Seleen McAlister: A Thankful Life
For the past twelve months, award-winning country music artist, Seleen McAlister, has been riding a wave of incredible highs and lows. Named Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2016 Southern Stars Independent Country Music Awards, and a Female Artist of the Year finalist at this year’s Country Music Association of Australia Golden Guitar Awards, Seleen’s career had reached an all-time high. Winning awards wasn’t Seleen’s only challenge however. Diagnosed last September with necrotising fasciitis, a bacterial skin infection that kills the body’s soft tissue and can be fatal if not treated quickly, Seleen has also been fighting for her health.
“September last year I had necrotising fasciitis in my thigh, and they had to remove about 90% of the muscle and tissue at the back of my leg,” Seleen explains. “Then at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January it started in my elbow, then they found a little bit in my shoulder, and now it’s in my foot and toe. Because the necrotising travels so quickly, it’s done quite a bit of damage to my foot and I’m fighting to save it. I don’t know if I will, but I’m giving it everything I’ve got.”
This drive to give no less than 100% to whatever she sets her mind to is the reason Seleen walked away from the music industry fifteen years ago, despite knowing from a young age that music was her calling. A new mother at the time, Seleen wasn’t sure that she could juggle motherhood and music.
“Music was always in me. My sister has always said that I sang before I talked. Motherhood on the other hand is something that I never thought would be mine. I didn’t have it in my picture. And when it happened, I didn’t think I could do both well.”
Ten years later, and by then a mother of three, Seleen entered the 2011 Gympie Music Muster’s Maton Talent Search competition at the urging of a friend. She won and hasn’t looked back, collaborating with some of Australia’s top songwriters including Allan Caswell, Mike Carr and Drew McAlister (no relation) and recording and touring an EP and two studio albums.
Discussing how she has managed to juggle motherhood and her career, Seleen says, “When you’re a mum and you’re a performer, you feel guilty all the time. Especially when you’re away. You’re supposed to be there. But I feel that my music, my motherhood and my marriage are locked into one. Without one, the other two don’t work.”
Making Seleen’s time on the road a little bit easier of late is the company of her eldest daughter, sixteen-year-old Eliza, who has started touring with her mum as a backup singer. Clearly following in her mother’s footsteps, Eliza not only accepting Seleen’s award at the 2016 Southern Stars Awards, but sung on her behalf. It comes as no surprise then, that when asked what success looks like to her, Seleen points to a picture of her and Eliza singing together at this year’s Gympie Music Muster.
“I couldn’t be prouder. You want your kids to follow their dreams. I see part of my journey as getting Eliza through things maybe a little bit easier than I had it. I know a lot of people, I’ve got a lot of contacts and I’ve learned a lot along the way that I can pass onto her.”
Seleen’s third album, originally scheduled for release this year, has been postponed until 2018 to allow her time to focus on her health. While many artists might worry about striking while the iron is hot, Seleen is unconcerned about the delay, having faith in the momentum achieved by her two consecutive Golden Guitar and four consecutive Southern Stars nominations.
“It’s a good time to be in the forefront. I’m well known enough now that I can sneak back for a little while to get my health sorted.”
This doesn’t mean that Seleen will be resting on her laurels. Having established a strong fan base in Queensland, Seleen hopes to tour Sydney and Melbourne in the New Year, and is looking forward to working on her third album.
“My goal for 2018 is to spend less time in hospital and be out on the road more doing festivals. I also want to get back to Nashville with my producer, Simon Johnson, to start work on the next album. I want it to have a bit more of a Nashville sound and feel, and I want to connect with other songwriters, because as much as I like to write, I also like to collaborate.”
Reflecting on her journey so far and the road ahead, Seleen says, “I don’t want to say I have it all, but I’m pretty close. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I’ve got three beautiful, lovely kids, and a husband who’s not just with me, but by my side.
“All of the personal achievements that have come my way I credit to the support of my family, my fans and the people that have been with me from that little gig in the corner of the room to the big stages. Not everybody gets to follow their dreams, but I have, and I live a grateful and thankful life.”