Adalita Srsen’s ability to remain relevant over the course of decades is something that few artists have. Since moving to Melbourne from Geelong around twenty years ago, the Magic Dirt frontwoman has become one of Melbourne’s staple musical identities, both with and without a band. The music she writes is ever changing in some ways and constant in others; in that every album she writes provides an altered take on her signature style of rock. We spoke to her a few months after the release of All Day Venus – her second solo album.
“I’m always a bit anxious before an album comes out and what people are going to think of it and how it’s going to come across – you know, you just never know. It’s a bit of a luck of the draw sometimes; you could make the best record ever and nobody really responds to it” she says. Contrary to this, the release of All Day Venus was no cause for anxiety. Instead the album has received reviews that have been no less than sterling since its release in September last year; with Adalita herself describing the feedback as “amazing”.
She indicates that her next release is in the works; contrary to her usual style which sees her write albums much closer to a deadline. The release of All Day Venus, on the other hand, was followed directly by songwriting – “I’ve just started writing, so I’m really loving it – it’s awesome. I’m in between moving house so I’m kind of in limbo land for a couple of days, so I’m not writing right now but I’ll be back into it in a few days. I started writing just before Christmas last year. So it’s really exciting.”
“I’ll explore some different kind of songs so I’m not always writing the same thing – so hopefully they’ll take a step again in a new direction. So who knows what it will be, but I’ll just keep exploring I think” she says of the tracks on her forthcoming album, which at present has no name or release date.
As aforementioned, her ability to change somewhat every album is unique. Elaborating on what allows her to directionally branch out every couple of years, she describes continually being shown new music as one of her main sources of inspiration.
“I have been listening to a few compilations people have made me and some new records, so my mind is opening up a bit more. I get fixated on one artist or one song or album for ages, and I don’t end up listening to anything else. So it’s nice when I find new music through other people or someone shoves something in my face and goes ‘listen to this!’, so I can get a bit more of an education in music. So yeah, I feel like I’m being encouraged to open up my mind a bit more. So that’s been really good.”
Adding to this, she owes much of her musical sensibilities to the “no bullshit” attitude of the early-90s scene in her hometown of Geelong. “I’m a Geelong girl… I love nature and simple things. I come from a group of kids who – I don’t know how to say it without sounding like a dickhead – but we kept it real and there was no bullshit.”
“I’m a bit rough around the edges; that’s how I am and I bring that with me wherever I go. And I love Geelong and I love going back there – it feeds my soul. I feel like, ‘yeah, this is my hood!’. I feel much more at home.”
Another influence on her work is film. Having recently curated a screening of Picnic at Hanging Rock at ACMI as part of its Playing Under the Influence series, she sites “Australiana” as having left its stamp on her songwriting.
“I love that film and the whole Australiana of it. The cinematography is beautiful, the story is amazing, it’s really mysterious, and it just does something to me. I’ve always enjoyed films; I go out and see films and I really like Australian films, so films, books, photography – anything like that I feel like it nurtures my soul and fills my subconscious with ideas.”
But then, little compares to Ben Mendelsohn – “Anything with Ben Mendelsohn. He’s my favourite movie star. I wrote a song about him once too – don’t tell him! It’ll come out one day.”
However, with Ben Mendelsohn aside, the past year has been a cruise for the Melbourne-based artist, having supported Leonard Cohen and taking out The Age/Music Victoria Award for female artist of the year, on top of the release of All Day Venus. Asked whether twenty years of success in both Magic Dirt and as a solo artist has ever seen her career plateau or dip, she expresses that her job is both unpredictable and at times unrewarding.
“There are definitely plateaus and there are definitely down moments for sure. It’s not always up. I mean, at the moment I’m cruising and it’s great, and I’ve definitely had a very up time for the last two or three years. So yeah, I’m sure there’ll be an opposite reaction at some point!… I’ve been really lucky, I’ve been really busy for the most part of the last twenty years. It’s hectic and busy and there’s always something going on and things are doing well” she says.
“Hopefully it continues.”
Adalita will make her first appearance at St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in February, performing at all Australian dates of the tour. Tickets for Melbourne have sold out (sorry), but tickets to the remaining dates are below.
Brisbane – January 31st – Fortitude Valley
Adelaide – February 7th – Harts Mill Port Adelaide
Fremantle – February 8th – Esplanade Park & West End