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Monday Moment: New level, new devil

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When I hit the ‘publish’ button with the link to my teen novel, Unrequited, last year, I had to phone my best friend to garner the last bit of courage I needed to actually share the link with my friends on Facebook.

This was a Big Deal.

These were my private imaginings. A story about people I’d created, saying made-up things in a plot that doesn’t exist in the real world.

This book exposed the inner workings of my daydreaming mind. It was like handing in a creative writing piece to your English teacher for criticism, but instead of your English teacher reading it, it’s anyone in the world who can red-pen it.

So when double ARIA-winning Canberra-raised musician, Sally Whitwell, said she needed courage to release her fourth album, I was flying, I knew what she meant.


It’s her first album as a composer.

These aren’t the tunes of others. They’re not tried and tested and loved by generations before ours, making a fairly ‘safe bet’ for release.

This is the inner workings of Sally’s creative mind. These are the musical stories she’s written. Made-up music. Music that anyone in the world can hear and criticise.

“I feel like I’ve graduated or something,” she admitted when we spoke about how scary it is to release into the world something this deeply personal.

“In my music, there are stories inspired by my mother’s immigration story, about being unable to sleep at night, about a weekly commute I used to make from Sydney to Newcastle for a teaching job and about falling in love with my beautiful partner Glennda. All subjects that are personal to me, close to my heart.”

Is it ludicrous to think that someone with two ARIAs and three previous albums — someone who performs all over the world — might still have doubts, professionally?

“Up until now, I’ve always recorded music written by other people,” Sally said. “I felt like I had more to give. So I plucked up the courage to put some of my own work out there. There are so many amazing singer/songwriters out there,” she explained. “I wondered, do I have enough to say?”

There’s a saying amongst the business groups I belong to: “New level, new devil.” Just when you’ve finally grappled with all your old insecurities and “Am I good enough’s” — just as you’re finally in your element and crushing it — suddenly you break through a level and step up.

Maybe it’s a promotion, or a bigger contract or a larger audience or some other marker of a big leap and, rather than know you can handle it easily, the way you’ve been handling what’s now become your comfort zone—you’re plunged right back to Base Camp and have to climb again.

New level. New devil. There will always be challenges if we continually stretch our boundaries.

So yes, a double ARIA winner releasing her first album as a composer is a huge step up. It’s a risk.

And if I was flying’s performance on the Classical iTunes and ARIA charts is anything to go by, it’s a risk that’s paying off…

I’m no music critic, but the album brings tears to my eyes, and not just because Sally is one of my oldest friends. It’s new classical music that’s easy to understand and listen to—with shapes and colours threaded through it lyrically… beautiful tunes, by someone whose tag-line is ‘Making Classical Music Friendly’.

Listen to a sample on Spotify and order your copy through iTunes or the ABC shop.

Giveaway time!

We’ve got five copies of Sally Whitwell’s I was Flying to give away to music lovers. Simply email and tell us what your most courageous achievement is. Competition closes Friday 26 June at 5pm. Winners will be notified by email and must be available to collect their prize in person.

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