words: jade kennedy
featured photo: brittany long
“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, ‘cause every little thing gonna be alright…”
When Sarah McLeod from The Superjesus serenades you with Bob Marley down the phone from her home in country Victoria while the world around you is going mad, it’s pretty well guaranteed to put a smile on your face. And make you believe her.
It’s Thursday night, and we’re doing an impromptu interview to discuss McLeod’s upcoming Facebook live stream of the set she had planned to perform at 14 dates across the country through April and May. A solo tour that has now – along with countless others – been cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Initially when the tour was off I was like, ‘Great! I don’t have to worry about finishing all of my rehearsals!’” McLeod said.
“Then I was like no, I should finish my rehearsals and I should do it anyway. There’s going to be so many people that are sitting at home and bummed – I mean I’m bummed and I’m bored and I need things to keep me busy and I need goals. They might not be financially viable, but they’re still things to keep me busy, and they’re still goals and they’re still musical.
“I just want to connect with people. We’re all isolated, I mean I’m isolated out here on the farm, people are isolated in the middle of the city; but my main concern for everybody is mental health. I know we’re all going through some serious shit and I just worry how people go. Money is tight, people start fighting with their families when they’re home too long, they start getting weird, and I don’t know, I just want to do whatever I can to just to keep connecting with people and talking with people and playing for people where possible. So I’m experimenting with a few different things, and Sunday’s stream is the first of them.”
So Sunday’s live stream isn’t going to be the last we will see of you for a while?
“No, no, Sunday is just a, ‘Here’s that show so I can get it out of my system,’ because I was working on it, and then I can put that aside and go cool, now I can never play that again,” she said.
“Then I have a plan moving forward of how to connect with people on a much more regular level than I’ve done before, and I’m going to reveal that plan on Sunday when I have all the ducks in a row. I’m just setting it up now.”
For McLeod, cancelling the tour was “a no brainer.”
“My agents were like, ‘Oh let’s wait,’ and I was like, ‘No way, no, just cancel it.’” she said.
“I just knew that I couldn’t do it. I mean, I cancelled quite early because I just knew that it wasn’t going to happen. People were saying, ‘Maybe cancel the first week or so,’ and I was like, no, I don’t feel that this is going to be a quick fix, just cancel the whole thing. I didn’t want the stress of it. I wanted people to know where they stood so they could make a decision and get their money back and work out what’s going on in their own lives. The more things we can put into place and square away instead of thinking what the fuck to do next, the better. Also, I didn’t want to put anyone at risk by thinking, ‘Oh maybe I could do it, it’s only a hundred, I could squeeze a hundred people in here.’ It’s not about me trying to squeeze out a hundred tickets, it’s just about us all looking after each other.”
McLeod said living on the farm was good during this period especially, and she had been “totally hiding out” without venturing into the city for ages. Just be careful of how you word things when you speak to her.
“If I hear one more person say, ‘Calm the farm,’… Fuck I hate that term… Like, suck a dick,” she laughed.
On a serious note, though, McLeod is not one for sitting idle. Even in the face of Armageddon she won’t be sitting around binge-watching Vikings.
“I’ve got a book that I’ve been working on, that I was going to release as a section of my life, but then I didn’t release it and I sat on it and now I’m thinking I should just sit on it a bit longer and just write my whole life, rather than just those couple of years,” she laughed.
“I’m working on a new project that I’m going to launch on Sunday that’s going to take up all of my time and it’s very creative and it’s very interactive and I’m actually looking forward to it, I think it’s going to be very fun. You know, times are changing and you’ve got to move with it, we’ve got to be fluid and we don’t have time to worry about or sit and moan about what we’ve lost, we’ve just got to cut it and think fast about where to go next.”
McLeod is no stranger to self-isolation. She wrote her solo album Rocky’s Diner from an apartment in New York where she deliberately self-isolated so she could focus on writing. So her advice to those not so accustomed to it?
“Give yourself a project,” she said.
“If you are doing something that makes your soul happy then you’ll be happy. It doesn’t have to be creative, if you’re not a creative person, but if you’re doing something that’s for you – you’ve got no choice, I mean people would probably rather be going to work for sure – but if you can’t go to work, if you find something that makes you happy that you can do at home the time will pass really quickly and it’ll keep you sane.”
McLeod, along with the rest of the music industry and it’s workers, were the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ when it came to the effects of COVID-19 on closures and job losses. Although she is “terrified” about the future of our industry, McLeod is also optimistic.
“I know that we will build it back up, because no matter what happens people always want to be entertained and people love music deep down, and even if it takes a couple of years to get back on its feet; even if it comes back morphed into a different way,” she said.
“Like, I was using the analogy; we’re very adaptable us human beings, so if the whole planet flooded we’d develop webbed feet: we move with the times and we develop, and it’s terrifying when the change arises, but we always find ways of adapting and making our way through. And from disaster good things always bloom. So we’ll see. I’m trying to look at it as a time of change and fear with some sort of silver lining at the end that hopefully will be good for everyone. (Laughs) Somehow.”
Amongst the adaptations, which are already beginning, we have started seeing free living room concerts being live streamed on Facebook and Instagram, musicians offering vocal and music lessons on Skype and Zoom, as well as coaching and mindset sessions with musicians and industry reps.
“Isn’t it cool though?” McLeod said.
“You can actually get closer to the artists now – and you’ll find that you will be able to do this a lot more – now that we can’t see them in person, you’ll actually be able to get closer to them because that’s the new way of doing it. So it could actually be really cool. It’s just, you know, in times of crisis people band together and I just like seeing people putting themselves out on a limb and helping each other. I don’t like seeing some of the bad shit. I’m really worried about how some people flick that switch and they start fighting, and fighting in supermarkets and pulling out daggers and going fucking bananas – that side of it I fear a lot. But I’m hoping that was just the minority groups and we as Australians who are caring, beautiful people, we love each other and we’re strong and we’re clever, and I think that we’ll be able to get through this if we just look out for each other and think of the future, think of the long term, and try to think of ways we can all help each other and keep each other sane.”
Before the world started locking down, McLeod released her latest solo single, Killin’ It Til I’m Dead.
“Ironically called Killin’ It Til I’m Dead,” she laughed.
“Well I didn’t realise how apt it was at the time. It was meant to be a tongue in cheek title because I get anxiety about certain things that I have to do, and my fear of certain situations sometimes gets the better of me, so I always talk to myself in the mirror and talk myself up, like, ‘You can do this! You’re a machine! Don’t have the fear, you’re a really good singer! You’re not going to make a mistake!’ So Killin’ It Til I’m Dead is this comedic catchphrase, like, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m killin’ it til I’m dead, there’s no flies on me! I’ll be fine!’ But it’s got a whole different vibe now, hasn’t it?”
The whole songwriting process for the new track – warts and all – can be found on Kav Temperley’s (from Eskimo Joe) new podcast, HatJam.
“Yeah, (we wrote this) on HatJam,” McLeod said.
“So you can hear the song being written from scratch on HatJam. Like, he and I just sitting there going, ‘Okay… Uhhh… Now… What should we do?’ from the fucking very beginning. (Laughs) Which you never do. It’s cool. It feels very vulnerable. I’ve never done it before. I’ve certainly never had any audio that’s out online where people can listen to all of the shit along the way… because you always write shit along the way. You’ve just got to sit there and work hard enough, and eventually you replace all of the trash with cool stuff, but you’ve got to throw a bunch of trash on the table first. No one ever sits down and writes Let It Be… (Laughs) Well… (Laughs) you know.”
McLeod admitted the whole process was somewhat scary at first – the vulnerable and unknown – but she was getting used to the idea.
“I don’t feel vulnerable about it at all any more,” she said.
“I’m actually planning to do a lot more of that vulnerable stuff now that there’s a lot more working from home and things to connect with people on the internet. I think that’s the way to go. I don’t mind letting people in on things that I normally would have gone, ‘Oh no, you can only see the final finished product at the end.’ I’ve sort of chucked all of that out the window now. Now it’s like, we’re all in this together, let’s watch the process and maybe other people can learn from it.”
To support Sarah McLeod until she’s back on the road, you can buy her merch online at www.sarahmcleod.com.au, follow her on Facebook or Instagram and tune in to her live Facebook stream at 5pm AEDT this Sunday 22nd March. Local times: Adelaide: 4.30pm, Brisbane: 4pm, Darwin: 3.30pm, Perth: 2pm.
Listen: Sarah McLeod – Killin’ It Til I’m Dead