For the Love of a Piano and a Dog
Sarah McLeod is a passionate woman. She’s Aussie rock royalty, front person of The Superjesus and a powerful solo performer. In this interview she talks about her two loves, one new and one gone; her piano and her dog. One found, and one lost, during lockdown.
Let’s start with the piano.
‘I am in love with the piano – I don’t know if it loves me. I look at it as the most beautiful, warm, sexy instrument I have ever seen in my life. I have a small apartment with a baby grand – in my kitchen. It’s a late life love.’
‘I was always guitar in the Superjesus – I would look at bands with keys, and I thought it was a bit lame, like they were cheating. I would hear them and think “that sounds like the album” [whereas] we always sounded a bit rough – bass, lead, and drums. I had never tried piano. I sat at one, one day and I was like… oh, this is lovely! A fiend of mine, the mum of my best friend, bought me a second-hand upright and sent it to my house.’
So that’s how it began. In this concert Sarah plays the first set on keys.
‘I have rewritten a bunch of Superjesus songs – the vocals are the same but I have rewritten [them with] piano instrumentation – it’s given me a new lease on songs I was bored with, and I have done some interesting covers.’
For someone used to playing guitar, taking a seat behind a piano is well out of her comfort zone!
‘I think if you aren’t scaring yourself you aren’t doing it right. I used to be into waterskiing when I was little and I was like, “if I don’t fall off I am not trying hard enough”. I want to be scared. I say yes to everything and I worry about how I am going to do it later.’
Then we move to Chachi, the inspiration for Chachi’s Theme, the ode she released last August when her iconic pooch passed.
‘I had her since she was 6 weeks old. She had been on all the tours – I took her everywhere. I have had relationships with partners come and go. She was my true love. People I dated knew that they came second. I said “I am sorry, the connection with my dog runs so much deeper” – but I knew that she would go.
‘Beginning of 2020 I was told she had 6 months left. I had a tour and I thought “I can’t take her!” but the tour got cancelled [by the lockdown]. I got to spend the last 6 months with her on the farm in Woodend in Victoria. When she went it was difficult but I had been preparing for it for a while. I took great comfort in a story – when an animal dies they go to the rainbow bridge and they all play together, and they wait there for us, and they greet us and we cross the rainbow bridge together to eternity – I took so much comfort in it. So I have to wait here, another 50 years, but for her time will fly. It’s me who has to wait. I worried, what if no one has told her that she has to meet me a this bloody bridge? I had to tell her. I firmly believe music transcends time and dimension so [I thought] if I can get these instructions to her in a song? I had to work out what I needed her to know – it had to be simple and clear. It was meant to be a song for her, and I did it the week she died. It was so raw. I didn’t eat for weeks, just drank wine and bawled my eyes out. When I finished I was in this sea of emotion and I recorded it, and I thought “others need to hear this – it’s healing for people who have lost people or an animal”, so I put it out straight away and donated the proceeds to the RSPCA. Since then I feel soulful and deeper, I feel like a totally different person. I feel like it’s her; she has passed and she is my soul. Her soul is in my soul.
‘My dog was my teacher.
It’s like a rite of passage to open up your art [like that].’
Two sets by Sarah McLeod – piano and then guitar. Come hear the woman who can take you to quiet places and also rock the shit out of the room.
Ballina RSL Club, Friday 5 March 2021
Doors: 7.30pm – Show: 8pm
Tickets $26 from www.trybooking.com/BLBWX