Alyawarre singer-songwriter Leah Flanagan will launch her latest album next month and the Darwin-based musician told NITV’s Take it Blak podcast that it is a deeply personal album that explores and celebrates her Aboriginality, as well as her Italian and Irish heritage.
“Trying to understand your identity and where you fit in the ecosystem, is something that’s always kind of been, I’ve always thought about it philosophically.
"I feel like identity is something that it takes you a little bit of time to understand," Flanagan said.
The artist describes the album as her pushback to the constant scrutinisation of her identity. One of the tracks, Linen Girls paints a picture of an artist drifting between two competing worlds.
Leah Flanagan told Take It Blak that song writing is a journey that begins with recreating a feeling or experience.
“You're kind of creating a picture with words and with melodies so people can kind of feel where you are at the time and place of writing and then use your senses. Because essentially, you're trying to interpret that kind of spark that ignites at the time."
Another track, Broken, is an ode to Flanagan’s hip dysplasia and formerly broken leg.
“It’s called ‘Baby, there's a part of me that's broken’ because literally, you know, it’s about the broken leg. But I've had other people listen to that song and it can translate into so many different feelings, and so many different situations.”
Flanagan has been inspired by a diverse range of artists throughout her career, including Neil Finn, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Emily King, Bic Runga and the many First Nations artists she’s performed alongside.
Her recent collaborations include Archie Roach’s 25th Anniversary reissue of Charcoal Lane, Shane Howard’s Exile: Songs and Tales of Irish Australia, the Mission Songs Project, Yothu Yindi Treaty Project, Songs For Those Who’ve Come Across The Seas, The Spirit of Churaki, and Buried Country 1.5: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music.
“When we see our great singer songwriters you know, like Uncle Arch, and I listen to people like Dan (Sultan) sing and Emma (Donavan) and Deline (Briscoe), and you just go 'they’re magical', because their ability to interpret, to interpret the song, it's like, that's what you call being gifted.”
Leah Flanagan has been in Darwin throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and she told Take It Blak that she feels relatively lucky compared to so many musicians in Melbourne struggling through a strict lockdown.
“I've got so many of my musician friends and so many people that rely on live performance in Victoria where there is absolute lockdown. But here, we’re kind of going about our day to day, and as long as the borders are closed, that's kind of like the only restriction we have. So, we've been very, very lucky and I feel very, very grateful.”
Colour By Number will drop on October 16, with a planned tour put on hold because of the global pandemic. Nevertheless, Flanagan is looking forward to being able to perform the album to live audiences as soon she can.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do and that’s the honest truth. Earlier in the year, I was like, I don’t even know if I’m going to put this record out, like I was feeling that pressure and just feeling devastated, because I had such a beautiful tour locked in.
"But I think, these things happen. They happen and they’re out of our control and the best that we can do is to try and make the best out of the card we’ve been given, the scenario that we have, and through that, I’m grateful that I get to stay home and spend time with my family.
"So at least I can still put the music out, and then I think, when we find out what happens after COVID, what the live music world is going to look like, I think I’m just going to do my best to try and make sure I’m part of that too," Flanagan said.
Climb into your swift suit and join Take It Blak hosts Jack Latimore, John Paul Janke and Keira Jenkins as they flashblak to the 2000 Sydney Olympics to discuss the iconic sporting moments, the lead up, the protests, the cultural significance, the nostalgia, the blackfullas involved on and off the track, the actual track, and other lesser known Bla(c)k histories surrounding the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.