Since launching a solo career in 2004, Sarah McLeod has amassed an impressive kaleidoscope of solo material. The best thing about the songwriter’s diverse output is her disinclination to get bogged down in any one genre. McLeod tells Beat that her interest in exploring so many different areas is just a natural part of her psyche.
“I’ve always thought it was a negative about my career, but I can’t help it,” McLeod says. “When it comes to me solo, I just throw the book out the window and I just don’t care. I just think, ‘what can I do now? What have I learnt in the past couple of years that I can now funnel into some new music? What instrument have I learnt? What new thing have I learnt to do with my voice?’”
What, indeed. McLeod’s extensive solo discography boasts a little taste of just about every subgenre of rock music. From alt-rock to pop, blues to 1960s folk, McLeod’s repertoire is a reflection of her evolving personal journey.
“I like things to be different, I get bored with the same stuff,” she says. “I always thought of [that diversity] as a negative. I confuse myself with it, so I must be confusing other people, but that’s how it works for me. You’ve got to paint your rainbow with the colours you’ve been given.”
McLeod’s canvas has expanded to include country music, too. Her first-ever song in the genre arrived this month. It’s a style she was hesitant to be involved with, but she was coaxed into offering her vocal talents to the single, ‘Hands Of Time’, from Queensland duo Route 33.
“It didn’t sound twangy country to me,” she says. “I liked it, it was a pretty song. I really enjoyed the experience.”
McLeod had the freedom to add her own personal flavour, so she can now confidently add a country feather to her cap.
“I know it’s country genre, but it doesn’t sound like country to me because no one’s doing any twanging in the vocals. And I think that’s my main beef that I’ve always had with country – I don’t like that twang, I don’t understand why they do it.”
Though she doubts her reasons for being invited, evidently it’s McLeod’s output and appreciation of all areas of music-making that mean she will appear and perform at this year’s Melbourne Guitar Show.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m the kind of player that would be at something like that,’” she says. “I fancy myself as more of a singer. I play guitar to accompany myself singing. I’m not the kind of guitar player people would watch to shred something. So I thought, ‘What can I do to make the show special?’ That’s when I decided to do an electric show.
“A bit of acoustic, but most of it is electric guitar on one I’ve made. It’s a bit weird, a bit eclectic, but it works and it’s unique.”
For a versatile and colourful performer like McLeod, the Melbourne Guitar Show is an opportunity to showcase a melting pot of influences, ideas, and experiences.
“It will be very inspiring to see what everybody else is doing,” she says. “Because it’s like six strings, what are you going to do with them? Everybody looks at it differently.
“I’m always interested in what other things I can learn. The past six months I’ve taught myself piano. It’s been nothing but piano, then I was like, ‘Oh, right, better go back to the guitar, where even is it? Dust that down.’ And I’ve bought myself a [drum] kit, so I’m going to teach myself how to be a drummer.”
That consistent thirst for self-improvement and self-discovery means McLeod’s musical projects will keep on coming. “And they’ll always be different,” she says. “Just prepare for anything.”
Sarah McLeod is performing on Saturday August 3 on the Marsh Whammy Bar stage at 12.45pm as part of the Melbourne Guitar Show.