Music and a life- changing moment
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.’’