Grace Knight Talks About Her Upcoming Adelaide Show

Markus Hamence Presents is bringing ARIA Award winner Grace Knight to The Regal Theatre Saturday May 6. Singing hits from her time in the Eurogliders as well as classics from her jazz and solo albums, it’s going to be a night of fun and hit songs. Grace Knight chatted to Hi Fi Way about the up-coming show, her career and some naughty antics she got up to during her time in the Eurogliders!

Are you excited to be performing in Adelaide at The Regal Theatre?
I can’t wait actually and there’s a few reasons; one is I can’t wait to get down to Rundle Street where all the restaurants and cafes are, so I’m looking forward to that but of course. I’m looking forward to performing to the Adelaide audience too.

I’m glad to hear you know about Rundle Street, you’ve obviously been to Adelaide a few times?
Over the years I have and it takes me back to Eurogliders’s times! I haven’t been there very often recently but that was where we always used to go for breakfast and dinner so I’m very much looking forward to that!

We are known for our restaurants and wineries. Are you staying in Adelaide long?
Overnight (laughs). Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the beast when you’re touring you arrive, drop your stuff off at the hotel then race off to soundcheck then before you know it you’re on stage performing and then you’re off to the next gig.

So, what can audiences expect from this show? What songs will you be singing?
I’m going to do a real mix on these shows. I’ll be doing some Eurogliders stuff, some jazz and my own solo recordings just because I want to! (laughs)

Do you find at this stage of your career you can do whatever you want to do and not conform to the requirements that you used to when you first started out?
Yeah when I first started, I did have to conform but that didn’t last for too long. I like to do my own thing and I’m not very good at being told what to do! (laughs) I will do anything for you but just don’t tell me to do it! (laughs).

I love it! I love it! (laughs) So What song do you like to sing live?
Oh that’s such a difficult question! The reason its difficult especially when you’re making a new album you get really intimate with the new songs you’re performing. So, they all become my favourite songs.  They are like new children that you have to watch and play with a lot. That’s how the song unfolds and becomes born so that’s why it’s always the new songs that I’m doing become my favourites. I will be doing quite a few of those when I come to Adelaide.

Is singing live something really important to you as an artist?
It is! It is because I’m not a great singer. Recording is my version of trying to do my best in the time that I have in the studio. Long gone are the days when you can spend such a long time in the studio. You have to go in and get it done. Sometimes you might have a cold or a cough or just simply be exhausted and you’ve got to do it on the day.  So, singing live is my favourite bit of the job because that’s when I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing which is telling little three minute stories. Lots of little stories over the course an hour and a half show.

I find it very interesting that you said you’re not a great singer. Why do you think that? As someone who listens to your music, I feel like you have a great voice and sometimes its all about the performance and the way you deliver a song that captures people’s hearts.
I agree with that and that’s why I enjoy the live performance so much because its communication going on between myself and the audience and in a way, it is touching their hearts. I have this joke now that I’m going to break your heart then stitch it all back together again! (laughs)

I have a limited tool in my voice, like I say it’s not the best voice in the world or even close but I really love doing what I do. I see myself more as a storyteller than a singer, so there is a lot of truth and I really appreciate you saying that a lot of what the listener is hearing is the actual intention and the performance of that story. So, in the terms of what I did say about not having a great voice is because I don’t, but I can tell a story. I think a lot of that is due to my Irish and Scottish background.

I think storytelling in song is very important. You can have a great voice but you can’t convey the emotion of the song it just doesn’t go anywhere.
I agree with you. It’s a hard thing to talk about 12-year-old girls singing things like “he’s my man” I think “I just can’t believe you!” It irks me because it’s the wrong song choice for that age group. How can she possibly be telling me the truth because I don’t believe she’s had that experience with a man or she shouldn’t have at that age!

I’m an 80s child and I just love the 80s songs and looking through the decades, maybe because it was my decade the songs were different from other decades. Songs like Cant Wait To See You and Heaven were on high rotation back then and now. What do you think it is about these songs that hold up so well today?
First of all I can answer this question quite honestly because I didn’t write Heaven, Bernie Lynch from the Eurogliders wrote the song. Back in the 80s, songs had what is lacking today, which is structure and the musicality of the song. Breaking the song up into parts, in the 80s when we wrote songs there was a formula that had been started back in the 1920s. You have a key introduction, a verse, a chorus, a little bridge and then another verse and then chorus is out. That’s the structure of that song. The musicality of it I think has changed a little bit since the advent of home computers and home recording that almost anyone can write and record a song at home but without the understanding of music.

If you haven’t studied music, you can still write something that’s pleasing but musically it might be a bit lacking. Once we started to get into the 90s and 2000s, we were hearing a lot of music that was recorded in peoples garages. That’s all fine and cool but if music isn’t important in school anymore then people aren’t going to study it, they are not going to be moved by it and they won’t want to be musicians because you can barely support yourself and a family on a musician’s wage. So, I think there’s a lot of things that go to answer why music has changed so much. I think a lot of it is from the availability of technology and the lack of studied music principles.

There’s a time and a place for what I call ‘plastic music’ and sometimes you want to listen to something and just switch off but I feel there isn’t as much emotion and sincerity. Of course, there’s still artists that write songs like that but there’s seems to be less and less. It’s more generated and plastic music that’s a hit today but not tomorrow. Whereas a lot of 80s songs are still being played today and people are loving them even though the songs are older than they are!
I think that’s a really interesting point. I think it’s worthwhile even looking at what’s happening in society when you talk about plastic music when we see girls that are becoming clones. I still don’t understand why girls choose to look like each other. In my day there was always a point of difference and would think “Oh they look cool!” But now its very popular to be plastic and that’s a sign of ‘I’m popular and successful.’

Even though there a many who are going down that route, yet the longevity isn’t there and listeners want a sincere song. Even though the younger artists are gearing going towards the popular route, at the end of the day people still want an emotive song.
I agree. I think the one thing you can never ever do without being caught is lie to an audience. I have this notion which I’ve had for my whole career that the audience can smell insincerity and so if you’re up there pretending to be a pop star, I think it shows.

A lot of the 80s artists are still writing and performing why is it that we see that longevity in careers from artists from that era?
That’s the nature of being an artist, you struggle to get to a point where the audience knows you, you’re accepted and they like your music then you have to struggle to stay there. It’s a constant battle from the time you pick up the guitar to the time you take it to the grave with you. You’re always pushing to stay around. I’ve had this thought in my head that the audience will tell me when they’ve had enough and that means they won’t buy my albums, they won’t pay their had earned cash to come to my concerts and that will be my sign. Then it’s time to get another job or time to retire!

As an artist is this something that you want to do for the rest of your life?
I create lots of things more than what I perform. I have a studio and I make things. I’m a maker of things. At the moment I’m making rugs. I design lots of things; anything from concrete, garden furniture to anything that takes my fancy. So, I’ve been an artist all my life.  At some stage I’ll say “This is the last fifteen minutes of my career that I’m walking into.” I’m 66 or 67, I can’t remember how old I am (laughs) so I don’t have long in my career left. So, I will just choose to do specific gigs the older I get and if there ever comes a point where I feel bored, I will hang my microphone up. Touch wood, I have never felt that, I get incredibly excited every time I get on stage. It’s a thrill for me to do it.

I think its good you can channel your creativeness into other areas that doesn’t have to be just music. You can focus on something else and have a bit of a break from music so you then come back to it with a fresh look.
That’s right! I learnt to design, print and sew up clothes because we were too poor to buy lovely designer clothes. You wanted to make an impression on stage and for our young fans. Most of the stage clothes I designed and wore even things for the Eurogliders. I was brought up in that era in pop music where we were supposed to look different. We were supposed to be a little different than the audience.

I can’t remember which artist said this but the 80s were pretty much the last decade that artists created and did everything; they wrote and sang their own music, played their own instrument, styled their own image. They didn’t have stylists like they do now as it was very rare.
It was very expensive. If the record company decided you needed it then you had to pay for it through your record sales which at the end of the day was what little money you were going to make, you were then going to make less.

For me it was out of necessity and I used to take a little miniature sewing machine on tour with me in a little road case and while the band would be setting up on stage and doing a soundcheck I’d be back stage finishing off Christian’s pants that he was going to wear that night. If I couldn’t sew them up then I would have to use gaffer tape (laughs).

These are pretty cool stories! You’ve had such successful career, what other memories or achievements or stories do you have to tell?
(laughs) I mean yeah, we’ve received awards et cetera but this is a terrible story I’m about to tell you. It’s shocking and I think I’m about to lose some fans (laughs). I spent the 80s stealing furniture for my house from the venues the Eurogliders performed at. I was so naughty. The venues had it and I needed it, and we had the truck. We were touring five nights a week and I think I furnished my whole house from touring up and down from Queensland to Sydney. I’d see a sofa and think “Ohhh that would look nice in my sun room!” (laughs).

(laughs) You’re taking ‘taking souvenirs’ to the next level Grace!
(laughs) Oh I was terrible. I used to have a tool kit specially for stealing with a Phillips head screwdriver. It was terrible. I don’t know why I’m laughing. I’m laughing because I’m nervous as I may get into trouble as someone will say “I knew she took our fucking sofa!” But this is how poor we were. For ten years I was living in Glebe and our wages were something like $300 for the whole band. Of course, we had to pay rent, we had to eat and buy fabric, make up and stage outfits with that kind of budget which is why I became a thief!

You seemed to have lived the rock ‘n roll lifestyle then! Others were destroying and throwing it out of windows, but you were taking it instead! (laughs) You were a little bit more respectful by taking it home instead of destroying it!
(laughs) I looked after it! I took it home and polished it! I re-covered some things. I don’t do it anymore though!

You must have so many more great stories!
I’ll save the best for another time!

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Tickets to Grace Knight – Live from Markus Hammence Presents

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