When Same Same speaks to Karise Eden, the winner of the first series of the Australian incarnation of The Voice is sitting pretty on the top of the ARIA Albums Chart, dominating the iTunes Top 10 with recordings of her performances from the show… and still trying to comprehend her sudden rise to fame and acclaim.
Mere weeks after emerging from the “strange bubble” that was being on the show, she’s enjoying some much-needed downtime, hanging out with family in Queensland as she prepares to head overseas for the first time in her life.
She’ll head to London, where she’ll begin writing songs for her first album of original material.
To say that Eden might well be the musical discovery of her generation is neither an over-exaggeration nor over-enthusiastic hyperbole. Hers is exactly the sort of truly singular voice that, if the world is lucky, comes along but once in a generation.
So powerful and so astonishing is it that it bears likeness to not one or two but three of the modern age’s greatest female rock vocalists: Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks.
Extraordinarily dextrous, Eden’s voice is an instrument that is raw and raspy as heavy-gauge sandpaper, equally capable of belting out a tune with astonishing gusto and then, just as easily, scaling back, finding the nuance and the delicacy in a song’s quieter moments.
20-year-old Eden auditioned for the show at the urging of friends and says, with a wry laugh, that she was “unsure” about doing so.
In conversation, she’s contemplative and shy but possessed of a quietly wicked sense of humour.
When we talk about the concept of music as comfort, she apologises for audibly chewing on a biscuit before chuckling and declaring: “I also find a lot of comfort in food!”
“Nah, you won’t make it through, but we’ll do it, we’ll give it a go and just see what happens.”
Her responses to my questions are a dichotomy – at once considered and yet also hesitant, though her down-to-earth demeanour also reveals great warmth. She’s quick to joke about herself and often qualifies her responses with self-chiding addendums.
She’s clearly nervous, still new at giving interviews and talking about herself, but her hesitancy is understandable given the whirlwind of fame and publicity into which she found herself thrust after successfully making it past the show’s now-infamous blind audition phase.
Eden had walked onstage and belted out only a few bars of James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’ in her distinctive, raspy style before Keith Urban immediately hit the button that caused his chair to swivel, bringing him face-to-face with a clearly discombobulated Eden.
Only moments later, the remaining three judges – Delta Goodrem, Joel Madden and Seal – heeded Urban’s lead and swivelled in their chairs. What followed next was the public start of Eden’s journey from Central NSW Coastal obscurity to Australian music stardom.
All four of the show’s judges were ridiculously keen to mentor her. Madden even fell to his knees and begged her to join Team Joel.
But, in the end, she felt an affinity with Seal and chose to join his team, a decision she hopes laid the foundations for a friendship and mentorship that will endure.
“I think he’s a really beautiful man,” she says. “We do get along really well. He may not actually really realise what he’s done for me, you know? He’s taught me a lot. He’s beautiful.”
The entire experience of being on The Voice is, she says, still one she’s to terms with. “I had friends who suggested I should give it a go,” she recalls. “At that time in your life, when you’re just putting a little minute snippet onto a website for someone to watch, you’re not really thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I really want to go on this huge show and, when I do, it’s going to be awesome!’”
“I just thought, ‘Nah, you won’t make it through, but we’ll do it, we’ll give it a go and just see what happens.’ I honestly wasn’t expecting anything to happen. I honestly didn’t realise what could come of that two-minute movie! It was just a bit of fun; do you know what I mean? You don’t look at it like a serious career move. You know, you and 20,000-odd other people, the odds aren’t great.”
For Eden, who was born in Gosford and raised in Wyoming – in New South Wales, not the United States – music has been a part of her world for as far back as she can remember. Her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all musical, skilled instrumentalists and vocalists.
“I started singing when I was about 12 or 13. I had heaps of music around me growing up. My mum and my sisters and my aunties were all musical. I was saying in another interview that my great-grandmother on my mother’s side was from New Caledonia. She was a big woman, a big singer.
“She married a man who played the piano, and the accordion, and then had my Nan, and she’s been playing the piano and organ for probably about 82 of her 87 years! My mum’s an old rocker and was listening to music all the time. I just remember mostly always standing and watching. I was too shy to get involved, I never danced or sang along or anything, but then when I was 12 or 13, I don’t know … I just got over it and I just started singing for some reason.”