It’s a truth probably not quite universally acknowledged that female musicians’ work is viewed autobiographically – that when they sing “I”, we’re more likely to assume they mean “my literal self” than if it were a man singing. Sarah Blasko says that although that tendency hasn’t “necessarily p-ssed [her] off”, she still feels that assumptions are made about women writers. “Sometimes it can feel a bit limiting… there’s definitely been occasions in the past where I’ve written songs that are totally not my perspective – [they’re] written for someone else – but people have thought that was me. But it’s really interesting over time how songs can change their meaning – they often do change their meaning, once other people start hearing them.”
For her new album Depth Of Field, Blasko’s aim was to explore all kinds of perspectives – not just women’s – and the result is something that vacillates between angles of rapture and revulsion. There’s also that weird feeling of concurrent joy and sadness. “Yeah, it’s the impermanence of life and knowing how changeable [it is]. I’m often thinking of that, you know, because having a kid…” She laughs and explains: “The joy can turn to horror very quickly! They push it too far and end up knocking themselves out on the edge of the table or something! I remember it as a child. I always remember my dad saying, ‘Someone’s going to get hurt.’ And [he] was always right.”
In that vein of looking to the past, track Savour It – which features a beautifully falling chorus melody – was something which transformed in the studio as Blasko wrote. “I was saying ‘stay for it’ for ages,” she says, “and then I realised that it was all about nostalgia, and that awful feeling like you could’ve done better – you could have made more of a thing.” She wrote the song with David Hunt, who was one of three key friends – along with Ben Fletcher and Nick Wales – who joined her in her writing space. It was a live stage, essentially speaking, behind which Blasko projected various avant-garde films. “My local DVD shop had four experimental film DVDs; [the shopkeeper] was just delighted that somebody was hiring them out. At first I was like, maybe we should put up films that we love. But actually, it needed to be something very abstract. Just something that flowed past us and through us, and kind of conjured some kind of feeling in the room.”
That vibe encouraged Wales’ shivering strings in the cinematic Heaven Sent (“He knows what I like – we both love a real lush string!”), the brutal stabs of dirty guitar in Making It Up, and a fantastically fat, deep sax in stand-out Never Let Me Go. “I love baritone saxophone,” Blasko says. “I would put it on every song if I could; it’s one of my favourite instruments. Saxophone’s kind of got a bad name for itself these days – ‘cause of the ‘80s – but the baritone saxophone, I’m trying to bring it back. [It] really reminds me of ‘60s music. I like that it sounds a bit dorky. [It’s] got character – sort of like a little person comes in and plays a little phrase, and then they leave.”
Depth Of Field is out now via EMI.