INTERVIEW: Sahara Beck releases new single 'Don't Overthink It'
Sahara Beck has been having a pretty good 2019. Her first single of the year, the perky, pop-rock, addictive ode to procrastination ‘I Haven’t Done A Thing Today’ garnered critical praise and she went on to win the Regional Award at the Queensland Music Awards plus the prestigious Carol Lloyd Award at the Queensland Music Festival. Then in mid-July she won third place in the Vanda & Young international songwriting competition. Today she releases new single ‘Don’t Overthink It’ and we sat down to chat to Sahara about her new music and incredible year.
Hi Sahara! You’re getting ready to drop your second single of the year ‘Don’t Overthink It’, it’s a beautiful track. Have you been playing it on tour?
Yeah, we’ve been playing it at pretty much every show that we’ve been doing the last few months. It’s interesting, it seems to be the one that people respond to live, you know, like start dancing along to which made me really happy because it’s definitely one of my favourite songs off the record. I’m excited I get to release it as a single.
It’s one of those songs you can’t not dance to. Can you tell me the inspiration for this one?
When I originally wrote it, it was actually in a reggae sort of vibe, then we changed it. I wrote it after I was probably just wasting too much time looking into love and crushes kind of thing and getting distracted by that and not remembering what the most important thing to me is, which is succeeding in my music. I went and wrote it at my drummer’s studio shortly after I stopped seeing someone and had this realisation of I need to focus, and I need to deliver. I need to not fall in love. I need to stop giving everyone all of myself because that opens me up to be hurt more easily.
Yeah, just because I can say or do certain things doesn’t mean that I should.
Your songwriting has been wowing people this year - you have been killing it. You picked up the regional award at the Queensland Music Awards putting you alongside the glorious likes of Amy Shark and Sia, and you also got the Carol Lloyd Award at the Queensland Music Festival. How have these awards, or shall I say recognition, helped you in your career?
Greatly, I think. I feel really grateful that I’ve received so many awards for my music, but it’s not something I think about when I’m writing the music. Getting nominated and actually winning these awards is always like a massive surprise because it’s not what I’m setting out for. But it’s amazing to have other people going “you’re not crazy. You should just keep going.”
Is that always still at the back of your mind? I guess if anyone’s doing anything creative, it’s like can I make a job of this?
I didn’t grow up thinking I was some amazing songwriter or singer. It’s something that I started doing because it felt right. I just kept working and I just enjoyed it. But definitely before I release anything, I have this huge moment of ‘Oh my god, what am I doing?’ I feel like I’m constantly putting all of my money and my life on the line and sacrificing a lot just because I have some imaginary idea in my head. There’s definitely that fear of ‘what if I’m crazy and no one’s stopping me?’ So getting the recognition [from the awards] is just so nice, it makes me feel like I’m not crazy!
Getting these accolades and getting the attention also just gives you space to create more, which is what the listeners want too. It works on all levels.
Yeah, exactly. [The prize] money helps so much with the next record. Being able to work now and save that money for rent and food, rather than having to split it up for the record, it’s just amazing to have that sort of support.
The broke musician thing. As sexy as it is, it’s not comfortable!
Yeah, it’s not sexy in real life!
Can you tell me who were your musical inspirations when you were growing up?
I grew up on the Sunshine Coast and my family is European and my mum always played me Buena Vista Social Club, Cat Empire. My dad always played Motown bands, he always encouraged me to listen to all girl groups like Destiny’s Child. They always took me to musicals and plays, it has always been important to them that we learn instruments or that if they were going to spend money it would be on getting a ticket to see something that could inspire you.
Speaking of musical instruments, you play the trumpet don’t you?
I’m not the best, but I’m getting there. My poor neighbours had to listen to me practising. I can definitely smash a couple of scales, but I’m not confident enough to get up there and do a Harry James Angus yet.
Can you tell me when you were a kid, who did you pretend to be when you were singing in your room in front of the mirror with a hairbrush?
That’s a really cool question. It’s interesting, but I feel like every time I sing it’s always been someone different that I imagine. For each song, it’s someone different. With ‘Don’t Overthink It’, I actually imagined the singer Asta. I don’t know why but for some reason I just had her in my head, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m Asta for this song.’ And then for something like ‘Here We Go Again’, when singing that I’m imagining that I’m someone, sassy like Beyoncé. When I was growing up though it was always Robert Blunt and Thom Yorke for some reason.
What is your creative process asides from envisioning other amazing performers?
With ‘Don’t Overthink it’, for example, I actually started with the chorus lyrics and I made it the background on my phone. It was just kind of advice for myself at first - don’t overthink it. The whole chorus can relate to any situation I was in, whether I was trying to complete a recording session or falling in love and just generally not overthinking things and just enjoying everything instead of going ‘what if I shouldn’t be enjoying it, what if I should be stressing?’ But it’s always different. Sometimes, someone will just say something, and I’ll go ‘oh wow.’ Or if I’m just laying in bed trying to go to sleep, I think that’s when a lot of melody ideas just pop into my head and then I don’t get any sleep because I keep getting up and putting it on my phone memos!
You’re a true creative. I love it. Did you always want to do this?
I didn’t always want to do this. I really enjoy doing it now, but I always wanted to be an actor when I was little. We didn’t have the money to go and do that but hopefully I’ll still get to that. But I love playing music and I’ve always just loved singing. I think that’s why I’m able to keep going with it because it’s just something that I’ve always done. I’ve always sung and everyone in my family sings and I just always thought that everyone did that. It just feels so natural and normal to me.
Can we talk a little bit about what you found is the most challenging part of being a female solo artist both before and after you started making waves in the industry?
Before anyone was paying attention to me, it was hard to get people to take me seriously. When I would say I played people would just assume because I was like a young girl I played folk music up in a little dress on stage and sing like a little bird or whatever. That was annoying, and little things like when you’re rocking up to a festival with your band and you’re leading everyone to a stage and you ask the stage managers where do we put this stuff, they’ll look at you and ask ‘are you a girlfriend?’ and then talk to one of the guys in the band. Just being taken seriously and people feeling like they are competing with you when you’re not competing with anyone.
We talk about it a lot at the magazine about how female artists are always pitted against each other whereas men are pitted alongside each other. What are your thoughts on the sexism in the music industry?
The big thing that annoyed me was I was getting comments a while ago when I changed my image from some males saying ‘Well if you’re getting the wrong attention from people it’s because you’re wearing these sorts of clothes in your photoshoots’ and ‘People are treating you like this because you’re making yourself look like you don’t have any respect for yourself.’ My photos are an extension of my art. That’s not how I dress or what I do. It’s that kind of rape culture of if you’re not wearing as many clothes you deserve what happens to you.
To wrap up on a brighter note, you’re quite the role model for this beautiful generation. You’ve got such amazing, gut punching, soulful songs. What is the main message you’d like to get out there for this generation of movers and shakers?
Just lead your life with love, you know and don’t be afraid because if you feel love towards everything and everyone, then there’s nothing to be afraid of and you can choose anything you want with love.