Up Next with Indigo Sparke

The Australian-born, New York-based indie folk artist retraces the journey that led to her latest album, ‘Hysteria’, for Re-Edition’s new music column

Photography by Cloudy Rhodes. Image courtesy of the artist

Lead Image by Cloudy Rhodes

Words by Gilda Bruno

Looking for the soundtrack for your next adventure? Be wary of the algorithm and let yourself be guided by the entrancing vibrations of Up Next – Re-Edition’s long-awaited music column – where arts and culture writer Gilda Bruno sits down with some of the most inspiring names on the up-and-coming and established music scene to delve into the inspirations, sounds and dreams of a new avant-garde of musical talents.

Today Bruno speaks with Australian indie folk singer-songwriter Indigo Sparke to hear about her journey into music-making and capture the multiplicity of feelings, experiences and influences channelled in Hysteria, her newest album.

Born in Sydney, Australia, and now based in New York, Indigo Sparke’s music and lyricism are as multifaceted and rich in nuances as it is her first name. Named after Mood Indigo – a 1930 song by American jazz pianist, composer and leader of his eponymous orchestra Duke Ellington – by two musician parents, it is as if the foundations of her music career were laid long before she could even move her first steps into the world.

Having initially pursued her dream of becoming an actress, Sparke cut her teeth training at a performing arts school and subsequently studied at an acting school for three years. “I grew up in a household where music was omnipresent,” she tells Re-Edition. “My mom is an amazing jazz singer and my father is a great guitarist but, up until a few years ago, I had never really thought my life would take me in a similar direction.”

After carving a place for herself in the Sydney music scene with Nightbloom (2016), her first EP, Sparke continued to push the boundaries of her musical experimentation taking over a number of prestigious stages across her native Australia and the US. Having opened one of the 2018 Australian tour dates of American indie rock band Big Thief, she established a deep connection with its front woman, Adrianne Lenker, who became her close friend and went on to co-produce Sparke’s debut album, Echo (2021).

Below, we catch up with the artist to explore her musical journey so far, dive into the tracks of her new album and discuss how she sees her practice evolve in the years to come.

Photography by Ebru Yildiz. Image courtesy of the artist

Re-Edition Magazine: As the daughter of a jazz singer and a guitarist, you grew up lulled by the notes of Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. Still, it wasn’t until much later – and after pressing pause on your acting career – that you decided to turn music into the main focus of your creative journey. When exactly, and how, did music come into the frame for you, and what led you to it?

Indigo Sparke: The first time music catalysed a spark inside of me as something to potentially follow and make a career out of was when I moved to Bali to do my yoga teacher training. It was full-on hippy trippy, there was a lot of singing, chanting and stuff like that. While there, I would hang out at this one cafe filled with expats living up in the jungle. People would have spontaneous jam sessions in it all the time, whether playing covers, originals or just singing whatever came to mind. At some point, I sang something and someone came up to me and said, “you should really focus on doing this”. Music was some sort of natural evolution for me, one that led me into a more spiritual chapter of my practice.

RE: Think of the way your music has evolved since you first started playing around with it, and even more so since the release of your first EP, Nightbloom (2016), and your debut album, Echo (2021). What drives your musical experimentation today and what is the vision behind it? What made this change possible?

IS: Making music is a constant self-exploration, or at least, that’s what I am constantly drawing from. When I was acting, it was as if I was wearing a mask, something that protected me from the outer world, allowing me to tell someone else’s story. With music, it is just me and the public: this time the story is my own. I know other musicians sing about stories that aren’t necessarily about them. Still, for me, it is really about looking at myself through the lens of whatever I am experiencing at a given point in time. Everything is always changing, but what stays the same is my desire to use this medium to get closer to my own truth.

RE: The announcement of your first album, Echo, came at the height of the pandemic in 2020. The full project came out on January 29, 2021. How did it feel to step into the music industry at such an uncertain time?

IS: Though it was definitely peculiar, I don’t remember ever thinking, “this isn’t a great moment to release this project”. Instead, I followed the intuitive thread of whether or not I felt like I needed the album to come out. I knew there wouldn’t be any touring to follow and there were definitely moments when I was having pangs of longing to be playing shows. But when I look back at it now, it just feels as if it all happened the way it was meant to, as if it couldn’t have gone in any other way. Back then, I had only just moved to New York: the pandemic gave me a moment to think things through, process that experience and anchor down before embracing the chaos of living in a new city.  

RE: Your new, 14-track album, Hysteria, came out last October 7. How would you describe this project to those who haven’t listened to it yet?

IS: I have been thinking a lot about time lately and I have recently come to the conclusion that time isn’t linear, and that my life spirals and circulates, in some way. So I guess I would describe the record as a non-linear breath of spiralling history, a breath that allows me to reconcile with the human condition and what it means to be a woman. Hysteria is all that. It is a brazen step into feeling deeply. The motivation to go deeper within stemmed from the COVID period, which was the basis for “charting my own internal waters”. On top of that came my admiration of a number of strong women; women with that grit, sand-between-the-teeth sort of feeling who also hold a sense of authentic feminine power. Think of music artists like Sharon Van Etten, Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey.

RE: What does this album represent for you? What does it tell us about your evolution as a person and a music artist?

IS: This album felt like an explosion of sorts. It was almost like purging in some way, coming to terms with what was happening in my life and in the world. Hysteria was an explosion that had to happen for me to come back to a quiet, intimate and still place within myself, which is the place I’m sitting in right now. It feels uncomfortable because, once you release a project into the world, it is as if you shed a skin: as if a metamorphosis of your character, identity and relationship with yourself took place. I don’t really know what my path will look like from here. At the moment, I am just treading water, which is an interesting place to be in – especially considering that, in the music industry, you are constantly required to be creative. Yet, artists aren’t really given any space to take a breath, rest and recharge, nor do we have the opportunity to rejoice at what we have created, which is what I am trying to focus on right now.

Photo by Angela Ricciardi. Image courtesy of the artist

RE: What is it like to be a female music artist working in an industry where women continue to be vastly underrepresented?

IS: The music industry seems to be run by middle-aged white men and I feel disheartened by the whole thing. People aren’t getting their needs met, whether financially, emotionally, mentally, and physically. And while a lot of women are taking up space within this world, things aren’t as easy as they might seem. I can’t help but think about religion and myth: the other day I was reading a book when I stumbled across a conversation between a woman and her husband. Referring to him and all men in general, the woman asked herself, “how does he expect me to continually keep giving birth to myself?” On a personal level, I found that pretty relatable, even more so when I think of what is expected of women in this industry. Though I am still looking for ways to fully digest how things work in this capitalist, patriarchal society, now more than ever I feel the need for real, long-lasting change.

RE: In recent years, more and more music artists have lent their talent to other creative realms. Whether music, fashion, cinema or art-related, what would be your dream collaboration?

IE: Those kinds of collaborations are exactly what I would love to be doing right now. It would be wonderful to step out of my comfort zone rather than just staying inside my box in the music industry. I would absolutely love to work with brands like Gucci, Simone Rochaand other big labels that, through fashion, are creating these big beautiful new worlds. I would also enjoy working with filmmakers, whether that means going back to acting, or scoring films. Directors like Terrence Malick and Mike Mills are massive inspirations for me, and there are so many more I would be so excited to collaborate with. Working more collaboratively and exploring different fields feels like a natural continuation of my artistic journey.

RE: What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2023? What can we expect from you in the future?

IS: It is funny, last year I had such a clear idea of what my year would look like and this year I feel like I am walking into the wild unknown. I have no idea of what 2023 will bring about for me. I only have watercolour brush strokes of feeling around certain things, be it doing another album, working more on my photography and self-portrait imagery, focusing on my poetry book, or studying somatic therapy. But again, nothing is really defined as of yet. I guess I will have to keep my options open and embrace whatever comes next.

Photo by Angela Ricciardi. Image courtesy of the artist
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