We began by talking about our dreams in abstraction, the intuition that webs our subconscious. Indigo Sparke, the Australian singer-songwriter, expertly builds a world of her own in her music — dreamlike, filled with coursing energies and space to let yourself expand.
“I think I’ll like, wake up and … I’m still living in the motion and some sort of dream space,” she mused in a Zoom interview with The Daily. Her dreams infiltrate every inch of her new record, Echo. The beginning of consciousness when waking can be so hard to pinpoint. Sometimes, upon arising from a deep sleep, there is a feeling, just for a bit, that you’ve come into a very real world that is not your own. This otherworldliness is prominent in her music.
Sometimes, though, Sparke’s dreams give her a better sense of connection with her life. These dreams are “psychic,” even as she laughs at herself for using the word. They give her a sense of what is to come, preparing her for a future she can face calmly. We discussed why this inner sense of prophecy might be figuring its delicate way into her sleep.
“I think actually, everybody has the capacity to tune into an energy field where the information is existing already,” she said quietly. “And I think everybody has access to a certain level of intuition. And it’s just about refining that tool and tuning into something that is so inherently what it means to be a human being in a world where we’re living in subtle energy.”
This sort of mindfulness requires the trifecta of body, mind and environment to carefully be in tune. Her music walks this line. At the best of times, this personal balance is difficult to manage; in periods of suffering, it can feel like the three are falling out of sync in a way that can never be repaired.
Oh, these periods of suffering. Sparke’s haunting, gentle voice paints a fragile veneer over the chasms of emotion her new work covers. It draws deeply from the spirit of the desert. The stretching of skies found in such a landscape was a necessity for her at the moment of writing. It was an environment she could fill her lungs with, something she could merge with and allow to envelop her. She described herself as surrendering to her environment, as though this was something everyone did, as if everyone had as easy of a time letting go of the boundaries of their body and becoming a part of a whole. It is a gift, a way to contribute to the experience of everything around you.
This sense of everything, a holistic view of the world, falls right in line with Sparke’s philosophy. She believes that “everything is inherently linked and there is a greater energy,” pivoting toward a discussion of spirituality in her music. An old man named God who lives in the clouds is not in her periphery. Faith of any kind is a tricky thing to capture with your own two hands in a definitive way; it is something that she thinks of as lived, instead of conjured in the mind. Your outside reflects your inside, both in your actions of living a sacred life and in dealing with your own traumas. “The Urgency of Change,” a book by Jiddu Krishnamurti she told me about, handles this subject well, addressing, in Sparke’s words, how we are “always seeing externally … what is unresolved internally.”
“I feel like I’m full of minefields that I’m constantly trying to understand,” she finished, although not hopelessly. This self-searching process is part of the privilege of life, and one she pursues in so many different ways.
I asked: “When do you feel most at peace with yourself and the world around you?” She instantly recalled the desert and the ocean, open spaces that allow room for her to be. Another instance, perhaps, of using our external and internal environments to tap into each other. This sense of peace is something that comes and goes for her, just like for the rest of us; what motivates her music and her life are the themes of love and grief.
“What is it to heal?” she asked, a question coming some months after the breakup of a meaningful relationship. “I feel that you can’t have the healing without the breaking in some way.”
Breaking yourself down is a process that feels like it must have some absolute end, but really, it is a cyclical one. These senses of love and grief have inhabited her life ever since she was a kid, and they take their rightful places in her music. The gentle humming of guitars and plaintive lilt of her voice gives a sweetness to any tears produced over the course of her life.
Tears of love, tears of change. On the cover of her new album, her long blonde hair blows across her face, with her eyes peering out of the shadows it creates. This shadow has since been removed, as she hacked off her hair until it was shoulder-length in a cathartic process that included half an hour of sobbing. It involved ridding herself of the male gaze, as she let go of the trait she had been complimented on since childhood.
“It didn’t take away from how I saw myself in my beauty at all,” Sparke told me. It allowed her to define her beauty for herself, instead of having others try to do it for her.
“Someone told me that hair holds trauma,” she said, building up to a laugh. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got like, 17 years on me.’”
Not only a physical change, the cutting of hair allowed something to click between mind and body. All of a sudden, there came a connection.
“Once I chopped it off, I actually realized that in a place in a home deeper in myself than I even knew was there, my values were actually intact in some way,” Sparke said. She described her core values as consistency, vulnerability and honesty, pausing between each word, turning it over on her tongue and in her mind as she checked to make sure it truly matched her feelings.
Consistency is a virtue in love and relationships of any kind, she decided. This safe harbor of return assuages the physical stress she feels upon change. That doesn’t mean impulses can’t figure their way in, though. “Dog Bark Echo,” one of the tracks on her new album, was recorded spontaneously a while back, when living with fellow artists in a castle in Italy. There is a magic there that she keeps with her. It is magic of a very personal kind; Sparke is keenly herself at all times, in conversations and in songs, even when it bruises and hurts.
Vulnerability and honesty are woven into the fabric of her music — her work is a healing scab, acknowledging that its recovery is impermanent and that the skin will eventually be broken again. She lays herself bare not only in the words she sings but in how she sings them, offering them as an expression of her truest self. She makes this music for what she’s going through, she told me, never appeasing the listener. By allowing others to take it in, she reveals one of the most sensitive parts of herself. And yet, there is tacit kindness figuring into honesty.
“Sometimes I really do believe there are things better left unsaid,” she said earnestly. “In music too … In life, in music.” Some things simply lose their magic when said too explicitly.
Despite a writing process that focuses on her interpretation of life at the moment, she does not view her music and words as belonging to her at all. Near the end of our conversation, she told me energetically of the spirit of the genius, waving her hands around and laughing as she tried to explain this great ghost. It may relate back, in some way, to our earlier conversation about spirituality and faith. The creative spirit, she believes, takes its place in each artist, but is not theirs to keep. Each piece is fingerprinted by the individual that made it, but ultimately it belongs to some larger fantastic entity.
“Artists have … (a) duty to create from their heart and their soul in an honest space. And then once (it’s) fully formed, put it out into the world. And then it’s not about them anymore. It’s about the listener in the audience,” she said.
There is sincerity and grace in these words, as she allows herself, once again, to selflessly become part of a greater whole.
Echo, Indigo Sparke’s debut album, is out Feb. 19.
Daily Arts Writer Rosa Sofia Kaminski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.