"It'd be amazing to see more females on festival lineups because they are still very much sausage fests, which gives me the sh*ts."
Sarah McLeod is a busy woman. She always has been. Fronting bands, taking surprising creative turns in moody musicals, collaborating with a swag of national and international artists.
Even today, in between gearing up for some live shows, finishing off recording fresh material and prepping her part in the upcoming Australian Women In Music Awards (AWMA), McLeod is frantic and relishing the chance to down tools and catch an afternoon tea break, absconding to a sunny corner in her favourite chair.
“I'm making a coffee because I have like a 10-minute break. And I've been running since six o'clock this morning, and I still have so much to do. So, coffee.”
The AWMA is organised, facilitated and hosted by women from across the industry, recognising the bright stars in all areas of music, from production, songwriting, leadership, photography, inclusivity, journalism and more.
The event not only encompasses the Awards ceremony but also highlights Australian women's vast contribution to the music industry via a two-day conference and concert program in Meanjin/Brisbane on 26-27 September.
McLeod is thrilled to be jumping on stage to dish out a few of her solo and Superjesus tracks, and she’ll also be having a go at something a bit different to her alternative, grungy music chops.
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“I’ll be playing guitar in an all-girl death metal band; who would have thought?” she said.
“I've also always wanted to play guitar in a band where I don’t sing. I'd just love to be in a different band where I just was the guitar player.”
She’s also nominated for the Songwriter Award, which recognises an outstanding female songwriter or composter. But how did a tall poppy like McLeod find herself nominated for such a distinguished award for women in the Australian music industry?
“Well, of course, I know the Awards, and I always thought “I wonder if I'll be involved in that one day’ – but honestly, I didn't really know how you're supposed to get into it,” she laughs.
“My dear friends Ellie Hanlon from the Airlie Beach Music Festival and Katie Noonan got in there and nominated me. They did all the legwork. I get way too shy to do stuff like that.
“Even when they were filling out the application, they asked me to write me a bio. I was like, ‘We like Sarah McLeod, she's a good bloke’.
“Next minute, I’m on the lineup and part of the awards, which is super cool.”
When the Superjesus were at their breakout height back in the late 1990s, McLeod was among the few Australian female singer-guitarists to front a rock band. While pop had its fair share of female flag bearers, being a woman in a rock or alternative band was still very much uncommon and something of a marketable novelty to some.
What was it like to occupy that space for McLeod at a time when it was still very much a male-dominated world, on stage and off?
“Well, I think I just kind of became one of the boys to fit in,” she relates.
“I was very much a scrappy little tomboy for the first ten years of my career. And I just became one of the fellas, and I was cool with that.
“But it wasn't until a good decade in, where I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I'm going to stretch my femininity here and embrace my power. I don't need to be one of you guys. I've got something else I could be, something better.’
“It still is very much a male-dominated world, and I don’t think it’s changed as much as it should have, but at least we're aware of it now. The discussions are open, but it's still very much a male-dominated world.
“That's why these Awards are so great, to have women who are out there advocating for other women. There's still so much change that needs to come. But this is providing really strong foundations to create change in the future.”
McLeod will keep being the change, and she wants to see in the industry, helped in no small part by a new Superjesus album on the horizon that the band has nearly finished recording (“It’s killer, it’s really the best bunch of songs we’ve ever written”). But on the eve of the AMWAs, she has a very simple wish list for what she hopes the Awards can inspire.
“I would love to see more female managers, more female tech crew, more female road crew,” she said.
“It'd be amazing to see more females on festival lineups because they are still very much sausage fests, which gives me the shits.
“And more female-fronted rock bands.
“You’ve got to see it; seeing is believing, and if young girls see females front bands who are completely within their power, it’s a really great energy to see on stage, and it makes it achievable for everyone.”
Sarah McLeod will perform at the Australian Women In Music Awards on Wednesday, 27 September, at The Tivoli in Brisbane. Tickets to attend the event are on sale now.