Q&A with Gian Slater – 2005 NJA Finalist

When did you start singing and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when singing came to you as a calling or vocation?
Both my parents studied music, so I grew up singing and performing a lot. I can’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything else but music.

Which musicians (singers or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?
That would be a long list…but I can’t go past singers like Bjork, Rufus Wainright, Joni Mitchell and Thom Yorke. I have a particular interest in Scandinavian singers, like Susanna Wallumrod, Stina Nordenstam, and Emiliana Torrini. Also other musicians- Bill Frisell, Pat Matheny, Christian Wallumrod, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Wheeler… They all share the deepest understanding of music, which defies genre and era, and they are constantly changing and evolving. I Love that!

What do you look for in a rhythm section?

You wanna play with people that not only hear you immediately, but also hear where you are going. I don’t see the rhythm section as being a section separate from the singer or horn player. Everyone is responsible for having a deep understanding and awareness of the time, harmony and melody and I think it’s just important to have a common direction.

What are your favourite lyrics, and why?
All the above mentioned artists all write very interesting, unique and meaningful lyrics. It’s another layer of the music, whether the lyrics are immediately decipherable, or not. I like lyrics that tell a story, I like lyrics that paint a picture and I like lyrics that are metaphorical, as long as they mean something and are inseparable from the song…

What are you listening to now?
I am listening right now to Alison Wedding’s brand new album, which is brilliant!
Also, Martha Wainright’s debut album, Stina Nordenstam’s new album, Christian Wallumrod ( A Year from Easter), and the other day I heard the new Sigur Ros album, which is amazing!!!!!

What do you hope to get out of the Wangaratta competition?
All these things are really good experiences. You obviously have to go in as yourself and try and do things your way, despite the challenges of repertoire and very brief rehearsals. I’m really looking forward to hearing the other singers, and just being at wang to hear loads of incredible music.

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