For over 30 years, Deborah Conway has been a leading lady in the Australian music scene, forging a solid solo career after a chart topping stint with Do Re Mi in the 80’s. Still going strong and mostly collaborating with her husband and fellow musician Willy Zygier, Conway shared some insights with us about juggling motherhood and a professional career.
DC: Can you hear that annoying noise in the background?
Glam: Yes, I’m sorry, some muppet has started a front-end loader next door.
No, I meant here at my end
Oh, um, not really…why?
Oh that’s great, I’m making a cake for my daughter so that’s why there’s all the clanging & banging.
I must empathise with her, as I’ve had to manage my own kids during the odd phone interview and let’s face it, Conway has always been grounded and unaffected by any sense of celebrity, opting to stay closer to the ground. This is Deborah Conway the everyday person. Her and Zygier are headed to Adelaide for WOMADelaide, and she’s genuinely thrilled to be heading back.
I’m so looking forward to WOMADelaide, I haven’t been for a long time (2007), it’s one of the premiere Festivals in the country and I absolutely love playing it. You can guarantee that there’s an audience interested in listening and full of enthusiasm for new material. They’re really open to it, and that’s a brilliant audience to play for. We didn’t get to come to SA on our last tour unfortunately (String of Pearls 25th Anniversary) alongside the launch of ‘Everybody’s Begging’. It was the only capital we missed for logistic reasons, so I’m delighted.
I know there were a lot of disappointed people so were making it up.
The meeting with her husband is well documented, firstly hiring him to be her guitarist and then discovering a deeper level of both love and music.
We worked together then the relationship developed. It’s always (music) been a part of our relationship. We both love our work and the exploratory nature of it- the creative process, and we’re quite hard on each other. You have to care about someone deeply to tell them their work is shit. The process is such between us that our work is better because of being honest. There isn’t really any separation between us as parents, musicians, composers etc., as it all blends together perfectly. It’s all grist for the mill.
We casually discuss a broad range of topics including the current state of Australian and global issues, to which Conway believes that things are moving too fast in terms of social change. She’s well-balanced and articulate, giving rational explanations as to her points of view without hysteria or any of the all too often near sightedness that has come from artists of recent. We surprisingly agree on much.
I feel like there’s different agendas being pushed than what we’re being told, it’s probably better to hold on to what you believe and take people at face value, or on their own merits. I prefer to treat people as individuals and not labels. It’s hard to keep your compass where you want it to be, life’s so confusing at times isn’t it!
She’s making progress on her cake, advising me it’s now ready to go into the oven. The phone cuts out so I have to call her back, she’s really cool and apologetic about it, as it’s her end that causes the technical hitch. Back to the interview….
I love baking, it’s relaxing. This cake is for 25 people- it’s my daughter’s birthday.
Any advice you’d give your younger self?
Yes- don’t trust record companies, and start your own label sooner! (laughs) Studio and recording were terribly expensive years back, and there was really no way to replicate that studio sound. Thigs have changed these days of course, but it was difficult back then, we hardly saw a penny from our first album. I wish we were a bit savvier.
So what’s the plan going forward?
Keep making records that I like, I guess. Did you hear Everybody’s Begging at all?
Sorry Deb, I didn’t admittedly.
Oh well, shoot me your address and I’ll send you a copy.
I oblige, and receive a package from ‘DC’ days later! What a great album-review to come.
We’ll be recording 10-12 songs later this year and releasing it to coincide with Bitch Epic. We’ll take both on the road and it’ll be similar format to the previous tour in that we’ll celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Bitch Epic.
Getting back to Womad, We’re bringing our 3 daughters with us because they’re singing with Yid!, the 22-piece extravaganza that Willy and the girls are in. Alma Zygier (middle child) is a fantastic Jazz singer, the oldest (Syd) was just in Romper Stomper (the TV series), and the youngest one is now in the Victorian College of the Arts doing Theatre. They sing great together!
Without a doubt- look at the amazing pedigree they have!
We have to finish the interview, but Conway advises that her cake is rising perfectly. I take that as a metaphor, summing up her career and life at this moment in time.
Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier play at the Foundation Stage on Saturday 1;30pm for one show only.