Kate Ceberano

'I've got to be honest - it terrifies me," Kate Ceberano says. "I don't know why. It's as if you had a right hand that did things without your consent. That's how I feel about this part of me that's gone out and written a book. I should really have written it in a room with padded walls."

I'm on the line with this most protean of musicians - Ceberano was just in Perth doing cabaret with opera singer Teddy Tahu Rhodes and WASO; she'll be back in May as one of the star attractions of the Perth International Jazz Festival - and we're talking about I'm Talking: My life, my words, my music, Ceberano's frank and often self-effacing autobiography.

"I'm a musician in the barest essentials," admits the 47-year-old Melbourne-born singer-songwriter whose 33-year-plus career has seen her top the charts many times and win countless awards across a multitude of genres including pop, soul, blues, funk, jazz, cabaret and musical theatre. "I can pump out chords and I can create songs and melodies on the piano. Whereas jazz, like classical, requires a lot of study and there's a ceiling level you get to when, like myself, you perform by ear."

Yet being a purely instinctual musician does have its advantages. "It's a place where sometimes even very learned musicians wish they could go back to, because you hear between the cracks," she says. "You hear things and react to them on a very instinctive level."

If you're looking for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, you'll find it in Ceberano's book. As she writes of her first sexual experience, "It was like a Puberty Blues nightmare. I was young and old at the same time. The experience made me so ashamed that I couldn't tell anyone and I don't think I ever have - until now."

If you're looking for revelations, they're here too: in the book, Ceberano's mother Cheri writes movingly of Bey, the (third) brother Kate never knew she had and who had been given up for adoption.

But if you're looking for the heart of the book, you'll find it in Ceberano's own search to realise her potential as an artist - and in a determination to honour the family and friends who helped her on her way. Along with her grandparents - whom she clearly adored - her parents, siblings and husband, the director Lee Rodgers, Ceberano says she's "travelled with some extraordinary people". People such as Nick Launay, the producer of Ceberano's 1989 hit album, Brave and Malcolm MacLaren.

"He was amazing," Ceberano says. "I might have been rejected by the process we were in but I wasn't rejected by him."

She also recollects "partying" with Baz Lurmann and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. "You look at these people at the very top of their profession, and out of it all is this being reassured that even with that talent and ability there are certain sacrifices as well but you feel the sacrifices are worth making."

Ceberano draws great strength from her beliefs. "I practise the philosophy of Scientology because I feel more civilised by doing that. There's a sense of responsibility and there's beauty to being self- governing and having that awareness of others and being in a relationship with them. "

Ultimately, for Ceberano being an artist is about the irrepressible urge to create. "All I want to be is happy with what I create," she says. "That was always the guiding philosophy for me. And I'm still loving it."

'I'm a musician in the barest essentials. I can pump out chords and I can create songs and melodies on the piano. Whereas jazz, like classical, requires a lot of study and there's a ceiling level you get to when, like myself, you perform by ear.'


The West Australian

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