The Yarra Sessions, Episode 5: Sarah Carroll @ Labour In Vain

197A Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Hers: Another Season (off the album ‘Wahine’)
Mandy’s: The Bartender’s Reply (Unreleased)
Their Cover: Suzannah Espie “Heart Beating” (Off the album “Sea of Lights”)

Sarah Carroll is a well known Melbourne artist. One third of The Junes (with Gleny Rae Virus and Suzannah Espie) and a kick-arse writer and performer in her own name, Sarah had just gotten back from a tour in Sydney when we filmed episode 5 at The Labour in Vain.  Fresh from a trip to Nashville’s Americana Week (with help from Creative Victoria) Sarah is used to hard work, and long hours, and is an excellent role model for musicians. It meant a lot to us that she included us in a busy schedule, making an extra stop in Melbourne on her way home to her family in the Bellarine. Sarah was a lesson in professionalism, allowing an extra day on her tour back from Sydney to stop in to Melbourne and do this with us, and doing the whole thing with grace, patience and useful, thoughtful advice. Incredibly busy with her Star Parade Tour, she asked Mandy to choose the songs.

As a stalwart, experienced – almost rock – performer, we assumed Sarah would have played the Labour In Vain a hundred times before. In conversation (filmed), it turns out that Carroll has never played the Labour- and it was this story, about her history working at a record store in Brunswick Street, and working with Suzannah Espie, (who we covered)  that has really confirmed what an opportunity this series is. When I floated this idea as a series of song collaborations, it was obvious to all our best advisors- including Ben Campbell our sound guy- that we should include interviews. It’s a difficult skill, and the series has inspired me to develop some interview techniques.

The Labour in Vain is a cache of Melbourne music history. It’s a little bar with an upstairs smoking space / garden area,  run by Roman and his family. It’s famous for it’s curated program of live bands. Chad Mason played there. And King Wolf…The cheerful Anthea opened up early to host us, making us very welcome, clapping at the end of a couple of takes. I  had been overwhelmed at how friendly and prompt her reply had been to our initial message, and we knew we had found the right venue.

The bar is attractive. The gorgeous logo, well chosen posters & clean surfaces will never detract from the ingrained, soaked-into-the-of-the-bar soul that defines a blues and rock bar. It’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from Little Andorra, and has none of the airy, visual space of Uncle Drew. What it has is living history.

Mandy has been living in Wangaratta since June 2016, and so faced with song choices, nominated ‘Another Season’ from Carroll’s album Wahine. (It harks to a song by the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band ‘ My Wahine in Wang”.  Written about the hard life of a farmer, it seemed a fitting segue from Episode 4 with Michael Waugh, who often writes about farming in Gippsland.

A little knowledge of Carroll’s working history with Suzannah Espie gave the obvious choice of who to cover, and her song “Heart Beating”



Sarah Carroll has performed at most of Australia’s high-profile festivals over a 25 year career. She will be launching her latest album Star Parade at Port Fairy in March with new band The Left Wing, featuring ace producer and multi-instrumentalist Leigh Ivin on guitars and her supernaturally talented son George on bass.

Sarah has travelled twice to the US in the past two years at the invitation of Mezray Tours; to Nashville, Austin and San Francisco in 2014 and to Honolulu, Hawaii in 2016. In Hawaii, she focused on teaching the travel group and learning more herself, taking advantage of numerous opportunities to jam with traditional local musicians. Sarah returned to Nashville afterwards to take part in the Americana Music Conference with the assistance of Creative Victoria.

Sarah has worked with Suzannah Espie, Jackie Marshall, Mick Thomas, Aine Tyrrell, Marcel Borrack, Kerri Simpson, Matt Walker, Chris Altmann, Dan Warner, Andy Baylor, Jeff Lang, Rusty Berther and Chris Wilson amongst many others, and is considered a fine writer, performer and arranger by her peers. Sarah is much in demand as a live and studio backing vocalist and has added her harmony singing to albums by artists as diverse as Joel Silbersher and Judy Small.

Sarah has enjoyed supporting high-profile artists such as Kinky Friedman (USA), Mic Conway, Old Man Luedecke (Canada), Eddi Reader (Scotland), Renee Geyer, Tim Rogers and one of Australia’s finest songmen, Neil Murray. The room in which Murray played, The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, is one of the Bellarine Peninsula’s most popular music venues and was the brainchild of Sarah and erstwhile owner Captain Chook. Naturally she plays there whenever possible!