Muscles, Adalita, Urthboy, Dan Sultan and Bertie Blackman.Straight To You: triple j’s Tribute to Nick Cave plays Newcastle Panthers on Saturday night. Tickets $59.40 plus booking fee through Moshtix or at the door.
FORGET nursery rhymes and simple childhood songs. Bertie Blackman had her first taste of Nick Cave’s brooding melodies at the tender age of six.
Now the singer-songwriter is taking to the stage to perform Cave’s songs as part of Straight To You: triple j’s Tribute to Nick Cave, which comes to Newcastle on Saturday.
Blackman, the daughter of renowned Australian artist Charles Blackman and a critically acclaimed musician in her own right, recalled growing up with Nick Cave on the stereo and the deep-voiced singer’s influence on her music.
‘‘I first heard his stuff and remembered the impact when I was about six, I think. I was really little,’’ Blackman said. ‘‘My family were really big fans of his so it was always on the playlist of stereos growing up and I just nicked the CDs that Mum had.’’
Cave’s impact on Blackman was so great that she agreed to do the tribute show – her first and only foray into the field.
‘‘He’s one of my great heroes so it’s a real honour to be doing this tribute. You have to have a great connection with someone to do something like this,’’ she said.
‘‘Nick Cave is a great man and paying homage to someone of his stature is an honour, but is also a responsibility to do justice to his great work and share it with the country.’’
Blackman spoke to LIVE after the Straight To You tour had kicked off with the first show in Ballarat. She is juggling finishing her fourth album with the tribute shows.
Other artists on the bill for the tour include Abbe May, Adalita, Alex Burnett (Sparkadia), Ben Corbett (Gentle Ben And His Sensitive Side), Dan Sultan, Jake Stone (Bluejuice), Johnny Mackay (Children Collide), Kram (Spiderbait), Lanie Lane, Lisa Mitchell, Muscles, Tim Rogers (You Am I) and Urthboy (The Herd).
The concert will also feature a band led by Sydney writer and musician Cameron Bruce, who was musical director for Cannot Buy My Soul, the acclaimed concerts celebrating the music of Kev Carmody.
‘‘It is kind of like being in a school spectacular or something because we’re all in buses together and all hanging out and everyone is in the same hotel,’’ Blackman said. ‘‘You get to know all these amazing Australian performers that you see around festivals and you never really get to spend time with them because you’re all so transient.’’
Blackman said the artists were banding together to use their skills on different songs – she is back behind the drum kit for a few, while other artists are playing the horn, cello and providing back-up vocals on some songs. Lisa Mitchell and Jake Stone even slow-dance during a ‘‘really beautiful’’ version of Into My Arms.
‘‘There’s duets and solos, so it’s a really big mix of energy and stuff. It was really good because everyone is really diverse in what they do and who they are and their connections with Nick Cave,’’ Blackman said. ‘‘When I was watching side of stage I really enjoyed seeing artists interact who you would normally never see together.’’
Case in point – Blackman is performing a duet of Do You Love Me? with songwriter, performer and DJ Muscles.
‘‘His voice and vibe is the most similar to Nick Cave’s out of anyone there, which is a surprising and unexpected thing. We have a really good musical connection so I really enjoy singing that with him and I really love that song,’’ she said.
Blackman is also performing The Mercy Seat, which she describes as one of her favourite Nick Cave songs.
‘‘It’s a very prophetic, emotional song – not that all his songs aren’t emotional – but it’s about someone who is denying to be guilty of a crime who goes to the electric chair to execution. He’s talking in his head about an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. We’re doing it in a big rock and roll form, epic.’’
Blackman said the song had heavily influenced Mercy Killer, a song from her forthcoming record.
‘‘It is about the inward moral battles you do with the different sides of your conscience on each shoulder when situations arise, what is right and what is wrong and what is the line between that,’’ she said.
On a wider scale, Blackman said Cave’s songwriting had influenced the album, which she has been working on with film composer and music producer Francois Tétaz (Gotye, Architecture in Helsinki).
‘‘Nick Cave has been quite prevalent in my inspiration with his storytelling and the way he labours over his words. I would like people to read the lyrics to each song like you would read a page of a book or a poem. The music is the backdrop.’’
Blackman said the album featured ‘‘tales from the lost world’’ based around moments from her childhood. The theme was liberating, allowing her to write in the third person or write in the first person to tell a timeless story.
‘‘It’s been a retrospective, introspective journey going back and getting to the crux of the things you remember as a child.’’