Strength through adversity

IT TOOK a lot of courage to create, but South Australian singer-songwriter Sandra Humphries feels empowered by the release of her fifth album, I’m Stronger.

Of the 12 original tracks on it, only two don’t have the Sandra Humphries stamp on them, yet they fit in perfectly with the overall theme of the album.

The disc was born out of a depression that almost consumed Sandra two years ago.

On the surface you would have thought everything was going wonderfully well for her, but in reality it was falling apart.

“I have a great life, a great family, friends, husband, financial security and no real reason for depression,” Sandra said.

“But I guess there are things that happen in our lives we can’t control and they eventually build up and weigh you down.

“While I’ve always wanted to do an all original album, I was too scared in many ways to sit down and write my stories. I think it’s that fear of exposing personal things that kept me from doing it for such a long time.”

Ironically, it’s the original songs Sandra wrote on her previous album releases that were the most successful, so maybe she should have taken a hint from that.

What do they say? Better late than never –  and this album sure was worth waiting for.

The title track says it all – she’s been through the mill and come out the other side stronger for the experience and pleased to have been able to speak out about a subject that’s been taboo for far too long.

“I had a pretty messed-up life as a kid,” Sandra said.

Putting those bad memories behind her, Sandra forged her own way in life, becoming a wife and mother.

Then, putting all those feelings down into words was a kind of therapy for Sandra – the best kind.

Like all songwriters, not everything on the disc is biographical. There’s a lot of “poetic licence” used in the creation of some songs, while others tell stories that mirror her real-life experiences.

The opening track, Bad Memories, sets the scene.

I’ve been writing songs that I’ll probably never sing

Songs about my life and the way it was back then

But songs like that would break too many hearts

Ghosts like that are best left in the past

Thankfully, Sandra exorcised many of those ghosts in the writing process.

Her son, Matthew Pratt, created the music for two of my favourite tracks – Wish You Were Here and Song For Kay.

“Song for Kay (written for my sister) was a bit personal and I almost didn’t include it, but I thought ‘what the hell?’.

“I’d written the words and took it to my son Matthew. I could hear something in my head and I was looking for something haunting and asked if he could put the music to it. I couldn’t believe what he did with it. It was like he’d jumped right inside my head.”

The words to Wish You Were Here came to Sandra when she went to Sydney on her own to record her second album. She’d told her hubby Henry she was going to be fine without him, but after three days, realised he was right and she was wrong and she needed him by her side.

The fanciful Just One Night was an idea Sandra explored after someone she knew fell pregnant from a one-night stand. As it turned out, the pregnancy was ectopic so her friend lost the baby, but Sandra wondered what would have happened to the young girl if things had gone differently.

“I sent the song to Allan Caswell and he altered things here and there – he got it straight away, so we ended up getting a positive story-song out of something that could have been simply a bad experience,” Sandra said.

Caswell also contributed It’s Not Over Til It’s Over, which one of Sandra’s musician mates said had “more swing than a merry-go-round”.

The songs follow a logical pathway to the conclusion – the closer, which is the title track.

At any concert where Sandra performs the songs, she always elicits a strong reaction from her audiences.

“Singing the songs – a lot of those are my life, my parents’ life, and I relate so closely to them,” she said.

“A lot of audiences do, too. They latch onto the songs as if I was telling them their own story.

“People come up and tell me about their own battles with depression or how a particular song made them feel.

“It was a cathartic experience and I’m really pleased I did it – not only for me, but for all those people suffering in silence.”

One of the more powerful songs on the album, You Drink, is the latest radio single.

I keep trying to forget all those things you said

I wonder if you know how much it hurts

But you never seem to see what you do to me

When you drink and go and hit me with your words.

“There’s a lot of domestic violence out there today but they’re not always physical wounds that are inflicted,” Sandra said.

“Emotional abuse is commonplace in a lot of families, and this song is for those families out there. I pray it gives them hope to find a way through it.”

With this album, I believe Sandra has achieved what she set out to do – make people sit up and take notice of her, not just as one of the best country singers in Australia today, which she undoubtedly is – but as a serious songwriter who deserves to be heard.

ON SATURDAY night at Wests’ Diggers there’s a rare opportunity to hear two of this city’s premier blues musicians – father and son act Buddy and Goori Knox.

It’s a gig with a difference, as Buddy is coming out first as the support act to his talented son, Googoorewon.

Goori, who was awarded a $45,000 scholarship to attend the International Screen Academy in Sydney, has already begun his studies.

He’s working under the mentorship of Tony Barclay, who has steered the careers of esteemed Australasian actors including Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe.

Goori is no one-trick pony. He can sing, dance and act – and loves to learn.

His very proud dad said Goori could end up on any stage anywhere in the world after he graduates.

Hard Knox – Buddy and Goori Knox – separately and together in concert – starts at 8.30pm on Saturday in Scores Sports Bar at Wests’ Diggers.

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