With her solo debut album aptly titled 'Worthy' and due to be released at the end of the month, music industry stalwart and indie musician Deb Suckling has embraced her past to create this collection of songs.
No stranger to releasing records, most notably with the bands Brindle and Lucy Star Satellite, Deb's work in recent years has focused on nurturing the next-gen of artists (Big Sky Girls mentoring programme) as well bringing powerful music projects to life (The Soldier's Wife and You Can't Take Me).
After releasing the single 'Awkward' (that landed in 4ZZZ's Top 20) which features on 'Worthy', Deb recently dropped the next taste of he debut record, the deeply personal 'Clean Me Out'.
"'Clean Me Out' was one of the first big experimental pieces for me and was instrumental in me taking the road forward in making a whole album," Deb explains.
"I had just had a massive skin cancer cut out from the back of my head and was forced to lie low for a few weeks.
"'Clean Me Out' was recorded on Garage Band in my bathroom and made me realise how fragile life is – and how getting rid of old wounds was absolutely crucial to being able to move on in life."Your debut solo album is titled 'Worthy'; what sort of journey have you undertaken to be in a position to release this collection of songs?
This album is very much about dealing with my past as a survivor of both domestic and sexual violence.
It has been a very long journey in terms of acknowledging my past and being able to speak freely about those experiences without feeling the shame and fear that goes with those experiences, and this album for me is about having a kind of freedom that I have never felt before.How does 'Worthy' showcase Deb Sucking the artist-musician?
The songs started out being recorded mostly in the bathroom. I wrote songs on bass and piano for the first time, which was something I had never really experimented with.
I played most of the instruments on every recording without a band – and again that kind of freedom making a solo album where I was in control of how it sounded and the words, and what I was actually trying to say was amazing. So there is lots of reverb and a gentleness in some ways in these songs that I love.Did you have a plan to record a solo album or did things come together more organically, falling into place like it was pre-destined?
It was more like being pushed in a way – I had some great mentors including Sean Sennett and Jeff Lovejoy who just keep saying to me again and again: 'Deb, it's time for you to make a solo album' – and I just kept laughing at them, going 'who's going to give a sh.t about a Deb Suckling solo album?'.
But then the more I started experimenting and writing the more it felt like I was actually 'Worthy' of giving myself the time and the space to create music again – instead of always being there helping someone else.The current album single is the raw, intimate and beautiful 'Clean Me Out'; can you share a little background behind the song and the personal stuff you were dealing with at the time?
I had just had a skin cancer cut out of the back of my head and they took a chunk, so I was laid up for a few weeks and had a lot of thinking time.
It felt like it was time to deal with the past and for some weird reason getting that cancer cut out was like a catalyst to clean myself out of old wounds. And then the back question of the song too – was why had I been targeted for that abuse so it was looking at it from both sides.What did it mean when your debut single 'Awkward' was picked up by community radio with it charting on 4ZZZ?
Ha – it meant the world to me. Like I was really blown away by that support and that people were liking the new music and it was just again, another step in that journey of feeling worthy.Collaborators and producers; who else did you get involved with the making of 'Worthy' (and what did they bring/ add to the project)?
Craig – my partner and love of my life – plays a lot of the guitars on the album. Craig has this way of playing guitar that no one else has – he makes soundscapes and space and noise that complement what I am trying to say.
I worked with Jeff Lovejoy and Jason Millhouse as my engineers and Paul Blakey on mastering. The rest of the instrumentation I played myself and the fabulous Tristan Barton programmed the drums and beats on one song; my son Jude helped with the beats on some of the others.Lyrical direction of these songs; were there issues and themes you wanted to explore?
That probably was the organic part because instead of writing lyrics first, the songs came first and the lyrics found their way into the songs.
I wanted to have a song each for my children – Jude and Susie – and lastly one for Craig, which was the last song I wrote and the first song on the album. They have been my rocks and my inspirations in my life, and so it was important for me to honour them.Although this is your debut solo material, your music career spans multiple bands, projects like The Solider's Wife as well as mentoring programmes like Big Sky Girls – how have all these experiences shaped the creative artist you are today?
Those projects really, really taught me how to listen to people's stories – and how to help put those stories into songs.
I feel so honoured to have been able to work with the women and war widows I did for The Soldier's Wife – they were completely inspirational and again a catalyst to help me become braver within myself.You've been a staunch advocate and behind the scenes supporter of Australian and local music, particularly women artists – the skills you've learnt and philosophies you share with the careers of others; have you applied them to this solo adventure?
Ha – probably not.
I wish I gave myself more belief and support than I do or feel that I can, but the thing I have learned from working with these women is that truth-telling and expressing your voice – and whether people listen or not – is the most powerful thing you can do.You'll be the launching the album at the Live Spark series at Brisbane Powerhouse in early November; what can we expect from the show/ any special guests or performances you'll be adding to the mix?
It will be the first time my son Jude plays a show with Craig and myself – that is probably absolutely going to make me cry – and we will be playing the tracks with a full band, which will be terrifying and exciting at the same time.What's one lesson you've learned during COVID that will still be applicable when the world finally returns to normal?
That there are so many non-essential things we wasted our time and energy on beforehand.
That it's totally OK to just sit and watch the sky change colours for a day and be present with yourself. That family is everything and I am so lucky to have my kids and Craig, and we didn't fight in those first, long weeks of lockdowns
That home schooling is just sh.t and don't even try it – your kids are trying to navigate their fear, so let them do fun things in lockdowns. That being at a gig is the most special thing in the world when it's taken away from you.Some fun questions: If we were coming over to your place, what would you cook us?
Everything! I was a chef before I started music and I have a backyard farm, but I mostly worked in Italian places so I would probably make you a handmade gnocchi with tonnes of cream and fresh herbs and crusty bread – and a chorizo and bean soup, and then a baked cheesecake for dessert. What's the one chore you dislike the most?
All of them.Which fictional character best describes your personality (why)?
Luna Lovegood – because that's what my kids tell me. I can be off with the fairies quite a bit, but am excellent in a crisis.Last show you binge-watched (and what kept you glued to the screen)?
'Vikings'. I know, right – I was so years behind. Lagertha is like my hero – I want to be a farmer and a shield maiden when I finally grow up.'Worthy' is released 31 October. Deb Suckling plays the free, all-ages Livespark at Brisbane Powerhouse 7 November (3pm).