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Interview: CHRISTINE ANU

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Christine Anu kicked off her se

Christine Anu kicked off her series of Rewind: The Aretha Franklin Songbook shows on 30th May 2012. Since then, the singer has enjoyed much success performing the show to packed houses around the country and she says that, being a concept show, it has allowed her to take advantage of other great opportunities that seem to come up as they have done throughout her career. “I am able to put dates on hold while I do other things.”

But now Christine says that the time has come to ‘put the show to sleep.’  “But,” she points out, “You just put it on the shelf and revive it whenever it needs to come out again.” The reason behind her choice to bring ‘Rewind’ to a close is simple. “2015 is the 20th anniversary of when I put out my first record so I have a lot of dates booked in for that. It probably doesn’t mean much to anyone else but it was my first album, the debut album of my career.”

Christine has enjoyed the experience of doing the show for the last two and a half years. “I love this other creative arm that I am able to go off and delve into and build upon because it helps me to be inspired and helps me to have something to draw from when I have to go back on stage and put my own head back on. I get to put somebody else’s head on and to become the mould and putty for a director to become totally something else. And when I put Christine back in there, I draw from my life experience. It’s a wonderful opportunity to never be stale about myself.”

Christine rose to the challenge when she was offered an opportunity to do a concept show. “I was asked what kind of show I would want to do,” she recalls. “When Aretha Franklin was put on the table I was terrified but, at the same time, I finally had the opportunity to show people how my sound would be if I wasn’t singing ‘My Island Home’; having said that, I would never have been able to sound like I do now, all those years ago.  After doing a lot of research and listening to all those songs, I don’t think I would have ‘got it’. I just think I would have been singing the songs. When you hide behind notes, you just get terrified to tell the story and I think, with Aretha, there’s a lot of pain from very early on in her life. Listening to the heartache and pain between the lines when she’s not singing and how she plays when she accompanies herself, there was something really spiritual for me to get into this time around. My younger years wouldn’t have appreciated it. In those days, I could easily have grabbed a hair brush and started singing Aretha Franklin songs but now, being a mother, being a black woman and especially being a black woman in the industry, all these things have formed a patchwork connection for me. I felt that, the notes might not sound like Aretha; it might sound like Christine singing the notes but I could sure as hell tell you that I could exact my interpretation of what she is saying in my own way and I felt confident to do that. I felt that I am the artist that could do that. So when the opportunity came up, I thought ‘How challenging and terrifying is that?’ but I also thought ‘Bring it on!’ And I couldn’t wait to do the album, purely based on the opportunity to stand in front of a crowd listening to me sing Aretha.  We span across the songs that she did as a blues and jazz artist and eventually as the Queen of Soul that we all know her to be.”

Christine had always seen herself as a soul singer. “When I had first been given the opportunity to record an album, if I had been asked ‘how do you see yourself as I singer?’ I would have said ‘soul’ without even a blink of an eye,” she reveals. “However, back in the early nineties, there was no market for it. There was no market for it until Sony was backing and really pushing Guy Sebastian and therefore really kind of making headway in the industry for R & B music to have a market in this country.  Up until that point, I was just another BV singer in a rock band doing weekend gigs at all the pubs around Sydney and some pubs interstate. I can’t say that I would want to do it this way which is the modern era where the way people are getting the recognition is through television. It’s a completely different format and I don’t have the nerve for it. I didn’t have it back then. I still don’t have it now because I wasn’t brought up like that. Kids today are born into this era where their fifteen minutes of fame is this way. They are put in front of people that will dish out sometimes the harshest types of criticism. I don’t think that I was ever built for that sort of treatment in front of a million viewers watching you have that done to you; watching everything that you’re doing. I don’t come from that era. I had to learn in a different arc.  So when ‘Island Home’ came to me and I had the opportunity to do it, something was cringing inside of me but you just put that aside because, what do you say? ‘Sorry, let me wait until my next lifetime when another opportunity comes around that’s more suitable for me’? You don’t do that. You go ‘OK.’ I was an island girl singing ‘My Island Home’ and it was a bit too predictable. I just didn’t like the idea of all of that. However, from a marketing perspective, it just made sense to people. The song actually found me and when it did have a market, back in 1986, there was a big record company in W.A. and when the band was about to go haywire with a song called ‘My Island Home’, the lead singer went walkabout and all the dreams of that band just blew down the sinkhole so they had to find another singer, another vehicle to give the song to and now that it’s found me, I thought ‘I’d better do something honest and lovely with it.’ I love the fact that twenty years have passed since the first album came out and that’s why I’m touring to celebrate the anniversary of that first album.”

But before she heads out on the road to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of her first record, the singer has a nice surprise for her fans, just in time for Christmas “In my whole career,” she admits, “I’ve never done a Christmas album. This is my first foray into the Christmas market that is indicative of those songs of yesteryear so I’ve put in there elements of that first album on this Christmas album; hence, calling it ‘Island Christmas’.  I was so surprised doing this Christmas album because it made me feel like a young twenty two year old when I was doing my first album in the studio so many years ago so it’s nostalgic, almost, for me. I love that it’s a precursor to next year and really, it’s some of the most beautiful Christmas tunes you’ll ever hear, in my opinion.  The first song is ‘Silent Night’and my mum actually writes one of the verses in her mother tongue and, when you hear it, it’s so stunning.”

Fans in Perth will have their chance to see Christine’s final shows for the Encore round of her Rewind Tour this weekend at The Ellington Jazz Club with two shows on Friday 17thand Saturday 18th October.  To book tickets, go to www.ellingtonjazz.com.au  

 

 

by Sharyn Hamey

 

 

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2014. All rights reserved

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