My songlines – Louisa Rankin

If singing was a cause, Louisa Rankin would probably be one of its most devoted advocates. Not only is she one of the first singers to put her vocal talents to the service of Gian Slater’s exploratory outfit, Invenio,not only has she been an inspired and inspiring educator at Monash University and the Australian Institute of Music, but she has been making her mark on the Jazz scene through projects such as her tribute to the Australian Songbook, ‘Songs of the Great Southern Land’, while creating a songbook of her own, at the same time. As she sets up for a concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre, she shares some of the music that has been part of her world.

What was the first album or single that you ever acquired?

I remember proudly taking my own money to buy cassettes at Brashs when I was in grade 3 and walking out with two albums: ‘Push’ by Bros and The Proclaimers’ ‘Sunshine on Leith’. It was 1988.

What was the most recent album or track that you purchased?

I recently bought Theo Bleckmann’s ‘Elegy’ and Linda Oh’s ‘Walk Against Wind’, both of which are amazing.

Which album should be in everyone’s collection?

How can I pick just one?! First that comes to mind is Hank Mobley’s ‘Soul Station’.

Which song reminds you of the best concert you’ve ever attended?

I simply cannot pick one ‘best’ concert! One of the most profound performances I’ve ever witnessed was Rufus Wainwright at The Palais in 2010. The whole show was solo – Rufus singing and playing piano and he presented it in two sets, the first being a complete rendition of ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’, his most recent album at the time that he had written after his mother’s death and it is some of the most amazing writing for piano and voice you’ll ever hear. There was a specific request for no clapping between songs and the audience sat in stunned silence for a full 45 minutes. It was incredibly powerful and deeply moving. He then returned for the second set where he played a ‘best of’ set which was fun and funny and brilliant. Any song from that album would answer the question, but I’ll say the first track, ‘Who Are You New York?’

Which song reminds you of your favourite journey?

My most recent journey is that into motherhood, after my son Alfred joined us in January, so I’m going to say the incredible Burt Bacharach ballad, ‘Alfie’. The lyrics are really beautiful, when you consider singing them to a new baby.

Which song reminds you of your most important rite of passage?

Sarah Vaughan’s version of ‘All of Me’ on her album ‘Swingin’ Easy’ – the first ever transcription I did and it felt like I’d unlocked some sort of secret knowledge.

Which song best describes your relationship with your loved ones?

I couldn’t possibly express that with words, so it has to be an instrumental tune and one that makes me feel deeply. ‘Clube da Esquina #2’, performed by Julien Wilson Trio on their incredible live album fits that criteria.

Which song best encapsulates your idea of jazz?

I can’t pick a single song, but Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Music for Large and Small Ensembles’ has had a huge influence on me and is the sort of music I’d love to be making all the time.

If your life was to become a movie,

…which song would be heard on the opening credits?

Joga – Bjork

…which would be on the end credits?

The Long And Winding Road – The Beatles

…which would be on the action scenes?

Bodysnatchers – Radiohead

…which would be on the love scene?

Vince Jones and Paul Grabowsky‘s version of John Lennon’s ‘Oh My Love’.

Which song do you wish you had written yourself?

It’s a tie between Gian Slater’s ‘Love and Hard Work’ and Elana Stone’s ‘Pirate Song’.

Which song do you wish had been written about you?

I’d prefer to have a song written FOR me than ABOUT me! I wish that song was ‘God Only Knows’ by The Beach Boys.

Which song best describes your current state of mind?

Kurt Elling’s ‘The Waking’ with beautiful lyrics taken from a poem of the same name by Theodore Roethke.
Louisa Rankin will perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Thursday 24 August.

Get tickets here.

Listen & Purchase

Louisa Rankin’s album ‘Papier-Mache’