What Beccy Cole knows about women

Date

Karen Hardy

Country singer Beccy Cole relaxes at her home in Adelaide.

Country singer Beccy Cole relaxes at her home in Adelaide. Photo: David Mariuz

BECCY COLE, COUNTRY MUSIC SINGER, 42, IN A RELATIONSHIP

I come from a long line of strong women. My mother, Carole Sturtzel, has been a great role model for my entire life - strong and tenacious but always great comic relief. She's hilarious. I'm sure she would have been a superstar if it were a different time.

At 16 she was in a band playing live gigs three nights a week. During the 1960s she appeared on Reg Lindsay's Country Hour.

But back then there were different pressures from society, and when she fell pregnant with my brother Matthew in 1970, she said, "I've got children now, I have to settle down."

Advertisement

My grandma, Gloria Sturtzel, is going strong. She's 96 and still selling Avon. She left school at 14 and worked as a milliner in Adelaide. She was extremely talented and ran her own business but she was never treated as an equal by her brothers. One of them even made her give him most of her pay. But she learnt to rise above the blatant sexism and became known as the go-to girl for hats among Adelaide's society ladies.

The thing that threads all the women in our family together is that we are prepared to work hard. We are tenacious and have boundless energy. It's never surprised me that women are more than capable of doing their own thing because that's the family I was brought up in.

I haven't had to work as hard for equality as my grandmother and mother did because times have changed. But

I have such strong, beautiful women in my family and it's a blessing.

My first crush was on Dolly Parton. My first ever lullaby was Me and Little Andy, a story Dolly wrote into a song about a little girl and her puppy. At the height of my obsession I had about 286 photos of her up on my wall. It was never a sexual thing. I just love her, love her voice. I've seen her perform several times, and I've met her a couple of times, too. In 1986, when she toured with Kenny Rogers, I was about 12 and Mum was invited to a jam session with a couple of guys from Dolly's band; the next night I met her after the show. That night Dolly made me believe that dreams can come true.

The women in our industry aren't very competitive with each other. I'm friends with a lot of them - Kasey Chambers, Gina Jeffreys, Sara Storer - we're all so close. It's as cheesy as it sounds. I'm not saying you don't come across competitiveness, but the more you don't allow that behaviour in, the less likely it is to take over.

My son Ricky has just turned 16.

He's a champion kid. Motherhood completely changed me. I realised the capacity of my heart when I had a child, I realised how much I could love. I know that sounds corny, but it's so true. It changed my attitude.

I became less reckless. I can't say more grounded because I never stopped touring. I just found new ways of doing things that included putting him first and bringing him along.

When I decided to come out about my homosexuality on Australian Story in 2012, I wanted to teach Ricky that we live in a world where we can be ourselves. The best way to teach him that is to be true to myself. He was bringing a friend home one day and he said to me, "You don't have to worry mum, he doesn't know you're gay," and I thought, "You don't have to protect me."

I guess I was frightened in a way, too, because my main audience is in regional Australia and I was worried how they would react. I have to say, I'm sorry because I underestimated them. I've had a wonderful reaction and I haven't lost any fans and, if I have, I didn't have them in the first place. True Australians appreciate honesty before everything else. They don't do bullshit.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on [partner] Libby O'Donovan. It was May 2011 and I was at Port Hedland airport. I looked up to see a most beautiful face and we smiled at each other and then she was gone. A year or so later, I was invited to perform at [Adelaide's annual LGBTI] Feast Festival and I received a text message out of the blue from another performer saying she would like to sing with me at the festival.

I thought, "Cheeky sod. How did she get my number?" I agreed because she sounded lovely and was funny, and when she arrived at my hotel room, I realised I was looking at the face I had seen in Port Hedland.

We've been together for three years now. Our relationship is easy. When you're with the right person, everything is easy. Now I understand what all these crazy love songs are about.

Beccy Cole's autobiography Poster Girl (Hachette, $33) is out now.