American vocalist Eva Cassidy is best known for her interpretations of pop, jazz and gospel classics, but only found fame posthumously. When Bowditch announces that she’s performing (and has co-written) a show dedicated to Cassidy’s life, she’s often surprised by people’s enthusiastic response. “Every time I say, ‘Oh, I’m doing this concert,’ their eyes light up and they say, ‘Oh I love Eva.’ It’s quite sweet – she obviously has a strong place in people’s hearts,” says Bowditch.
The 2006 Best Female Artist ARIA award-winner Bowditch began her own career at the age of 16 when she started gigging around Melbourne. But, like many artists, she found it difficult to earn a living so didn’t seriously pursue a musical career until she was 26. “Music was always something I loved doing but I couldn’t work out how you could play music and make a living as well,” she says. “So, I always figured I’d be a journalist or radio documentarian or something along those lines but then I think my love for music just kicked in and I had to give it a crack really.”
These days, Bowditch is a passionate advocate for music and the arts. With a Bachelor of Creative Arts from Melbourne University under her belt, Bowditch has experience in both theatre and creative writing. With her interest in the life and music of Eva Cassidy she was qualified to co-write EVA – Tales From The Life Of Eva Cassidy, alongside Jim McPherson who also wrote The Man In Black about Johnny Cash. “I studied creative writing at university but this is the first time I’ve ever taken on a narrative concert so it’s good to be working with a really experienced narrative concert writer like Jim,” admits Bowditch.
As Eva is a narrative concert, Bowditch will be performing as herself but singing Cassidy’s songs which, she says, is a break from her own material. “For me it’s an indulgence to sing these glorious old fashioned hits that people just love and can’t help but tap their toes to,” she says.
Although, she admits, hours of research went into the project. “I went through hundreds of articles about her and did a lot of talking with other people about their knowledge of her. I spoke with her record company executives and listened to every song of hers that I could get my hands on… she sang backup for 2pac and everything.”
Cassidy never received the recognition she deserved in her lifetime, but her story is one of determination and uncompromising self-fulfilment, which is what Bowditch is most attracted to. In the nineties, Bowditch explains, there was grunge and pop. However, Cassidy didn’t fit into either stereotype. She refused to bow to record company wishes and thought that wearing skimpy clothing on stage was ridiculous. “She wasn’t wanting to play the game, she just wanted to sing,” explains Bowditch. “I can definitely relate to that part of her story about just wanting to sing, without all the other bullshit.”
Similarly, Bowditch has made a name for herself within the Australian music industry for her fortitude and creativity, even while raising a young family with her husband and drummer, Marty Brown, whom she speaks of often. Although, warns Bowditch, the juggle of family and touring is increasingly difficult with her children reaching school age. This dedication to both family and music is an example of Bowditch’s own resilience in a difficult industry.
Nevertheless, she is excited about EVA and other projects on the horizon including her Winter Secrets tour, where audience members have the opportunity to play covers of Bowditch songs, and a forthcoming EP featuring Wally De Backer (Gotye) and Lisa Mitchell.
But for now, EVA will provide us with an opportunity to hear Bowditch in a different light. She explains that EVA is a celebration of life featuring some well known and much loved songs. “If people in the audience are fans of mine they’ll get to see me live, if they’re fans of Eva they’ll get to celebrate her, if they’ve never heard of either of us they can just come and be entertained.”
Clare Bowditch performs EVA – Tales From The Life Of Eva Cassidy at The Athenaeum Theatre from Tuesday August 9 until Sunday August 21. Tickets are available from Ticketaster. More info available at talesfromthelifeofevacassidy.com.au.