Steph O’Hara (AKA TLSQ Violinist) and Sarah Ward (AKA Yana Alana) have known and worked with each other for nearly 15 years. November the 26th will be the very first time they share the stage as performers. Let’s hope it is the first of many times. Read the answers below for some insight into this charming duo and come and hear the results of their collaboration with The Letter String Quartet on November 26th at The Melbourne Recital Centre. Two shows: 4pm and 7pm. For bookings and more info visit HERE.
When did you first meet and what were your first impressions of each other?
Sarah Ward: Way back in the early 2000’s I met Steph as a sound engineer for Sista She, a feminist hip hop cabaret act. We were really demanding and I, in particular, was very anxious. I take meds now! He was so calm and thoughtful and hard working and handsome and I’m pretty sure I had a crush on him and used to call him wolf man because he has eyes like a wolf. Only later did I find out he was also an excellent violinist and composer. Basically he was a handsome ball of talent, ridiculous!
Steph O’Hara: I met Sarah, as a sound engineer, at a sound check for Sista She. It was their first Melbourne Fringe Show. The team on stage were amazing, passionate, funny and a little stressed. Sarah was directing and singing and dancing and doing it all whilst getting into costume. And once the audience were in, I remember hearing Sarah’s voice and thinking…WOW!
Did that initial impression stand up?
S.W: Yes and more. He's been the sound engineer for a number of other shows I’ve performed in. He always has a warm energy, hardworking ethic and feed back if you ask (my favourite sound engineers are working artists so can give excellent notes).
S.O’H: It was great working with her. She really cared a lot about sound, she made me work hard to make sure she had a great listening experience on stage. She would spend a lot of time on her voice and sound. And when everything was working well (most of the time, I hope) she really gave amazing performances.
What is the most annoying thing about Steph that makes you love him more?
S.W: He’s really honest, blatantly. The truth will out. But all my favourite people in the world are this way.
What is the most annoying thing about Sarah that makes you love her more?
S.O’H: She’s a diva. Diva’s are annoying but one of the reasons why we love them, right?
Do you get nervous before performing, if so, how do you combat that?
S.W: I do but it’s getting a lot better. Some nerves are important, they fill me with the energy I need to reach the audience. When it tips over to anxiety that’s when I have to start with the breathing exercises and hard liquor (joking).
S.O’H: Sometimes I do, often when I don’t feel confident. To combat it, I try to breathe deeply, tell myself it really doesn’t matter, I’m alive and the worst that can happen is…..embarrassment.
What was your collaborative process for this particular project?
S.W: Steph asked me to send him some songs, we backed and forth about what would be best. He chose his favourite for arranging and sent me one of his which I love. I nearly cried when I heard the strings play one of them last week, such an honour.
S.O’H: We talked around some crazy ideas briefly at first, then slowly moved towards finding some of Sarah’s material that she felt could work with the quartet. I really wanted to have a piece that wasn’t her’s also and finally came upon an old song I had written years ago. I had recordings of versions of these songs and began arranging them.
Does it differ from how you have worked together in the past?
S.W: Almost entirely, we will share the stage together and I will swim over the strings, I am getting my bathers on now, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to singing his arrangements.
S.O’H: We never ever worked together is this way before. We’ve done many shows together but have never performed together. It’s crazy to think we never got the chance till now. It’s never too late.
What are you reading at the moment?
S.W: Maxine Beneba Clark ‘Foreign Soil’ incredible writing and essential reading, she’s a wonderful woman.
S.O’H: Read. I don’t have time to read. Random articles on the internet ranging from software development to Philip Glass on controlling your output and getting paid for what you make.
What’s your favourite podcast?
S.W: Oh man, I don’t even have an Instagram, honestly I can barely turn on my computer, you should have asked ‘when was the last time you backed up’ and reiterated that you weren’t talking about my bowel motions.
S.O’H: So many….a few…..
Nerd time : Accidental Tech Podcast, Debug.
Relax time : Radio Lab, Reply All, Sweetest Plum
What is next for Steph/Sarah/Yana? – together or apart.
S.W: A show please, I have an idea!
S.O’H: Together : Hopefully we can make a show together sometime in the near future. I also hope I can continue mixing for her shows, when possible.
Apart : Make more stuff.
If you were not a musician or performing artist, what would be your ideal occupation?
S.W: Mmm, working in animal welfare or a park ranger or an extremely wealthy philanthropist.
S.O’H: I recently mentioned to my partner having a full-time job in a hardware store in a country town would be great.
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
S.W: Am I a musician? I suppose I am. I write songs, I just play instruments very badly, although I have an innate skill when I pick up instruments I never see it through.
S.O’H: Very early on. As far as I can remember actually. It seemed a good fit.
What was your first instrument?
S.W: Guitar. But more interesting is what came next. Alto Sax, Irish Bagpipes, Piano, Trumpet, French Horn, Descant Recorder and Bells (Yes I was in NSW best Bell Ensemble). Loved it!
S.O’H: Piano then Violin.
What is the strangest music gig/job that you’ve done?
S.W: That’s subjective. I worked 3 days a week in an organic coffee factory which is strange to a musician and I have been on stage singing about my vagina which is strange to a factory worker.
S.O’H: Whilst living in Holland, I once traveled several hours to play with a bunch of Turkish musicians who didn’t speak any English or Dutch. We had a very quick rehearsal before the gig and then played for several hours at a gallery in the middle of a country field full of cows. The exhibition was all Australian Indigenous Art work.
What is the strangest non-music job you’ve ever done?
S.W: I dressed up like a half jester, half alien and walked around in a tube with wheels at Darling Harbour and no one thought it was very good. I was meant to be mute and had to you use hand gestures when a young angry man from the ‘burbs’ wanted to know what I was, I couldn’t move very fast or talk and let’s just say I ended up on the floor exposing my jeans and children though that was the best bit, I got $300 but it was 2001 and that paid rent then.
S.O’H: Working for a call centre. It wasn’t strange until someone on the phone once told me that they couldn’t answer my questions because the building they were in was on fire. It really was. Really.