Having just released her second album (and with a third on the horizon), Victorian singer/songwriter and musician Andrea Robertson speaks about her passion for music and the importance of family as well as the intersection between her music and her Christian faith...

You’ve just released your second album, Remind Myself. What’s the album about?
"Remind Myself has been a bit of a journey for me, I guess. It's not about any specific topic but is a collection of songs that were all written during a particular stage of life for me. Many of my songs are just inspired by the every day and the ordinary, including my love of family and appreciation of life and all that it delivers. The beautiful coastal area I'm blessed to call home [Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula] no doubt influences my songwriting as well. So there are tracks that are clearly about my drummer/husband/soul-mate [Dave] and the relationship we have - we've known each other since we were about 12-years-of-age. [The song] Our Favourite Cafe is having a bit of a joke at my own expense about how poor I can sometimes be with time-management  - I tend to think I can always do way more than can realistically be achieved in a time frame. One Of These Days explores social justice issues broadly but was inspired by issues close to home for me. Remind Myself is about pressing on under hardship or difficult circumstances, and The Element of Surprise is about the unexpected surprises that come along in our life journey. The last track on the album was written for my daughter [Carly] and it's called My Sweet Child."

Andrea and Dave Robertson

Andrea Robertson with her husband Dave on drums.

 

IN SHORT  - ANDREA ROBERTSON

A Bible verse that’s influenced me?…"This is a really hard one to answer. I love the Psalms. But Romans 8:38-39 also just came to mind, so I'll go with that one for this answer!"

A song that inspires me?…"Amazing Grace. To me, this is a timeless song, both lyrically and melodically. It is just as relevant today as it was when it was penned."

A musician I admire?..."There are two secular musicians who come to mind when I think of this question. Jack Johnson is one - he seems like a genuinely lovely human being, he has not let fame go to his head and seems to be very generous with his time and money. He is always doing good things for the community and the environment, and seems to have a way of bringing out the best in people. Whether you like his music or not, he's a great role model for other musicians. And Bono from U2 is another artist I really admire; for the way he has presented himself as an artist in the secular world whilst maintaining his faith, and standing up for social justices issues." 

As you mention, a couple of the songs on the album are about your family and your husband Dave plays drums/percussion on the album while your son, Heath, also played on this album. How important has family been to your personal musical journey?
"I don't think I could do what I'm doing without my family's support - it certainly would be much harder if Dave (and the kids) weren't on board. I know there are plenty of musicians who don't have partners who play instruments or gig together - in fact it's probably more uncommon for a husband/wife to team up in the way that Dave and I have with our music. I'm sure it presents challenges for those relationships, though, and I'm thankful that it's not something I have to worry about. Not only do I have a husband who's my drummer/percussionist (and a very good one at that!), I have two really talented kids who are also very passionate about music, already writing their own songs, performing and getting an understanding of the music industry. It's a great thing to be sharing and although Carly didn't record on this album with us, she did feature in the film clip (along with our dog!), and we do perform together as a family band, The Von Robertsons. I have no doubt that she'll be doing her own recordings before too long. Never Let You Go was the first release of Remind Myself, and is available as a free digital download."

How does your Christian faith inform your song-writing?
"I was brought up in a Christian family, so it feels like my faith is just a part of my DNA to be honest. That's not to say that my faith hasn't [been a] struggle at times, and certainly, in my 20's, I went through a stage where I really took a step back from church in particular, and tried to distance myself from God, but it was something I had to do, to try and work out what I really believed and why I believed it. So although the two albums I've released to date are secular albums, I think it's clear in my songwriting that I have a faith and that God plays a big role in my life. There are lots of people I mix with who don't want a bar of God, and although I find it very sad, I do "get it". There's no denying that the church has caused a lot of damage in the past (and sadly, still does at times), and people naturally associate God with the church. So it's understandable that they're antagonistic towards God and churches.
     "I do find, however, that although many of the musicians we come across may not want anything to do with God, they know that both Dave and myself are Christians, and are usually respectful of that. I want to be a musician who presents a positive image through my performing, through the songs I write, and my approach to life. Being someone of integrity is very important to me, being known as someone who treats others with respect - the way I want to be treated - and just being kind to others is how I'd like to think I'm perceived in the music industry. It's not that hard to be kind but so many people choose not to be (I've just written a song based around that very theme). There's so much negativity in the world and the music industry isn't exempt from that. Even as Christians, we have very real struggles and we aren't immune to the difficulties in the world - it's how we approach them, how we face them, and the integrity that we maintain along the way that makes the difference."

What musical influences inform your work?
"When people ask what genre my music is, I find that so hard to answer because I have many and varied influences, and that's reflected in my music - it's a fusion of blues/soul/folk/country/rock - I'm not into a highly produced sound, for me it's about being organic, real and raw. Some of my all time favourite artists include people like Ben Harper, Jack White, Lanie Lane, Dan Sultan. I love the new Dan Auerbach album (from The Black Keys), Norah Jones has some great songs as does KT Tunstall. Jack White is an amazing musician, songwriter and producer. There are local artists like Sarah Carroll who is a beautiful songwriter and person to go with it. Fleetwood Mac and the early Rod Stewart albums were big influences as I was growing up (thanks to Mum and Dad's vinyl collection, still in mint condish!), the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, BB King, Etta James, Blondie - even classical music/composers."

Has playing and writing music always been a part of your life?
"Yes, always. I learnt classical piano as a child and starting toying with writing my own songs at a fairly young age, probably aged nine or 10, possibly younger. I used to make up songs and sing them into my Sony cassette recorder - whole concerts, talking in between songs and everything. Until one of my older sisters discovered it and teased the heck out of me. But yes, it's always been a big part of my life. I mentioned my parents' vinyl collection earlier - they always loved their music and we were in a house that tended to have music playing more often than not, and usually opted to have music on rather than the TV. So I play piano/keyboard, and started playing in church circles when I was about 11 or 12 and have continued that until this day and I also write what I call "God songs"  or songs for congregational use. At one stage I realised it was much easier to get around with a guitar, so I started teaching myself guitar probably in my late 20's/early 30's. I can find my way around the ukulele pretty well these days, a bit of mandolin (I would like to get much better at this, though) and have also had some harmonica lessons, which I need to get back into in my spare time. I can play drums a little, although there's not much need for that with a husband who's a drummer and two kids who can also play them well."

Remind Myself

How did you come to be working as a musician and what role did your faith play in that? 
"I've been playing music for years, and early on it was usually more for the love of it than anything, but as a teenager I would be asked to play at weddings, funerals, special events etcetera. I've played music in church circles since a young age as well, and, in my 20's David, myself and some friends formed a band; we started playing some gigs doing covers and slipping a few original songs in amongst the sets. This was at a time when cover bands were big, and it was hard work getting gigs (especially if you were doing original songs), but the originals seemed to go over well with audiences. It was at this stage that I began writing a lot more of my own material again. I also hit a rather traumatic and rough patch at this time in my life, which had a big impact on me, my family and others as well. My faith and my music were the things that helped me cope with or process what was going on at that time. But it was when my children got to school that I knew it was time to take a big leap of faith, set aside the part-time admin work and pursue the music side of things more seriously. And that's what I've been doing for the past few years. In a relatively short time I feel like I've already achieved a great deal including releasing two albums, being shortlisted two years in a row for a national songwriting contest, and winning awards for two consecutive years - 2016 was the Queenscliff Music Festivals' Ross Lipson Award, and just this year, being announced one of the dual recipients of the QMF's Emerging Artist Grant. This not only means I was on the line-up for the 2017 festival, but I've grant monies to record another album in 2018...and I can't wait! It can be hard work, but I love what I do and wouldn't change a thing."

Do you see your music as an opportunity to share your faith with others?
"I do see music as an opportunity to share my faith with others, but more than anything, I see life as this opportunity. We don't need to be preaching at people, we just need to live our lives in a way that reflects our faith, and I believe this is more powerful than anything else. One of my absolute favourite quotes is that of St Frances of Assisi which says "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words". I don't think it can be summed up any better than that. It's how I try to live every day including what I do with music."

Any advice for budding singers, musicians or song-writers out there?
"I think it's great to listen to a wide variety of music as opposed to just zoning in on one genre. And although we all get influenced by other artists and their sounds, try and stay true to who you are. Don't just produce a sound that everyone else is doing because it's popular; find your own style, work on your weaknesses while at the same time working with your strengths. Keep stretching yourself. And don't do it to try and become famous; do it because it's something you are passionate about."

What’s next for you musically?
"We've just performed at the Queenscliff Music Festival and following that, there are gigs lined up over the summer period, a small regional Victoria tour, and then planning towards a new recording in 2018. I have been writing so much since completely my new album, so I have more than enough songs written for the new recording; choosing what not to use is probably going to be one of the hardest parts."

Andrea Robertson's new album, Remind Myself, is out now.

~ www.andrearobertson.com.au
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