Sarah Blasko dreams of the day when all-female music festival Wildflower isn't needed

RED LETTER DAY: Sarah Blasko will be one of the headline acts at the all-female Wildflower music festival.
RED LETTER DAY: Sarah Blasko will be one of the headline acts at the all-female Wildflower music festival.

SARAH Blasko is looking forward to the day when the announcement of an all-female music festival isn't viewed as progressive.

When it's simply, normal.

The overwhelming and far-reaching influence of the pandemic on all aspects of society - but in particular, the music industry - has somewhat overshadowed the rigorous debate that had been raging prior to 2020 about diversity in festival line-ups.

Camp Cope's Georgia Maq made headlines at Falls Festival 2017-18 when she criticised the promoters from their own stage for booking just nine female artists.

A report by music website Pilerats found Australia's major festivals Splendour In The Grass, Falls, Laneway and Groovin' The Moo booked 68 per cent all-male, 23 per cent all-female or non-binary and nine per cent mixed gender acts in 2017 and 2018.

In autumn a new all-female music festival will tour NSW, Queensland and Victoria to help correct the imbalance and showcase some of Australia's finest talent.

Wildflower will feature Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers, Blasko, Kate Miller-Heidke, Vicki Thorn of The Waifs, Deborah Conway and emerging Indigenous indie singer-songwriter Alice Skye.

All, except Skye, have enjoyed critical and commercial success and have been honoured with multiple ARIA Awards dating back to the '90s.

"I feel like it's very long overdue," Blasko says. "I find it surprising and disappointing that it's a topic of conversation because it doesn't have to be.

"It can be a normal thing. It's an industry that is stuck in historical ways of doing things. It is a very sexist industry, and it still is. Nobody can deny that.

"It's a shame because change really does need to happen. It needs to be a non-issue and something that's normal.

"For women who are younger than me and coming up, that would be my biggest wish for them."

Blasko broke into the mainstream in 2004 with her debut album The Overture & The Underscore and continued to build her career with fellow platinum-selling alternative-pop records What The Sea Wants, The Sea Will Have (2006) and As Day Follows Night (2009).

The latter won an ARIA for Best Female Artist and is considered a modern Australian classic.

In the past decade Blasko has continued to release the albums I Awake (2012), Eternal Return (2015) and Depth Of Field (2018) and use her voice and profile to promote equality in the music industry.

In 2017 she was a high-profile advocate for #meNomore, an open letter signed by 300 women in the Australian music industry calling out sexual harassment and sexist behaviour and demanding change.

Blasko also addressed the issue in her 2015 song I Wanna Be Your Man where she sang, "Living in a man's world/ But it's hard to be, hard to be/ A woman in your circle."

Sarah Blasko - I Wanna Be Your Man

When asked if sexism in the music industry has prevented Blasko from being offered opportunities for music festivals in the past, the 45-year-old says it's mostly unconscious.

"It definitely happens without people even thinking about it," she says. "I don't think people consciously do it, you can just see it on so many line-ups, it's obvious.

"Certainly as you get older in some ways, there's this cliche of the ageing troubadour who's still getting stronger in their craft like a poet, and it's often men.

"There aren't many women I can think so who are referred to in that way. Maybe Patti Smith."

It's been three and a half years since the release of Blasko's sixth album Depth Of Field, but in the mean time she's released a second record,Wild Seeds, with supergroup Seeker Lover Keeper - which also features Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann - and given birth her second son, Charlie, in May 2020.

But, Blasko admits, the stresses of the pandemic and living in lockdown with a young family have made songwriting difficult.

"When your head is jammed with one particular vibe or message it's very hard to absorb what's going on around you," she says.

"It feels like you need to absorb it and maybe it'll come for me a little later after we've gone through all of this time.

"I don't think when I'm feeling pressure in other areas that it's a good time to be creative."

However, getting back to creative pursuits is high on her agenda once COVID restrictions ease in the coming weeks.

LIVE: Sarah Blasko on stage at Newcastle's 48 Watt Street in 2017. Picture: Paul Dear

LIVE: Sarah Blasko on stage at Newcastle's 48 Watt Street in 2017. Picture: Paul Dear

During lockdown Blasko has kept in weekly contact with Throsby and Seltmann through "silly" messages and the trio plan to begin writing a third Seeker Lover Keeper album in November.

The supergroup's first self-titled record in 2011 was largely written separately with the three members bringing in their individual songs fully realised. On Wild Seeds they wrote together in Blasko's lounge room and the friendship of those sessions had a profound effect.

"We had so much fun together and we all learn a lot from each other every time we come together and do it," she says.

"It's a chance to throw off the solo thing and just learn from other people and listen to other people in a different way.

"I really treasure my friendship with them and respect both for very different reasons. We're all quite different from each other, but have a lot of big common ground.

"It's become a really special thing for me."

Wildflower featuring Missy Higgins, Sarah Blasko, Kasey Chambers, Kate Miller-Heidke, Deborah Conway, Vicki Thorn and Alice Skye comes to Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley (March 12); Riverstage, Brisbane (March 19) and Roche Estate, Hunter Valley (April 2).

This story Sarah Blasko hopes festival blooms buds of change first appeared on Newcastle Herald.