Sarah Blasko took the opportunity of her artist-in-residency to lay the foundation of a new record. A desire to write during tour soundchecks led Sarah to choose a theatre as her workstation for two-weeks. She brought in her band who she made its predecessor, Eternal Return, as she wanted to be surrounded by people she knew and were easy to work, after what she describes as a “very confusing time.”

Her hope to capture the energy of a live band resulted in a collection of songs which are full-bodied, direct and assertive as she examines feelings of loss, confusion and hope. Not only did she give herself the task of writing in this way, but she also agreed to document the process on film for the ABC documentary, Blasko.

Andrew Darley caught up with Sarah to hear what the experience was like to create under the eye of the camera, as well as the main themes of this album.

With each album you push your sound out in a new way. How does this album relate to Eternal Return?

Well, I guess, sound-wise there’s elements of the last record. There’s quite a few synths and stuff. I really enjoyed working on strings for I Awake and I wanted to bring those to the fore again. I think on the last one there was something a little removed about it, with this record it feels more raw and I think there’s jagged edges to things. The last record was quite smooth in my opinion. It’s hard to explain what the differences are in some ways – it could be a case of just being on different instruments. You are who you are, depending on if you’re playing a synth or a ukulele, it’s coming from the same person.

For me, it sounds like a more assertive and almost confrontational record.

It does reflect where I’m at. I probably do feel more confrontational! I think as you get older you don’t want to beat around the bush. There’s a confidence – not an egotistical confidence – but you know what you want to do and you don’t want to mess around. The people that I watched who influenced this record, the relationships and the community that I drew from, you see the veneer of people but behind closed doors, people are messier and weirder. That’s what I was talking about in a lot of the songs. It makes sense that the vibe of the record reflects that.

Do you think relationships get harder as we get older?

Not necessarily. I suppose the record is about conflicting emotions. I think when you go through a really amazing time, you’re more aware of awful things. When you go through a bad time, you’re more aware of good things happening to other people. That’s why the album has a beauty, on the one hand, and then this ugliness. When you go through extreme life changes, which I experienced when my mum died, it was the most beautiful time of my life but it was also the most awful time of my life. That’s what’s complex about human emotions, they’re not black and white, it can be very confusing.

You made a documentary on the making of the album and the creative process. What was that like?

I didn’t think about it until it was too late! A friend of mine, Brendan Fletcher, made the documentary and I’ve known him for such a long time. He was doing a series of documentaries on different artists and he approached me. Originally, we were going to do something that was more performance-based for the camera, because I had a confusing year and a lot of big changes, I couldn’t get my shit together basically. I had an artist-in-residence space booked and asked him if that would work. I thought we were just documenting that process but it became a bigger thing about my life and career. It was mostly pretty good having him there, but there were a few times I did find it difficult because I felt like he was getting involved in the creative process. There was a couple of times where he told people to stop playing and I was like “Wait a minute!”.

It was interesting because I was essentially trying to write an album in that time. Since I had the artist-in-residence space, I thought it would be a shame not to use the space to its full capabilities. We had a theatre for two weeks and they let us use the lights and the sound in the room. We created a feeling of being on stage. I’ve wanted to write on stage in sound-check while on tour because it always feels dramatic and there’s a lot of reach to what you’re singing and playing. Although it annoyed me at certain moments that he was there, I was very protective of the process, in order to write comfortably, you have to let go. In a way, him and the team were like an audience and maybe we wouldn’t have had the same result if they weren’t there. It may have elevated what we were trying to achieve. On the otherhand, we wrote a lot of great stuff when he went home.

I was also surprised to see that you wrote the album with other people in this way after doing your first solo tour. Did that tour have an impact on the direction for this album?

Well, actually I recorded the album before I did the solo tour, I was up to the mixing stage by then. I really wanted to write with other people because I just didn’t feel great and I wanted to be around other people. The solo tour has now made me want to make a record that’s just me.

Did you know the people you wanted to work with before going into it?

I wrote this with the same three guys who I worked with on Eternal Return and they’ve played in my band for about ten years. We know each other really well and it was really important they were people that I’ve played on stage with a lot and written with. I’m interested in trying to write with strangers but that wasn’t the right time to do that.

Did you go into the process with a clean slate?

I went in with a clean slate but I had a couple of things that I had already started to write. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to write about. I like to see what presents itself and that’s how I’ve generally worked with all my records. I didn’t write the lyrics there, I got the starts of the lyrics and then it took quite a few months after to finish them. Then you really work at it and figure out what is this thing. I think in the moment it was great to keep it fresh and not analyse too much.

Depth of Field is out now. For more info, visit Sarah’s official website here, while upcoming tour dates can be found here.