Eight years after their first collaboration as Seeker Lover Keeper, Sally Seltmann, Holly Throsby and Sarah Blasko will release their second album, Wild Seeds, on Friday (keep an eye out in The Guardian, and here, for the review) and tour through September and October.
Three successful singer/songwriters, two of them now novelists, all now mothers and living in the same artist-friendly hub of Sydney’s inner suburbs, it was a combination which made sense. But also one that didn’t need to happen again, either to maintain their careers or their friendship.
As this interview in 2011 shows, need or not, the chances of a return were good, even if a little later than predicted. And the reason was simple: it felt right.
Well before they began answering questions about their "supergroup" project, Seeker Lover Keeper, Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby (who would like to put it on record that she is a big fan of beauticians) and Sally Seltmann had their answer prepared for the inevitable question.
Which one is Seeker, which one is Lover and which one Keeper? The on-message response is they are all three. Which is sweet. And, since they insist on all public appearances being made as a triumvirate, indivisible.
But today, sitting around a table in the quasi-rustic upstairs cafe of Newtown's Berkelouw bookstore (reader eater sipper?) there’s a harder question for this collection of three strong, intellectually-driven but emotionally sourced singer songwriters.
Which one is Crosby, which one Stills and which one Nash? In other words, which one is the coke-addled troubled one, which one the ego-driven alcoholic and which one is the hippie dreamer?
There is an outbreak of laughter and looks between them and Throsby jokingly declares that she is the coke-head, before confessing that she knows little of the original pop supergroup; Blasko points the finger at Seltmann as the egotist drunk, and Seltmann reveals she is a fan of Stills before adding that "I identify with the dreamy and occasionally," she giggles. "with the drunk."
More seriously though, the self-titled first album by the trio - recorded mostly during a ten-day stretch in New York last year - is in many ways an inevitable blend of three artists who, after at least three albums each, have finessed a line between firmness and vulnerability, hesitancy and openness in relatively quiet songs.
Put it this way, despite all three being declared fans of Beyonce, there has been no sudden transformation into Destiny's Child.
Is this group a mind meld or are there three completely different personalities bobbing about in the mix of something new?
"Kind of," says Blasko. "But we are friends, we were all friends before we started doing this, and we do the same stuff with our lives: songwriters, musicians, women. We’ve got a pretty similar sense of humour, we've got similar tastes in music, and similar ideas."
If you are going to work with someone new, it probably serves little purpose to have them think exactly the same and work exactly the same as you do though. Who needs clones?
“That’s what I thought interesting, watching the song become something totally different," says Throsby. “But at the same time, we did have similar ideas about things like production, we were all on the same page. We just added different personalities."
Different personalities and different strengths, with Blasko and Throsby both in awe of Seltmann's piano playing and music theory grounding and Seltmann effusive in her praise of their singing, revealing that she brought a couple of her songs to the group intending that either Throsby or Blasko would sing lead. Interestingly she was over-ruled, the others insisting those two songs demanded her voice.
The point of doing a project like this is that it has to be fun. Was it all the way through?
"No," says Blasko quickly. “No. With the three of us, each person takes turns being freaked out or doubting stuff and the other two are optimistic.” But then, as all three start to laugh with recognition, she adds, "although there were occasions when the three of us were feeling exactly the same way."
Throsby leans forward, "we need to say when Sarah said it was not fun, between the three of us it was. Certainly during the recording process we came up against some difficulties ...” and here Seltmann jumps in: “But it would feel good because we’d always go away together and talk about it, where if you were doing an album on your own, it's just you.”
At which point Throsby says, “there were a lot of little conferences on the pavement down by the waterside. Sometimes Sally had to have an emergency massage. But we all steered it together then in the direction we wanted."
And what direction was that?
"We wanted it to be a relief from everything else that we do and a big part of that is not agonising over every little thing but keeping it free and for it to sound that way," explains Blasko, an artist not normally known for being free and relaxed anywhere. "We had a plan but the plan was for it to sound natural. The main thing was to keep it feeling like we were just in the room singing together and not trying to be anything else.”
Having navigated some of the expected rocks and shoals, the other inevitable question Seeker Lover Keeper will face is how long can this go? An album, a tour and then move on?
"We don’t know,” says Throsby. "We all feel really positive about the thought of making another one but it might take us five years to get our shit together again."
Wild Seeds is out on Friday.
Seeker Lover Keeper will play:
Thursday 5 September, Blue Mountains Theatre, Springwood
Friday 6 September, Canberra Theatre
Saturday 7 September, Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Friday 13 September, Narrabeen RSL
Saturday 14 September, The Heritage Hotel, Bulli
Friday 27 September, The Altar Bar, Hobart
Saturday 28 September, The Gov, Adelaide
Sunday 29 September, Freo Social, Fremantle
Thursday 3 October, The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday 4 October, Caloundra Music Festival
Saturday 5 October, Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns
Thursday 17 October, Factory Theatre, Sydney
Friday 18 October, The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday 19 October, Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
Sunday 20 October, Sooki Lounge, Belgrave