Sarah McLeod’s musical journey has certainly followed some divergent paths since she roared out of Adelaide with the big-sounding Hell’s Kitchen twenty years ago. As The Superjesus, the band – which originally also included guitarist Chris Tennant from the early 80s metal band Almost Human – went on to build a solid presence on the late 90s alternative rock scene with two Top 40 albums and a swag of singles before finally coming to a halt in 2004. McLeod went solo immediately and dabbled in everything from acoustic rock to dance music as she travelled the world following her muse.
“I’ve been doing a lot of different projects and moving around a lot of different places in the world and I think the first ten years of my life, post-school, were all about being in that one band and playing that one kind of music,” McLeod says pleasantly. “And that’s where I learnt about music and how to be a performer and what I wanted from the industry. When the band decided to take a break, I just decided it was time to try every single thing under the sun. Which is good timing, because I’ve got a very, very short attention span when it comes to music, like a lot of people. But it’s really bad when you’re the one creating it!”
Eventually gravitating homeward, McLeod continues to perform solo in between occasional shows with her old band The Superjesus, who got back together at the beginning of last year for an appearance at Stone Fest and a subsequent national tour. While preparing for a special showcase performance at one of her regular gigs, she met her current co-conspirator, the equally eclectic and unceasingly busy Jeff Martin, the resonant baritone and guitar master with The Tea Party. Somewhat incredibly, she had no idea who he was.
“I did this thing last year where I did monthly duet nights at this place on the Central Coast, the Crowne Plaza, called the Late Night Lounge and I would choose an artist to come in and we would work on songs together and perform them,” she explains. “Jeff was one of the ones I got one month. I didn’t know him from Adam. I’d just heard that he was amazing. I’d never even seen him live! He came down and we rehearsed some stuff together and then we played and I thought Oh my God! How come I don’t know about this guy?”
The partnership clicked even more firmly into place when the pair performed at a show in the Blue Mountains in November, raising money to help the victims of the area’s devastating bushfires. McLeod had played in Katoomba in the week the fires hit and Martin was inspired by the region’s beauty when writing for his 2011 album The Ground Cries Out. Both dedicated their time and talent to help with the rebuilding process at a concert in a local high school.
“I really wanted to do something with him but I didn’t think he wanted to do something with me. Then about six months – maybe a little more, a couple of months ago – we did a show together in the Blue Mountains for a fire charity. He got up on stage with me and then when he played, I got up and played drums with him and then we went back to the hotel and we were jamming til dawn and we were like, ‘Wow, this is cool!’”
Shortly after, the pair started working on tunes together at Martin’s studio in Byron Bay. Their partnership has proved quite fruitful and there’s every possibility that something long-term may come from the teaming.
“I’m really enjoying working with Jeff,” she says earnestly. “He and I have found quite a unique connection with how we work. We’re very similar in lots of ways, and vastly different in a lot of ways. The combination of the two is working really well. And the main thing is that we really respect each other as musicians and we have the same work ethic and we’re both really open to each other’s ideas.”
Inevitably, the colloboration has now led to an east coast tour that kicks off this week in Melbourne. The shows will feature solo slots from both artists followed by a third set they perform together. For a brief moment they played with the idea of randomly choosing who was to headline each night, but McLeod kyboshed the plan.
“There’s three sets,” she begins. “I do a set by myself and then he does one by himself… it’s supposed to be a co-headline tour and we were gonna swap who goes on last but I just said, ‘There’s no way in Hell that I’m going on after you! I’m just gonna be cool and I’ll do my set and you do your set and then we’ll come out and do a set of duets’ – which is shaping up to be pretty cool, actually. Really, really cool. We’re both very excited about that bit.”
A single has been completed and is ready for release in time for the shows and there’s likely to be more music forthcoming from this pair of prolific singer-song writers, but they have placed no constraints on themselves.
“We thought about just writing song by song, and eventually putting an album out, but we don’t have a deadline or a date,” the Adelaide-born rocker says, “we’re just getting together and when inspiration strikes we’ll just record it and send it off to everyone else to see what they think.”
With both parties apparently tirelessly busy – The Superjesus continues and The Tea Party has a new album somewhere on the horizon, and both McLeod and Martin tour their own material constantly – it’s probably somewhat amazing that they’ve found any time to work together. Sarah McLeod is thankful they have, and is holding out hope that it can continue into the future.
“It’s funny, our lives are somewhat similar in a lot of respects,” she says. “I’d just got The Superjesus back together, and The Superjesus and The Tea Party both had success in the 90s – his obviously way bigger than ours, but there’s just a lot of similarities with how we work and we just get along really well. We’ll just work around each other and make sure we have time to do it all. It’s worth doing.”
Sarah McLeod and Jeff Martin play shows together this month:
29/1: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
30/1: Beavs Bar, Geelong VIC
31/1: Karova Lounge, Ballarat VIC
1/2: The Grace Emily, Adelaide SA
4/2: Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
5/2: Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
6/2: The Basement, Sydney NSW
7/2: The Heritage, Wollongong NSW
8/2: Kelts Bar, Penrith NSW
9/2: Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD