Sarah Chadwick on making music

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After spending the best part of a decade fronting nomadic grunge outfit Batrider, Sarah Chadwick has recently put it all on hold and moved to Melbourne to enjoy some time to herself.

During the break from the band, the Wellington-native has recorded and just released her first solo album, ‘Eating For Two’. We recently had a chat with a relaxed sounding Chadwick about her new solo work, what happened to Batrider and her approach to writing music.

Milk Bar: You’ve been doing solo shows for a while now but this is your first solo record, is that correct?

Sarah Chadwick: Yeah that’s right. I’ve always tried to do my own stuff while doing Batrider, but now I’m not really doing much of the band stuff, so its a good time to concentrate on it.

MB: After the latest Batrider album came out last year you guys played a few shows, before playing individual shows around Melbourne. Is ‘Eating For Two’ what you’ve been working on since then?

SC: We were traveling overseas with Batrider for a few years, then came back and a couple of breakups happened within the band, so that put a pause on it for a while. I’ve done Batrider since I was about 20 and I’m 30 now, so I was in two minds about it really. On one hand I could have kept doing it because I’ve always done it or on the other I could have had a change because I’ve always done it. I guess I thought I’d go for the latter because change is good.

Batrider was always a band and as much as I was the songwriter there was always a lot of collaboration happening. It’s been really nice to be able to concentrate on my own and just be really single minded about it. The solo songs are a lot plainer, they’re more lyrically and vocally driven and that’s exactly what I want to be doing right now.

MB: ‘Eating For Two’ sounds quite sparse and desolate. How was the album recorded?

SC: I did some of it in Adelaide with Conan Lewer who worked on the Batrider stuff. The rest I did with my friend Nick Hoare who lives in Melbourne. I think it’s kind of sparse just because there literally isn’t a whole lot going on (laughs), 80% of it is a guitar and one or two vocal lines.

It was recorded quite quickly. I did maybe 30 songs with Nick in two days and already had about 25 from recording with Conan. I just really wanted it to be done because I’d been sitting on so many of those songs for such a long time.

We chose the top 15-20 to mix and then from those I chose the ones for the album. With the Batrider stuff, everyone in the band had different favourite songs they wanted on the albums so we’d ended up having really long track listings, which isn’t a big deal but people seem to ask about it.

With this release, because it was just me involved and it’s a 12” release, I was limited to 40 minutes and got to be really picky about what went on the album. I think it was good to have those boundaries with so many songs to choose from.

MB: The way you approach your songwriting, they seem like very personal songs – is that the case?

SC: They’re definitely about myself, and about myself in relation to other people or about people I’m close to in relation to me. I would like at times to write songs about broader themes – you know when you listen to John Lennon songs and they’re about the world or whatever? There’s something really nice about that, but at the moment I’m pretty self involved (laughs).

But I still think they’re about universal problems, I don’t think they’re self involved to the point that it’s self indulgent. I’m aware that they’re problems that everybody faces, they’re not things that I think are unique to myself.

MB: Do you think you’ll get Batrider back together any time soon?

SC: It’s pretty much just on pause at the moment. To be honest, it’s been ten years and in the last lineup I was the only person who had been around since the beginning. I really, really enjoyed so much of that band, it was my life for a decade, but in saying that the band was also a source of a lot of personal drama and upheaval and moving around.

It’s nice to concentrate on myself for a change and not really worry about drama – it’s a pretty cliché thing to say but the band dynamic is quite intense, you’re always worrying about other people as much as yourself and its nice to not have to do that for a while.

Not having the band was scary at the beginning but I think its important for me as a person. I think I’m terrified of being alone, I only just realised that about a week ago, but I think if I can conquer that then I will be a better person.

MB: How’s life in Melbourne now?

SC: I’ve been back in Melbourne for almost a year now and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a cool city, I’m quite happy to be here at the moment and looking forward to doing heaps more music – I’m excited, it feels like a good stage of life!

You can download ‘Eating for Two’ at the Bedroom Suck Records website here.

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