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For Leanne, Happiness is not having to choose between genres

Culture

Despite winning two Queensland Music Awards in the Blues and Roots category over the past five years, Cairns-based singer-songwriter Leanne Tennant wants to make one thing clear as she prepares to release her third album, she’s “a lover of music and a hater of genres”.

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“I have always written in lots of different styles, it’s just people don’t hear them,” Tennant told InQueensland. “I mean, the first album [Pull Up Your Britches] I put out had about three or four different genres all in one but then I had a lot of feedback to, you know, pick one,” she laughed.

When Tennant released the country-tinged blues single ‘Gentle Annie’, the first single from what would become her critically acclaimed 2016 album Red Wine Late Nights, she opted to record the songs she had that were of a similar vein.

“’Gentle Annie’ was the leading single, and I loved that song so much, and I wanted the rest of the album to sound similar, so I had to kind of stick within that world and that meant that I couldn’t really do all these other songs that I had up my sleeve, because it just would have sounded weird being on that record.”

Tennant’s new release Happiness Is … is her first album since winning the 2018 Carol Lloyd Award, a $15,000 fellowship presented to a female-identifying Queensland singer-songwriter every year to fund either the recording and subsequent touring for an EP, or the production and release of a full-length album.

Happiness Is … has already produced four singles – ‘Cherry Cola’, ‘Bring It All’, ‘Everspin’ and ‘Till The Sun Dies’ – that have garnered both critical acclaim and airplay from the likes Double J and 4ZZZ, as well as BBC in the UK. Tennant said the Carol Lloyd Award was integral in affording her the creative and financial freedom and confidence to fully showcase her diverse range of musical influences.

“The Carol Lloyd Award funded the recording, so it funded the musician fees and the producer and mixing fees,” she said.

On Happiness Is … Tennant collaborated with musicians including Spiderbait drummer Kram, guitarist Travis Jenkins, bassist Phil Roach, keyboardist Ed Ruben and worked with producers Konstantin Kerstin and Yanto Browning.

The result is an assured album that shifts from electronic-infused numbers including ‘White Lines’ and ‘Bring It All Back’ to material more reminiscent of her previous output, such as the stripped-back ‘Record Stores’ and ‘Till the Sun Dies’.

Tennant admitted part of the reason she had not experimented more in the studio previously was due to a perceived inability to replicate some of the sounds in a live setting but she said Kerstin, in particular, also helped her rethink her approach to live performances.

“Everything I’ve ever recorded, I’ve always wanted to be able to play live and that to me involved guitar and bass and drums, so, all these [ideas] in my head, I often put to the side because I thought ‘how am I going to do that live, how do I do that?’

“And so I just shoved things to the side and when I started working with Kon, we started talking about all this and he said, ‘there are things that you can do now …’

“It’s about filling in all those gaps – there’s still guitar, bass and drums, but all that other stuff that’s there on the album is in the live show, so it still sounds like the record and there’s not anything missing. So when I realised I could do that it just opened new worlds and me.”

Tennant said the COVID-19 pandemic had forced her to rejig some of the plans and expectations she had for the release of Happiness Is …, especially in terms of capitalising on her rising profile overseas.

“I think the trickiest part for me was, the album is due to be released soon and that was originally supposed to be released in May and we had to push that back, and therefore all the touring that I had planned in Australia, and also in the UK, was something that I’ve had to put on hold,” she said.

“The Australian dates are slowly, slowly being chipped away at and starting to come back but as far as UK opportunities go, that’s probably a fair way away, we don’t know what’s happening over there.”

Although Tennant has received plenty of critical acclaim over the course of her career, she said she hoped Happiness Is … would be the album that helped translate those plaudits into more sustainable commercial success.

“I’m hoping that with all the other recognition that I’ve had – and Double J has just been amazing – that with this record I will have some of those other doors open, where I can start pursuing, really seriously, the songwriting world and co-writing world and move towards that.

“I’m 40 this year, and I’ve got two kids and you know there’s days of touring and sleeping on couches for long periods of time just doesn’t really slot in with your life anymore and if I can find a way where I can write music and record, and just do that, I’d be so happy.”

Happiness Is … will be released on July 9.  Leanne Tennant launches the album at Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns, on July 31.

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