Each month for the next 3 months on the A Rational Fear podcast feed, Julia interviews change makers, civic leaders, and people who organise their communities and claim their power to discover the secrets to making good things happen.
This month Julia chats with two artists who have built extraordinary communities around their craft, how both these artists have shown leadership and helped their respective communities thrive in times of crisis.
Jen Cloher (Ngāpuhi & Ngati Kahu) — is a highly respected recording and performing artist living on unceded Wurundjeri land in Naarm (Melbourne) Australia. Cloher is co-founder of Milk! Records (Courtney Barnett, Tiny Ruins, Hand Habits) and I Manage My Music, a masterclass series for self-managed artists to assist self-managed artists with the challenges of creating and releasing music in Australia.
“When an artist stands up on a stage, we invite everyone in that room to tap into what it is to be human, which is something politicians are not capable of doing because they're not connected. They've got their own agenda, they're not there to bring us together”
— Jen Cloher
also we hear from:
Astrid Jorgensen — Founding Director of Pub Choir™and its COVID adaptation, Couch Choir. She is also a co-creator of Australia's Biggest Singalong which aired on SBS TV in 2021.
“It's not about competing, there is no way to win. All we can do is work together. And the sum is always greater than the parts. If you have honest and optimistic leadership.” — Astrid Jorgensen
I hope you enjoy these conversations with two great artists building community and helping other to thrive culturally and financially.
Kindest of Regards,
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And subscribe to our Patreon so we can keep making shows like this for you:
THANK YOU TO
Julia Zemiro 0:00
This podcast is supported in part by the birther foundation. Hi, Julia Zemiro Here, I'm recording this podcast on the land of the Gandangara people. Sovereignty was never ceded. We need a treaty. Let's start the podcast,
Dan Ilic 0:15
a podcast about politics for people who hate politics. This is Julia Zemiro asks, Who cares?
Julia Zemiro 0:24
Well, hello everyone. 2022 Can you believe it? Welcome back to Julia Zemiro asks, Who cares? And you know what it turns out quite a lot of people do. Today I'm talking to two incredible artists who care create and want others to experience that creativity to the both musicians Jen Cloher and Astrid Jorgensen. The Creator and conductor of public choir, but first up, Jen Cloher Ngāpuhi & Ngati Kahu who their most recent self titled album debuted at number five on the ARIA Charts and received rave reviews. And they were crowned double Jays Australian artist of the year. Now on top of that, Jen is a co founder of The Independent Melbourne label milk records and created I managed my music, a masterclass series for self manage artists just to get them on top of what it means to run your own business in music. We talk acting schools, impressing your heroes, all the training and belief that goes into being an artist, longevity, and why more than ever, we need culture to turn to. It's so good to see
Jen Cloher 1:32
you. So good to see you. Like truly,
Julia Zemiro 1:36
I mean, one of the joys of Rockwell's has been to have these incredible musicians just just a hand spin away from me onstage, and you've given me some of the best moments in my performing life. chancla
Jen Cloher 1:49
Oh, that is so sweet. That really actually means a lot because I know you've seen many people come through the hallowed halls.
Julia Zemiro 1:57
And what people might not know is my thrill to when Jen was on the desk, answering questions. And just the newest stuff is that of course you do a little biog and you'd been an acting student, you'd gone through NIDA and I was fascinated that there was someone who had trained as an actor, and then had become a musician. And I just think it's an excellent thing. And I know you didn't have a fabulous time there. Not everyone has a fabulous time at acting school. I did I did have a good time at acting school. But I do think that there are things you can learn at those places that are about asking yourself questions about who you are and how you move through the world.
Jen Cloher 2:35
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think if anything, what, what happens go did you go to or did you go to Whopper
Julia Zemiro 2:41
CCI? They say, hey, what I love is you've said Whopper because you've obviously assuming I sing well, I don't know VCA I mean audition for NIDA too. And, you know, I got through. I mean, in case people don't realize, you know, you audition and then you might get through to the afternoon where you'll do a your third piece because you've done your first two in the morning. And I'd got through the afternoon I was convinced I was in. I mean, the process isn't finished. And then you have to go back the next week. And I didn't get in. And they tried again the following year, didn't even get through the afternoon. But by then for audition for VCA. And I was so delighted by the audition process at VCA. I was so hooked. I thought on no now I really want this. And then when I got in I was pretty, pretty excited. And it turned out to be a good a good time a good. I think I figured I feel like I learned how to learn. They're
Jen Cloher 3:39
beautiful. Yeah, I think like it taught me a lot about the industry. Maybe more so than about who I am. I think some ways I think in some ways I wasn't ready for that school. And I didn't have enough understanding of who I was. And so it really threw me or it threw me. When I was at NIDA there was the head of acting was a man called Kevin Jackson KJ as we affectionately called him and he was actually incredibly well read and was like a kind of dramaturg style kind of actor and he just knew so much about playwriting and playwrights and was one of those people that was like, include the commas don't add words respect the text, you know, the writers intention love to check off you know, one of those guys and I, I sort of like at that I was only 19 I kind of wasn't I was very young but winter fire sort of parental FIDE some of the teaching staff there. And I kind of looked up to him as like this scary Dad and I wanted to impress him and their whole kind of thing there is sort of saying what you're good And then making you do the stuff you're not good at. So they kept throwing me into like, what gowns and making me have these romantic scenes with men and be all gushy and cry and, you know, like, just not my strength. And I felt kind of almost like I was in drag. That's how far away it felt from my experience. Like, like, I was like dressing up in dress to do this thing. Anyway, he gave me this scene, and it like, broke me. And I just got this massive resentment against him. And I remember sort of at the end of, I think it was the end of first year he said, you know, you won't you don't you won't even look at me in the eyes when you walk down the hallway. And I was like, and like, that's how much shame I was carrying around not being good enough for Kevin Jackson. Anyway. I think it was three years ago, four years ago. I'm performing at the Lansdowne hotel upstairs. They had this band room. I think they've closed now which is very sad. And it was with my band. Courtney on guitar bones on bass shallaki on drums, amazing band. We've just been touring all around the world. So we were like on fire. Yeah. And we went out and we just we had two nights the Lansdowne nice little room Pat great energy. Absolutely blazed, felt amazing. Came offstage. And then someone came to the door, I think one of the merch, cute merch crew. And they were like, ah, there's a there's a man here called Kevin, who wants to say hello. And I was like,
Julia Zemiro 6:42
I don't know, Kevin. I can.
Jen Cloher 6:44
Okay. Who the hell is Kevin? Anyway? This this elderly man, elderly, like early 70s. I would say now, yeah, comes to the door. And it's Kevin Jackson. Oh, my God, my acting teacher. And he'd come along with a couple of friends who like we're gonna go and see Janklow we've got an extra ticket. And he was like, yeah, absolutely. I'll come and see Jen cloth. And he was just like, lit up. He was like, That was incredible. I loved that performance, like, blown away. Right. But here's the great bit. The next I think it was like two days later, I saw this Google Alert come up in my mail, because I have a Google alert on my name, you know, like to know what's been written about me out there. 100%
Julia Zemiro 7:35
one that got sent.
Jen Cloher 7:37
And there was a he has this website where he reviews like Sydney Theatre Company that did it did. And they're amazing reviews. They're not like some weirdo that's just writing some, you know what I mean? Like, they're really great reviews, but they're not for, you know, for the media, Vine passion project that people read them, you know, people who know read them. And he'd reviewed my gig. Online, never reviewed any music show ever. I was like, wow, rectally theater, and he had reviewed my gig as though it were a theater piece. And he was talking about like, how I embodied things. Like my strength and bla bla bla bla bla, and how Courtney was riding with the guitar, you know, it was like, the most incredible review and he loved it. And it was so beautiful and healing for me, because if there was one thing that KJ said, that stuck with me, from 25 years ago, whenever I was there, he was like, you know, your whole role as an artist is to create a body of work. That is what you will be remembered for a body of work. And it occurred to me after reading this review that he had finally come to see me as an artist that went on to create a body of work. You know, I was presenting my fourth album at that time, and I had stayed consistently with my practice. And it was just like the most beautiful kind of full circle experience to have. And and of course you have it when I would no longer care less what Kevin Jackson would think. Yeah, but to have that kind of reflected back. I think he's there just those milestones in your life as a performer.
Julia Zemiro 9:26
That's made me a little bit teary, because I think too, you know, we're talking about what our significance is in society as people who make and when I say the word art, don't run away, don't switch off. Art is lots of things. It's music, it's theater, it's it's cheap theater down the road, in a pub. It's expensive theater that a lot of people can't afford and they could possibly make that cheaper. It's opera, it's dance, it's DJing it's every it's everything that is mapable that you make to watch performance. So when we say they aren't. But when people say you love what you do you your privilege to go and do it, you go well, it can also be a calling. And if you aren't good at it and you love what you do well, why wouldn't you stay with this thing that is bringing you real life experience and making you kind of turned on. So I can turn you on and do something for you to forget your day, or to give you something else to think about or to discover something about yourself. I feel like post COVID What's going to happen next, we didn't get in general, this didn't get job caper? What are we going to do next? Like how do we I'm, I'm now what's the point of making anything if people don't value it, and I mean, from a government level to a crowd level,
Jen Cloher 10:45
you know, something that I observed throughout COVID, you know, in my industry, which is the music industry, you know, there's younger artists in my sphere, some of whom I've mentored, or worked with, either from a business angle, or from helping produce their music or whatever, whatever they kind of come to me to assist with. And I produced an album with Alice Skye, an amazing songwriter, we're Gaya, Wemba, Wemba woman from Horsham in Victoria. And also there's another great band called cable ties punk band, and also had chikoo, which is Annika ostendorf, which is a ban on milk records. And they're all kind of around a similar age. On that sort of second, you know, about to launch their second album had like, lined up labels overseas booking agents overseas, going to South by Southwest, you know, it was an it takes many, many, many years to get to that place where you are ready to launch your music into the world. And they're all, you know, like world class artists. And then I just saw everything just collapse and keep collapsing. I remember when we thought COVID was going to go like, we're like, oh, we should probably be back up during by like July, August, when we thought it was going to go for three months. Yeah. And that was a long time. Yeah, I know. I know. So that was kind of, you know, in that last day
Julia Zemiro 12:23
window there haven't like, that's not this incredible window, they've lost
Jen Cloher 12:26
this opportunity. And all of the money and the support and the time and the planning that goes into that moment. And to build that back up again, is the thing that I think I have concerns about is that you kind of lose these young artists, energetically and financially, because of what they've had to go through. In the mental, you know, like, it was a really, really, really hard time. And I think, you know, most people probably wouldn't know about it, because, you know, they don't have mates that are touring around in bands for the main part, right?
Julia Zemiro 13:08
Yeah. When you know, that whole sections of people, certainly in the arts industry, who have had to give it up and get another job completely, two years. I mean, you just can't get by. And even with all the pleading that we did, because that's what we have to always do is plead. When we you know, appeal to the government and said, you know, the flick of a pen, you genuinely could just change this, you could just go, oh, my gosh, artists or whatever, yes. All right, you get it to that didn't happen either. And you have
Jen Cloher 13:38
theories as to why oh, great, please begets Well, that's, it's no mistake. That is that is a planned. That is that is you know, you make decisions about who you're going to fund and who you're not going to fund then, as you said, there's a flick of the pen. And I think that, you know, artists are the enemy. Because we think we speak truth to power. And to have to give those people a voice is threatening. And you might be like, Oh, get off it, like as if, but no, I really believe that. We have an immense power we have an we have immense reach. We have audiences, we're influences, you know, wherever that is these days, politics and politicians, particularly the current government cannot totally scared of us. It is not an industry they want to fund. You know, you think of like, anthems like you're the Indies trading, you know, or Ruby hunters down city streets or cold chisels flame trees, or in excess Niger tonight, or what's that great in excess one that's like didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't, didn't didn't. Like who hasn't dropped down, I know that and cried in their lounge room at some point in my life, like, we shaped culture, we shaped culture through emotional connection. And that's what they're scared of. Because when an artist stands up on a stage, we invite everyone in that room to tap into what it is to be human, which is something politicians are not capable of doing because they're not connected. They've got their own agenda, they're not there to bring us together. I think that the mystery and appreciation of culture is led by our our cultural leaders, and and our politicians. And, you know, you were speaking before about how artists are viewed in France, and you often hear Australian artists coming home and saying, oh, you know, touring through Europe was amazing, we get to the venue, there'd be home cooked food for soundcheck, you'd play a show, you'd have a meal, like it was an endless stream of good alcohol, but no one got really smashed. And, you know, we were really taken care of. And I think that, that that's embedded in culture, because of the way that culture is viewed. And I think the thing that we need to remember is, and I think this is really, these are big conversations, but you know, it needs to come from our leaders, because we have, you know, it's a colonized nation state. We colonized here, 234 years ago, there was an already existing culture, that we basically built structures that they could not could not access. And, you know, all of the things that went around land stealing, you know, murder, let's just call it what it was. Yeah, it was really happening. Yes. And the issue that I think we have, that's very different to France, where you have Molly air, and the French impressionists, and centuries of culture embedded into the very fabric of existence, that's what culture is, we shouldn't call it art, its culture. Yeah. Because we have come from so many different places all around this world. And some of us have come with culture, that many of us have forgotten what that culture was, we've had to assimilate. You know, like, a lot of migrants were encouraged to assimilate whatever that means. We've given up identities to become white. There's many things that have happened. And what we find ourselves in is easy, you know, this so called multicultural country, but actually, a lot of people don't know, their culture, or where they've come from. And so the actual kind of colonized version of culture here is 200 years old, and it doesn't, whatever was it, you know, it's not like, we know, you know, like, as, as British people back, you know, back in the empire know, Shakespeare and the Bard, and, you know, there's this Wordsworth and you know, there's a sense of who we are as a people, and we have marmalade and
Australians, as a people. But when you kind of break it down, it's like, is it a barbecue? What, what, how are we? You know, and I think until we actually ask those questions, and kind of like, maybe realize that we don't quite know who we are culturally. We sort of don't value it. But this is the beautiful thing is, I really believe each and every person has the ability, unless they were adopted, and they don't know who their birth parents are. And my heart is heavy for those people. Has not just the ability but the privilege to find out who they are and where they came from. And here's the other really interesting thing. Do you know what, guess a couple of languages in the world that are teetering on the edge of extinction?
Julia Zemiro 19:41
Well, most of indigenous languages I would assume,
Jen Cloher 19:45
is bang on do you know which ones they are? No, Celtic, and Gaelic, what? And I would say jority of white Australians in this in this country. hail from either Celtic or Gaelic roots in some capacity. And I just sort of think like, you actually have the opportunity to go and connect with a language that your ancestors once spoke, and find out through ancestry.com, email that relative in I don't know, some remote part of Ireland, like, go and do some work to find out who you are and where you came from and know something about your culture, and how you came to be here. And if you were settlers, and if you were colonizers, and there's a dark past, that's okay. No, you didn't make it happen. But you are responsible for the future, you get to determine that future. And I really, really wholeheartedly believe that everyone has the opportunity to reclaim who they are. Because I don't actually believe first of all that Australia exists. It's an it's a concept, because there was already a country here, much like Europe, you know, full of different nations, I don't think French and Italian people see themselves as the same people, and neither did the 500 Plus language groups that we hear on this country. Absolutely. But I think that the issue that we have is that we've tried to make up a culture that never existed. And that's not to say that there isn't a making and weaving of that culture. But unless we know where we came from, and who our people were, how can we create anything that we feel connected to. And the reason I've been learning today on Maori and, you know, involving myself and taking part in cultural practice, which is available to me here in Nam In Melbourne, is because the more that I know who I am, and how I am connected, and the line of amazing people that I have come through in their connection to land, the more I care, more I care about you, the more I care about the river down the end of the street, the Mary Mary Mary Creek, the more I care about community, you know, it stops just being about me, my great, great grandmother, Martha to pay would have only have spoken to real Maori, and she was born in 1860. My great, my great grandmother, who Dr. topwater, who was born in 1890, would have spoken today Omar Maori at home and English out in the world. And my mother, Dorothy earch, klore, who was born in 1930, only spoke English. So that's how quickly how fast those things move just in you know, indigenous people living you know, in a colonized nation. But you think about you come from another country, you land here and I can identify with that I'm like, I kind of woke up one day Julia and went, I don't know who I am. I was sitting making a record with an indigenous woman, Alice sky, who owned it. And it occurred to me, I was like, come through a whole lot of Indigenous women. And I've never, I've never felt I just didn't feel like I, I thought I had to earn it or something like I didn't have any right to claim my bloodline. And I had sort of a lot of shame around not knowing the language or not knowing the culture. But to end my little rant. This is the I think the greatest and deepest healing is not to go and learn all about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That's great. Absolutely respect their culture, take an interest. Go and find out who you are. That's where that's where the connection begins. Because until we know who we are, never know anyone else in the way that they need to be known and
Julia Zemiro 24:05
seen. But you're someone who's always been very inquisitive. That's why I like talking to you. You're someone who really is curious. And another thing you are curious about as you are with this now is one point you asked yourself as an independent musician, how in the world are other people doing this? How are they getting by? And this ties into this idea to have you know, his artistry is music is theater important in a society because you know what, it's not an easy life to start off with. Even if you've been to a drama school, there's no guarantee you'll get work when you get out. And we've musicians sort of finding their way you observed your own practice and you're thinking, this is hard. Is it hard for anybody else? And you started a management course if you like, and I love that it's called I'm manage my music. There's no, there's no, you won't get it. There's no confusion around it. It's I manage my music In a nutshell, uh, you know, how did that come about, and I and just briefly tell us, you know, I love how you approach it to how the first day is a little bit tough.
Jen Cloher 25:10
I started those workshops because I was struggling, I was in debt, I had just released my second album, it hadn't had the same fanfare as my first album in that hadn't had a whole lot of airplay on Triple J. And I had just assumed a bunch of things that like, oh, sweet, you know, I'll just go here, and there'll be people better and, you know, not the case, you know, like that national broadcaster, had a huge effect as far as bringing people into rooms on my first album. And then when they didn't get behind the second album in the same way, what I quickly discovered was, you know, rooms were half full. I don't wasn't because my band was any worse, or that the music wasn't any good. I think it was really just a wake up call. That, you know, unless you have certain people or things, you know, in your court, it's really hard work. And so, you know, I often share that, like, oh, that year, I'd made $100,000 in my music. And I'd spent 110. And you know, that wasn't living extravagantly. Like when you think about touring around Australia was five people in a band, you're paying them, you're paying all of the engineers, you're paying flights, accommodation, higher cars, wages, you paying for publicity radio, in every state, you know, like that money, and we weren't staying in like five star hotels, I like bunk rooms in a backpack, because
Julia Zemiro 26:44
I can testify, I can testify, this lady's not a liar.
Jen Cloher 26:49
This is the truth ran. And so I realized that unless I started to look at it as a business and find out what other people were doing, I was going to not be able to do it anymore. And so really, I managed my music was inviting other artists to come in and share about their experience, how have you done it. And this is a really sort of interesting, but also very sad thing is that many of them were in debt. And if they weren't, if they weren't in debt, their managers were, which is the same thing. Because at the end of the day, as you know, we live in this massive continent. You know, that's quite expensive, long distances to travel with a relatively small population, when you think about the landmass. So we're not even as big as the greater population of Tokyo. That's the whole of Australia. I think, like, many, many years of experience helped me to distill what I think are really important, very basic, but important things. The first thing that I always say is like, get a separate bank account. Oh, now I know that sounds insane to some people. But I just had one bank account, and everything came in and everything went out of it. I wasn't, there was no business separation. So how can you have a business if you don't actually know what it's earning? What it's what it's, you know, what the expenditures are? If you're not, there's no contingency plan or savings on knowing those outgoings that are going to happen every month, or whatever it is. So that's the first thing that I did was I opened a separate bank account, which was Jen Clow music, and this was like, I don't know, 12 years ago. And then the next thing was, don't go into debt. What crazy, crazy said than done. Yeah. So cut my credit card, except for those ones that you can have that are like debit credit card, so you can't spend the bank's money. Cut it up. Oh, yeah. And because I now have this bank account, that was Janklow music, if I wanted to go and make a record and only had $3,000. And I wanted to spend six, I had to go out and find that money. And I couldn't borrow it from my partner or my friends or my family. And the beautiful thing is that it frayed those relationships up Oh, yeah, because I wasn't scheming and manipulating and trying to work out how I could milk my parents for like 2000 like tragic. That's the kind of stuff we come to when we're desperate. So it freed those relationships up. And the other thing that I think is really, really, really important that I think a lot of people don't realize is that the most important people in your career as an artist are other artists, and not managers. They're not booking agents, that actually other artists and the reason why is that that is the community that you will look to during the really tough times like COVID You know, like, those are the people that you can call up and commiserate with you can collaborate with that. lend you things because they know that it's tough that will help you out that will go on the road with you. They're actually the most important people in your life. And I think if you can get community and be involved with the community, and not debt, foundational things that I think then help you to go out and actually have a crack at it, and just be where you are, it's also
Julia Zemiro 30:23
being you know, I think sometimes artists want to be artists and not worry about the nuts and bolts of the things that put you together. But I just think you can get a bit interested in kind of excited about those bits to like I, I had a $7,000 debt because of acting school. And the third and one of the first things I got out of the blue in my first year out was a commercial for sure natural, ultra thin Maxi shields, pads. And it was a very fun ad actually was directed by a woman on film, it was quite an exciting couple of days, I won't lie. And it was a good little script. And it had a bit of a laugh at itself. But I made $10,000. And I was spending and in our own mind, I hadn't spent Jen, I was going away. And I had this accountant who said you really should pay off that hexed it. And like, really? Now my parents were telling me this, this was the guy who was doing our tax. And he said I couldn't My best advice to you would be if you could not miss it. And you'll still have $3,000 to do something with. And it was the best advice ever. Because right from the beginning as a struggling actor straight out of school. That debt was wiped.
Jen Cloher 31:43
Yeah, look, I think. Yeah, I mean, in the 10 years that I've been running, I manage my music and I actually wrapped the last one we did was in November last year, and it was for no shortage of people coming through the doors still. You know, like it was packed. And and great speakers,
Julia Zemiro 32:01
did you get different people to come in and talk to them? And yeah,
Jen Cloher 32:05
I mean, I, the series that I did during COVID was just online master classes, looking at one aspect of releasing music. And yeah, people people came in thick and fast. They were up for it.
Julia Zemiro 32:19
Does it that shows in energy, though, doesn't it that shows like people are hopeful and that people is that makes me feel good that there are people who aren't going, I'm not gonna let this beat me. I'm going to keep going and get out there and get some information because you know, what's next? Who knows? I mean, look, you know, it was particularly it affected your, your your work and my work because I still tour with Rockwell's. And we had two national tours that were canceled two years running. Because that is just run by Renegade and the people who originally made the show, there's no other money that helps out and there's just no way they could have covered anything like a border closure and having to accommodate a whole bunch of people. I do feel slightly let down that there weren't more voices clamoring and saying, let's change this because I still think people think that making art, again, don't run away, come back, come back. I don't just mean things on the wall. I mean, anything that you enjoy, you know that it comes easily that it's quick, but it's painless. All of that there's still a kind of a disconnect about that. And look, I'll bore anybody that asks how we make the different shows I do just to clarify the just the the misinformation they have about it. Yeah, look, I
Jen Cloher 33:37
think it's, you know, look, I if you said to me, what does the chemical engineer do? Honestly, I wouldn't have the foggiest. So it's no surprise that people don't really understand the nuts and bolts of our industry and really part of it. I guess part of the craft is to make it look easy, isn't it? So? If it looks and feels easy, you're doing something right.
Julia Zemiro 34:09
What's next for you then Jen like you are, you know, you co founder milk records as a way to will take back control really, and have your own label and it's been such a success. It's so extraordinary. I managed my music. Four albums, a fifth with the beautiful the stringer and Mayor Dyson, amen. I mean, you're just incredible Trejo what's next what's making you excited about the future because I must say I'm a fairly half glass full person. And I was okay for most of COVID in many ways. I'm very lucky I had a home and a partner and and I didn't, everyone was all right around me. But just in the last couple of months, I had a bit of a deep dive, just thinking I don't know if anyone's really listening to anything I think people have tuned out as to what's important and what's going on. And just recently got optimistic again, possibly because I've been back at work and I'm hanging with people who want to make things and are experts at what they do and experts, camera people and sound women and, and directors, and we're back in our good zone making good stuff for people. So what's getting you hopefully a bit excited about what's next? whatever's next?
Jen Cloher 35:29
Yeah, well, I mean, you know, similarly, I felt very, I think a lot of us really felt our good fortune and our privilege through COVID. In that, like yourself, you know, I had a really, I had secure housing, I had financial assistance, because I'd set up my business in a way that made job keeper accessible. And I was in a writing phase. So when I write I generally stay home and, and work. So I was writing and demoing and then through between lockdowns would go and record. So I've recorded my fifth album, and we're currently mixing it. And I'm so excited, like, I feel really creatively, probably the most sort of open and free and excited about making music and performing. I feel like I've really fallen in love with it in a new way. I like it, I think it's because of that thing that I was saying, like taking the time to understand more about who I am. And where I come from, means that the way that I locate and situate myself in my music is much more meaningful. There's a connection there that I've never felt before. And it feels very powerful and embodied. And he like I think there's a real healing in the music as well because of my own journey of reconnection and what what I have to offer through through that. So I've got all of these projects around the album at the moment, some of its making work back home in Aotearoa, hopefully in June, if Omicron doesn't hobble us, connecting with other Maori who are making work, and just generally artists in general film projects, maybe a cheeky little podcast.
Julia Zemiro 37:32
Ah, I mean, I'll be listening. I'll be listening. Oh,
Jen Cloher 37:37
I love a yawn. I love the rose. So here we are. But I feel really reinvigorated and excited about creating work. And I just feel so fortunate, you know, that I that I never stopped even when it's been tough. It's never been easy. You know, like, I've always had to be there pushing it along. And no one's ever kind of stepped in and gone. Oh, here go, Jen. You know, like, we're gonna do it all for you to take a chill pill. Does anyone even say chill pill anymore?
Julia Zemiro 38:11
Do just, I guess to go. Also, I guess for artists too, out there. You know, it's sort of remembering that I do remember. One great thing about VCA about acting school was at the end of the three years, they said don't wait for people to call you for work. And it was very much a school about making your own work. They had had an actual course about it. So but even as US actors, only actors in inverted commas. The idea was, you know, no one's gonna offer you work. So you'll have to go and make it yourself. And what I love is and can we finish on this final story, which is, you'd been sitting there watching some lovely musicians do a version of The Beatles, a Beatle show? And you thought I Yeah, and you thought there must be there must be another an album or some extraordinary female performer that we could do. Tell us about? Coming up with the idea and executing it.
Jen Cloher 39:09
Yes. Well, look, that was a beautiful moment in my life. Yes, having just watched another one of those kind of Beatles cover shows doing the White album that was to do the White Album. I was like, This is so boring. And it's packed full of people paying good coin to watch this really boring. Presentation. Just got to be honest, it was middle of the road. And and I was like, Yeah, God damn, I want to you know, like, what's a classic album by a woman like we need to like bring something to the stage that just isn't the same old Rolling Stones, Beatles, whatever it is loving but whatever. And actually do I love them? I actually don't love them that much.
Julia Zemiro 39:56
But you know, it's like it's like going to the theatre companies again and going Are we really going to do Shakespeare again like fine, but I mean, could we just do something not Shakespeare? It's this it's the classics as it were. And they classic because they're classic. I go, well, sometimes it's interesting to appreciate classics in opposition to something else, or alongside something else, or, you know, or maybe something else.
Jen Cloher 40:21
I just just as a side note, like a lot of people like, oh, have you seen that Beatles documentary that goes for eight hours on Disney, like, you got to watch it. It's amazing. Lauren. I was like, okay, so I went in, I was like, oh, it's amazing of must watch it. And I had many recommendations. I think I got through an hour of it. And it's not because I have some like, you know, problem with the Beatles. I'm not like some jaded old person that hates the Beatles. Like I'm up for a good show. But I was like, literally just walk in. Like these four young dudes who were like the richest people in the world at that point in time, who'd no longer toured because they didn't need to smoking cigars, and having cocktails delivered to them while they just wrote songs. I'm like, I write songs all the time. I don't need to see other people do it and be waited on hand and foot while they do.
Julia Zemiro 41:14
And yet there's a fascination for it. So I go, Well, you're all fascinated by the creative process. You're all fascinated about how it happens. But those eyes were loaded and didn't have to be worried. Could you maybe be fascinated about others who are justice, who are struggling and are just as want to get that talent going? And unless they write it and can perform it, and you can see it, and you can have the relationship? You know, there's there's an audience for everyone, and we just need to find them. Anyway.
Jen Cloher 41:44
Back to it, Julia. I know the mission you're on and I'm fully I hear you're okay for it. Thank you. So anyway, beetles aside, I came home that night, and I was like, I know. Patti Smith's horses. And then I looked on Google, I Googled it, and I was like, No way next year, it turns 40 years. 20 year commemoration of Patti Smith's the horses. I then assembled adelaider myself, Courtney Barnett, Gareth Lee, the art of the drones and tropical storm and, and a great band. And we we put on a couple of shows at the Melbourne Town Hall, which has that massive organ. And I think we did a matinee and evening show for Melbourne Festival, and they both sold out. So it's like 4000 people came through that afternoon to watch Patti Smith's horses. But the cutest thing was I got to meet Patti, when she was out playing her shows here for horses. And it was maybe like a year later in 2017, I think because we did 2016. And her her tour manager kind of got myself Courtney walked down, like all through the little holes behind the Art Center. And kind of on the wires like oh my god, I'm about to make Holly Smith. Like, that's really something you know, like, I feel a bit nervous. I thought we're just going to be like in your backstage Green Room. Everyone having a few drinks. Hey, Patti, here's Jen and Courtney Oh, Hi, how you going love your work. And then you go on. You know, but we come to this stage door opens the door to this wardrobe room or whatever. What do you call it changer. And Patty's just, they're just sitting there cause she's just formed horses on her own. Like we did it with like six performance. And we just had an audience with Patti Smith for like, 40 minutes or something just myself, Courtney and Patti. And you know, like, what do you say? I was just like, Oh, thanks so much for riding horses. But then she was like, oh, yeah, that was great. You know, some friends sent me some videos of y'all doing it and
Unknown Speaker 44:11
yeah, good stuff.
Julia Zemiro 44:12
She saw some of it. She saw some of it on she loved it. Oh, my God gave
Jen Cloher 44:17
it the thumbs up Patti gave production of forces the thumbs up. So that was a super cute moment.
Julia Zemiro 44:25
It's like, it's a bit like the Kevin Jackson moment to where you like, you have this experience and they come back to go I witnessed it and saw it. You know, it's a real, I wish I wish audiences to realize how much belief it takes to be a performer a belief that you keep moving forward and you keep finding new things. And every now and then something just works. And you savor it, you really savor it, and you remember it becomes this terrific memory that you'll think about when you're 18 you can't move anymore, and it'll be this time and COVID reminded me of that. I just thought COVID felt like this is Retirement is I've got to make more memories. I've got to make more memories for others. I want to make sure you remain like that, at least why it's something to think about while we were stuck and gone. Well, if I never tour again, I remember that great time when we did this. And that, I guess to what I love about that horses story. I know, I've heard you speak about because you had an acting background. And you sing as well, there was a moment where the two of them came together. And when you performed in that show, and you really felt like the two streams connected, and that's such a magic thing to happen. For a performer when you go, Oh, I do have this extra stuff in my kit. That is like performing a monologue. Um, and I mean, that's so petty. I mean, that's that she absolutely is what she does, and so theatrical
Jen Cloher 45:47
and so theatrical. But here's the thing as well, I mean, I think it was said, you know, many times over, you know, COVID of the past few years, we're still in it, is what did we turn to? Oh, you know, aside from your food, alcohol and our parents, we turned to literature, poetry, beautiful film and television, music podcasts, like we turned to culture to fill the cup, you know, when we couldn't be living, you know, that bigger sort of out out in the world life. And so even if we might like to think that we don't value culture we do. It's embedded, you know, it's embedded in our very souls, like, everyone looks to it, whether they know it or not to connect with the truth of who they are.
Julia Zemiro 46:45
Jen, onwards and upwards. So good to talk to you. And, and I can't wait to hear the next album.
Astrid Jorgensen 46:55
coming. It's coming.
Julia Zemiro 46:59
So great to hear from Jen. Sometimes it is good to meet your heroes.
Dan Ilic 47:03
What up Jay Z asked who cares? She boy Jay Z make some noise. No bad Jay Z. Jewelers, Amira. This is Julius Amira
Julia Zemiro 47:12
asks, Who cares? Our second guest is Astrid Johansson. She is an Australian vocalist, conductor and composer. And she's the founder and director of pub choir. She radiates intelligence and creativity and simply wants every one of us to get creative to Hello Astrid.
Astrid Jorgensen 47:32
Julia, I'm obsessed with you. I real Daisy.
Julia Zemiro 47:36
Yeah, I mean, the original Josie. Obviously, Astrid, so delighted to be talking to you. You blew my tiny mind when I saw you do pop choir. And when I was the artistic director of the Adelaide cabaret festival, you were the first thing on this, but we wanted to get because what you do for those people who don't know about public choir? Tell us what is it?
Astrid Jorgensen 47:58
Pump choir is essentially what it says on the box. It's people singing together at the pub, nice and rowdy and fun. But on another level, Trent Dalton, the wonderful Brisbane author said to me, once of his experience of coming to pub choir and experience it himself said that it is the sound of people agreed. I think it's such a beautiful way to describe any choir, it is just regular people who might not know each other at all, who might disagree with each other on so many facets of life, all coming together and sharing one singular goal for an evening. And that's what pod choir is we learn one song at the show. You don't have to prepare anything. You don't have to be good at singing, you can be truly awful. But you get to come along and we will carry each other in the crowd. And at the end of the show. We perform what we have learned from each other. It sounds very cerebral, but it's mostly me insulting a crowd of people yelling at them. But it's fun. It's awesome. It's wonderful.
Julia Zemiro 48:56
That's a beautiful description. What I love, of course, is that Astrid, you had your first singing lesson and you were so excited by the tools that you were given in that first lesson to go. Oh, right. You got excited. You wanted to share that with other people. You went teaching. And it didn't quite go. As he thought. Look,
Astrid Jorgensen 49:16
I retired quite quickly from a short not illustrious career of one year. I tried high school teaching because I found music lessons like magic. I had always been good at music. Like as as long as I can remember I've been able to hear songs with a lot of detail in my head. And I thought that was something everyone could do. But it turns out not so I thought I'll go get some lessons when I was 16. I had some singing lessons and I thought it was like a learning a spell. Like you can use your body or you have to buy anything. You just use your body. Your voice has lived there all along and if you use it in the right way you can make people feel complex emotions, like you genuinely feel like you're casting a spell over people just by kind of speaking at them. And so I thought it was like the most illuminating experience of my life that you can control this instrument. It's not just like this wild beast, and either it's good or it's not, you can actually learn to harness your voice. And I thought, Well, surely everybody will be as excited as me when I explain this to them. But it turns out that high school children were not. I tried again on my own, but I think I'm far too chaotic for the classroom. So I kind of retreated. And I really started to focus on singing in the community, community choir stuff really got me going.
Julia Zemiro 50:41
And I mean, at one point, you were organizing seven different choirs driving hundreds of kilometers to facilitate that. But something…