Ce­ber­ano burns some bridges, but only up to a point

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Greg Tru­man

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-

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