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Adalita & Clare Bowditch - The New Sting & Paul Simon?

16 July 2014 | 8:34 am | Samson McDougall

Adalita joins Clare Bowditch on the upcoming Winter Secrets tour.

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You weren’t the only one who went “Wha!?” at the prospect of Adalita joining Clare Bowditch on her 2014 Winter Secrets tour. And that’s just the reaction both women wanted and expected. Musically, they’re practically different species, but given they occupy the same, let’s call it a pond, they’re keen to show us how much common ground they cover despite our preconceptions.

“Really, it’s about two artists that enjoy each other’s company and respect each other’s work, but also have a level of curiosity about each other,” says Bowditch. “It’s kinda just like Sting and Paul Simon, mate.” And though they both laugh at this remark, Bowditch is a bit serious. Will we learn something new from that tour? Most likely. Does Paul Simon know something about Sting that we don’t? It seems so. The point is that the story’s not always what you think it is and we’re often surprised – that’s also the nuts and bolts behind the Winter Secrets tour. “Every one of us is complex,” Bowditch elaborates. “You might have an idea of who you think I am as a performer and who you think Adalita is as a performer, but I love the shock. When we talk about Winter Secrets, it’s all about playing with these ideas.”

There’s a palpable chemistry between Bowditch and Adalita, though the two women occupy the space at the back of a Fitzroy café very differently. Adalita arrives first, removes her sunglasses, offers a coy “hello” and orders nothing, before changing her mind and asking for a decaf soy latte. Bowditch arrives in a flurry of big hair (it was a particularly windy day) and red lipstick, which we both cop. Within moments she’s discussing the finer points of whether she’ll get the eggs with a side of beans or the other way around. They are very different sorts, but there’s radiant warmth between them.

They both laugh when handed a copy of a news story featuring the Winter Secrets tour photo, which looks like it’s straight out of a 1980s Wella commercial. Bowditch describes the photo shoot for the tour as “a Pat Benatar moment”. The shoot had been the first real opportunity for the two of them to discuss the tour, which almost ended up on the backburner. “I was pretty exhausted, we were gonna do a new album and I was thinking, ‘Do I have the energy to go out on tour?’” continues Bowditch. “So I was having a bit of an um and ah and Marty [Brown, her husband] said, ‘Why don’t we talk about who you’d like to come along?’ As soon as I said, ‘How awesome would it be if Adalita could come along?’ suddenly I had all this zest for the tour.”

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The format of the Winter Secrets shows will take the shape of Adalita warming up the crowd and the two artists then combining to take on each other’s material, along with a bunch of secret surprise covers. Audience members will also be invited to have a crack. It’s all about playing with stereotypes and breaking down the divisions between artists and audience members.

One of the stereotypes Adalita’s keen to kill is that of the cool and aloof musician. “There’s a part of me that’s a real dag,” she says, “and real tongue-in-cheek and not that serious. It’ll be good to flesh that out a little bit by having some fun. Clare has a side to her that’s really accepting and really light-hearted, and she has a lot of fun with art... I’m all about breaking down the illusion between performer and audience. There is a place in art for that, and art plays with it. If you can’t see that, then you’re not really understanding art.

Adalita also says that, as a nervous performer, she’s hoping putting herself out there just that little bit more on the tour will help break down some personal barriers. Bowditch reckons the care required to nurse audience members through their onstage experiences will take any of their own anxieties out of the equation. “I can’t wait to see it, ‘cause I think people don’t realise how hard it is until they’re up there,” says Adalita. “There’s a lot of criticism, arms folded, ‘[puts on an Aussie Bloke drawl] Oh, y’know, this is boring. I could do that better.’ But when you get up there and give it a go, most people would just go, ‘Aghhh!’ and have a meltdown or just walk off.”

It’s here that Bowditch makes reference to a quote that’s played a part in her road to self-confidence. “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” said former US President Theodore Roosevelt in his famous 1910 speech Citizenship In A Republic. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly... his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” It’s all about daring greatly, and Bowditch hopes that for the performers and audience members alike, the Winter Secrets tour will elicit boldness.

“It’s not like you think about confidence and become confident – you go out and do something and the confidence comes later,” says Adalita. “You throw yourself into it and be as brave as you can. That’s what [happened] with my solo thing. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I was completely in shock and terrified and I didn’t want to do it, but after two years of doing it that’s when the confidence came. A lot of people think that they have to be confident before they try something, but that’s not the case. Everyone’s vulnerable.”