Multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and visual artist Sarah Mary Chadwick has a knack for singling out those relatable but often-unnoticed moments that fill our everyday lives. Her songs are raw and wryly funny, swinging from bad breakups to the beauty and pain of simply existing, and drinking on a Tuesday.
Chadwick’s eighth album, Messages to God, will be released on September 15. She’s also responsible for its cover art, a painting of herself surrounded by others at a piano. Along with the album she has an exhibition coming up in November with fellow artist Craig Dermody at Neon Parlour.
After many years living in Melbourne, the New Zealand-born musician is firmly settled here. She shares her favourite places to eat, where she takes someone if she wants to impress them and the city’s most underrated spots.
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Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in New Zealand, but have lived in Melbourne since I was 22. I am from a very small rural town called Taumarunui; my dad was a farmer and lived his entire life there. It’s a beautiful, pristine, violent and very separate kind of place that provokes very strong feelings in me. My father was Māori and I think that plays into the feeling of being very connected to the land itself.
Here are some things I love in no particular order: songwriting, cooking, psychoanalysis, my dog Sylvie (named after Sylvia Plath), my husband Simon J Karis, my friends, making records and – I know it seems very on the nose – but I do love Melbourne. I have had a lot of fun here and so many of the people that I love and am close to live here.
Where do you go drinking on a Tuesday?
Up until late last year I would’ve been drinking on a Tuesday at my cheffing job at Longplay in Fitzroy North, where I worked for a long time. [And] I always like The Alderman, where we shot the video for Drinkin’ On A Tuesday.
What do you love about Melbourne?
I love how Melbourne is so big and varied it’s possible to ignore the things you don’t like and really build a world that contains all the parts that you do like. I love all the creeks and parks for my dog. I love that if you make it your business to surround yourself with nice people, you can feel supported and also be supportive of others. I like the tenacity – after Covid and with the cost of living, people still try so hard to make it work. And, especially, I like how there’s a lot of stuff happening because people love doing it, not just for ambition or financial gain.
Spice Mix on Lygon Street. We used to call it “the other dimension”, ‘cause it would be open till 4am and serve booze till close. I love Misoya Sake Bar on Sydney Road – I spent lockdown mastering ramen and I got obsessed with it. And Khabbay, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant on Lygon Street blew our minds the other night, it was amazing.
Where do you go for brunch or breakfast?
If we pop out I would get a sandwich at Suntop Plaza at the end of the Nicholson Street tram line, or from Stefanino Panino or Wild Life Bakery, both in East Brunswick.
What about a big night?
I have had quite a few big nights at Avalon in Fitzroy. It’s also a great place to play music or see a show, ‘cause it sounds so great for small, intimate shows.
When you want to impress someone, where do you take them?
Dainty Sichuan on Lonsdale Street, because the decor is cool and it’s a fun thing to do to put all the stuff together [hotpot]. I used to always love going to Siglo on Spring Street in the city, because you can have a cigarette and look over the city on the roof.
I like Howard Bolton Bookseller in Northcote. I also love Northcote Plaza and Northland Shopping Centre. So much. I’m a mall person. I like Lore Perfumery on Brunswick Street, and Smith Street Bazaar – when I lived in Collingwood I would love to pop in and browse.
Top spot for live music?
I like seeing people play in smaller places that are maybe a little different. I’ve played at Tempo Rubato in Brunswick and also been to a few things there that were pretty special. East Mint in Northcote put on great shows. For the right show, Avalon is great. To see a louder band, I always have a good time at the Northcote Social Club. As part of Rising, my band Batrider played at The Forum – this is not a hot take but it’s obviously one of Melbourne’s most special venues. I think The Toff always sounds great, and I’m a sucker for cabaret seating. M Pavilion in the summer at the Queen Victoria Gardens is a lovely free contribution to Melbourne. Apax Warehouse in Preston is great for unusual shows.
Is there somewhere that makes Melbourne a better place?
I really think Merri Creek and Darebin Creek are so insanely special, to have that level of nature so accessible in the city. I spend at least a couple hours walking with the dog there every single day.
Essential Melbourne book, album or song?
I feel like [band] Htrk is a very Melbourne sound. Table For Two by Superstar is an album that comes to mind. And the Angie record Shyness feels like a Melbourne bar record to me, even though I know Angie is from Sydney. It’s very moody.
Messages From God is out on September 15 from Kill Rock Stars, and is now available to pre-order.