She first added her own unique beat to the rhythm of the Australian music industry nigh on thirty years ago and yet Kate Ceberano is still in tune – with her music, with her audience, and most of all, with herself as an artist, something that is evident in her new album, Kensal Road. Fresh, earthy and rich with personal and relatable themes, the album is the first collection of original music Ceberano has released in the last decade, and reflects the changing dynamic of her life over that time as a busy wife, mother, and cultural creatrix.
The central motif running through many of the songs is one of home: what home means, being away from home, being an anchor point from afar to the people who are close to you, and negotiating the associated challenges of contemporary life.
"I can't imagine that it could be natural for people who are artists to adopt a very domestic life when they're governed by muses they have no control over," Ceberano told WeekendNotes. "Music, or any type of art-form, for that matter, takes you at the most inopportune moments. When you let your mind rest for a minute, suddenly you've got a new song banging on the door, but you're wondering, 'How am I going to get my kid to school and talk to the teachers about being a volunteer at the Father's Day event on Saturday?' when you've got this song that has to be written… it's just there, so the way you do it is that you end up doing the best you can, keep it afloat, keep that artist and music in you while still being a parent and responsible… some days you win, and some days you don't."
Despite the demands and distractions of the day-to-day, Ceberano is still creative enough to find ways to be creative. Rather than becoming limited by the successes of her past, she has instead allowed her style to evolve with maturity and the added element of motherhood into something that is both more intricate yet more fundamental than the late-80s sexy of 'Bedroom Eyes'. She retains the sensuality and pop feel of her earlier work, built in with a folk-country vibe and a singular rawness in melody and narrative that adds another dimension to her music.
According to Ceberano, her image shifts according to her experiences. "In 25 years you become 20 different people," she said. "It's like a wardrobe that is constantly changing depending on trends, the people you're being influenced by, friends you've had, friends you've lost, or lovers… I can't explain what I was influenced by 20 years ago because God only knows. 'She' was a combination of so many things in the 80s; it was post-punk British New Wave and we were at the forefront of a contemporary culture… I was recording with Malcolm McLaren in London and I was writing with artists who were really seminal 80s bands… It was a whole different universe… and then Madonna hit and the whole culture became entranced by the visual elements… I think we went through that era and everyone was trying to earmark themselves as the next Madonna – I know I was."
Parenthood has now given her a sense of immediacy; "I just want to make music now, but something I can grow into as well."
One of the biggest things that has given Ceberano momentum along this path is her involvement as the Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, a role that she says has stimulated her as she's witnessed the growth of the genre and the power of the performers. "You've got artists who involve themselves in the song as a person rather than the song being bigger than the person themselves. The narrative is very important to them, the expression and how they record it, all the simple things… I feel so inspired by them, they're such risk-takers and there's nothing you can't do after that if you're a creative person. You're like 'oh yay, I'm going to go and make a punk record', or 'I'm going to play the drums', or 'I'm going to go and put up a review', or 'I'm going to do a dance'… you don't feel contained."
Play the drums, she says? "Yeah, I'm on the drums! I've loved drummers all my life. I'm a flamenco dancer as well, so [rhythm] is something that really gets me," she said, explaining that the whole band will exchange instruments throughout their shows when they start touring Kensal Road in October, replicating the organic set-up of the album. "I can't say I 'play drums', I've never been taught or anything, I'm more of a percussionist... Sitting behind the drums is sexy in a way that it shows self-control and power; it's empowering for women."
This fluidity and hands-on approach to all aspects of the up-coming tour is in keeping with Ceberano's method in creating the album. "I wanted to do it all, and there's a lot more involvement, a lot more investment, I did a lot more with the production of the album, creating a way to hear my voice and put it in a place where I didn't have to compete with musicians to keep it there. I can keep it nice and calm and in your ear."
The Kensal Road tour kicks off in Western Australia on 2 October, 2013 and will encompass South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT before wrapping up in New South Wales on 3 November. Please visit her official website for further tour information.