It's Not All Goode, But We Can Change That
Talking nuanced lesbian representation in film and music, with the creatives behind web series, 'Back To Goode'.
BY MADELEINE GRAY - Published:
As we reported back in May, Back To Goode is the creative brainchild of Lisa Habermann and Suzanne McKee. Habermann and McKee set out to create and Australian web series with a predominantly female production team, highlighting the authentic stories of queer Australian women. The five part series follows the journeys of two lesbian couples who decide to move to the rural Australian town of Goode (IRL location being Daylesford) for a tree-change, and to get their lives in order. Once there, they realise that perhaps a change of location is not the fix-all that they'd been hoping it would be.
If you watch the trailer, here, you'll get the sense that the show is deeply rooted in a particularly Australian, as well as gay, sensibility, and a lot of that has to do with the music that has been chosen to accompany (and inform) the show. Habermann has collaborated with gay Australian musician Michelle Chandler, whose music features both as the theme song for the show ('Wishful Thinking') and throughout the series in both live performances and backing. Chandler's songs have a relaxed country vibe that is intermingled with a kind of muted melancholia, and sometimes a muted sense of hope - the combination of which leaves you much more emotionally affected than you might have guessed likely from the slow, acoustic sound.
Chandler tells LOTL, "Writing for film and television is something I've always wanted to try but haven't really found the opportunity. For some reason too I've never really been able to establish much of an LGBTQI+ following, and being involved with Back To Goode may potentially change that, but really it was just a wonderful prospect to work with other creative lesbians like Lisa."
Habermann is clearly a huge fan of Chandler’s. She says, “Michelle’s songs have provided a soundtrack to my creative vision. I am so fortunate to have found her and her music. I listened to all her songs on her CDs as I drove to work and I kept saying, ‘Yes, Yes!’ and knowing exactly which scene it would fit. Even now, thinking about Season 2, I have another song in mind."
“I hope that Back To Goode can give Michelle another platform to open her music to a new audience. Michelle, as a person and an artist, stands for so much that I admire in the queer community - dedication, commitment, community and speaking your truth.”
Back To Goode’s production team is more than 80% female, which is basically unheard of in the film and television world. This is something that Habermann was determined to achieve.
“Working with a predominantly female cast and crew has been fantastic. I was given a lot of professional chances when I was young and I have continued to do the same to other talented young people throughout my different careers.
“It really made a difference especially when we were filming our intimate scenes, where we had closed sets. In one of the scenes, males were present, but our cast and crew have been together for about four months since filming our teaser trailer, hanging around to talk and eat and drink after filming. There is a friendship and a level of trust. I think females too are naturally better communicators and that really helps.
Habermann is passionate about telling female LGBTQI+ stories, explaining, “I think female stories and in particular queer female stories are few and far between. My goal is to increase queer female visibility on screen. I have lesbian friends who lament the ‘dead lesbian screen syndrome’ where lesbians are often portrayed as an evil side-bar character who usually get killed. I have boasted that no lesbian character was killed in the making of our web series!”
This queer female representation is something that Chandler wants to contribute too also, but for her this means being able to switch between gendered personas and storytelling in her song writing: “Choosing the point of view that resonates most often dictates gender. Sometimes I write from a feminine perspective while other times it’s clearly more masculine,” she says. “At the end of the day I hope listeners connect emotionally with my songs.”
The song of Chandler’s that has been chosen as the series’ theme song is “Wishful Thinking,” which, thinks Chandler, “sits perfectly as a backdrop to the Back To Goode story. Two couples making a tree change and wanting to transform their lives together from the mundane to a truer, more artistic version of themselves.”
While the show can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their sexuality and their gender (after all, it is a show about people and relationships), Habermann strongly believes that its lesbianism and its depiction of lesbian characters and relationships is crucial to the very core of what Back To Goode stands for.
“It is super important, especially in this day and age that we all need to see versions of ourselves in the arts. Especially when some areas of our modern society feel the need to tell us we are not good enough, not equal, and even worse, are dangerous or a threat. It makes me really sad. It’s bullying and I have always stood up to bullies.
"But rather than be depressed and repressed, I have made a conscious decision to be loud and proud. I always believed living a quiet lesbian life and just getting on with it and not marching was the way to go.
"We need LGBTQI representation in the arts as the arts reflect our world. And this is our world. In all its rainbow glory. I am very proud of my community and who I am. I want to be known for making a difference."
Back To Goode will be airing its first episode on YouTube (September 8) at 3pm, and then every Friday after that until October 6.
I heard your music for the first time today on Andrew Ford’s show on Radio National and I was just astounded at your talent and finely crafted song ‘Scarecrow Bones’. When I started the car this morning, ‘Scarecrow Bones’ was playing and it just stopped me in my tracks. I have spent a large part of the day listening to ‘Unravelling’ and your music has just drilled itself into my head. Your voice and your songwriting are equally outstanding.
I think ‘Unravelling’ is a very finely realised work. It is beautifully crafted, the melodies are of a kind that seem very familiar, not because they imitate something else, but because there is something that resonates at a primal human level in them. Your lyrics are the equal of any great singer songwriter, and the two instrumentals have a wistfulness that verge on the melancholy, but are also uplifting. I think someone of your talent should be filling major venues. And I hope that there are more albums of the standard of ‘Unravelling’ to come.”
"Listening to Michelle Chandler's new album 'Unravelling'. Lovely soulful sounds."
"Unravelling' is just simply sublime, Michelle Chandler what an amazing accomplishment, the words sheer poetry and those backing artists Max Lees nice work mate!"
Shona Andrew Williams
"Can't wait to hold my signed copy in my hands...it's a beautiful album - in every single way. Congratulations Michelle Chandler."
"Wow Michelle, what an incredible album, the songwriting, musicianship, production are all first class. I can see why you are so proud of this album. This has to be up there with my favourite releases. Congratulations on such an amazing piece of work to you and everyone involved in its production, just awesome."
"I love your track Scarecrow Bones. You have an exquisite voice. In this day and age Michelle, it's an absolute pleasure to listen to such beautiful tonality."
Lisa J Aston, House Concerts Australia
"Wow Michelle, really WOW, fabulous production , your beautiful pure vocals and poetic songs . I am blown away. Great CD many many thanks."
"Hi Michelle - loving the album! you should be very proud! Great work guys!"
Dayle Alison Walker
Michelle Chandler: Singer & Songwriter
"Songwriting was a great way to express what I was feeling."
BY HANLI BOTHA - Published:
Michelle Chandler shares an openness and honesty in her life, wisdom, and a refreshing point of view on everything musical. The content of her music stretches over the deepest of emotions to the most captivating sounds imaginable. Michelle has a down to earth personality, and she lives a creative life which is visible in everything she does. She knows what she wants in her music, and works tirelessly with a freedom of expression that is rare to find. I sat down with Michelle recently and explored a world of sound, silence, improvisation and setting melody to words. We spoke of her humble beginnings as a musician and she says,
"My Dad was a whistler and my mother played the piano. My brothers all played guitar, my sister played piano and none of them continued on with music. I was the only one who kept playing. My siblings listened to Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Frank Zappa (…). I had these great songwriters influencing me, and always being around musicians. At family gatherings the guitars come out (…), and the legacy continues.
I started playing when I was fifteen, and I have always written. The catalyst for serious writing was when one of my brothers was killed in a car crash when he was eighteen, and that had a huge impact (…).Songwriting was a great way to express what I was feeling (at the time)."
Her music is a culmination of folk, jazz, blues, sound, silence, improvisation and classical sounds which cannot be labelled into one genre, making her music so unique. She is self-taught and her skills on the guitar display classical ways of thinking and a simplicity which falls nicely on the listening ear. Michelle spoke about her approach to sound and says,
"I generally hear the instruments. I hear the horn parts, the bass line, even though I can’t play them, I can hear what I want. When I am writing a song I can actually hear the big sound as well as my voice and the guitar."
Her approach to writing new music has evolved over time, and she explains that she loves instrumental music.
"Early on it was being inspired by something and you’d write a song. These days I guess I am more realistic in terms of how I approach the songs. What is the best point of view for the song to sit in (…) (in terms of) styles, phrasing, and internal rhythm (…)? The lyrics follow the melodic road map.
I do write instrumentals; I love writing instrumentals. On my new album there are two instrumentals."
We briefly spoke about living a creative life and creating new music based on emotional and environmental influences and Michelle says,
"If I couldn’t play or express myself in that (emotional) way, I am not sure how I would have been able to do that (otherwise)."
Michelle is a wonderful musician who shares her life experiences in her music and is actively living a creative life true to her beliefs and essential self. Her new album 'Unravelling' is due to come out soon, and I would highly recommend buying the album, and delve into the musical world of Michelle Chandler. To learn more check out her website.
(Hanli is a freelance creative and academic writer and is currently busy with her PhD studies in music at Western Sydney University. She is a guitarist, composer, novelist and has a strong interest in the psychology of music. Her first novel is currently being edited and will be published in due course. To find out more about Hanli you can visit her website)