Greta Bradman, soprano & psychologist, 36
The love song Every Day Is A Rainbow Day For Me was written in 1930 by your grandfather Sir Donald Bradman. Why record it now? We are a very private family but now I feel like I can celebrate the fact that my grandpa wrote a piece of music for my grandma Jessie; I’m so proud of him for that. The fact he was a cricketer is incidental. The point is it connects me with a sense of family, which is what the album is all about.
What do you think of when you sing it? How grandma was the light of grandpa’s life, the rainbow in his sky. Relationships aren’t all smooth sailing, but they made it look pretty easy.
Your fourth album Home is about family, friends and gratitude. Is your recovery from neck surgery part of all that? It was a real “aha” moment for me. In 2016 I had a branchial cleft fistula (a congenital abnormality) fixed and my tonsils removed, and I couldn’t talk for a while. When my voice did start to come back I sounded like a billy goat. I honestly did not think I would sing anymore. I just thought, “Oh bugger it, if I have the chance to sing again, this is the album I’d like to make.”
How important is home for you? I think about it a lot. Having kids (Jude and Caspar, with husband Didier Elzinga) does that to you, particularly when you travel. I’m an unlikely singer in a way; I love to sing and make music but I’m no diva. For me it’s about the small moments, the connection between people.
Fame, on the other hand, is something your extended family rejected… I think fame is nothing to aspire to. Grandpa had a sense that fame can be a cage and doesn’t provide anything useful in one’s life, and I took that on board.
You were raised in Adelaide under the name Bradson. Why did you change it back to Bradman in your teens? The whole family did. After my grandma died in 1997, Dad suggested it because Grandpa was then sort of alone in his name. Grandpa was really touched. But I am so glad I grew up Bradson – no one made the connection. Grandpa totally got it – he and dad were humble people who wanted to be treated normally.
You revealed in 2015 that you struggled with mental health issues in your late teens and tried to damage your voice. Was the idea of being in the spotlight that terrifying? I love music but I have always found being the centre of attention really uncomfortable. That’s probably why I was pushing [a musical career] away. I didn’t want to have a public profile.
Why did you study psychology? I am fascinated with what drives people and gives them meaning; how we can live our most rewarding, fulfilling life. I’m also interested in aspects of performance, including anxiety, and optimising mental health.
What brought you back to music? Around the time I decided to focus primarily on singing (2010), I decided: hang on, this is classical music! It’s not bought in this country. Even if I manage to scale the heights, I’ll still be able to walk down the street…
In 2017 you made your Opera Australia debut as Mimi in La Bohème. How much of a challenge was that? I love doing opera. I can’t do a lot of it because I’ve made the decision to spend more time with my family. But the process is wonderful; it’s very collegial. Being one of many is just the best.
i’m so proud of grandpa for writing a song for grandma