Q & A with Innocent Eve
After officially announcing their arrival on the Australian country music scene with their highly-praised debut album, Temporary Balms in 2015, Bec and Rachel Olsson are celebrating the their return with the release of their latest single, Sisters and an upcoming tour to promote their current EP, True North (2016).
Before setting off, the girls took time out to answer Jackie Smith’s questions about how their familial bond influences their music, the artists who inspire them, and the impact previous success has on future projects.
Congratulations on the recent release of your latest single, Sisters. The song is obviously about your relationship as sisters, and the relationship you have share with your other sister, Catherine. How did Catherine react when you played her the song?
I think she was pretty moved by it. We’ve talked about how close we are before, but to have it put into a song … it still gives me goose bumps sometimes when I sing it or hear it.
Is that bond something that has a lot of influence over your song writing generally (particularly as you are a duo), or is that what makes Sisters special?
I guess it does in part. We are so close that we often know instinctively what the other is thinking, or where a melody and harmony is going to go. It also means that we can be blunt with one another when we need to be and although we get angry or upset at times, we always know that we’ll find our way back.
We know we’re inseparable. Sisters just sort of happened after each of us had been through some fairly tough times and I felt really drained but also so emotionally strong for having my sisters there for me.
Can you talk me through your song writing process in general? Do you work together on new material or is most of the writing done by one person?
We both write, but more often than not, it’s separately. We’ve written one song as a full collaboration, but other than that we write separately for the first part of the process. It starts with a splat of ideas and words and feelings and gradually forms into a song.
Once the basic shell is there, we come together and tweak. This is where it can get tricky, as we need to be brutally honest in order to make the song into something that we both love and can sing together.
The song features on your current EP, True North, which you’ve said differs quite a bit from your first album, Temporary Balms. Can you expand on that statement a little and the reasons why you chose to work with Matt Fell this time around instead of Joel Black (who produced the debut LP)?
We loved recording with Joel. We were completely green when we went to Tommirock and had no idea of the recording process, or what a producer even does. Joel was patient, professional and he did a great job as a producer. Many of the songs changed enormously during the recording process as he moulded them and did his job … producing them.
We love the songs and the album and we learned so much from Joel, but we grew from the experience and realised that we needed to find our own sound. When we knew the earthy tone, Americana sound we were looking for we started looking for a producer who really embraced this sound. We’d been following Matt’s work for a while as he had produced so many of the great artists we admire so we were confident he would get our vibe and bring together a sound that we were searching for.
What do you want people to take away from listening to True North and Sisters in particular?
There’s a lot of heart in True North. Each song gives a little piece of us to the listener. I don’t think we know how to write a song that doesn’t carry a little piece of us inside it. I guess the listener is getting to know us and our life journeys through this recording. We would hope that people can connect with the emotions that are dealt with in each song and find a relatable comfort when they listen.
Is the EP a precursor to another full-length album? If so, what can we expect from that?
Definitely. Some of the feedback we’ve received from the six-track EP is that it’s just not long enough! We have plans to record again as soon as possible, we’re always writing so it’s just a matter of setting the date … and saving the money!
Your previous singles from Temporary Balms, such as A Little Bit, Into The Light and Every Woman charted quite well. Does that have an influence on you and your song writing process when approaching a new project or record?
Not at all. We write what feels right at a certain time. I don’t think we know how to do it any other way. Whether the song does well or not in the charts doesn’t really change the way we feel about the song and doesn’t influence the content or the style of song when we’re writing.
How do you feel about being compared to the likes of The Dixie Chicks and Wilson Phillips?
It’s certainly flattering and humbling to be compared to groups such as those. Family bands tend to have great vocal harmonies instinctively and vocal harmony is definitely a big part of our music.
You’re about to embark on a tour in support of the EP. How does the recording process compare to being on stage? Do you have a preference for one or the other?
We love both processes. It’s so great being in the studio and watching your song come to life, it’s a beautiful and emotional time… it’s not uncommon to see us snivelling on the couch behind the producer’s chair! Then there’s getting up and sharing your music with a live audience, well that’s something else.
The moment you see someone singing along to a song that you wrote, or someone in tears at a lyric you penned, or a group of people who can’t help but dancing to your performance of a song … that’s powerful.
How do you deal with being together 24/7 when you are on tour? Surely there are times when you just want a break and need to get out of one another’s hair …
We shared a bedroom for 17 years growing up and being only a year apart, we moved in together for university for another three years … so living together is something we’re good at.
We’re good at reading each other’s signs and knowing that we need time out. We’re also very honest about it and we are comfortable enough to tell each other when we need some space or time alone.
You are known for your live performances, having played at numerous festivals including Urban Country, Gympie Music Muster and Tamworth Country Music Festival. What can people expect from one of your live performances, and what do you want fans to take away from the experience?
Our live performance is fairly busy for two people: we have a stomp box, tambourine/shaker, base tone/keys, guitar and two vocals happening. It’s a lot of sounds for an acoustic duo but I think we just come across as very real, there’s no façade – what you see is what you get and I think people like that.
Does a festival gig differ from one in a more intimate setting? Do you change up the set-list or how you approach the performance?
Depends how long we have with the crowd, we like to give our listeners a good cross section of our music if we can. We also tweak the set list to have more upbeat songs for a crowd that’s ready to dance or keep our slower and more emotive songs for that intimate setting where people are really interested in the lyrics … we just kind of feel our way.
You girls used to perform in a group with your sister Catherine. Is it likely that one day you will return to that format, or will it always just be the two of you?
Years ago, we performed as four-piece girl band called Pocket Creek, with our sister Catherine and our friend Tamara. It was so much fun, playing cover shows at camp drafts, pubs, rodeos and community shows, but, no, we won’t be returning to that format.
Becoming original artists is just an entirely different journey. When we play near our hometown and Catherine is around, we always get her up to sing a few songs with us. We love sharing the stage with her and having that third harmony and we’ll always do that, but Innocent Eve is Rachel and Bec.
If you could collaborate with anyone in the industry (living or dead), who would it be and why?
Rachel: Kris Kristofferson – he is such a poet. I’ve grown up listening to his music. Our dad always sang his songs and he just moved me. He captures raw emotion, he teaches lessons, he just has a way of story-telling that I enjoy and aspire to.
Bec: Oh man. So many from the 60’s & 70’s, but I saw Foy Vance I while ago and he absolutely inspired me. Each time I listen to his music I hear something new. His albums have me crying in one moment and dancing the next. Pure talent.
Country music is growing in popularity, with the rise of artists such as Taylor Swift and Keith Urban particularly. What’s your opinion of that and what, do you believe, is the appeal of country music as a whole?
I think it’s great that country music is growing and evolving. It’s such a shame when great music doesn’t get heard because it’s been pigeon-holed into specific genres that people don’t feel like they relate to. If the umbrella is broader then listeners are far more likely to be open to it.
We were just writing songs, not really knowing or caring which genre we belonged to and we really didn’t see ourselves as country music artists until we found ourselves smack-bang in the middle of the country music industry. It was a lovely surprise.
What are some of the highlights and lowlights of your career thus far?
Playing on Cruisin’ Country has been a major highlight for the past few years, and playing Gympie Muster for the first time last year was just awesome! There have been so many of those unsuspecting little pub gigs where magic just happens between you, the song and the crowd.
No lowlights really, I mean, we’ve all had to play those soul-destroying gigs where you think the crowd is cheering for you but really their footy team just scored on the TV above your head.
What’s the epitome of success for you?
To have body guards and a private jet of course! Just kidding. We just love music and our goal has always been to be able to make a decent living and to see the world through music. We would love to be full-time musicians and not have to work day jobs to keep the wheels turning. To quote Harvey Mackay “Find something you love doing and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”; that’s where it’s at for us.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Be true to yourself, don’t try to sound like anyone else. Don’t compete with other people, there’s plenty of room for everyone. Never quit on your dreams. Be kind to everyone. Everyone.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
Ryan Adams’ new album Prisoner, Jordie Lane’s Glassellland and awaiting Shane Nicholson’s new album!
You’re regulars on the Cruisin’ Country circuit and are already booked for that. But aside from that and the upcoming tour, what have you got planned for the rest of this year?
We’re launching our True North EP in Tamworth on Saturday 1st April at The City Sider and also in Brisbane on 30th April at the Walrus Club.
We’re off the USA in September with our mate Brad Butcher to play some shows, do some song writing and check out AmericanaFest in Nashville, and we’ll wind the year up with the glorious Airlie Beach Music Festival in November.
AMNPLIFY – DB
Connect with Innocent Eve:
- Jackie Smith