Tunes by Leigh Carriage
Interview with Leigh Carriage Published March 11, 2013 at 10:00 am
Leigh you are a professional singer songwriter & educator tell us about what you have been working on recently?
In February last year, I embarked on a dual album project at Studio 301 in Sydney, recording an original album and also a Jazz album. It was marvellous to work with such incredible musicians and technicians: Hamish Stuart, Steve Russell, Matt Smith, Matt McMahon, Jonathan Zwartz, Sam Keevers and Phil Slater as well as Grammy award-winning US-based producer/engineer Helik Hadar (Joni Mitchell, Norah Jones). As an educator, one continues to do research for one’s own creative practice, composing and arranging. I am currently enrolled in a PhD at Sydney University in composition and really enjoying the process of composing and recording. I’ve just completed a new piece, ‘Catapult’, that I intend to arrange for big band to record later in the year.
How did you get started in the industry?
I guess like a lot of musicians, I started at home. My grandmother and father both loved music and played the piano and organ and some of my siblings also played and we sang together. I proceeded on to formal study and then more specialist private study here and overseas – whilst performing along the way.
Jazz is obviously a love of yours, what initially drew you to the Jazz genre?
One is certainly influenced by all aspects of life, including music. The jazz genre is extraordinarily vast (so many interesting sub-genres) and presents a broad vehicle for expression. Improvised music is a love of mine, amongst a plethora of others. It comes down to connecting or aligning your personal nature with music of a similar nature. Initially my attraction was to the music’s complete allowance of an individual to renew or improvise a piece each time they perform it, depending on how they feel or what is inspiring them at that given moment. I enjoyed the flexibility and also the challenge this presents. It keeps you on your toes, your ears open. Add to this the complexity and vibrancy as the musicians respond to one another live.
Who are your personal musical influences both past & present?
Maria Schneider, JS Bach, Bobby Mc Ferrin, Midnight Oil, Lianne La Havas, Rachelle Ferrell, Dizzy Gillespie, Jeff Buckley, The Police, Bernadette Peters, Theo Bleckmann, Dianne Reeves, Dominique Eade, Meredith Monk, Katrine Madsen, Cassandra Wilson, Robert Johnson – and although not musical influences, artists Rosalie Gascoigne and Joan Miro.
You have been involved in the educational music field for a number of years now, how did you get involved in education?
My involvement in education was really born out of my own passion and intrigue about the voice and vocal science, composition and improvisation. So after my first degree, I began private teaching and taught at Evening College courses and TAFE, and then in 1998 I took a full-time position at Southern Cross University. Initially I worked solely as a vocal lecturer. The job has continued to diversify over the last 15 years and now I also teach in a range of musicology and ensemble areas – affording me the opportunity to work and share ideas with incredible musicians.
You are also involved in APRAs song-writing seminars, who are the other artists involved in this & how do you get them engaged in this process?
As broad a cross section of the music community that are available from Film and Television composers such as Nerida Tyson-Chew, to individual songwriters and bands such as: Rob Hirst, Inga Liljestrom, Rai Thistlethwayte, Blue King Brown’s founding members Carlo Santone and Natalie Pa'apa'a, Husky, The Stiff Gins, Lucie Thorne. This year Mia Dyson and Neil Murray will join us in April andMusic Director/songwriter for The Voice Scott Aplin will give a workshop later in the year. I have been co-ordinating the program for the last seven years; a colleague of mine, Jon Fitzgerald, had the initial idea to approach APRA to fund workshops so our regional students could gain exposure and inspiration directly from songwriters and composers. APRA have been incredibly supportive, allowing us to provide students with access to prominent and/or emerging Australian composers and songwriters, who give workshops on their compositional and songwriting processes, current original repertoire, and strategies for marketing their music. All the workshops are facilitated by interview and include discussion of compositional craft, analysis of original repertoire, and performance of selected pieces.
What kind of musicians & performers attend these sessions?
The workshops are open to all Southern Cross University students and staff, as well as APRA members in the NSW North Coast region.
You always seem to keep quite busy, what does 2013 hold in store for Leigh Carriage?
I have a rich and creative year ahead of me, which commences with short tours promoting and launching the Mandarin Skyline album in Sydney, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne and Tassie. I will continue my songwriting and collaborating for the next recording, to begin in late September, as part of my full time PhD studies at Sydney University. Academically, I will be writing my thesis and presenting two conference papers for the International Congress of Voice Teachers (ICVT) Congress in July. I have already begun diving into research on creative vocal practice and key repertoire for ensemble workshops for my teaching at Southern Cross University. The Catapult big band arrangement is a work in progress.
What do you find most fulfilling, performing, song writing or educating young musicians?
They are all so deeply intertwined – singing and performing have been part of my life since I was a child, so it feels innate. Given the time constraints I find songwriting most challenging, but very rewarding. I see that my own songwriting practice directly informs my performing and links to many aspects of my teaching: vocal studio skills, composing, arranging, ensemble direction and music industry skills. So in this light, performing, songwriting and teaching are all are equally fulfilling.