Mu­sic and a life- chang­ing mo­ment

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts -

W IN­NING the mu­sic cat­e­gory of the 2005 Qan­tas Spirit of Youth awards couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time for Melbourne mu­si­cian Sarah- Jane Wentzki of Princess One Point Five. Her mother had died three months be­fore and she was dis­traught and di­rec­tion- less. ‘‘ I was com­pletely out of con­trol,’’ she says. ‘‘ Af­ter hav­ing a tu­mul­tuous year in terms of re­la­tion­ships and fam­ily and life, to find out [ I had won SOYA] dur­ing that pe­riod was kind of like, oh my god, this is one of those mo­ments that they tell you about when some­one close to you dies: she’d be so proud.’’

Wentzki was study­ing me­dia art at RMIT in Melbourne at the time, and had just left a band to ex­per­i­ment more with her own style of mu­sic, a blend of elec­tro- pop.

She en­tered SOYA know­ing her work had been highly com­mended in the mu­sic cat­e­gory the year be­fore, but wasn’t con­fi­dent. Her album, made with some Aus­tralia Coun­cil fund­ing for about $ 2000, was com­pet­ing against the work of more es­tab­lished mu­si­cians: ‘‘ There were all th­ese bands on ma­jor la­bels do­ing th­ese great al­bums with lots of pub­lic­ity and huge bud­gets.’’

Win­ning the award was not just un­ex­pected, it was life chang­ing, she says.

‘‘ It gave me faith in what I was do­ing . . . it gave me this sense of hope when I was re­ally bleak. When you’re on an Indie la­bel and you’ve been on Aus­tudy for four years sur­viv­ing on $ 150 a week, to get an enor­mous wad of cash to be able to do what you want to do with your life is amaz­ing.’’

Wentzki used the $ 5000 cash prize to record and pro­mote her sec­ond album, The Truth, which was short­listed for the Aus­tralian Mu­sic Prize and se­cured her a num­ber of mu­sic li­cens­ing deals and tour sup­ports for Ben Kweller and Josh Pike.

Many of her sin­gles have since had high­ro­ta­tion air­play on 3RRR, PBS and na­tional broad­caster Triple J, and her third album is due out in Oc­to­ber.

‘‘ The ex­tra pub­lic­ity from the win also re­sulted in a short doco on ABC TV and an ar­ti­cle in Jmag,’’ she says. ‘‘ We’ve gone from be­ing a com­pletely ob­scure indie band to a slightly less ob­scure indie band.’’

Win­ning SOYA gave Wentzki the con­fi­dence to take her work more se­ri­ously and com­mit to a ca­reer in mu­sic. She en­rolled in a small busi­ness man­age­ment course and, with the help of a NEIS ( New En­ter­prise In­cen­tive Scheme) al­lowance, is ‘‘ try­ing to do mu­sic full- time’’.

She adds: ‘‘ To say it’s the cash that was most ben­e­fi­cial is pretty friv­o­lous when you take into ac­count if I hadn’t been given that money I wouldn’t have been able to make an album that was es­sen­tially for my mum . . . and that was such an im­por­tant part about grow­ing as a mu­si­cian and per­son.’’

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