With a warm stage presence, retro soulful sound and a knack for storytelling, Andrea is one of the featured performers and workshop facilitators for Rainbow Lightning, the two-day peace concert at the Brunswick Picture House Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 November.
How did being the eldest daughter of a preacher influence you? Is the desire to move and inspire people something you inherited, do you think?
A: It was a great vocal training. But I wasn’t into performing in front of people until later in life. I think the community and service values still resonate with me and in my music; however, it’s more about celebrating everyday life rather than the afterlife!
What did you learn from your father?
A: My father always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. He was always supportive of choir trips and music lessons. It wouldn’t have mattered what I was into – as long as it made me happy, which was a wonderful lesson in itself.
How did growing up singing with your family help grow you as a musician?
A: I find it very easy to arrange music and vocal harmonies. This is something I picked up in childhood from singing the different parts. It trained my ear to be able to hear the different notes – which has helped me immensely with songwriting.
When did you start writing your own songs?
A: I remember learning to sing and making up little songs as a child. I used to try and imitate Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. I never knew you could be a songwriter until I was at university in Canberra and saw my first folk concert when I was 21. I started writing earnestly from that day on.
Do you believe that people can make a difference? A: Everything we do creates an impact. I believe that the more we learn about ourselves the more effective we can be in the world. Music is one of the few things that can transcend language barriers. It speaks of emotions, connection to something or someone outside of ourselves. In that sense it is powerful. But it is up to each individual to change their beliefs and relieve themselves of their suffering. Over the years, my songs have done that for me and others have said it has brought them healing as well in hard times.
What do you want your music to do to people?
A: When I first started songwriting and performing over 10 years ago, I believed I could change people’s beliefs through music. But after many years of performing I’ve realised that music acts like more of a bridge, connecting me to people who connect to the music. And so I want my music to help people feel connected and less isolated. It is through these bridges that we create strong resilient communities.
Andrea, why did you start up Peace Run Records?
A: When I began performing at age 21 it was through busking and open mic nights. I realised early on that I was never going to be signed up to a record label. So I thought I’d create my own. Since setting it up in 2009 thanks to the NEIS scheme, I’ve recorded three independent albums and am currently working on my fourth release.
What should we expect for your workshop?
A: This songwriting workshop is about connecting to your inner artist, and creating from that space. I have picked up many tools along my journey and I share them all with you in this session. It is an exploration of the songs and stories you have inside you to share. I facilitate the workshop and I bring my wealth of knowledge from experience to the table. But what you create will be totally unique to your experience. I ran this workshop at Woodford Folk Festivals Artisan Weekend retreat this year and it was incredible to watch people grow through the process.
And your performance at Rainbow Lightning?
A: It is an incredible honour to be sharing the stage with such talented artists as part of this wonderful event. The beautiful Elena B Williams helped connect us all at the Palm Creek Folk Festival in 2017 in her festival band and has invited us all to join together again for a very special concert for peace and community. Peace is an action. It is actively connecting with our community to share our stories and create bridges of understanding. And that is why events like Rainbow Lightning are so important.
Andrea Irwin will be running a songwriting and performance workshop at Rainbow Lightning on Saturday 3 November from 10am till 12pm with a performance in the concert later that night (7pm). To book go to brunswickpicturehouse.com.