The last few years have been busy for Sally Seltmann. In between releases, she’s relocated to Los Angeles from her native Australia, formed a side project with friends and co-written song with others while hopping between continents. It’s no surprise then that the talented songstress entertained thoughts of quitting due to fatigue from it all.
Yet Seltmann’s method of recharging gives birth to more songs, which means it’s hard to keep from packaging them together for another go-around. Hey Daydreamer is the latest collection of songs and they stand strong alongside the others, forming one of the most underappreciated catalogs of the last decade. We recently chatted with the new L.A. resident about the busy season behind her and how she’s facing the next wave.
Stereo Subversion: You just recently moved to L.A. What prompted the change?
Sally Seltmann: We like it here and I’ve been coming here the last few years to do co-writing with different singer-songwriters as well. So I’ve been here for that and to record albums as well. I have friends here in L.A., and my husband and I like it here, so we just decided to move here.
SSv: Has that been in the works for a while?
Sally: Not really. Although we really liked coming here, it’s only been in the last year that we’ve thought about it. We’ve previously always liked living in Australia.
SSv: Is it hard to leave?
Sally: Yeah it’s a little hard, but it also feels really good. I’ve never lived out of the country before, so it feels really new and exciting. We really like the energy here, so we’re feeling pretty good.
SSv: I want to get to Hey Daydreamer, but I’d love to hear about the space between albums. I know there was the project you did called Seeker Lover Keeper…
Sally: Yeah, it’s been very busy between albums. Sarah Blasko and Holly Throsby and I called ourselves Seeker Lover Keeper and we did an album together. We recorded in New York and toured quite a bit in Australia. So we had that going on and then we moved house a few times, wrote more songs and gradually started recording Hey Daydreamer. [Laughs]
SSv: Was Seeker Lover Keeper intended as a one-off?
Sally: We’ve all been friends for a while and it was something we’d talked about. I think we all just thought it would be fun and different. None of us had ever done something like that before. It was really fun and it ended up doing really well in Australia, probably better than any of us thought it would do. It was nice to sing together and have the harmonies. It felt really alive the way we recorded it.
SSv: When you’re writing a song, does it feel like you know where it will be used? You mentioned co-writing with others as well, so just curious if the songs feel like “Oh, that’s for me” or “That’s for this project I’m doing with friends”?
Sally: With Seeker Lover Keeper, we made this rule where we’d each write four songs and then we’d each have a song written on the album and then we’d go with that person on lead vocal, which made it fun. But usually I keep things for myself, especially for Hey Daydreamer, because that’s so personal. When I’m writing with someone else, it’s just totally different. It’s good to have that sense of freedom and get out of your own headspace.
SSv: One of the things that’s so striking about the new album is just how wide the emotional range is. The whimsical side on the title track and then other somber pieces… these songs sound like they’re from different seasons.
Sally: I did sort of write them all around a similar time. I had a lot of chaos and conflict within myself while I was writing them. I did want to have some darker songs and I did want to have a bit of a tougher song, like “I Will Not Wear Your Wedding Ring”. [Laughs] I felt like my previous album had so many love songs that I just wanted to express other sides and feelings that people have, I guess.
SSv: You said it was a chaotic time. Is songwriting a natural outlet for you for those things?
Sally: Yeah, songwriting is a very natural outlet for me. For example, when I started writing for Hey Daydreamer, it was right after a really busy time in my life. I was feeling really worn out and I couldn’t keep going. I didn’t want to continue anymore. My way of dealing with feelings like that is to write about it and to write songs about it.
SSv: Did you think about quitting in that season?
Sally: Yeah, certain times can be hard. I think it’s just all to do with balance in your life and creating down time. There are funny sides to this job where there’s lots of touring and being in the spotlight and stuff and then lots of writing and brain being overactive kind of times. It’s just a matter of trying to find balance within that and having space and time for friends.
SSv: Yeah that’s such an extreme lifestyle to move from the spotlight into the closet so you can go back into the spotlight. Have you learned some specifics about staying healthy?
Sally: It’s funny because you go through times where everyone is asking you to do things and you think, ‘Ah, I kind of want to do all of the things I’m being asked to do, but I can’t.’ Then other times, you wonder if anyone remembers whether or not you’re around. So I exercise and do yoga. I have a really amazing family and have a daughter now as well. That’s always something I place an emphasis on in my life and I think that helps keep me grounded.
SSv: Was that the closest you’ve ever come to quitting?
Sally: Maybe. It usually comes at the end of the cycle when you’ve done a bunch of shows. Writing for me is recharging and makes me feel good, so that’s the more natural side.
SSv: You brought up “I Will Not Wear Your Wedding Ring” and I was hoping to ask about that. That’s such a great track.
Sally: The first thing I thought just before I started writing that song was that I always hate how high my voice is. I hate how whimsical I sound, so I wanted to have a tougher sound in my repertoire. So I wrote that song. I was thinking of fairy tales where you have dark things that happen. It was just this place I went to in my mind with the stream at night and the girl crying out. It’s just how my brain works. [Laughs]
SSv: You brought up your response to the typical cycle. How are you feeling heading into this release?
Sally: I guess I always try to think that you can’t please everyone. People are going to be into it and others aren’t going to be into it. You just have to believe in what you do. I feel really proud of the album that we’ve made.
SSv: More so than other moments?
Sally: Yeah it feels really different because I made the album with my husband. It adds a whole different level to it, because that’s someone I really love and I want people to like it because I want them to like his input as well. [Laughs]
Photo: Cybele Malinwoski