Ceberano burns some bridges, but only up to a point
I’m Talking: My Life, My Words, My Music By Kate Ceberano, with Tom Gilling Hachette, 324pp, $32.99 SINGER Kate Ceberano has successfully reinvented herself several times during her three decades in the public eye, from precocious funk rocker to pop princess, jazz stylist and musical theatre drawcard.
That’s a lot of songs, and a lot of stories after being on the road for so long, working with a wide range of talents in the appallingly sexist, occasionally corrupt, music industry.
Accordingly, Ceberano, 47, has compiled an impressive raft of titillating and occasionally disquieting anecdotes while building a career of musical accomplishment, with a string of impressive honours as a performer including platinum and gold records with her first high-profile band I’m Talking and later as a solo artist. She
April 5-6, 2014 has also enjoyed success on television, hosting a late-night cabaret show and winning the popular Dancing with the Stars competition in 2007.
As a self-described “third-generation Scientologist”, she has long been a curiosity for the Australian media, seeking our own Tom Cruiselike devotee. So a book detailing her achievements, travails and beliefs is a commercial nobrainer, and may even fit the bill as the kind of personal audit her religion seems to embrace.
Ceberano doesn’t disappoint in terms of the potency of some of her recollections in I’m Talking: My Life, My Words, My Music, demonstrating a commendable directness and honesty. She is not afraid to burn a bridge or two and in her middle-age wisdom figuratively kneecaps a former lover here, ex-business associate there.
Structured tidily with co-author Tom Gilling, the stage is set early for a hauled-up-fromthe-bootstraps tale, as Ceberano recounts leaving home at 15 to live and breathe the scrappy and spirited Melbourne music scene as it exploded in the 1980s.
We learn intimate details of her sometimes tumultuous love life, the unattractively volatile side of her martial-arts-expert father, the curious quirkiness and bohemian nature of her extended family, the double-crossing and delusional behaviour of fellow band members. We taste the excitement of commercial success with her and sympathise when conniving and self-interested industry forces undermine her.
Ceberano discovers she has a half-brother to add to her close-knit tribe; sates a long-held desire to demonstrate convincingly she has chops as a jazz artist; flops a couple of times in pursuit of “becoming” an actor; rightly acknowledges the brilliance and influence of genuine visionaries such as music producer Nick Launay; and slams people she worked with in forays into reality TV, including fellow judge on the excruciating X-Factor talent show Mark Holden.
She gets a bit tetchy referencing the global success of Kylie Minogue but her frustration with mass-market pop, as someone who has played the filthy clubs with messy bands and en- dured low-paying gigs, is understandable, maybe even endearing. Her considerable capacity for self-effacement also probably helps buy her the right to the occasional diva outburst, although she seems to suffer the same blinkered approach many celebrities have in evaluating how she’s treated in the media.
Ceberano spends a good part of the book discussing the mistakes she’s made, particularly her unsuccessful attempts to ‘‘break’’ overseas, but relates how she was devastated when a magazine profile, in the course of noting her exceptional talent, made the same point about her unfulfilled dream of international success.
The narrative through-line in I’m Talking is: wildly skilled vocalist sows her seeds, experiences exhilarating highs, makes mistakes — crashing not burning — blossoming into a selfmade, self-confident, partner, businesswoman and performer with only blue sky ahead.
There is enough honesty in the book to feed a reader’s desire for more depth in analysis. Ceberano doesn’t avoid talking about some-