"That's my main mission; everything I do is just about unlimiting myself in every way. "
At the start of the year, Lanie Lane had the musical world at her feet. In the overall scheme of things it was still only recently that her acclaimed 2011 debut album To The Horses — a smoothly eclectic mix of country, doo wop and cabaret — had risen to #12 on the ARIA charts, and along the way scored her the attention of Jack White (among many others) who was besotted enough to whisk her off to Nashville to record the single Ain't Hungry for his Third Man Records label. Then in late 2014 she followed that up with Night Shade, an album which shed her retro-tinged aesthetic for a more contemporary pop sound, and which still garnered routinely positive reviews despite the stylistic shift.
But suddenly, just a few months after that second album's release the (then) Sydney musician issued a statement announcing her retirement from the music business, citing the "uprooted-ness of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle" as her prime de-motivator. She went to great pains to point out that she still loved music — creating, writing and playing — but that she just didn't want to deal with the trappings of the music industry anymore. And that's where the story really begins.
"I think that's what's happening on the outside of you in your life is a direct reflection of what's happening on the inside."
"I basically packed up my whole house and gave away most of my possessions," Lane offers nonchalantly. "I've had my dog since February, and basically I packed everything up, sold everything and got this little van and got my dad who's a carpenter to build me this little single bed in the back of the van and it was just like me and the dog — I wasn't out there to find anything in particular or anyone, I just wanted to be on my own and be out there.
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"And within a couple of weeks I met this awesome guy," she giggles. "I wasn't expecting it. He was doing his own thing so for a couple of months we talked on the phone and then we met up in the desert a few months later, and we went on some awesome adventures 'cause he's a doco maker. I've just been in the most amazing bliss ball ever since, and now I'm living [on the Central Queensland coast near Rockhampton] with him and his son.
"It's pretty cool, such an unexpected thing. I think that's what's happening on the outside of you in your life is a direct reflection of what's happening on the inside and sometimes there's all this shit you still haven't cleared up in yourself — like you know it's shit but you're carrying it around — but you get this chance, like this divine chance you get given: are you ready for real love? Are you ready for freedom in yourself in your heart? We both still have stuff going on inside ourselves personally but we have this opportunity to make ourselves better and experience such extraordinary love, and we're working on that stuff that can limit you. I think anything that limits you is the opposite of love — not external love but internal love. That's my main mission; everything I do is just about unlimiting myself in every way. I'm so happy now, I'm just stoked."
It's such a brave decision to completely pack up your life like that: surely it must have been daunting to some degree?
"Not really, because I was just so... everything was getting stripped away from me and consciously I was stripping everything away and some things were just happening naturally. I just think that I was not attached to that way of life. Everything. I'd been in a long-term relationship with Jez [Mead], who co-produced that last album, and I had a lot of just stuff that started falling away and it wasn't hard — it was effortless to go on that trip. It was effortless to be with myself. I love being on my own, it's not hard for me at all. I'm pretty much a recluse five days a week, and then I go to the farmer's markets on Saturday," she laughs. "It's been cool, just letting it all happen naturally and dealing what comes up within myself as it does happen. And not being involved so much in mainstream society is quite cool too."
"I'm pretty much a recluse five days a week, and then I go to the farmer's markets on Saturday."
Which is going to change after Christmas when Lane plays her comeback gigs at Woodford Folk Festival (which she's preceding with a couple of shows in Sydney, and after which she continues down the east coast on her Summer Gathering tour), given that the event attracts well over 100,000 punters and basically becomes a small city in and of itself.
"I'm so excited because I've always wanted to go to it and I've always wanted to play at it, and I was always thinking, 'Why? Why haven't I? What's going on?'" she chuckles. "Then they randomly called and asked me out of the blue, and I was so stoked — it was definitely a 'yes' straight away. And the fact that I get to play with my band again is really cool. And it's [Woodford's] 30th year and I'm in my 30th year, I'm so happy.
"I've looked up what they do there and just their environmental philosophy and what they do environmentally on the site is so inspiring. I'm pretty happy to be a part of it, and the fact that it inspired my Summer Gathering shows — if it wasn't for Woodford I wouldn't be doing it, so I'm just so happy about that. I've been to the site for Splendour [In The Grass] but I haven't been there for the Woodford vibe, which I think will be right up my alley."
It's important to note that Lane's retirement statement included a pretty clear caveat that she would be open down the track to play some festivals or house parties, or basically anything which tickled her fancy, and Woodford obviously qualifies as an exemption.
"Of course, you can never guess what's going to happen in the future," she smiles. "But I've been doing it all myself this time — I don't have a manager, and this is the only media I'm actually doing through Woodford and stuff — but it's nice, because it's kinda stripped-back and at the same time there's more responsibility because I'm doing pretty much everything. I'm doing all the merch and everything, and I'm creating all the artwork... It's cool."
What about leaving the idyllic sanctuary she seems to have built for herself and getting on the road again, does that hold any trepidation?
"Definitely being away from home for a whole month is going to be a challenge, so I'll need to have a really good intention about how I'm going to do it," Lane reflects. "Because that's a long time for me now that I've been settled for four months or so in my beautiful new home with my beautiful new family and everything, it's a pretty big deal to go away from my routine now that I realise what a routine person I am and how much living simply and living consistently every day actually means to me and how much I thrive in that way. So I really know that I've made the right decision, but [even though] doing Woodford and then the shows after is going to be good thing I still need to be looking after myself."
As you'd imagine, making such a clean-cut break from the music world has given Lane a new perspective on both her previous career and her relationship with her art.
"Yeah, I'm so glad that I made the decision because I literally don't have that drive and ambition to be a full-time musician," she admits. "I'm not one of those musicians who live and breathe music every single day — there are so many people out there for whom it's the main focus of their life. For me I'm so grateful that one of my gifts is being able to sing and write songs that I'm really proud of and that people enjoy hearing, and I've loved sharing that in a live setting too and I love recording so I've loved that, but I'm not someone who literally sits around recording and writing songs every day. I just don't, and you can't force that stuff.
"I literally don't have that drive and ambition to be a full-time musician."
"Having a break from the external pressure of, 'Ok, I'm in an album cycle,' 'Now I'm off the touring circuit and I need to write and record' — not having that long-term pressure anymore is cool because I realise that it's not my natural state of flow anymore. Even just being online and on my feed and stuff, I've kind of unsubscribed from the music industry feed that I had and I have a completely different feed now so I don't see a lot of what's happening in music — I'm pretty much unplugged from it all and I just get the odd dribs and drabs off my friends that are doing awesome stuff. But I'm finding it quite refreshing."
This new lease of life has found Lane's creative juices flowing again, just not necessarily in a musical context.
"Musically not so much. This year I've literally just written four songs and haven't written anything for five months or something," she admits. "I've been doing more visual art, and one thing I've definitely realised about creativity is that it will flow where it wants to flow. I can't distinguish anymore between one type of creativity to another — it's all the same, it's just where you put your attention. And because I don't have the full passion and drive to sit with my guitar every day and write songs it's kind of coming through in a more visual way now, and that's why it's been really important that I show the audience when I do my small shows what I've been doing this year, which is more visual arts. I get to play them all the songs that they want to hear — and that I want to play because I haven't had the chance to play them — but I get to also show them the visual side of my creativity.
"I'm really excited about that, because it was a really big fear that I had to face about, 'Am I an artist? Am I good enough?' I think you have to go through that phase in any form of creativity to have faith in yourself and your work. Everything I'll be showing pretty much is stuff that I was painting and drawing while I was on my desert adventure and then when I arrived here, so it's really personal. It's kind of like that's my body of work for this year creatively rather than in song, although there are some songs that people will hear from this year."