‘Fear lies beside me, a vessel, an army, that threatens the night, the wind is whispering, howling and hissing, “be unafraid,”’ Sarah Blasko sings with quiet knowing in ‘The Albatross’.
At the song’s conclusion, she intones, ‘For two will sail tonight, and here, here, here in this humble ship, I will make my home.’
You can imagine doomed characters like Coleridge’s mariner and Dickens’ Miss Haversham settling in for a long, cozy ride aboard this vessel, as it sails headlong into troubled waters.
Sarah Blasko’s sophomore record, 2006’s What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have, takes its title from an old nautical superstition based on the belief that going into the sea, even just bathing in the ocean, was like foolishly testing your fate. An act in which you are always going to come off second best.
“I think it has a lot to do with just accepting your own fate, dealing with things in the past and finding a way to move forward in a very confident way,’ Blasko said of the title on RN’s The Music Show in 2008.
“You know, the ocean is a really... It's something that's very hard to gauge. It's really uncontrollable and life's pretty similar to that,” she later told ABC Sunshine Coast.
Making this record it seems was part of the process of getting back on an even keel.
“My life had completely changed,” Blasko recalled to Double J in 2014. “I’d had a pretty tumultuous personal life in those couple of years, and when I was writing What The Sea Wants…, I was kind of taking a breath and trying to work out what the hell had happened to my life.”
Solitude and a period of self-reflection was just the balm she needed.
The result is evident in ‘The Woman by the Well’ with lyrics such as, ‘Shine a light on my misery, wake the child from her sleep, wipe the eyes of the dewy morning, the water’s so deep.’ She explained to RN that the song came from one of the few times she’d isolated herself to write in the peaceful surrounds of NSWs Blue Mountains.
Despite the personal upheaval, there was a new confidence in the approach to the making of the album.
“Recording up until this point anyway seems to be a real learning experience full of ups and downs, there’s always that challenge of trying to convey what you hear in your head, that separation between what you imagine and what you actually come out with,’ Blasko explained to RN.
While acknowledging the challenges of this second album, she also revealed that ‘…in some ways I feel a bit more assured and I think [collaborator] Rob [Cranny] and I felt a bit more confident about what we learnt to do. So in some ways it was a more enjoyable process.”
A large part of the allure of Sarah Blasko’s songs is her unique and very expressive voice. It has a light, childlike wonder about it, but it speaks of serious and emotionally loaded matters of the heart.
The tone is always an inviting and warm one, until she unleashes its dark and possessed nature which might resemble howling arctic winds blowing through cracks in the windows, such as you hear in ‘Hammer’.
“I've always felt a sense of longing in What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have,” triple j’s Dom Alessio, says of his favourite Blasko album. “Not necessarily a helplessness though. Because the music and Blasko's vocals feel powerful and in control.”
As the long term guitarist for Sarah’s band, Ben Fletcher has had plenty of occasions to witness the intensity of her live performances.
“Whether it be playing in front of 100 people in Hamburg or playing with a 60 piece orchestra at the Opera House in front of heaps of people, her earnestness and level of performance never wavers. It’s always full on all the time, it’s always honest and bare, because it’s not an act for her,” he told Double J with a chuckle.
And like any satisfying end to any story worth telling, our heroine decides not to be a victim to her fate after all. Indeed she has picked herself up, singing with one last sad look over her shoulder at all that she’s left behind, ‘One sure light from eras dark, two by two they all marched on, but I could never belong to you.’