Harriett Allcroft: “I’m a bit of a kook”

It’s not fair to compare; it’s not fair for current artists to have their work compared against that of the masters. It’s never fair to measure any current musician against Miles Davis. And it’s definitely not fair for Harriett Allcroft to say that there is something in her performance that brings Blossom Dearie to mind, this understated delivery, the softness of her voice and her quirky sense of humour. It’s not fair, because this is only part of her artistry; because before you get too comfortable with her low-key lightness, she will turn the volume up and unfold her whole vocal range, that allows her to express all kinds of emotion without holding back. And that sense of humour? It’s a thing of full honesty. All this is on display every Tuesday in June at the Jazz Lab. Which is a great excuse for an interview.

What are you presenting at your Jazz Lab residency?

The band and I are presenting a body of my original work, in preparation for recording my debut album at the end of the month. I’ve been actively writing songs for a few years now, so I felt it was time to get them out into the big bad world. We are also playing some of my favourite songs written by my favourite Australian musicians like Vince Jones, Kristin Berardi and Gian Slater. You could look at the set-list and think: ‘All Killer, No Filler’ – I love all of these songs and I am really excited for them to grow and develop each week as we play as a band.

How would you describe your artistic persona?

I think my artistic persona doesn’t really differ from my normal self. I’m a bit of a kook, if you’re allowed to self-describe that. I just like to have fun and feel good. I want the band to have to fun and the audience to enjoy themselves. If no one has fun then what is at all for? If there is a ballad to be sung, I am THERE and will go pretty deep in to the lyrics, but in saying that, it’s all about light and shade, some serious moments and then some not so serious, slightly silly moments. I’ve been told I talk too much both in real life and stage life, but I’m kind of into it. I love a good chat.

Who are you singing to?

I’m singing to whoever is listening. If you’ve gotten up off the couch and have come to see some music, I am (dare I say the word) grateful, so I will sing for you. I write for myself and I find that quite cathartic, but I sing for whoever needs a song on that day, at that moment.

If your setlists told a story, what would that be?

Ooh, it would be quite an up and down story. A bit of heartbreak, a bit of flirting, a bit of soldiering on through it all. I like it when listeners take away their own meaning from songs, it can become their story, you know?

What has been the highlight of your own story as a musician so far?

Oh I don’t know, all of it! My graduating recital for uni felt pretty special, like it was marking the start of the next chapter. Sometimes on gigs I become overwhelmed by how good it all feels, how great the band are sounding, how much the audience is grooving, and it all just comes together in a great big collision of elation. Those moments are pretty special, so I would say they are my highlights.

How did you get into jazz?

I stumbled into jazz wearing pop playing headphones. I studied jazz in Adelaide for a year and I kind of was not super into it. I enjoyed it, but I remember feeling like the people around me were really dedicated and passionate and I wasn’t quite there yet, so I took a year off and then moved to Melbourne and studied a contemporary course, which I loved. I think it was only through studying music that I’d never really listened to before (ACDC), that I came full circle to realise that jazz felt pretty good and natural. I’ve always wanted to sing though, and really have no idea what I would be doing if singing wasn’t an option.

Who are your heroes?

I just went to a ‘Dress As Your Hero’ themed birthday and I dressed up as my mum, who is the most outrageous and excellent person I know. She, along with my dad are my heroes. I can’t really put it into words why, they are just flat out legends who I admire and idolise.

Where do you see yourselfin ten years?

I am not sure. I think I am pretty happy to just keep on keeping on and see what happens. Life is pretty nice right now, I’m not sure I want to plan for the future just yet.

Which song best describes your current state of mind?

Rise and Fall – Allira Wilson.

I think it’s possibly the best song ever written.

Harriett Allcroft is playing at the Jazz Lab on Tuesdays 19 and 26 June.