Powerful, engrossing and bold, Karise Eden’s new album Born To Fight captures the spirit of the singer who shot to fame at the age of just 19 and soon grew into a woman more than ready to take on the world.
Karise knows there’s strength in her vulnerability, she’s been there and she can plumb those depths. But since releasing her second album Things I’ve Done (2014) she realised she wanted to make music that showed her fiery side and her passion for blues, rock’n roll and even a great power ballad. “I’ve always been singing sad soul songs and I thought, just for once, there’s another side of my personality that’s never been shown on camera, my off-screen sass and who I am as a person, and that’s a lot of what poured into this album,” she says.
No song on the record demonstrates that more than ‘Temporary Lovers’. “I think that’s me letting that bull out of the cage saying ‘I’m fiery. I’m foxy. I’m sassy’ and that I’ve come back with a bit of a punch,” she says.
Over the past three-and-a-half years, Karise took time to focus on being a mother. It’s time she needed, and time she valued, but she began to feel there was a boldness buried inside her that needed to come out.
It wasn’t just psychological. Karise was physically discovering how to sing in new ways. “I think my vocal range has become quite a bit lower since I’ve become a mum. The bottom end of my register has gotten thicker and a lot richer. I find there’s a lot more confidence and strength in my high notes but I’m just able to push and pull from all these new found little things all of a sudden,” she says.
Teaming up with Melbourne producer Jan Skubiszewski (Dan Sultan, John Butler Trio, ILLY, Ella Hooper and The Cat Empire) Karise started to explore this fuller sound in his Red Moon Studios in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges.
She used imagery to explain how she wanted the music to sound. She imagined the American desert – a mysterious and haunting landscape – and the kind of music that wouldn’t be out of place in a classic spaghetti Western.
“I pictured Clint Eastwood in his Westerns, but as music,” she says. “It’s beautiful, yet it’s a bit scary. It makes you feel haunted, yet loved and scared and caressed all at the same time. It’s just got this eerie vibe about it.”
On a track such as ‘Powerless’ it’s hard not to imagine Karise in that desert, ready to face anyone or anything that would dare to challenge her. These are songs from a woman ready to take on anything, which is exactly how she felt at the beginning of the recording process. But just as she was about to lay down the final vocals, she lost someone close to her. “That was a big turning point,” she says.
It was a difficult time for Karise, but she chose to go on with the album realising the music would help the healing process.
“There are actually vocals on the album from the day I found out he passed. It was probably one of the most heart-wrenching things I’ve ever had to do,” she says.
It was a moment that reminded her of the importance of life and how precious it is to be here.
As a musician, Karise still enjoys the element of surprise and the chance to take an unexpected turn. Just when you think you know where the album is going, Karise will throw a curve ball. A blues song will morph into a synthesiser breakdown, or a Motown-inspired track will be followed by a song that Meat Loaf would kill to have in his arsenal. But it always comes back to the song. “I only sing songs that mean something to me,” she says.
So she took the opportunity to work with a dear friend, songwriter Alysia Rosa, and co-wrote the song ‘Hopeless’. She wasn’t afraid to let her acoustic-guitar playing stand out as a moment of true reflection on the album. “Because of the lyrical content and the story it tells, I wanted to keep that song in its rawest form,” she says.
One of the last songs to go on the album was the title track, which has a lot of meaning for Karise. It’s a song of survival and about overcoming anything, and it helped this young woman realise how strong she truly is.
“I have this big sense and overwhelming feeling of ‘Here I am, I’m not dead yet. I’m not going away’,” she says. “That’s a lot of Born To Fight, that I’m not going away no matter what keeps pushing me in certain directions.
“I’m still young, I’m still here and I’ve got a lot more life and power in me.”