INTERVIEW: Karise Eden returns with first new album in 4 years
Born to fight (and sing)
A new album and a newfound confidence have helped Karise Eden reach way down into her soul and find the music that fits. And her voice will still blow your mind.
Australian singer-songwriter Karise Eden has never been your typical pop star, and given her first encounter with music, we probably should be thankful she didn’t take her career in a different direction altogether.
“I used to love the video for ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’ by KISS,” she remembers. “I was transfixed by Gene [Simmons] with all the blood dripping out of his mouth … I was really mesmerised by it!” Thankfully, Eden later discovered Janis Joplin … and the rest is history.
Catapulted to national fame as the winner of the first ever series of The Voice Australia in 2012, Eden today releases her third album Born to Fight, her first new music in four years. With a whole new attitude and self-assurance, Eden is now an artist reborn and her music is proof of this. The troubled teenager is now a mature, assured artist in full command of her art – and it is beautiful to watch.
Eden, now twenty-six, grew up on the Central Coast of New South Wales and has openly discussed the difficulties she faced growing up. Raised by a single mother who struggled with caring for Eden and her sister, she spent weekends in foster care before finally being taken into state care and living in women’s refuges as a teenager. Despite her often traumatic experiences, Eden smiles when she recalls her childhood and remembers being surrounded by music from a young age. She would regularly sing with her sister but with her unique earthy, raspy vocals she quickly felt out of place.
“We were very into that hip-hop, R&B sort of stuff but I couldn’t sing that way and I found it really hard to hit higher notes like my sister could,” she remembers. “My voice would go crunchy and tap out. I felt I wasn’t good enough to be a singer.” Things changed, though, when she watched a documentary on Janis Joplin and was excited to discover a new vocal inspiration. “I saw her and was like, ‘Whoa, you can sing like that!’” she says. “It opened up a whole other world. Then I just started raiding my mum’s CD collection and it travelled from there.”
In 2012, Eden decided to audition for the first season of The Voice Australia and would eventually walk away as its winner – and for a period became one of the biggest music sensations in Australia. The week after she won, four of the top 5 songs on the Australian singles charts were by Karise Eden: she was the first artist to dominate the singles charts in such a way since the Beatles had in 1964, and her debut album My Journey would stay on top of the Australian album charts for six weeks. Being thrust into national fame in a matter of weeks was difficult for Eden, and with the constant workload and unceasing attention from fans, midway through her post-The Voice national tour she suffered a breakdown and abruptly pulled out of the tour.
“I probably didn’t do it in the best way,” she now says, wryly, “but I think just any normal human needs to restore equilibrium back into their life, and balance. Maybe the way I went about it was a little crazy, but we are who we are. I’m not going to change that. But I think it was quite a smart decision to just hold it up there for a minute and gather myself.”
Eden released her second album, Things I’ve Done, in 2014 and in December of the same year she gave birth to her first child, Blayden. She then devoted herself to being a mother and it wasn’t until last year that she started work on music again. Perhaps ironically, Eden says her time away from music gave her much more confidence when she stepped back into the studio. “I think from a music perspective, the change would be just having a bit more knowledge in the industry and knowing when I can say, ‘Hey, no, listen to me.’ … I think being able to still be a nice human and respectful, and having the confidence to get my needs as a musician across.” Part of that, she says, is being able to shape her own style in a way she was not able to do a few years ago. “Before, I just didn’t know what I could and couldn’t fight for within my artistry, but with Born to Fight I had more pulling power in how I wanted to portray myself as an artist.”
Eden says her newfound confidence inspired the album’s title. “I just went through a huge transformation. I’ve sort of realised life is pretty important,” she says. “You’ve got to fight for what you want. You’ve got to keep pushing for what you want and for what you need. You just have to be vulnerable yet strong at the same time to give yourself to your own future and to leap into it.”
Her confidence is evident in the music. While the traditional Karise Eden blues-inflected pop is still very much in evidence, there is more depth and warmth to her voice and she wanders down new musical paths and into entirely new territory. The title track – which Eden cites as her favourite track on the album – is infused with hints of synth pop, while ‘Ain’t Thinkin’ About You’ and ‘Baby Goodbye’ evoke a 1970s California pop/Motown crossover. The album also showcases Eden’s skills with ballads. The gorgeous ‘Gimme Your Love’ is a power ballad of the highest order, and the album winds down with the melancholy ‘Hopeless’ and ‘Maybe You Can Love Me Anyway’. And threading everything together is that voice. Hugely distinctive, it is earthy yet elastic and has the ability to soar wherever the melody needs to go. Along with her music, Eden’s voice seems to have matured and grown – there’s more control, more light and shade, although one thing hasn’t changed: her voice is still absolutely mesmerising.
Eden highlights the rollicking single ‘Stop Fucking With My Head’ as allowing her to release her sassy, fiery side that she has suppressed until now – “which probably wasn’t a bad thing!” she laughs. “I’ve always been a bit salt-of-the-earth, just a bogan girl at heart,” she smiles. “So it was good to be able to bring all that fun into the music this time around. I’m known for being able to be raw and honest within my music and how I speak of myself. It was nice to let my hair down and stop being so serious for a few songs.” A song like ‘Stop Fucking With My Head’ hasn’t been without its problems though, especially with a three-year-old at home. “I was playing it and Blayden was running around the house going, ‘Stop fucking with my head!’” she laughs. “I was sort of proud, angry and laughing all at the same time!”
It’s clear Eden has found a new confidence, passion and direction in her music and one side effect is that we could be hearing a lot more from her very soon. “You know what, I’m known for disappearing for three years in between albums, but we’ve got enough content – let’s smash out another one. I’m ready now!” she laughs.
For now, Eden will be touring Born to Fight nationally in 2019, with international shows a possibility as well. “I haven’t done much touring overseas,” she says. “To go to America and be where blues first began and stuff like that – I think it might help refill my creative bucket. I’m excited for anything and everything.”
Born to Fight has been a long time coming, but there’s no doubt Eden is back, and she is staying. “People will definitely be hearing about me,” she says with a grin. “There’s definitely going to be a lot more noise. I’m not stopping anytime soon.”