Shauna Jensen is one of Australia’s premier female vocalists. She has been a mainstay on the Sydney music scene for almost 4 decades, having worked alongside mainstream rock acts, singing commercial jingles for TV, radio and cinema, countless TV appearances and many many live shows.
Shauna has recorded singles with many Australian and International DJ’s. Shauna has toured dance clubs and parties in London, Rome, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
You have been performing for over 40 years, what has changed the most about yourself as artist and the industry in that time?
When I first started performing professionally I was 17. That was in the 70’s and it was a different time. Women were regarded as being the pretty girl who sang in the front of the band, and whose opinion was kind of irrelevant. When you spoke up, you were being “difficult” or a “bitch”. It was a frustrating time for most women out there and I do believe that I was one of the women in this business who broke that glass ceiling. A lot of my peers gave up their careers [in the entertainment industry] and concentrated on being mothers or pursuing other careers as it was very, very hard to have your voice as an artist heard and respected. Fast forward to 2014 and it’s a different world.
Women in the last 40 years have become empowered and through the process respected. It’s very different in Australia to any other country in the world. In my youth and for most of my career, the machinations of the big record companies called all the shots and you either complied or you were out. I had my first and only recording contract in 1976 and was held under that contract for 6 years without more than one single being released. That happened to a lot of people. And many people walked away from the business. I turned towards doing other things and became a very successful studio singer. I made hundreds of jingles for TV/radio/film and then started doing backing vocals for major recording artists and touring with them. I’ve been working with Jimmy Barnes on and off for 30 years since the first split of Cold Chisel (with whom I have also toured as Backup singer). I started making dance music 15 years ago and haven’t looked back. I absolutely love it. I have great people I work with and for, and do many gigs both in Australia and all over the world.
You have graced the iconic Mardi Gras stage on several occasions, how does it feel as a proud lesbian to perform on that stage?
Performing on the MG stage is the BIGGEST thrill. The very first time I did a main show was an extraordinarily empowering and wonderful experience. Every other time (there have been 5 now) has been amazing and wonderful as well, but that first one was something else. It was a spiritually uplifting experience. My first Harbour Party show was the same year as my first MG show, so that was pretty darn amazing too. As a lesbian, to be on that stage, doing a 2am show in the RHI, little old me, to be on that stage in front of my community is bloody UNREAL!!!!! I think 50% of the audience don’t even know I’m gay! Really it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is as long as you do a great show. Performing at the opening ceremony of the Gay Games in 2002 here was another incredible moment. You can find that performance on youtube. Those MG moments, the “gay” moments are what I live for. I feel completely and unbiasedly accepted by everyone. It’s a beautiful thing. I had one HUGELY embarrassing moment at MG 2 years ago, I did a pop up during Wayne G’s set as a tribute to Whitney Houston, and my in-ear monitors, right as the song started, had a huge freakout and I couldn’t hear anything and missed the start of the song… eventually I caught up, but I wouldn’t let MG put it online as I was so embarrassed!!! That’s live music for you though!
Away from the stage, you run a site called That Vegan Lady, tell us a little about how that came about and your shift to a vegan lifestyle.
That Vegan Lady is a new venture for me. I made the shift only this year to becoming a vegan. I was dating a beautiful woman who was a vegan. I had been living my life as 99% vegetarian for a long, long time but couldn’t see my life without some foods. Then spending time with a vegan, allowed me to become more conscious of my food choices and I started cooking vegan food. I wanted to start a market stall, but had a sudden back injury which has prevented that happening now, so I’m offering home catering and it’s going pretty well considering that its so new. I’m blogging about things I like and things I eat and starting to post recipes and just putting my opinions out there on living a lifestyle that leaves a smaller footprint on this planet and is more loving and kind to animals. My ultimate goal is to start a cafe here that is vegan. Not your hippy trippy type cafe, but a smart, stylish cafe that serves whole healthy food, dairy and egg free. I want people to realise that plant protein is just if not more beneficial to your health than meat. In LA and NYC, in fact many places in the world people are queuing up to get in to vegan places. On the TV show Cupcake Wars in the USA last year a vegan bakery won. I approached one cupcake bakery here in Sydney offering my services to provide vegan cupcakes but have been declined. I think people’s perceptions of vegan food is that it’s bland and boring… I have to say vegan or not, hands down my chocolate cupcakes (which are also gluten free) are brilliant and my biggest seller. So please dear readers, go check out my page and learn that vegan doesn’t have to be boring!!
Is this where you always imagined your life would lead? When was it that you decided to devote your life to entertainment?
I am 61 years old now. I never imagined that I would still be singing. 61 is the new 21! I feel amazing, I’m singing better than ever and can still sing just as high as I did in my youth, although that’s harder to do! I’ve pretty much had to go with the flow and work on creating a life that has kept me singing and creative. I had no idea I would be where I am now, I feel like I’m in a transition in my life that’s exciting and fabulous. Having a life devoted to music and NOT achieving “Kylie” success, has been the biggest challenge of my life. Sometimes I haven’t been able to pay the rent, but I can’t stop making music because it is like a living organism inside me. Making music is an art and as an artist, I can’t turn it off
I didn’t decide to make my life about entertainment, it is my dharma, it exists inside me and it’s a huge part of who I am. When I’m singing, it moves people to think about their lives by the lyric, or it frees their soul to dance. As it does with me – Shauna Jensen
I love my life. Thanks for sharing this life with me. When music is your passion, you can’t NOT make it.
Photo credit: here