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Byron Shire
April 18, 2021

The songs of a survivor

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Colleen Hewett

She’s a woman with a big voice and an even bigger heart. Fifteen years after her last album, Colleen Hewett has returned to the studio to create the album she has wanted to make for a LONG time. Black & White sees Colleen set her stirring vocal ability free with genres ranging from emotional ballads to country and soulful blues tracks as she takes the listener on a journey that traces her family history, including previously unknown details about her ancestry and experience with domestic violence.

While at time its heavy and at times taboo subject matter, Hewett manages to create an uplifting show where she presents the songs that started it all for her. A blend of blues and songs that tell the story of her life.

It’s been fifteen years since your last album. What was it like stepping back into the studio for Black & White?

Fifteen years goes so quickly, and during that time I have been very busy. A number of stage musicals, my first film and live performances, and so making albums was not in my thinking. Australian artists find it difficult to obtain support from radio and television in this country so I was not keen to get back into that dog-eat-dog business. Even in my hometown of Bendigo, one station said they would not play my tracks. However, the community station does, so I am with them.

Friends and family continually have been on to me to do an album, so I decided I would give it a go and I am glad I did.

What is the story that you want to tell about domestic violence and the affect it has on families?

The story of domestic violence is everywhere, and I am not preaching anything. I refuse to say I am a victim, because I am actually a SURVIVOR. And most importantly, I never look back. When I was asked to be an ambassador for Violence Free Families by Rotary, I accepted immediately because I knew I could do my bit to help create awareness of VFF.

Many people have such intense shame around their experience of violence. Why is it that you have chosen to make an album and speak out?

Not me. I have no shame at all. The positive is that I chose to do something about it and while I am helping to bring awareness to a men’s help line, through Violence Free Families and Rotary, women are also perpetrators of violence. People reading this will understand what I mean so we should all wake up to ourselves and think about what we are doing.

Tell me about Shut Up and Let Me Breathe.

Shut Up and Let me Breathe was written by Tracey Bunn, who lives in Darwin. When I first heard the song, I immediately felt that it described the anguish and frustration of violence in my life perfectly. It was like Tracey was looking into my mind and conveying exactly how I felt through her magnificent song. We were supported by some wonderful people in the video clip who stood up and said No to family violence and we are proud of what we have achieved.

What about the other songs on the album – can you fill me in a little about some of your favourite tracks?

This may sound odd, but I love every song on the album, and believe me, this has never happened before. I chose all the songs including Daddy Said, which was written by my son William, and it describes my life beautifully. It talks about my early years, and the wonderful positive support my late father gave me throughout my whole life. My eldest son Casey worked on the design and marketing of the album, and so Black & White has been a family affair.

Blues is My Businessis a great song that is many years old and it gives me a chance to perform the music I did when I first started.

Rockin’ Chair is about my grandmother, and it was written by Tony Naylor, who will be playing guitar for me at the Ballina RSL. He is a wonderful player, and I just love this song because my grandmother meant so much to me.

Starlight, also written by Tony, is about my great-grandfather and that songs means a lot to me also.

In the past, the songs I sang were often forced on my by record companies and producers, and sometimes I was not happy with the material. Not this time. People say I am straight out and so I can say I am really happy with this album, and because I do say what I mean, we called it Black & White.

What should we expect for the show at the Ballina RSL?

I have been looking forward to Ballina for quite some time, because the club management do a fantastic job in promoting Australian artists. My show will have some of the hits, some of my new material, great playing from my beautiful band, and most importantly – FUN. I want to chat to people and get to know them, share a few stories, and I want people to come and say good g’day. I don’t take myself seriously and I consider it a privilege to be asked to sing today, as much as I did when my uncle gave me a special present for my 14th birthday in Bendigo. The gift was to sing three songs with his band, and I have haven’t stopped since. I am a very lucky SURVIVOR!’

Colleen Hewett plays the Ballina RSL on Friday at 8.30pm. Tix are $30 and are available at the club.


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