Writing from the heart and singing from the soul, surveying the people and land around you and letting stories inspire your creativity and guide your craft. That’s what makes a songwriter genuine and honest and 21-time Golden Guitar winner Sara Storer has consistently shown she personifies those qualities. In fact, she’s done that right from the start, nearly 20 years ago when she released her first album Chasing Buffalo. Now she has a brand-new collection of songs that comprise her 2019 album Raindance, another fascinating musical chapter in the life of Australian songwriter Sara Storer.
“It takes me a couple of years to write a new album. It’s a bit of a waiting game because stories come by chance or at times a want about an issue or situation that I feel has a good message. The exciting part is when you get to sing them for the first time. Whether it’s the early stages of sharing them with family, management, your producer or record label or when it’s complete and the song is heard by an audience. You then get a sense of whether it has done its job. The more songs that weigh in, the heavier the album.”
Born in the Mallee in country Victoria, Sara has studied in Melbourne, wrote her first song in Western Queensland, worked as a teacher in the Northern Territory and now lives on a rural property outside of Albury, NSW with her husband Dave and their four sons. The land, family and an innate and empathetic understanding of what it is to live in Australia are themes that run strongly through the songs on Raindance, the title track in particular continuing a tradition of songs about rain that feature on many of her albums.
“I felt it time to write a song of hope. A song that can lift our spirits during the nation’s wait for rain.”
“Ever since I was a kid I’ve always loved the rain. I’m always in a good mood when I hear a storm coming in or it’s raining,” she reflects, before revealing the inspiration behind the song. “It’s just what everyone talks about everyday where we live –talking with family, friends and neighbours, we live and breathe that topic and I love what rain does to me. This song was inspired by a video of a family out at Coonamble doing a rain-dance on their property in a riverbed. They were trying to lift spirits in their community by having a laugh with their friends and family. I just thought we need an Aussie rain-dance song and started working on it.”
On Raindance, family is represented by songs such as the gentle waltz-time strum of ‘My Little Men’ but the one that Sara holds closest to her heart is the deeply personal and heartfelt ‘Every Boy Needs A Bike’, a song she’s incredibly proud of. “I wouldn’t care if nobody heard the song, I know what it means to me and why I wrote it. There are so many things I’m saying in that song, so many levels to it. To be a good male figure, to be strong but gentle when you need to be with boys. I wanted to capture that in a song in a beautiful way and talk up what a great job my husband does. My brothers are equally as great, as is my dad too. It’s a never-ending circle.”
Collaboration has always been a strong part of Sara’s creativity. From her time in the country music trio Songbirds alongside Beccy Cole and Gina Jeffries, to the Broad Festival project with Deborah Conway, Katie Noonan, Ruby Hunter and Clare Bowditch, Sara has always relished working with other singers, describing it as being “lovely when you have an album that takes off down another track – duets do that for me.” On Raindance she again sings with her brother Greg Storer, works with one of the newer shining stars in Fanny Lumsden and she reveals just how thrilled she was to be able to record with Colin Hay (Men At Work) on his song ‘Next Year People’.
“Working with Colin was just a little dream, I thought I’d throw it out there and just see if he’d record one of his songs on my album. I was blown away when I first heard it. I think it’s a very moving song and reflects what’s going on right now with the drought in Australia.”
On Raindance, Sara resumed her working relationship with Matt Fell, who has produced her last three albums. This time around she felt she wanted to bring some new elements to the sound of the record which was produced by Matt at his LoveHZ Studios in Sydney, with drums and guitars engineered by Shane Nicholson at his Central Coast studio.
“I was ready for a change in production, something new and a bit different and Matt could do that. I always wanted a bigger sound, a bit more meat on the bones in terms of the production. I’ve always loved bigger, layered sounds on songs and just because I’m a country artist doesn’t mean I can’t have that. You have to be true to yourself and you’ve got to be really selfish about that, which means you’re being a true artist.”
“Every time we used a different instrument it added a different emotion in my song and I can feel what is happening and how it is building. I love that part of the process and hearing your songs come to life. It’s really wonderful.”
One song in particular that embraces this new approach is the album closer ‘Jigalong Girls’ with its dark and moody atmosphere built on militant drums and evocative fiddle. The sound enhances Sara’s poignant lyrics, written after watching the film Rabbit Proof Fence. “It is a bit different. I was really heartbroken with what went on and had to write that song.” The weight of that subject matter combined with the production treatment makes it a perfect example of how Sara continues to evolve as a songwriter and musician.
Across the rest of Raindance, Sara’s stories include a warning to a prowling and unwanted visitor (‘Fox’), an ode to working the land in these current times of hardship (‘Ploughin’ It In’), the graceful and nautically themed banjo and strings of ‘The Captain’ and the warm glow of optimism on ‘Someday’.
If Raindance proves one thing, it’s that Sara Storer continues to be one of the most assured and honest songwriters that this country has produced. She chronicles the weathered ground beneath our feet and the joy and tribulations of love and devotion. The best country music documents real life in vivid poetic terms and built on honesty and well-honed songwriting. Raindance does just that.