Adelaide will always be home for The Superjesus’ Sarah McLeod

Adelaide-born The Superjesus front woman and rock goddess Sarah McLeod rose to the heights of the Aussie rock and roll scene in the ’90s, helping to pave the way for young aspiring female artists to follow.

An inductee in the South Australia Music Hall of Fame, the four-piece was formed in Adelaide and in 1998 released whopper album Sumo which was released worldwide, went double platinum and won best rock album at the ARIA Awards that same year.

Twenty years on and lead singer Sarah tells Brand SA News she will always have a soft spot for the city that started it all.

“I love flying home to Adelaide to see Mum and my school friends,” she says. “My first pit stop is Asian Gourmet in the Adelaide Central Market for a laksa – it’s actually the best.”

“I adore the Adelaide hills. My mate Susie and her husband Andrew own Bird in Hand Winery, I love to go up there and roam around the vineyards with a glass of their Nest Egg Chardonnay”.

Sarah reflects on her crazy career journey and where it all began.

Superjesus frontwoman Sarah McLeod and Stuart Rudd.

“Mum worked so hard to send my sister and I to St Peter’s Girls’ School, and all I wanted to do was work at the stock exchange,” says Sarah, who initially envisioned herself as a stockbroker, in Michael J Fox The Secret of My Success kind of style.

Finishing school and attending Flinders University she welcomed the need for some reckless behaviour. So she booked a trip to Bali with the girls.

After a few drinks and some Dutch courage, Sarah jumped on stage – her first time ever performing in front of an audience. Wearing baggy shorts, a Stussy t-shirt and green bumbag (standard Bali attire) she grabbed the guitar and belted out a tune with an Indonesian cover band. The place went bananas and people were buying her drinks all night.

Following the unexpected audition, the band had her playing every night. They even invited her to play in Jakarta in front of 200,000 Indonesians. Tempting as this was, Sarah declined, flew home, quit university and started a band.

“I’m a huge believer in swinging on the first pitch, perfection is boring and making mistakes was the fastest way to learn,” she says.

Fast forward a couple of years, which included developing nodules – a throat condition affecting her ability to sing – Sarah began working in a surf shop while her voice healed. She practiced guitar riffs when trade was quiet, and it was here that the first band Hell’s Kitchen was born.

“Our first gig was at the Crown & Anchor, then we managed to get a gig at The Synagogue (now Mary’s Poppin). We rode on our push bikes and stuck posters up all around town,” Sarah says.

“From there we did The Austral and The Exeter. I’ve always loved those two pubs. Since then we’ve done Fowlers, The Gov, the Adelaide Entertainment Centre and the Thebby.”

At the 1994 Adelaide Fringe Festival, two guys wearing black sunnies (who were big in the music business) loved what they heard and signed the rock group on the spot. The band had a solid sound, new management and bookings were rolling in.

Three of the four The Superjesus members Jason Slack, left, Sarah McLeod and Stuart Rudd.

Just before their first performance at the 1996 Big Day Out, they had a last-minute epiphany and changed their name to The Superjesus. Warner Music jumped at the chance to have them on board alongside fellow ’90s rock legends Regurgitator.

Armed with a level of filthy determination, The Superjesus toured the USA in a 12-seater Ram, which they later left trashed and dripping oil in the Warner Music car park before they flew home.

They released full-length studio album SUMO, a huge success which hit gold before it reached the stores. But after playing in London at a food and wine festival, the group lost its spark, returning home and going their separate ways.

Sarah went on to live in Sydney with then boyfriend, Chris Joannou of Aussie rock royalty band Silverchair, but recognised a total shift in focus was needed. She then moved to Melbourne and changed her tempo.

“I wanted to live simply and fight for every dollar, I wanted to live and die by my sword,” she says.

Sarah also moved to New York and remembers riding a motorbike daily along the Brooklyn Bridge to an underground recording studio to play guitar riffs over every rap album the studio pushed out. She then returned to London, this time collaborating with dance music producers.

Now Sarah reflects on Adelaide’s music scene and says it’s gone from strength to strength, helped by booming small bars staying open later.

“There are so many amazing bands coming out of Adelaide,” she says. “I love Southpaw, they’re a rad blues rock band. I feel like we put in 110% to compete with east coast bands.

“I think Adelaide supersedes Melbourne with its music community. I’m thrilled UNESCO designated Adelaide ‘A City of Music’.”

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Pop culture adds vibrancy to Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

Harry Potter, rock goddess Orianthi, music legend Prince and Star Wars – not exactly names you associate with symphonic music.

Yet all of these stars and mainstream titles form a key part of the 2019 Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO) offerings.

While symphonic music remains at the centre of the recently unveiled 2019 ASO season, it’s clear that tapping into popular culture and injecting recognisable brands into each program is key to cultivating new audiences of the future.

Managing director Vincent Ciccarello says the 2019 season explores different genres and, in doing so, redefines what it means to be a symphony orchestra in the 21st century.

“A symphony orchestra in the 21st century isn’t all about symphonic music, it’s about orchestral music and presenting music of different genres be it jazz, film, hip hop with the Hilltop Hoods, in all its glory, in a way that only an orchestra can,” he says.

“Symphonic music really is the reason we exist. The repertoire of the 19th and 20th century is really why you need to have a large body of highly skilled musicians to be able to recreate that music.

“However, there is so much more to orchestral music away from the symphonic repertoire. What we mean by that is we perform music from films for example. People recognise that movie soundtracks are not only vital to the success of the movie, but also a whole movie genre in and of itself.

“So, it is possible to have music by film composers such as Ennio Morricone or John Williams performed in concert without any screens because it has such integrity as music and that is what we want to emphasise.”

In 2019 the ASO will continue its Showcase Series with another tribute concert, this time to legendary singer/songwriter Prince, who will be celebrated in Let’s Go Crazy: A Symphonic Tribute to Prince.

The show will be performed by iOTA, Brendan Maclean and Prinnie Stevens, along with the orchestra. And in a major coup for the ASO, guitar superstar Orianthi will also star in the event.

Originally from Adelaide, Orianthi achieved world-wide acclaim as Michael Jackson’s guitarist. What is less known about the performer is that she also jammed on occasion with Prince himself.

Harry Potter and Star Wars also make a comeback with the ASO, this time with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ in Concert featuring Patrick Doyle’s score, as well as the Disney production Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Concert featuring John Williams’ legendary score.

“Harry Potter and Star Wars continue to be big shows,” Vincent says.

“We are over the moon about the reaction to both of those series. We present the first series on September 15 (Star Wars A New Hope in Concert) and we are approaching 5000 tickets sold and that is a really big deal.”

While this kind of innovative programming helps cultivate young orchestral music lovers, Vincent admits it remains a challenge to compete with the immediacy of modern day life for a generation that craves instant gratification.

“Society has changed and the place and value of music, not just symphonic but all music, has completely changed,” he says.

“Music is really ubiquitous now in every sphere of life, in the car, on the phone, streaming, it is so readily available and people can tap into a kaleidoscope of genres and we need to be responsive to that and change with the times.

“That is the great challenge for us so not only do we present movie music, but popular music or contemporary music such as George Michael or Prince presented in an orchestral setting is now an annual part of our season. Part of that is to be sensitive to what is happening in society, but also to encourage young people to connect to us.”

While mindful of appealing to all ages, Vincent admits the ASO needs to get better at, and funnel more resources into, what he calls the “hand-to-hand combat” of programming.

“An article recently stated that Netflix dominated the Venice Biennale,” he says.

“This is the way of the world, people have such a plethora of things available to them, so how do you switch them onto things beyond what is immediately under their nose via social media or whatever? That is the stuff we need to get better at and we have a number of schemes that we use to help us with that.”

One of those schemes is the ASO’s Learning and Families program which presents shows such as next year’s Who Needs A Conductor Anyway?

The show, which is part of the DreamBIG Children’s Festival, has been written by acclaimed pianist Simon Tedeschi and is aimed at children 8+ years of age. It provides a light-hearted, humorous way of exposing young minds to what an orchestra and conductor actually do.

Another show in the 2019 line up is Dreams of Air & Flight, inspired by the book FArTHER by English author Grahame Baker-Smith.

Keeping the ASO purists happy is also vital to the lifeblood of the organisation and the 2019 season shouldn’t disappoint.

Returning highlights include the flagship Master Series, Classics Unwrapped, Gigs at Grainger and Mozart at Elder.

“It’s a careful balance,” Vincent says. “We have to remember our mainstream flagship Master Series generates more than $1 million in box office a year, so it’s a sizeable contribution to the ASO’s bottom line and we should never take that for granted.

“Apart from the fact it does remain our core business, it’s why you have a symphony orchestra, that group of expert musicians who perform at peak levels.”

The ASO’s full family program will be released in November.

Musicians making it in Adelaide, a UNESCO City of Music

From the trademark growls of Cold Chisel to catchy tracks from Hilltop Hoods, Adelaide has birthed a collection of musicians who have gone on to satisfy the eardrums of millions worldwide.

From world-class festivals like WOMADelaide, to the largest cabaret festival, most significant guitar festival and oldest tertiary music school, Adelaide holds a number of biggest and firsts when it comes to music.

Our reputation is also built on being the festival state of Australia, with Adelaide being the country’s first and only UNESCO City of Music, in recognition of its vibrant music culture and rich and diverse musical heritage.

There are now 31 other music cities internationally as part of the UNESCO Creative City network, all which are connected to Adelaide, and are aware of our music prominence,” says Rebecca Pearce, Adelaide UNESCO City of Music office director.

Rock music legend and former Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes performs at A Day on the Green.

“As such there is an ever growing appreciation and recognition of Adelaide as a music making city, both within Australia, and certainly internationally.”

But when the festivals wind down and wrap up, is it possible to stay in SA and pursue a career in music?

According to local musician and industry professional Dan Crannitch, the belief that musicians must move to the eastern states to experience serious success is fading.

“Once upon a time if an artist was going to sign with you, they’d want to you be based in Sydney or Melbourne, but I think that’s changing,” says Dan, an A & R executive for Wonderlick Entertainment, and one half of Adelaide band The San Sebastian.

“Because of the internet we’re so interconnected now, most stuff can be done in Adelaide.”

Growing up in the Adelaide Hills with brother Joel – the other half of The San Sebastian – Dan first led band Leader Cheetah while pulling beers at renowned live music pub The Exeter.

Leader Cheetah struck the right chord, signing with a Sydney-based record label and enjoying the heights of success until 2016 when the group disbanded.

But at the height of their hype around 2009, there was a problem when returning home, says Dan.

“We did notice that when we came back here we lost momentum,” he says.

“When you were based in Sydney or Melbourne you’d have industry people at shows and you were a bit more a part of the national music scene.”

Brothers Joel, left, and Dan Crannitch form The San Sebastian. Photo: Facebook.

In a bid to strengthen SA’s music industry and create real, long-lasting opportunities, Dan collaborated with Martin Elbourne, a booker for the Glastonbury Festival in the UK and WOMADelaide here in SA.

Martin was undertaking a residency at the SA-based Don Dunstan Foundation and was tasked with exploring how to build upon Adelaide’s brand as a vibrant music capital.

“It was a pretty epic task, how do we make the SA music industry better? Instead of having a scattergun approach to grants and funding, how can we be more strategic and tailored, and help people have a crack at pretty much the hardest industry in the world?” Dan says.

Then came the Robert Stigwood Fellowship, run through the state’s Music Development Office and giving local musicians and industry entrepreneurs a chance to develop their ideas and make global connections from SA.

Successful SA musicians Tkay Maidza, Bad Dreems, West Thebarton and Timberwolf are just a few of the program’s successes.

The fellowship was named after Port Pirie-born Robert Stigwood, one of the most influential figures in the music scene in the ’60s and ’70s, managing big names like Cream and The Bee Gees.

Adelaide rap queen Tkay Maidza was a 2014 Stigwood Artist Fellow and went on to achieve massive success.

Stigwood fellows are mentored annually by both Dan Crannitch and Stuart MacQueen, who owns Australian music company Wonderlick Entertainment.

As an A & R executive for Wonderlick, it’s Dan’s job to find and develop artists and help hone their work.

Wonderlick’s offices are in Sydney and New York, as the company is a joint venture with Sony Music, but both Stuart and Dan work from Adelaide.

“I think Adelaide is a great home base, it’s a good place to work, and lots of A & R involves listening to music and making notes and looking for new music … it helps to be by yourself because you have to get quite deep into it,” Dan says.

Many of Adelaide’s music successes have shared their first tracks on the stages of the city’s live music venues such as The Exeter and The Gov.

The Grace Emily Hotel is one of Adelaide’s popular live music venues, showing gigs most nights of the week.

Dan, who co-owns the booking agency side of Adelaide company 5/4 Entertainment, says Adelaide’s live music scene “punches above its weight”.

The owner of the Grace Emily Hotel, George Swallow, agrees. He’s been showing live music at the CBD live music hotspot for 20 years.

“Our main focus is on SA live and original music, and the people who are just getting out of the garage and want to perform on stage for the first time,” George says.

“Here in Adelaide we support and help each other out, that’s what sets us apart. And we’re so diverse in music culture from jazz to the ASO (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra) to garage rock.

“I’m so proud to be working in this industry and community for so long and seeing it grow and grow.”

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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Scouted 2018 to discover SA’s best emerging musical talents

Adelaide’s unsigned and emerging musical talents could secure their ‘big break’ when music industry leaders descend upon the city’s west end later this month.

In its second iteration, Scouted is returning in 2018 and will feature 16 emerging local artists performing across four renowned live music venues in Adelaide on Friday, July 27.

The multi-venue event will run in conjunction with Umbrella Winter City Sounds, an open access festival from July 13–29 offering a smorgasbord of live music projects and performances across Adelaide.

Check out the Umbrella program here.

The Scouted performances will unfold at Jive, Rocket Bar, West Oak Hotel and Nexus Arts and coincide with Adelaide playing host to the second annual AIR Awards, which brings music industry leaders and independent artists from across Australia into town.

Following the 2017 Scouted, several artists were signed and many secured national media coverage and sought-after festival slots.

This year’s Scouted line-up includes WOMADelaide alumni Hana & Jessie-Lee’s Bad Habits, local rock favourites Donnarumma, who recently opened for Cold Chisel at the Adelaide 500, and the newly formed duo Dhungala Baarka.

Other artists include multi-instrumentalist Bree Tranter, electro dance act Strict Face, shoegaze outfit Blush Response, soaring indie folk band The Winter Gypsy, Argus & The Liar, Fair Maiden, Hartway, Naomi Keyte, Neon Tetra, Ollie English, Runaway Weekend, Siamese, and Wing Defence.

New wave group Neon Tetra will perform at Scouted. Photo by @fenj_.

Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop says Scouted is a key opportunity for home grown talent to showcase themselves to some of the biggest names in the music industry.

“After the success of last year’s event, we are looking forward to impressing key identities from the Australian music industry in town for the AIR awards again,” she says.

“SA has an incredibly rich and vibrant music scene and we always welcome the opportunity to turn a national spotlight on it.”

The Scouted artists will all play at one of the four stages at Jive, the West Oak Hotel, Rocket Bar and Nexus Arts.

Umbrella Winter City Sounds festival will kick off on July 13 with a free, all-ages opening night party from 5–10pm along Bank Street.

Six local artists and DJs will perform live, with local street vendors, beer, wine and art on offer.

Scouted is on Friday July 27, from 5–10pm. Visit musicglue.com/scouted for more information.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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