24 May 2024

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Margaret Urlich


Ever since releasing her debut solo album 'Safety In Numbers' in 1989, Margaret Urlich has come to realise just how much her music is a part of people's lives. Despite the fact that she was a completely unknown quantity, New Zealand born Urlich saw her first album steadily build into a major hit on the Australian charts. By '91, 'Safety In Numbers' had gained the singer an astonishing three platinum albums in Australia and a #1 platinum album in her homeland.

In March 1991 she returned to the studio to commence pre-production for her second album with English Writer/Producer Robyn Smith, the man behind her highly successful debut.

By mid year, Urlich and Smith had entered Sydney's 301 Studios to record their two songs, plus a third track written by Smith and Barry Blue. The same team had been responsible for two of the best tracks on 'Safety In Numbers' ('Escaping' and 'Guilty People'), and their latest offering 'Boy in the Moon', was to prove pivotal to the sound of the new album.

But Margaret Urlich wanted more from her second album. So with determination and sense of purpose she left Australia on a creative odyssey that would take her first to London to co-write with celebrated writers like Rob Fisher (of Clinnie/Fisher fame) who she wrote the albums title track 'Chameleon Dreams'. On to Los Angeles, she met up with Grammy Award winning Writer/Producer Ian Prince - one of the key contributors to Quincy Jones celebrated 'Back On The Block' project. She wrote two songs with Ian, and the four tracks he finally produced for 'Chameleon Dreams' have a tough, urban feel which fuses well with the more soulful sound that has become Margaret's trademark.

Back in London again, Margaret co-wrote with Simon Law and Tony Swain before completing the project with three tracks produced by Tony (best known for his work with Alison Moyet and Spandau Ballet). But despite the profusion of writers, producers and studios, 'Chameleon Dreams' is a highly focused and integrated musical work that has achieved Platinum Status in Australia and New Zealand.

When it came time for Margaret to record her third album, she gravitated naturally back to her country of origin and much-loved hometown of Auckland.

With her third offering 'The Deepest Blue', she was ready to prove just how far she had come as a songwriter, vocalist and musical stylist. But intriguingly, having spent much of 1994 living back in New Zealand - and appearing in a major concert production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' - she opted to stay a while and work where she felt most comfortable.

On 'The Deepest Blue', Margaret returns to the songwriting set-up that works best for her - her long standing partnership with British Writer/Producer Robyn Smith. Smith and Urlich co-wrote all but two of the tracks on 'The Deepest Blue' - and the resultant focus and consistency is apparent throughout the album.

"I think songwriters are lucky", she laughs. "We have a chance to really think about the way we feel - and while that can be a really draining experience, it's also fantastic to tap into that depth of emotion we all have. I put a lot of energy into every song I write. I take a lot of the things that happen to me and I try to present them in an original way".

If there's one word that crops up in any discussion of the way Margaret Urlich records, it's "control". Never one to subscribe to the image of the female singer as a brainless bimbo at the mercy of manipulative svengalis, Urlich is one artist who likes to know exactly what is happening on her albums. No detail is too insignificant.

1998 was a turning point for Margaret, with her contract with Sony Music expired, she moved to the Southern Highlands of NSW where she set up home and a new recording studio with her partner. It was at this time that that the seeds were beginning to emerge for what was to become Margaret Urlich's latest album 'Second Nature'.

What started out as a fun thing to do in a new studio became a recording project that was to last over 12 months and involve some of the finest musicians from Australia and New Zealand as well as the producing talents of Eddie Rayner from Split Enz fame.

The idea was simple, record some great songs written by New Zealanders. The reality was much harder as Margaret didn't want to record just a 'best of' album, but rather include songs that she felt personally drawn to and therefore needed to feel reasonably confident that she could do justice to them.

The list was narrowed down to writers and bands that influenced Margaret throughout her life and career. These included artists like Split Enz, Crowded House, Dave Dobbyn, Max Merrit, Shona Laing, Don McGlashan and Tim Finn to name a few.

In Margaret's own words: "This is not about better versions of existing songs as I feel that the original versions, sung and played by the original musicians are the definitive versions, and to compete with that would be futile. I guess that this album is about me having a brilliant time recording some excellent songs and learning a lot more about songwriting in the process."

In a professional career that is now into its second decade, Margaret Urlich has carved herself a distinctive niche in a highly competitive industry that has no room for second best. A serious songwriter/performer, with a touch of dance floor diva and studio boffin and an enthralling live performer, Margaret Urlich is a unique artist who has truly challenged the stereotypes.

Margaret Urlich passed away on 22 August 2022.



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