Songs That Made Me brings together four singers on the one stage to perform the songs that are most important to them – formative songs from their teen years and beyond, both covers and originals. The show takes place in a relaxed and chatty environment, with all four singers joining in and harmonising, and telling stories throughout. The show was originally dreamed up by Katie Noonan, as a means of getting to know other musicians a bit better. When it comes to Sydney, the lineup will feature Noonan along with Abby Dobson, Martha Marlow and Angie Hart.
“Katie’s idea for the show was rather brilliant,” says Hart. “She realised that with all the touring musicians do around Australia, we never get to hang out together, unless it’s at the ARIAs or something like that. Even then, it’s a very heightened situation. We never get the chance to just relax and be ourselves, and make music with our peers.” Songs That Made Me was born from this frustration, as a way for Noonan to meet and connect with the women whose music she loves; to get to know them better, share common experiences and put on a killer collaborative show.
When Hart was invited to take part, she had to think about the songs that shaped and informed her career. The first and most obvious was ‘Ordinary Angels’, the one that launched her with folk-pop group Frente! in 1992. No song was off limits. “It’s a really open, honest, non-judgemental arena,” she says, “so I was really free in my choices. I didn’t pick songs to impress or be cool – I picked songs that I thought would sound great if we performed them together, songs that are special to me. It was interesting, because I found myself going back to pick songs from my teen years, which is a time in my life that I haven’t really picked from before. I went and dug into some Laurie Anderson and Prince.”
Anderson was one of the first musicians to blow the young Hart’s mind. “I loved the minimalism of her music, the a cappella feeling, and her spoken-word pieces. Up until that point, all I’d heard was pop, so it was incredible to hear this weird, intelligent music. Big Science was my first album of hers, and I love that one most of all, but I thought it might be a bit weird and jarring to choose something from that, so I went for a song from a bit later, called ‘Strange Angels’.
Prince is another huge influence on Hart – she still remembers seeing Purple Rain at the cinema with her uncle and aunt, when she was just a little bit too young for it. “Nobody realised the content of the film before they took me to see it,” she laughs. “It was a great awakening, a real eye-opener! I’ve loved Prince since. He’s written a lot of songs for women, or that have been covered by women, so I chose ‘When You Were Mine’, which was covered by Cyndi Lauper. My version falls somewhere between the two – I think lyrically and melodically, you can break it down in a lot of interesting ways.”
I ask Hart about the future of Songs That Made Me, and if the live show might even turn into a compilation recording of some sort down the line. “It’s quite possible,” she says. “Katie has talked about continuing this format and rotating with all the women around Australia that she’d like to collaborate with. It could turn into quite a big thing by the time she’s seen it through.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN