Ash Lee Chats with Sabrina Ives – A Singer/Songwriter from Perth WA – Sabrina’s original music is folk based, with Irish/Welsh Celtic tones. With a guitar in hand and the constant melody in her heart she brings her stories to song.
Ash: Have you always been a creative person?
Sabrina: I have always been, yes, I wrote my first song when I was 16. I had played around with melodies and lyrics before but it was always separately and this song, the one I wrote when I was 16 was the first time that I put melodies with lyrics. The song is called To The Hills and I remember the writing process so vividly.
Ash: It sounds as though writing To The Hills awakened something inside of you?
Sabrina: Yes, it did – I was with my family, in the hills, we were surrounded by nature and walking through the bush. It was such a beautiful day and as we walked along, the melody and lyrics just came to me. I could hear them, together, at the same time and I had to stop walking so that I could sit down and write….so I didn’t forget.
Ash: Has the song been released?
Sabrina: No, it hasn’t. I’m sure I will release it hopefully in the near future.
Ash: oh gosh, I’m so intrigued and I desperately want to hear it now! I think most musicians have a little stash of songs that they’ve never recorded or let anyone else listen to – do you have any others?
Sabrina: I do, yes, I think the process of writing To the Hills inspired me to pick up my stepdads’ guitar and write some more songs. There’s a song called Child’s Heart that I wrote shortly after To the Hills and I do plan to record and release that song. It’s about my grandparents in Ireland and my happy memories I had with them before they moved back home. It’s a very personal song.
Ash: I imagine it would be quite difficult, sometimes, to compose a song that is so personal and then to have the confidence to share it with others. It’s almost like sharing a part of your soul and revealing your truth – to record a song and then give it to the world, to say “here, look what I created” regardless of how it is received is an admirable feat.
Sabrina: That’s true, there’s probably a lot of creative people out there that don’t ever fully realise how talented they are and their confidence gets in the way of pursuing music or art as their passion.
Ash: I think it helps if you have creative people around you, people that share your passion and encourage you to believe in yourself. Has there been anyone that has done this for you?
Sabrina: Oh…wow…there’s quite a few! It’s hard to decide who I should mention…
Ash: Tell me about all of them if you want, I’d love to know more about them.
Sabrina: Ok…well <pauses in self-reflection>….I met my musical family when I lived in Denmark, WA. There are so many musical and artistic people in Denmark, this would be the time in my life when I really began to gain confidence in my song writing. I’m not sure how many people from Perth know of Denmark Arts… It is funded by the State Government through Country Arts WA; and the Shire of Denmark. They assist people in Denmark and surrounding areas to recognise and move towards their full creative potential as individuals and communities. I met Peter Killan there, he was head of the Arts Department and musical greens pool. Peter got in touch with me after I had my audition and ever since then, he has been like a father figure to me. He’s a real family guy and is very generous with his time, I think a lot of people would think of him similarly. I also met my guitar teacher, Pete Usher, and my singing teacher, Nevel Talbort, whilst in Denmark. I’ve had multiple Vocal teachers who have helped me develop and grow and then there’s Vinnie Crea, the Coordinator of the Music Artist Stream at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
Ash: Vinnie is such an asset for WAAPA, he’s been an influential mentor for so many at WAAPA – he’s also a really humble, honest and approachable man. I have an immense amount of respect for Vinnie.
Sabrina: Yes, Vinnie is fantastic! He has helped me a lot, he was one of the first people who gave me real criticism. It was constructively honest and musicians need that, I think. Vinnie is passionate about the Music Artist course and his passion is contagious. He has become like an uncle to me and he has really helped guide my musical journey.
Ash: That’s fantastic, I’m so glad you have found your musical family. How about at home, have they encouraged and supported you to pursue your dreams of being a fulltime musician?
Sabrina: Absolutely, my Mother especially. She’s a poet and I think of her as more than my Mother, she’s my best friend too. We spend a lot of time together and she has been very influential in terms of teaching me the importance of fostering creativity. We quite often collaborate with song writing and other creative projects – I find her inspirational and feel blessed to have such a close bond with my Mother.
Ash: I have a similar bond with my Mother too, it’s a special kind of connection. Let’s talk about your music, I think your sound is very unique and it sets you apart from your peers at the moment…<pauses>….I actually can’t think of anyone else in the scene right now that I could compare you to….I know how I would describe you musically but I’m interested to know, how would you describe yourself?
Sabrina: As a musician or as a person too?
Ash: I believe that music encapsulates the entire person, so, describe yourself as a whole.
Sabrina: Yes, ok. Music is my life, it’s what I live for. I have strong roots in my Irish/Welsh Celtic heritage and this shines through with the music that I produce. I create music that is influenced by folk, its acoustic storytelling and is an expression of my emotions. I believe that it’s important for musicians to find their own sound and that when they eventually do find it, it’s often exactly what the people need. For me, school was hard, I struggled with dyslexia and I used to feel like I wasn’t smart enough but when I found music…I realised I just hadn’t discovered my strengths. I don’t think I would be as confident in myself now if I didn’t have music. Music has helped me heal and grow as a person and I would like my music to help others realise that about themselves too. Especially the youth, I would like my music to be inspirational for them, to help create positive self-esteems.
Ash: What advice would give to them?
Sabrina: I would tell them that we all have our own gifts and we need to use them wisely and to never give up. Even in moments when you feel like you’re not good enough or when you’re doubting your choices – keep going, believe in your talents, strive harder and push yourself creatively. You’ll surprise yourself.
Ash: You recently released a new single, Living Hope. It was recorded at Scudley Records in Perth and you worked with Peter Renzullo from Scudley Films to produce the music video. Can you tell me about your inspiration for this song?
Sabrina: Lyrically, I tell stories and Living Hope is a song that reflects the times we’re in right now. Our world is in a state of disarray because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us are exhausted from the stress and the alarming headlines on our televisions. I wrote this song specially to encourage and rekindle the hope that all our hearts need. When I announced this songs release, I sent it to others with the hope that they would share this message in song. I asked them to forward my music video or song to any health- care workers, etc, who they know, or anyone who is working behind the scenes amidst this terrible pandemic. There are many fantastic people out there who are striving to contain this virus and for this we should be eternally grateful. Living Hope is a song that I wrote for them, it’s for us, it’s for everyone.
Ash: I believe that there is only one true universal language. Not everyone can read it or write it but we all recognise it. It speaks to every single one of us and when heard, it has the ability to unite people and so, for me, this is the most relevant language in existence – It is music. The language of music is powerful and it has the propensity to be the cross-cultural medium that helps us unite on a global scale because let’s face it; there are global issues that need the attention of everyone, that require a united front in order for the resolutions to be achievable and right now, there is simply not a platform upon we can stand together so… why not let music be that platform…or at least one of the vehicles that delivers us to it. Would you agree with this and what is your opinion about the universality of music?
Sabrina: I couldn’t agree more. And on my personal music journey I feel lead to sing stories to bring hope and positivity especially with what’s happening in the world today. We need Hope.
Ash: I would like to ask everyone to hit the pause button for a moment, to stop whatever it is they’re doing and spend some time thinking about connectedness – what is it that joins them or links them to the people, the groups, the objects, the ideologies, the corporations, the countries, and the ground upon which they stand – to ask themselves; What kinds of connectedness have I fostered? Can you elaborate on how your own life experiences relate to this question and the significance of them upon your creative decisions as a musician?
Sabrina: What I’ve found about myself is that I love connecting and being a people person. Music is such a great substance for that. It helps me to write my music which people can relate to on a more personal level. I have been there and know what’s it like to find things difficult. I have worked and experienced people with disabilities and mental illness and it has made me stronger and want to just encourage so many others that your never alone.
Ash: Earlier, I stated that “The language of music is powerful and it has the propensity to be the cross-cultural medium that helps us unite on a global scale” and I believe that it’s propensity to do so is further enabled through the use of visual storytelling. Semiotics is fundamental to the manner in which people interpret signs and symbols, there is certain degree of universality with these however for many people, their exposure to the aesthetic signifiers and symbols used by cultures separate to their own is, sadly, limited and I am interested in knowing; how did you consider this, creatively, when making decisions about the music video for Living Hope?
Sabrina: I am telling stories through music, they’re not just stories about myself or my memories, they’re stories that capture what I see happening around me too. Visual storytelling is exceptionally important. For me, and for a lot of other people, things make more sense when we see them visually. For example, when I am learning something new…acquiring educational knowledge or life skills, it’s much harder when those skills etc are delivered as words alone. I need the visual too and so my creative process, from start to finish, involves the visualisation of scenes. I start with melody and then I paint the picture in my mind whilst writing lyrics. For Living Hope, I was able to film at locations around Fremantle that were void of people. There would normally be a lot of people in these spaces however, at the time of filming, they had become desolate. I felt that this was a rare opportunity and that, yes, visually, it would make this song more powerful.
Ash: Will you be releasing any more music videos that feature footage and if so, how do you think you’ll make decisions relating to your use of film as a mode of visual storytelling?
Sabrina: In 2019, I released Flourish and this was also accompanied by a music video. Flourish is about myself, as a young girl in my garden. It features me and Ruby Alviani. Ruby represents me, as a young girl, and so I’ve used visual story telling in this video too.
Sabrina: I have another single that I am working on and when I wrote this song I was thinking about depression and how people cope with it. I visualised a person walking the streets, in the dark, and looking at their reflection in the mirror but only seeing their mask instead of true self. The messages, stories or sentiments being conveyed by my music are made more powerful through the use of film, it’s just a matter of deciding how well interpreted those visuals will be…if people will relate.
Ash: You’ve worked with Peter Renzullo from Scudley Films several times now, what was this like, did he help guide you with creative decisions?
Sabrina: Working with Peter Renzullo was an absolute treat! He understands me and my music. I also find that when I’m directing a video, he sees what I see and knows where I’m coming from. Would 100% recommend for any artist who want their music video done.
Ash: Ok, I have one final question for you and I ask everyone this question; If you could change something about the music industry what would change?
Sabrina: I would definitely change music payment. Each musician deserves to be paid correctly, how artists earn income should be addressed, we should be able to sell and promote our work online etc without having to have people take cuts. Music, and all of the people that give fuel to this industry, should be valued much more than it is, as a profession. Streaming affects this…..
Ash: Couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks for meeting up with me today, Sabrina – You are an exceptionally talented young woman, a bright light shining amongst the mist and I’m looking forward to our next banana bread-date. Let’s meet again soon.