Karen Lee Andrews: Oceanic Blues Songstress

  • Written by  Eden Campbell
  • Monday, 18 November 2019 17:02
Karen Lee Andrews plays Queenscliff Music Festival and Woodford Folk Festival. Karen Lee Andrews plays Queenscliff Music Festival and Woodford Folk Festival.

Trailblazer of 'oceanic blues', Karen Lee Andrews first garnered the nation's attention in 2013 when she appeared as a finalist on the second season of 'The Voice'.


Now, she's working her way through a nationwide tour that includes appearances at Woodford Folk Festival and Queenscliff Music Festival.

You'd be forgiven if you haven't heard of the sub-genre 'oceanic blues' before – Karen is somewhat of a pioneer, coining the term herself. “I sing a type of music, oceanic blues, which is more a collage of influences. You know, this heavily American style soul/ blues music, but there's also my Polynesian heritage as well as Australian [background].

"It's more about 'owning it' over this side of the world. That expression is a way for me to connect with listeners. It's a way of saying 'I'm not just one thing'.

“There's a lot of history behind soul and blues music, and to be honest it's not my history. I'm heavily influenced by African American music. Their music and who they are as a people – they've given so much joy to the world despite their own oppression. That's their history, and I feel like I don't carry that weight. It's important to identify that. Hopefully I can be respectful in trying to adapt their musical style.”


Karen is towards the end of taking her 2018 release 'Far From Paradise' for a lap around the country. The tour has seen the full spectrum of venues and performance spaces harnessed. From stadium sized rock-arenas, to hauntingly intimate 30-person capacity venues.

“I've just finished doing some supports for Jimmy Barnes, which was incredible. Audiences were great, very lovely and very generous to me.

“I'm used to smaller venues, but when you go to these big arenas and it's dark, you can feel that the audience is there with you. It's euphoric and you want more of it. That was really, really cool for me.

"We've done some pretty cool festivals as well and some small shows too – sometimes we go from like 30 people to a bigger venue with nearly 200 people: just the difference between them all is insane.

“They all have their own dynamic. It makes us play in a different way, it makes us engage the audience in a different way. Each time is like a new experience. We always walk off stage feeling like it's the first time we have ever performed. It’s been really cool, this past year.”


On her 'Far From Paradise' tour, Karen has been indulging her audiences with glimpses into some material from her forthcoming album. “There's going to be more detail into who I am; what I've been through. Also my mental state. The writing process is always strange – you don't really know how much you want to tell people.

"I try to be as honest as I can without scaring people away. It's a lot of soul, a lot of blues styles. In terms of the musical arrangement side of things, it's a little bit more in depth than 'Far From Paradise'.”

This weekend, Karen will be performing at the Queenscliff Music Festival (in Victoria) and will be spending her New Year's performing at the famous Woodford Folk Festival (Sunshine Coast).

“I'm very fortunate. Incredibly grateful that I'm there in the first place. I've never played at festivals of that profile or that audience size before. So I don't know what to expect, and that's probably the most exciting and exhilarating part of it.”


Karen Lee Andrews plays Queenscliff Music Festival (Victoria) that runs 22-24 November as well as Woodford Folk Festival 2019/20 (Sunshine Coast), which takes place 27 December to 1 January. She also plays The Vanguard (Sydney) 14 December.

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