Take a little time: Interview with Rach Moran
- Published: 22 October 2012
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23 October 2012
In 1971 the New Seekers wanted to teach the world to sing. Rach Moran went a step further by teaching herself not only to sing and write songs, but to play several musical instruments including bass drums, guitar, keyboards, Irish whistle, mandolin, ukulele and percussion.
“I think I taught myself to play half a dozen instruments because I couldn’t decide which instrument I loved the best,” she chuckles. “I was just one of those kids that loved to sing and make up songs, and having a large family meant I always had an audience. We had a piano in our lounge room that my mum would play and I’d get pots and spoons from the kitchen and play drums. My mum dated a musician, Mick Fowler, who bought me a ukulele and by the time I was about nine, he’d let me play drums every now and then in his band.”
Moran, 50, joined one of Sydney’s first lesbian bands, Sheila, at the age of 17. A decade later she formed and sang lead vocals in Big Sister, an eight-piece all-girl Janis Joplin tribute band. The next 15 years saw Moran lend her voice and multi-instrumental abilities to many activities, as a guitarist, bass player, drummer, backup vocalist, lead vocalist and songwriter, playing gigs at International Women’s Day concerts, Reclaim the Night, Ruby Reds, Patches and fundraisers for the Lesbian Space project and the original Pride Centre fundraisers in Surry Hills. During the 1980s she toured as acoustic support act for the band Redgum.
Finding that music can shine light inspirationally and politically, Moran’s original songs are both passionate and gentle, featuring the theme of compassion and how we can take care of the earth, each other and animals.
“I’ve loved animals from the time I was born,” she says. “I grew up in the suburbs with cats and dogs, and my cousins, who lived further out, had horses, ducks and chickens, just walking around, all as pets. The animals in our life were members of our family. There was no division between us and them: we ate together, slept together, played together – it was natural. I see all animals as my family; their welfare is the most important thing in my life. I aim to protect them and encourage other people to do this too.”
A lifelong vegetarian, Moran, who lives in Sydney’s inner west with her cherished dog, Bodhi (pictured), became vegan 18 months ago. It was a lightbulb moment for her.
“I was watching Animals Australia’s exposure of live export on television and thought, ‘I can’t watch this.’ I wanted to block my ears and change the channel, then I realised I had to witness this, no matter how much it traumatised me personally. I knew I had to become part of this and acknowledge fully the cruelty that happens to billions of animals all over the world, every second. I was wearing leather shoes which I looked at and felt ill that I was wearing a by-product of the cruelty. I cried for days.
“I realised it was time to become vegan and to commit truly to animal welfare. My life then shifted in a beautiful way. I stepped into what I believe in wholeheartedly – that my lifestyle would not support animal cruelty – and hopefully I can encourage others how easy it is to not use animal products.”
Moran’s style of music is a mix of upbeat blues, alternative folk and gentle ballads. Her powerful and uplifting vocals are always delivered with a warm smile, inspiring a sense of peace, love and connection among audiences.
“My song writing hasn’t changed much over the years: my early songs were always about love and my new songs are too, though the songs I write now have taken on another dimension,” she explains. “They are more inspired by what I believe in and by the amazing people I meet who have the same mindset, with inspirations from a person who may say a simple line in a conversation that grabs me and opens up a song in me. The songs are about positive perspectives, the can-do approach to life and taking time to do it. I write altruistically from my core belief that everything is beautiful when nurtured.
“What I love about music and singing is the condensed communication it has – a three-minute song can share as much as a two-hour movie or a book – and those who connect to a certain piece of music, be it lyrical or instrumental, will find in it what resonates personally to them. I’ve found that to sing is to listen first.”
It seems that Moran’s creativity knows no bounds. In addition to her musical talents, she is an accomplished visual artist who paints earthy landscapes and vivid waterscapes and is also a dab hand in the kitchen.
“I love cooking vegan food!” she says, with a big smile. “It’s so easy once you’ve set up a basic vegan pantry at home. My cupboards are filled with whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegan flavourings, fruits, vegetables, and frozen mock things to satisfy everyone. I can make a vegan cheese in 10 minutes, which I’m very proud of, and also make great desserts and hearty meals. And there’s always smiles all around when I cook.”
Rach Moran will play on the main stage at the Cruelty Free Festival, a free, outdoor, annual community event hosted by Animal Liberation NSW that aims to bring animal cruelty and welfare issues to the public in a fun environment, on Sunday 28 October, between 10am and 5pm at Belmore Park, near Central Station, Sydney. For more information, visit www.crueltyfreefestival.org.au or the festival’s Facebook page.
Visit Rach Moran’s Youtube channel to hear some of her original songs, which will be part of her upcoming CD in 2013.
Images from top: Rach Moran and Bodhi, 2012; in Big Sister, 1991; Rach Moran and Bodhi, 2012. Photos courtesy of Rach Moran.