My Brightest Diamond
For most artists, being heavily pregnant is a suitable justification for not touring at all, never mind making the arduous journey halfway around the world. But such distractions don’t seem to apply to Shara Worden - the front woman and chief songwriter of My Brightest Diamond. When asked by curator Brian Eno in early 2010 to perform at the second annual Vivid LIVE, she arrived seven-and-a-bit months pregnant with her first child, to rip up The Opera House with her epic meshing of chamber music and soaring pop.
Even apart from the thrill of being personally invited to the 2010 festival by the Roxy Music and experimental maestro, Worden is emphatic that her last trip to Australia occurred at precisely the right time. "I'm very drawn to the whole idea of opposites," she confesses. "When I came to Sydney last time there was probably an assumption that I would be held back in my performances. I think I reacted strongly to that in my shows." Worden continued to dismantle expectations following the birth of her son. "When I had a baby I experienced that rush of joy that comes from being a parent, which is followed by this feeling that life is very hard yet also very beautiful," Worden says before a pause. "I was experiencing a lot of new things at the time, and then less than six weeks after my son was born I had the opportunity to appear in a Matthew Barney film. I consider him as one of the greatest artists of our time, and I felt so lucky to get to work with him – so I jumped right back in to that crazy world."
The “crazy world” that Worden refers to includes a loose group of New York creatives, such as fellow Vivid 2012 visitor Bryce Dessner and Australian Padma Newsome – both of whom she performs alongside in instrumental group Clogs. But more immediately, Worden’s world is largely concerned with her recently rediscovered home of Detroit – particularly the changes in the Michigan city's capital since her adolescence. "The tension between the old and the new in Detroit is palpable," she says. "There's a really old tradition of gardening and farming in Detroit that actually pre-dates industrialisation. And then there's a history of people who escaped slavery in the South, who see farming as an extension of poverty. So there's this conflict because what represents freedom to one group is reminiscent of oppression to another."
Her observations of Detroit's tensions are writ large throughout her third studio album, 2011's All Things Will Unwind – a restrained tour de force that she will be bringing to the Opera House for this year's Vivid LIVE. "Detroit [now] is entirely different from when I grew up here," she says, "and that was the central idea for the record: putting myself in a situation where I'm seeing the poorest people I've encountered and documenting that experience. It's very much foreign territory for me, but that makes for a fascinating and entirely new social world for me... Since I've been back I've felt a great onus to tread lightly around here. Obviously when you have a lot of young entrepreneurial people moving into a poorer neighbourhood, there are concerns about cultural schisms, and I'm aware that I am part of that demographic and my presence presents problems too,” she says. “But I'm also aware that the role of the artist is to go to such places and document the gentrification that follows social shifts. The city is changing every day, and I'm lucky enough to be able to be part of this community and a kind of outside observer, as it happens."
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
MY BRIGHTEST DIAMOND performs at the Northcote Social Club on Monday May 28. They also perform at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday May 27 as part of Vivid LIVE.