radionotes podcast episodes

On Diamond released their self-titled debut album in early 2019, out through Eastmint. Lisa Salvo the songwriter and vocalist from the group spoke to radionotes down the line for this chat.

To listen, click the green ‘play’ triangle… [note: may take few seconds to load] 

(Transcript of On Diamond’s Lisa Salvo chat below, check to delivery in audio)

Salvo spoke about the background to the recording, being one of the founders of Eastmint, to thoughts on how to improve the music sharing experience and the issue about term ‘community’ for them.

The record is wonderfully eclectic and lyrically healing in many aspects of its delivery. While also not shying away from a directness in the guitar and vocal deliveries across the release.

Also, this episode: In light of Jenna Coleman winner at the Logies, decided to share the last two parts of a chat recorded over 5 years ago with Katy Manning (Jo Grant from Doctor Who). Delightful human and rewarding chat that covers acting, Barry Croker and DAAS right through to her passion for vinyl. Was recorded just after the audio book of her one women play was released.


SHOW NOTES: On Diamond episode

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Who Sent What?:


From The Archives: Katy Manning – (final parts from pre-2013

Next Episode: Kathie Renner

More details on playpodcast here, thanks to Matt from them.

[Radio Production – notes: Salvo chat just over 30 minutes, Katy Manning over 10 minutes – Music: Cut off On Diamond LP]


Theme/Music: Martin Kennedy and All India Radio   

Web-design/tech: Steve Davis

Voice: Tammy Weller  

You can make direct contact with the podcast – on the Contact Page


For direct quotes check to audio, first version of transcript by Elizabeth A at REV

John Murch: Lisa Salvo, welcome to radionotes.

Lisa Salvo: Thank you.

John Murch: The colour orange for me represents David Hicks in prison, but for you, I believe it has a more personal connection.

Lisa Salvo: A family member of mine’s favorite colour, of which one of the songs is dedicated to, and I don’t really talk to this person anymore, but I still feel a strong connection. So I guess that’s partly where the orange came from or originated from. For me, orange also represents creativity and positivity. And so because a lot of the themes on the record from my kind of upbringing and trauma that came along with some of those circumstances, I really wanted to represent the music and the sound visually in a positive and creative way because it really was geared towards taking those negative experiences and moving forward in my life.

John Murch: There is a metaphor of you wearing orange as a shield of positivity.

Lisa Salvo: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s a shield, but yes, it does represent … I guess a shield to me it’s kind of like keeping things away, but it’s been kind of impossible to do that because the, I guess, issues I’m dealing with now are inward. So yeah, it’s sort of planting a seed of positivity, I guess, inside and visually so that others can respond to that. It makes more sense with the sound of the record, which is not just the low and depressing sounding, I guess

John Murch: This particular record coming a few years after your solo debut album, is there a sense of self-discovery and strength that came through the making of this record?

Lisa Salvo: Definitely, yeah. The previous record, I kind of think about as the beginning of my true creative journey musically really, and just getting in touch with what I actually wanted to express through my music more as the sound of it and the songwriting and developing that. This record, I was making during a time, because I did have a traumatic upbringing, so I eventually found my way into therapy, which I don’t mind talking about that because I think it’s really positive for us to acknowledge that we do sometimes have to deal with things professionally in order to progress in life.

John Murch: Going to therapy seems, as I say, that seems a very modern thing to say for people to do, but there’s been different versions of that across the years. For you, Lisa, what was the decision to go to therapy?

Lisa Salvo: I guess because the manifestation of trauma was kind of coming out in anxiety and particular situations that related to experiences I’ve had or that had happened in my family, I couldn’t really function or get to where I needed to be to live a content life and just feel okay day to day. I knew I had to do something, but I tried some therapy before. It hadn’t really worked out, but then luckily, a friend was able to give a recommendation of their therapist who was amazing. So I know sometimes these things don’t work out and I’ve experienced that, but when you find the right thing for you, you can really get a lot of work done, which is exciting because it means you can see your life in more of the direction that you would like to go.

John Murch: It is work on yourself, on your perception of where you’re going.

Lisa Salvo: Yeah, it’s really hard work, especially for the first few years and now it’s sort of, I know myself a lot better. I can pick up on my triggers and sort of feel like I’m a little bit more on top of it, but I’ve still got lots of work to do of course.

John Murch: And are you a person who journals?

Lisa Salvo: I don’t journal. I’ve never seen journaler, actually. It’s really hard for me to make myself do that. And also, I try to write my drains down, but I’m very, very, very bad at it. The songwriting is how I end up processing a lot of the lessons I’m learning and anguish that I feel. It sort of goes into the songwriting. That’s where it goes, I guess. And also the performance of the music is always fueled by that, as well.

John Murch: So you are a person who dreams?

Lisa Salvo: I do dream, not all the time. I go through periods where I have a lot of dreams and I and I often have these kind of strange recurring themes, even if the dreams are different. That definitely comes from my subconscious and the life that I was born into. I can sort of pinpoint those things in my dreams, which is why I am really supposed to write them down. But that’s something I still need to learn to do.

John Murch: Have you got yourself over the last few years, and I’m I guess framing it between the first solo record and now to give the listener who may listen to those two records a sense of development or otherwise, have you now got a sense of independence in yourself as you’re moving forward?

Lisa Salvo: Yeah, I think there is some much greater feeling of independence. I guess the solo record, although it wasn’t solo … There were other musicians on the record … The things that I was putting forward were more relationship, unrequited love, those kinds of things, and I guess the issues that lots of people experience, but on this On Diamond record, I addressed the issues that were most pertinent to me and my development. So I guess thematically, it makes more sense to be, in where I’m at life and my age to be talking about these kinds of issues and experiencing them and also sharing them with others.

John Murch: Then leaning towards the fact that there is now maybe through a music community or maybe those within the band, a sense of a support structure that allows you to be more of yourself or more expressive in a sense, possibly?

Lisa Salvo: Definitely. I feel really lucky because apart from friendship and kind of community, I really feel like the band supports the expression of emotion and trauma through their playing. I like to think of it as the songs are a reflection of my inner world, and the band all have to express that by sharing parts of their inner world. Even though we’ve all had different experiences literally, I’m sure they all relate to it in their own way and they share of their own inner world through doing that. It’s a very cathartic thing for me to have other people indulge me in that way, and also for themselves to get so involved.

John Murch: So there is a level of positivity about playing these tunes that have been, I guess born in a way from trauma, but they have their own life outside of that, through this positivity that you seem to have within.

Lisa Salvo: Definitely. I think part of it is that the songs are sort of alive themselves because in a way they’re really serious, the songs and the lyrics, but I guess because the way we play them is really interactive. They almost have their own life, so it’s like each time they’re played or each time I think about them or listen to them, they’re almost still doing the work that they were born out of because I don’t really see my progress as as completely linear, start to finish. You’re always going backwards and forwards and you’re dealing with trauma and trying to relearn behaviors that you’ve been tearing up since you were young.

John Murch: Laughing in the Face of the Big Door, the big door initially, one might think to a heaven or a hell, but it’s something else, isn’t it?

Lisa Salvo: Yeah, definitely. That song originally, I think I wrote it after watching the latest season of Twin Peaks, and there’s sort of this huge sequence in one of the episodes that is really wild, and I thought of Cooper, the main character, going into kind of electrical sockets, like putting his hand in there and ending up in a totally different place, and then lots of kind of psychedelic visuals.

Lisa Salvo: I guess that firstly inspired me to write the song, and I didn’t have a theme in my mind when I wrote it, but then reflectively I think it represents my own sort of ending up at lots of closed doors and wondering what is on the other side. Do I actually want to be on the other side? Am I better where I am now? If I open the door, in the lyrics it says, “Will I see all my nightmares free in the broad daylight?” So I guess it’s also a fear of the unknown and where you’re going. It sort of rounds off with the sense of, well, I’m just going to continue on my journey and my path, and if there’s a door that’s closed to me, I’ll find a way to open it or a way around it, and whatever is behind that door, I am accumulating the tools to be able to deal with that, whatever is there.

John Murch: A key ring of keys in your life, and there’s only certain keys that you get and you get a chance to check those keys out with these, might be big doors, but sometimes the key doesn’t fit for a reason. It wasn’t given to you for some reason.

Lisa Salvo: Exactly. That’s true. I agree.

John Murch: I want to pick up on your idea that we’ve lost contact with the idea of the human soul. A pretty heavy topic to speak about. Do you think we have lost out on the human soul, that we’re too busy in the mechanisms of everyday to actually engage with the soul?

Lisa Salvo: Largely, I think yes. And there might be, I guess, different lifestyles or circumstances that might show that in different ways. We’re kind of stuck in this ridiculously structured system that’s out of most of our control, in terms of the way the world is set up now. For some people, I guess going along with what’s prescribed for them and the conventional lifestyle and the things that they want and the goals that we have, and a lot of it’s based around money, and there’s a huge amount of busyness that comes with that that just really means that matters on the inside are put on the back burner.

Lisa Salvo: And I think the other side of that is people who have chosen a different lifestyle, or they don’t have access to even make any money or have those kinds of jobs, I feel those people are kind of squished under the thumb of that system and just trying to survive. So that’s another way that you don’t have the time or the energy to engage with what’s inside.

John Murch: I note, and I currently am speaking to you on the lands of the Garner people, that both online as well as on the record, you do acknowledge the indigenous communities.

Lisa Salvo: I’ve come to that by education in the local scene and from local indigenous people that we need to be helping to give indigenous people a voice, and a lot of people might pick up a record and see that for the first time. I think it’s important that everyone just does their part, whatever they feel that can be or wherever they’re up to in their political engagement, because I think for me, the more okay I’m becoming myself, I’m more able to engage with political matters and try to help people outside of myself as well in that way.

John Murch: What’s your sense of community, Lisa?

Lisa Salvo: This is a little bit of a loaded question for me because part of my upbringing, and I don’t mind briefly touching on it, is I was born into a cult, actually. So initially, I think the community aspect for me as an adult, once I got out of religion, the cult thing sort of led onto a more conventional religion, so I was totally brainwashed. And then when I came out of that, I think I was a little bit wary of any kind of community in a way.

Lisa Salvo: So through music, I’ve eventually been able to let down my guard and find the right people around me who I felt I could trust and then learn to open up and have community with people instead of being terrified of that. Yeah, I guess community is part of every day of my life now. I’m lucky to have lots of supportive people around me and also people that I can support and share ideas with. And I think it’s really important part of any scene, and in the arts, we’re lucky because it’s normal to make connections based on feelings, support, activism or whatever else is going on.

John Murch: Thank you for sharing that. Cofounder of Eastmint. Can we have a chat about this? It’s a label.

Lisa Salvo: I guess it’s not a conventional label. Myself and two friends, Genevieve Fry and Esala Liyanage, started the label. Essentially it was because we hadn’t found people to put out our record, but we still wanted to put a lot of effort into it and have a platform to do that from. They already had this great performance space that they’d been renting for awhile and made sense to sort of extend what we were doing to include releasing music.

Lisa Salvo: The support network that formed because of that was almost life-saving in a way, because before that, I had just been doing everything by myself and getting extremely frustrated and depressed about the state of the music industry, but sort of my struggling within that and feeling like I had the content to offer, but I didn’t have the industry support or that kind of thing. We really just help each other with everything and everything industry-related. We’re there for each other. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I have a place I can vent and voice my goals and not feel strange about doing that.

John Murch: There’s also some very cool artists on there, Cold Hand Warm Heart being one.

Lisa Salvo: They’re really great, and that’s Gen and Esala’s band. They do a song cycle with improvisation in between they have harps and are quite beautiful. Some of the other artists on there, like Evelyn Morris, has a duo called Crush Crush with Aviva Endean. We put one of the records that last year. And then we’ve got Prudence Rees-Lee. She’s kind of like this dramatic pop artist I guess, and she’s based in LA now, but she’s a good friend of ours, so we’re putting her record out in July.

John Murch: Could you give us a bit of an idea of what Prudence’s release will be like?

Lisa Salvo: Several years ago, Prudence put out the first record, which is called Court Music from the Planet of Love. That wasn’t on Eastmint. I don’t think we’d formed yet. And that was kind of like medieval pop vocal or something like this. That was a really great record. And so now Prudence is living in Los Angeles for the last few years, so she’s got herself a hot LA band. It’s very kind of dramatic pop in the way that she always sets the mood in her music. If you get to see some of her visuals, it makes so much sense together, and her video clips are always really magical and they put you into a world.

John Murch: The lyrics of How hone into the lyrics of this song, “My name a loaded gun,” in the invisible family tree.

Lisa Salvo: I guess my name, I’m referring to my family name. I guess specific circumstances relating to my family whereby my last name is a reminder of the very not the ideal family experience. Also Salvo, which was my last name, literally is to do with the gunpowder and explosions in some way. Yeah. That’s what that lyric’s referring to.

John Murch: Do you have conversations within the band that they then maybe not physically, but in a metaphoric way, hold your hand and help you through the lyrical process? So you’re still the writer of the lyrics, but there’s some sort of conference that happens with the rest of the band.

Lisa Salvo: No. Our band’s funny because everyone’s individual musical approach and voice is so strong and individual to what they do. We sort of just … I write the song and the lyrics. We don’t really talk about what the music’s about, but I guess because I’m a fairly expressive person, we do end up talking about it in general, but not really as a band exercise. They’ll hear the song. Sometimes I’ll send them the demo or sometimes I’ll just bring what material I have, which might be a melody and chorus and my lyrics, and then we sort of just play the song and don’t work on it too much. We have to give it some breathing room, and often start playing it live when it’s fairly underdeveloped and then it grows through that process, and then we end up settling on something for how we play the song.

John Murch: All the vocals were recorded at the Purple Palace, which my understanding is you moved out of last November.

Lisa Salvo: Yeah, the Purple Palace is just the nickname I gave to my old house. Scott, the guitarist in On Diamond is my partner, and we’ve been lucky enough to sort of have our own extra room each in our house to work. So I had my own room, and it was a really beautiful room. It was on the second story of our house, and outside my window, there’s a huge tree, and there are often bats in there flying around at night time. Yeah, so I sort of see the tops of houses quite beautiful. So it was really inspiring to have, and I love staying home. I could happily stay home and not go anywhere sometimes. It was nice that my workspace was right there.

John Murch: There is such an outstanding lineup you have on this record, but one of the members, let’s have a chat regarding them. Hannah Cameron, where did you meet?

Lisa Salvo: Through a mutual musician friend. After the solo record … Hannah’s actually the longest standing member of the band when it was still called Lisa Salvo, just under my name. So she started playing in the band I think pretty much as soon as the solo record was being played live, and back then it was sort of more dream folk music, and Hannah is a beautiful folk artist. So, that made a lot of sense. I just listened to her record on a friend’s recommendation. I thought, “Yeah, that’ll be a good fit.”

John Murch: We’re currently in conversation with Lisa Salvo of On Diamond. The self-titled a release from On Diamond is out through Eastmint and supported by Creative Victoria, the Australian Council of the Arts, as well as some other funding bodies as well. What’s your feelings about this generation that’s all about the stream over the listen?

Lisa Salvo: Well, that’s a very depressing …

John Murch: Let’s have a chat about it and see if we can find some answers.

Lisa Salvo: On streaming. Well, actually I came to a more positive thought about it the other day, because a lot of musicians, it’s just an ongoing … We could whinge about that for a long time and I’m happy for people to do that. I think it’s their right to do that. I wish that it was an expectation that musicians should be able to recoup and also make profit on their expenses and from their music when it comes time to sell it. And so unfortunately, most consumer’s money is now going to an overarching umbrella, which doesn’t really benefit the artist. And on top of that, we’re lectured to really engage with that platform and get out that stuff. And I’ve definitely been lectured by industry people before when I complained and told that it’s such a good opportunity for exposure, et cetera. I’d prefer to-

John Murch: Yeah, it is that modern day version of, it’s about the exposure isn’t it? And that was just as [crosstalk 00:23:40] back in the pub day when someone would tell you at the back of the room that that’s what you had to do for free.

Lisa Salvo: Yeah, exactly. And a lot of areas of the industry are thriving and I really have to say that it’s at the expense of the musicians, who are the face of the whole industry, and I don’t really enjoy how it’s just an accepted norm that’s not really talked about by industry workers. I feel like especially because our music industry in Victoria and Australia, especially Victoria, is very strong, I kind of feel like there is a lot of change that could happen if it was a priority. You can’t keep going on forever like this.

Lisa Salvo: But I did have a positive thought the other day, which would still require decisions being made in opposite directions of what they are now, but because my friends and I were talking about it, and we were saying that before these convenient streaming platforms, there was Napster and then other kind of torrent-based downloading. Illegal downloading was popular. And so I guess you could say that if Spotify and all the other ones didn’t exist, that people would just go back to that. However, I think because the level of convenience is so high with streaming, I don’t know if people would go back to that kind of downloading because it’s such a pain in the a**e. I kind of feel if there was a way, like for example, Bandcamp, if that was the industry standard, where people can still listen to it three times free, and after that they have to pay, I think they would just pay. I don’t think they would then go, “Oh, I’m going to go back the days of spending hours downloading music.”

Lisa Salvo: The other side of those streaming things, it’s really exciting if an artist gets on a playlist. The reality of that is that someone’s just put that on. It’s been going for four hours. They’re not even listening anymore. And if they are, and even if they like it, the chances that they’ll actually look at who it is and follow that artist, I mean, that has to be a pretty engaged listener to be doing that.

John Murch: I’ve jotted down that you’ve performed with Malcolm Hill on his album.

Lisa Salvo: Malcolm Hill and Live Flesh is the band, and they just put out a record. Funnily, Malcolm Hill, who is a songwriter and lead singer and guitarist in that band, also has a bit of an orange theme going at the moment. I met them through … I think Dave Graney suggested me as a support for a gig of theirs, must’ve been four or five years ago, so I played a show with them. I played as a trio. Malcolm’s real wacky. His music’s really wacky, and so I kind of enjoyed that and we’ve just been friends ever since.

Lisa Salvo: The drummer, Helen Smart, is a really supportive musical friends. They’re a little bit older than me. I really like to hear the stories and be around people that have been in the industry for a long time because I think often their musical values and their way of creating is really chill. It’s mature. They’re my friends now. Malcolm’s a really wacky character. I kind of like that. It was just a session style thing where I went in and sang some backing vocals. Malcolm’s a really good storyteller. He actually runs a storytelling workshop with people in his community, like facilitates those.

John Murch: Back to On Diamond, your self-titled release. Lisa Salvo is speaking with us. She’s the lead vocalist and guitarist from this very band. The sounds within, the word improvisation comes up a fair bit.

Lisa Salvo: On Diamond’s music is very inspired by improvised music, which I go to watch a lot. And Scott and Maria … Scott’s the guitarist, Maria is the drummer … They play a lot of just free improvised music, so that comes in to the band a lot and and it’s mainly why I chose them actually, and other reasons. It’s always based around a song structure. So, it’s a little bit rich to call it improvised music, but there’s a lot of realtime reaction going on within the song structures, and it also is a huge part of how we decide on the form of this song, like how long sections are.

Lisa Salvo: Beginning sections or end sections of songs, we’ll often decide on that just through playing for a nominated amount of time and then eventually it’ll settle some way that makes sense. Then, I might kind of form the vocals at the end of the song around that or something like that. I think where we are at now with that approach will continue for a little while. Yeah. Let’s see where it goes for the next record but we’ll have to find a point of difference from records somehow. Might be in the songwriting. I don’t know.

John Murch: Would you give some of the songwriting over to other members of the group or is that a no?

Lisa Salvo: Well, I did just tell them at our last rehearsal that if they have any ideas, to just send them to me or bring them along. I don’t really want to suddenly start writing together in a room. I think that would be awkward and I’ve never really done that before. But I think a good way for our band and sometimes the songs I bring in are just fragments initially, and I form them around what their response is. So I think that could work really well. If any of us have fragments, then we can just form the song around that or I can sort of form the song around that. Yeah. I think it might be a bit more collaborative with the writing next time, as well.

John Murch: The current record, the self-titled, is very much a personal journey for you, Lisa. So how willing to give up that authorship of the personal to other members of the group in terms of the lyrics?

Lisa Salvo: Yeah. I mean, I don’t even know if others would want to write lyrics. But obviously Hannah’s a lyricist, but our writing styles are really different. I think this album, and the reason I’m on the front cover is not because I want to be the star of the band, but it is because it’s so heavily tied to my personal journey and really it’s the first time I’ve been able to express that part of my life, which in the past I’ve been ashamed of and now I’m like, “That’s just my life,” and I just want to kind of put this forward as a statement of what I’m doing with this life.

Lisa Salvo: I don’t think I need to do that again. As this album really comes to a close and I can start thinking of that new material and new things that I want to learn in my personal life, that will probably form the new material, but it might open up a little bit more and not just say that me, in which case there’s a lot of room for the others to have authorship. And I’m really happy for that to happen. I think they all have something really strong to say with their music.

John Murch: Through the self-titled record, you’ve found your strength to turn away from that shame?

Lisa Salvo: Definitely. Yeah. It’s strange how important the music has been and the songwriting has been for me to move through difficulty in my personal life. It’s been a huge part of the journey for me.

John Murch: Lisa Salvo, thank you very much for your time.

Lisa Salvo: Thank you so much, John. I really enjoyed our chat.