Em Rusciano is heading out on tour this July to debut her new show Rage and Rainbows, but writing her new show isn’t the only thing that’s been keeping the singer-writer-comedian busy. During the process of creating the show, Em turned 40, had a new baby, designed her own line of maternity wear and started writing a fiction book!
The Rage and Rainbows show is designed for those feeling angry and fed-up with the current state of the world, but rather than being dull and bleak, its message is delivered with humour, high-energy and sequins. There will also be plenty of musical numbers incorporated, with four of the songs already released.
We caught up with Em to chat about collaborating with Kate-Miller Heidke on songs for Rage and Rainbows, the comedy/mild-erotica book she’s currently writing, and her thoughts on the Game of Thrones ending. Warning: Game of Thrones spoilers ahead!
What was it like writing with Kate Miller-Heidke for the Rage and Rainbows songs?
It was great! So, we’ve written five songs, four are already on Spotify and iTunes, the fifth one’s coming in a couple of weeks. She’s really clever, she’s brilliant, she’s a bit weird like me and she’s got a three-year-old son, so it was really easy. I think she thought Eurovision would be the campest thing she’d work on this year, until she started working with me on my show, and quickly realised I was far camper than Eurovision! But it was great, we’re kindred spirits I think, and it was everything I hoped for and more.
Have you been collaborating with other people on this tour as well?
I have my team that I work on the show with. I’ve got my director Janelle, and then Lucy’s my PA and she co-writes with me, John who does all the managing, and Frontier obviously do all the logistics, so there’s a big team that puts the show together.
I write it by myself and then Lucy and Janelle go through it with me once I’ve done the script, refine it and we put in jokes. It’s a huge team that end up putting it all together, probably around 30 people.
I noticed you started a line of maternity wear, what inspired that?
When I was pregnant I found it hard to find clothes that weren’t blue and white striped cotton dresses and t-shirts. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you suddenly lose all your style and flair. We’ve done a couple of leopard-print dresses, and all the things I noticed the maternity wear was lacking that I wanted, I tried to put into the dresses. We’ve just made the final samples and once the tour’s done and dusted, I’ll focus on launching that.
Do you know if it’s going to be an online-based store, or in physical storefronts?
I sell everything on my website, so it’ll be in my store.
Tell me a little bit about this new book you’re writing.
It’s a fiction book and it’s with HarperCollins. It’s kind of sitting in the comedy, mild-erotica genre, which I guess I’ve made up. It’s about a woman who gets pregnant with her ex-husband at their divorce dinner and he goes off. She’s living with her two gay best friends and works at a website, and just kind of her adventures through pregnancy. Each chapter starts with a letter to the unborn child. I’m hoping to do three books and see what happens, but I’m just working my way through the first one now.
What inspired you to start writing that book?
I got offered a book deal. My autobiography did really well, so yeah, I’ve always wanted to write fiction and once I’d written my story down, I liked the idea of writing other stories. I’ve always wanted to write fiction so this was the perfect opportunity and HarperCollins offered me a deal.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming Rage and Rainbows tour?
I’m looking forward to taking the show to the people who need it most, and I think that’s the women of Australia and the people who love the women of Australia.
I think if you ask any woman over 30 how she’s feeling, she’s probably pissed-off and sick of everyone’s shit. You know, there just seems to be this underlying rage going on for women and I don’t really know why. I kind of deep-dove into that and asked the women around me and asked the mums at school and I wanted to understand why we were all feeling taken advantage of and exhausted and like things weren’t fair. With large-scale domestic violence issues, right down to what’s going on at home and how much work women are doing at home, I tried to cover the gamut. I tried to pick hard topics and shine some light on them so people understand them and feel better and we can just have a laugh.
I’m just kind of looking forward to giving all the women permission to embrace their inner-rage and helping them kind of get it out and feel a bit lighter when they leave and sing some songs and have a laugh. It’s a lot to do, but we get it done in just under two-hours. So, yeah, I’m really looking forward to the people I wrote it for to actually see it and be a part of the experience.
What made you want to get into comedy?
I guess I’d always kind of been the storyteller. I was doing radio and I was doing some stuff for The Project and I was around quite a few kind of, well-known stand-up comics and it was suggested that I should give it a try by a few of them. So, I wrote my own show and put it on. I just did it. Started out pretty small, probably about six years ago now, and just kept building it. Word-of-mouth about my shows and people enjoying them and each year’s gotten bigger and bigger.
Do you have any female comics, Australian or global, you’d recommend people check out?
I love Anne Edmonds, obviously Hannah Gadsby is pretty great. Ali Wong. Australia has so many amazing female comics. We’ve got Judith Lucy and Denise Scott. There’s Geraldine Hickey, Becky Lucas, Jan Fran’s amazing. It’s not hard to find an outstanding Australian female comic at all, so yeah, I’d definitely encourage people to go out and see as much comedy as they can.
Supporting live arts, performers and comedians is really important now. They’re the truth-tellers in society, so it’s good to go and hear what they have to say.
What other media are you consuming at the moment? Is there a particular book or TV show you’re really into?
I’ve started The Girl On The Page, just cause I’m kind of researching feminist and well-written sex scenes for my book, and I’m currently right now watching Game of Thrones: The Last Watch, which is the documentary about the making of the last season of Game of Thrones. I consumed Game of Thrones from the beginning, so that’s probably taking up most of my time. I watch a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I do enjoy Netflix and Stan a lot. When I’m feeding I’ll put it on or you know, when I have a spare couple of seconds, I haven’t had a lot of time lately but I enjoy fantasy, sci-fi and drag queens.
What were your thoughts on the final of Game of Thrones?
I don’t think the person that got to sit on the throne – although it was melted- I don’t think he deserved it. I think he had the least-interesting story; I think it was a cop-out. It would have been great to see a woman. After all we’ve been through with all the incredible women, to paint the last two as mad queens was pretty shit. I understand how hard it is to wrap-up a TV series but I just think they literally could have thrown a dart and hit anyone more worthy than Bran Stark to wear the crown. I was a bit annoyed at that. Everything else I could forgive.
And I think Brienne of Tarth deserves more than just to be writing about the guy who screwed her over in a book, I thought she was pretty fierce as well. I think they set us up to believe it would become about the strong women and in the end they gave it to the least-interesting character.
Yeah, I feel like that’s a good point. I mean, I guess it’s good that Sansa got the North, but still…
Sansa should have got the whole thing! And she wanted it! I’m surprised they didn’t give it to her.
You have a lot of different creative outlets. What inspires you to have so many?
Nothing really inspires me, I just enjoy it. I enjoy writing, I enjoy singing and I enjoy stand-up. I’m just lucky enough that I’ve found a job where I’m able to do all those things. I think in this country it helps to be able to do a few things, ‘cause we’re a pretty small industry.
What are you most looking forward to for the rest of 2019?
Getting the tour up and running and making sure it’s all okay. I enjoy the lead-up and the creative process, picking the costume and the set, doing the set design. All of the work we’ve put in before… The actual performance is just kind of the icing on the cake, the real creativity is coming up with it all and conceptualising it. Seeing all that hard work from everyone that I work with on opening night at Hamer Hall will be amazing. Then I’ll be doing a podcast the second-half of this year, which will be good. Hoping to slow down a bit the second half, and finish my book and just do the podcast, spend some time with my baby. Hopefully a less-hectic second-half of the year.
What will the podcast be on?
We’re just kind of thinking about that now. It will be myself and my friend, Kyle doing a little bit of pop culture, a little bit of parenting and relationship stuff. Probably answering questions on life, that people can write-in. I haven’t had a lot of time to work on that yet, but that’s what I’m planning on doing for the second-half of the year.
What advice would you have for young creatives looking to get into the industry?
Don’t! Run! Pick another thing. No, I guess, if you want to be a writer you have to write, if you want to be a singer, you have to sing, if you want to do stand-up, you have to go out there and do stand-up. You need to be practicing what you want to do, every day, and not expecting people to give you jobs and don’t think that you’re entitled to things because you think you’re good or someone else has said you’re good. You have to work your ass off and you have to earn it, I think.
My advice would be do whatever it is you want to do and you’ll attract the right people and you’ll find your tribe and hopefully they’ll wanna see your stuff. And yeah, do it from a place of love, not for love, I think is also a good way to be when you’re doing your creative pursuits. I think that’s probably the biggest thing, is to actually find the time to do what it is you’d like to do each day and get really good at it.
Em Rusciano’s tour kicks off next month. See dates and details below.
Em Rusciano The Rage and Rainbows Tour 2019
Friday, 19th July Hamer Hall, Melbourne Tickets: Arts Centre Melbourne Saturday, 20th July Hamer Hall, Melbourne Tickets: Arts Centre Melbourne Wednesday, 24th July Federation Concert Hall, Hobart Tickets: Ticketmaster Friday, 26th July Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide Tickets: Ticketmaster Saturday, 27th July Riverside Theatre, PCEC, Perth Tickets: Ticketek Friday, 2nd August Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Brisbane Tickets: Ticketek Saturday, 10th August State Theatre, Sydney Tickets: Ticketmaster Sunday, 11th August Enmore Theatre, Sydney Tickets: Ticketek