INTERVIEW: Leanne Tennant returns with new single 'Cherry Cola'
Queensland’s Leanne Tennant first appeared on the music scene in 2015 when she released her debut album Pull Up Your Britches, an eclectic blend of indie, folk, country and the blues. She immediately garnered critical acclaim and won several Queensland Music Awards, the Grant McLennan scholarship and made appearances at major festivals included BIGSOUND, the Woodford Folk Festival and the Commonwealth Games. In 2018 she won the prestigious Carol Lloyd Award, which rewards emerging female singer-songwriters from Queensland with a $15,000 grant. The award allowed Tennant to start work on her as yet untitled third album and today she releases the single ‘Cherry Cola’, her first new music in three years. The track sees a development in Tennant’s sound, with electro and pop now an integral part of her music. We recently caught up with Tennant to discuss her new music and how winning the Carol Lloyd Award changed her life.
Hi Leanne! ‘Cherry Cola’ is your first new music since 2016. What have you been up to for the past few years?
Since my last record Red Wine, Late Nights I took a tiny bit of downtime and spent some much needed time hanging out with friends and family, and doing normal things. It was during this time that I started coming up with some new music but was not thinking about making any releases at this stage and was just enjoying mucking around. I’ve still been showcasing here and there, and working my butt off, and then in early 2018 I was given the Carol Lloyd Award which gave me the sign (and the funding) to be able to continue writing and actually get some of these new ideas recorded. This record would have taken much longer if I didn't receive the Award, so it was really important to me to not rush the process and to soak up each precious moment of creativity.
The sound of ‘Cherry Cola’ is quite different to your previous work, with a more poppy and electro sound. Was this a deliberate change of direction?
Yes and no. When I wrote ‘Cherry Cola’ I was not thinking of any particular sound. I just started noodling on the guitar and the words 'cherry cola' came out. I didn't give too much thought about the direction of the track until I hit the studio. We just wanted to do what was best for the track and ended up playing around with a heap of sounds that were really exciting to me. Once we started heading down that path, so many more ideas started flowing which ultimately has shaped the rest of the album. I don't listen or write to any particular genre and have thousands of voice memos which are all completely different sounds. I get bored just writing in one particular style however previously I've not had the luxury of time and funding on my side to muck around with these ideas. I am so excited to have the opportunity to experiment and develop some new sounds. It's refreshing.
What was the inspiration behind the track?
The track is about loving someone, yet missing them and feeling lonely at the same time. I wrote the track when I was on tour and was supposed to be practicing through my set list, but ended up being a master procrastinator and started playing anything but. The words ‘cherry cola’ just kind of came out, however it started the thought process that whilst relationships can be sickly sweet with a lot of spark, there are still moments where you give each other the cold shoulder and icy treatment. It seemed fitting.
You worked with Konstantin Kersting (Mallrat, The Belligerents, Tia Gostelow) on the track, how did the recording process go?
Kon has been wonderful to work with. He was really open to experimenting with some new sounds and had loads of ideas. We finished ‘Cherry Cola’ in just over a day and invited friends Travis Jenkins (guitar) and Ed Ruben (keys) to also play on the track, along with Kon laying down some bass and synth himself.
When was the last time you had a Cherry Cola?!
It's been years since I've had a Cherry Cola, or what I feel is its equivalent...Dr Pepper. Some may argue. I might go buy a couple in celebration!
You won the Carol Lloyd Award last year, that must have been an amazing experience. What did winning mean to you?
I will never forget the plethora of feelings that surged through my body on that night. I was nominated amongst such a fine bunch of artists that I admire immensely and was not expecting my name to be called out. I was in so much shock and was completely overwhelmed with the feeling of needing to cry. I then needed to walk on stage and accept the award presented to me by the incredible Deborah Conway. By this point I had lost all ability to form a normal sentence and was just trying not to fall over in shock!
The award meant the world to me. I was actually at a stage where I didn't know how I was going to continue putting music out. I am a completely independent musician so the challenges of the enormous workload and financial strain I’d been experiencing for many years was starting to wear thin. It's a tough job being an Indie. There are hundreds upon hundreds of hours spent managing your career, applying for grants, booking gigs and festivals, flights, accommodation, rehearsal schedules, Invoicing, contracts, promo, that there's often only scattered moments left to be creative, and by this point you're exhausted. There's no one helping, nor anyone to even bounce off, so many hours are spent quite isolated with all of these hours being unpaid and in addition to my day job and my most important job of all , which is being a mother to my daughter Willow-Rose. Being given this opportunity was a huge nudge to keep going and has made this whole process much easier with the alleviated stress of financial pressure. It also made me feel as if I had some people around me that wanted to help, and wanted to support my art. I am forever grateful.
Can we expect a full length album from you after the release of this single?
Yes! I have most of the tracks finished and will be releasing another two, maybe three singles this year and the full album expected to be released in March 2020.
There has been a lot of debate over the last year or so about gender equality in the music industry. What are your thoughts on this topic?
I’ve been in and out of the music industry for quite a number of years now and I feel it is certainly better than it used to be. For such a long time I’d become used to being the only girl on stage or in a festival lineup, but now it’s becoming much more balanced. When I was growing up there weren’t a large number of women being showcased on radio, and I still feel there is a huge imbalance. As a developing musician or music lover, you can’t love what you don’t hear.
When I started out, I had my fair share of ingenuine offers with ulterior motives. Or getting to a gig and virtually being ignored as you’re just the ‘singer/songwriter chick’, but I feel this is hugely shifting. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible men over the past couple of years where this behaviour and attitude are non existent. It’s definitely changing.
I think ageism is still a big concern in the music industry, especially as a woman. It still feels as if when you’re a young girl starting out, that you’re too young to be taken seriously, and when you’re no longer in your 20’s, you’re too old to be taken seriously. I don’t feel that men face that same challenge when it comes to working in music.
I would love to hear on the radio a wider spread of genres from women of all ages in Australia. I think we deserve the opportunity to make our own minds up about what we love, instead of being ‘shown’ what we should love.
What artists are you listening to at the moment?
There is no one particular artist that I listen to solidly, however whilst writing this album I was listening to a lot of Jack River, The Middle Kids, Sky Ferreira and The Growlers. I do admit to having on high rotation at home my Neil Young and Beatles records. That’s pretty standard.
What does the rest of 2019 have in store for Leanne Tennant?
There will be a music video for ‘Cherry Cola’ coming out soon, then a few scattered shows following the release of ‘Cherry Cola’. After that I’ll be busy releasing more singles and saving the main run of shows for the album release!