of my 20s, but I didn't want to keep doing it so I returned to my initial love and started doing acoustic covers until I met Nigel Kerr, at which point we started writing originals - that was about 5 years ago. 

How did you meet Nigel, and how much of an influence is he in the process of making music? 

I was playing acoustic covers and Nigel was a friend of the guitarist I was playing with. Eventually, the other person disappeared from the picture and Nigel and I started writing original music. Our writing relationship is 50/50. He writes the chord structures as a general rule and I write the melodies and lyrics. We don't really diverge from that method apart from two songs, one of which he contributed some of the lyrics and the other which I penned entirely alone. 

When you begin writing a song, do you have a picture in your head of what you want the finished product to be? 

No.  Nigel gives me the blank musical canvas and I paint whatever I feel over it according to what the music evokes. Words and phrases come hopefully without much coercion, and I take dictation and shape them into lyrics as best I can.

Who are your musical inspirations? 

Joni Mitchell is always the first person I think of when someone asks me this question. There are others but her music always stays with me through my fluctuating tastes - particularly her earlier stuff, pre-1980s. 

What else are you drawn to for inspiration?   

Inspiration comes out of every experience - from every question I'm trying to get an answer for whether it's 'why am I here' or 'why can't the males in my family remember to put the seat down after they've peed so I don't fall into the toilet when I get up to go in the dark at 2am....' 

What was your best gig?  

Rachael_Brady1In the north of  Wisconsin there's a huge wooden barn on this block of land (somewhat ironically it used to be a dairy farm) that'd been converted into a place where they hold something called the Fishstock Summer Concert Series and we played there in 2006 when we toured the USA. That was a very unique venue in a really beautiful part of the state called Door County. We had a lot of great gigs on that tour.

We also played in a beautiful little art gallery in Green Bay that was very intimate. I think that one stands out for me because I was pregnant with my 2nd child at the time and in the middle of that set I felt him kick for the first time.

Closer to home,  a gig in the main room at the Brisbane Powerhouse is always a good one. It's an interesting room, there's always an attentive crowd, the sound is the best I've had anywhere and when I'm fortunate enough to have that specific combination of things going on it makes for a good performance. 

And your worst gig? 

Not necessarily the worst, but a bit odd and disconnected....When Nige and I toured the States in 2006 we accepted this last minute impromptu gig in a massive sports bar/restaurant just outside of Chicago - the kind with television sets at every table, sports paraphernalia everywhere...big screen tv's showing every flavour of American sport imaginable...generally not the kind of room we would play or do well in because people are there to eat, drink and watch sport. We had a small group that enjoyed it, but generally it was a disconnected kind of experience. 

You're a vegan and an animal rights activist. Is there anything you'd like our readers to know about the causes you advocate for? 

I am content with the vegan label and I'm happy to support and contribute to vegan events and causes. I do my best to live by what I hope is a happy, healthy, peaceful and compassionate example, but people must come to their choices in their own time. For me and for my family it's been one of the best choices on so many levels. I do know that it's the most sustainable and peaceful way to live and I hope others will come to the same conclusion. 

Career wise, what are your goals for the next year?  

It's hard for me to think in terms of "career" and "goals". Music is a tool for expressing, processing and learning different things about myself and my perception of the world, so the only thing that I really want to keep doing is moving closer and closer to honest expression. 

What would your husband say is the best thing about you? 

I asked him and his answer was "Compassion for all living things - including the ones without voices; the trees and the bugs, and that all your children have learned that from you also." 

The worst? 

I asked him this one too and he said "You get a little intense when you're focused on something you're doing and the whole world stops, the house falls down around us until it gets done." 

You recently had a birthday. How did you celebrate?

We live in a beautiful part of Australia - the Blue Mountains - and so we just hung out at home where every day has a "I'm on holiday" quality to it...I'm saving the fireworks for my 40th birthday in 2 years' time.  

More information on Rachael and her album's Peace by Peace and Somewhere Sunshine can be found at her Myspace page.

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