Cyndi Boste – Tell it like it is
At the business end of commercial country music, Australia’s not really that different from the United States. There are the same silicon trappings: big hair, white hats, insipid power ballads, soft-focus video clips. The only difference is the occasional reference to Goondiwindi, jackaroos, or galahs in the gidgee — ‘Australiana’ which is just as foreign to Aussie city-dwellers as it is to the rest of the world.
Cyndi Boste was raised at the foot of the Dandenongs, a eucalypt-covered mountain range that surrounds the sprawling city of Melbourne. As she grew up, her hometown underwent the transition from semi-rural community to commuter suburb, and, she says, “as soon as I turned eighteen, I was outta there.
“Ever since, I’ve mixed with city people — the wrong kind of people, according to the country music establishment. But I’m not really traditional country music’s kind of dude; I don’t go to church on Sunday, I don’t sing about being a wife, and all that ma, pa and the kids stuff.
“All those big boys and girls,” she says, with a laughing shake of the head, expressing both wonder and repugnance for the Australian country-starmaking machine. “I don’t get it. Every now and then I think, I could make some money here by writing that formula crap; these guys at the top are so tragic! But y’know, I couldn’t do it. Once you wear your jeans that tight and tuck the T-shirt in, there’s no turning back.”
Boste has reasons to renounce young country artists running headlong into empty commercial careers. After all, she’s running, too. It’s just that she’s running in the opposite direction; she jettisoned a lucrative career as a solo covers singer on the pub circuit, and set out on the more arduous path of singer-songwriterdom.
Her debut solo album, Home Truths, was a self-financed affair that has had a slow-burn effect. A trickle of positive reviews and modest sales over the past year has gradually gathered force and generated its own quiet but noticeable ‘buzz’ in the States and Europe.
Having recently turned 40, Boste is gratified by the response to her newfound career as recording artist. “I’ve done thousands of shows over the years, and I don’t want to be an entertainer anymore; that’s not where I’m at,” she says. “Entertainment brings everything down to the lowest common denominator; it’s about pleasing everyone at once, and that’s where it goes wrong.”
Home Truths is a shining example of the rewards that can be reaped from following one’s convictions. An intensely personal album with sometimes harrowing lyrics borne out of Boste’s painful and traumatic childhood, Home Truths lives up to its name with songwriting that is unrepentant, hard-won, and brave. The emotions run deep and dark, yet the spirit and strength of Boste’s muscular alto voice, along with strong melodies and stunning instrumentation, make the record anything but an oppressive listen. “I didn’t set out to write a meaty album about abuse,” she says, “but it just came out — and it worked.”
Boste is now working on the follow-up, which will again be produced by Kerryn Tolhurst, a founding member of seminal Aussie country-rock act the Dingoes. Tolhurst’s many stateside and Australian production credits include Paul Kelly, the Black Sorrows, Jeff Lang and Bruce Henderson.
“I’m gonna throw everything at this one,” Boste says. “I’ve got a real hunger now for songwriting. I used to love the challenge of bursting open a barroom door and setting myself up onstage to sing to a room of drunk men. But once I started writing and creating music of my own, I’ve never been able to turn back.”