The Rural Childhood that Shaped Vera Blue

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Sep 04, 2017

Back on the land, Australian singer-songwriter Vera Blue embraces natural classics. By Alison Boleyn.

The dogs, the damper, a French model’s unabashed delight at seeing his first kangaroo... shooting among the sheep for Qantas magazine was emotional for Vera Blue. Her father, Glenn, grew up on the land with her pop, Elwyn, a lamb, barley and wheat producer who watched the sheep sales long after he sold the farm and moved to town. Elwyn died a month before the singer-songwriter spoke with us and memories of the land, flowers and family were swirling as she talked. Her grandma, Jill, won prizes every year for her garden and filled the house with blooms. And her Uncle Brad, a shearer and wool presser, breeds sheepdogs. 

The country still exerts a pull on Vera Blue, who was born Celia Pavey in the NSW town of Forbes, where her mother, Donna, introduced her to Simon & Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell and played the organ at church while the Pavey girls sang. Horticulturalist Glenn played Irish music at his nursery, inflecting his daughter’s voice – which rang like a bell – with Celtic touches. It was Glenn who came up with the title for Vera Blue’s debut album, Perennial.

“It means everlasting,” she says. “That’s what the album is kind of about: a never-ending cycle of emotions and feelings that will last and pass, come and go.”

Vera Blue was 16 when she wrote her first song, “experiencing what I thought was love for the first time”. But now she wants to dance. With her transition in recent years from acoustic folk to electronic music (she featured twice in Triple J’s Hottest 100 this year), she says, “I’m still able to play the guitar but I also have that freedom to move, to experiment as an artist, to feel what I’m feeling. And I don’t have to fake it.”

Not that she’s changed so much from the girl who watched her friends leave Forbes, unsure if the ethereal music she was making would carry her, too, to Sydney and beyond. “Whenever I go to the country, I feel calm and grounded,” she says. “The land is a reminder of who I am.”

Vera Blue is touring nationally until 10 September. Her album, Perennial, is out now.

SEE ALSO: Mollie McClymont Sings the Praises of Home Town Grafton