Deborah Conway on Making Music, Her Varied Career and the Dream Partnership

Subscribe to Forte Magazine

Deborah Conway on Making Music, Her Varied Career and the Dream Partnership

Over the past few decades, Deborah Conway has taken on many forms. She’s worked as a model in the ’80s, graced the silver screen, run a music festival and starred as the vocals behind a seemingly endless list of musical projects. However, her newest tag and perhaps her greatest to date, is the title of ‘Living Legend’ in the history of Australian music.

“[I am] thrilled! Are you kidding? Absolutely delighted!” Conway beams of the title. “After a long period of time putting records out, making music and contributing to music in all its iterations; I’ve run festivals, been artistic director for Queensland Music Festival, [Willy Zygier and I have] produced shows and we invented the house party – which no one had done before us.”

The recent acknowledgement of course came from the Leaps and Bound ‘Living Legends’ event in which performers Emily Lubitz, Clare Bowditch, Vika Bull and more sung songs from her career. However, affirmation for the title also comes with the recent sold out shows for the 25th anniversary of her album String of Pearls at some of the biggest concert halls in Australia.

“[That album] was definitely the closing of the Do-Re-Mi chapter and the beginning of me as a solo artist,” she says.

“It was also the tour where I employed, my now husband and creative music collaborator for the last 25 years, Willy Zygier. And that of course that has its own history. It was also the moment where I found my authorial voice.”


While creating an instant bond between the duo, the album spawned such hits as ‘It’s Only the Beginning’, ‘Release Me’ and ‘Under My Skin’, and marked the reign of Conway and Zygier in the Australian music scene. String of Pearls granted Conway several top 20 spots on the charts as well as the ARIA award for ‘Best Female Artist’ in 1992.

Twenty-five years on and the appreciation for the release still rings true, however, another achievement of the duo is surely their ability to still be creating music all these years later. As with the 25th anniversary of String of Pearls also comes the new release of Everybody’s Begging.

“We did start writing this in 2014 but we put on a festival called, Shir Madness. The Jewish festival which actually became a very time consuming project and derailed the writing process for a while. But we got back to it after that chapter in September 2015 and we were able to record this year and put it out this year,” Conway says before adding softly, “We work hard. We work really hard.”

The release follows on from Stories of Ghosts [2013], which touched on Jewish culture and life. Zygier and Conway were fascinated with the ways the Torah and Talmud were connected, in particular the way the Talmud discussed the writings of the Torah. Born of this concept, Everybody’s Begging is a commentary look at other creative works.

“We were very happy with working along those thematic lines and we didn’t want to stop. We kept going and we’ve turned this project into a commentary on other peoples creative work,” she says.

“We’ve taken Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Banquet’ and written a song which is the title track for the album [‘Everybody’s Begging’]. It expands on her release and comments on it but they, in some ways, reflect on each other. Hopefully when people listen to ‘Banquet’ they understand where we’re coming from with ‘Everybody’s Begging’. It’s a loop almost, and each thing illuminates everything else.”

With many decades and experiences later, Conway is still learning with each new project she takes. Quite simply, that’s the greatest sign of a living legend in a creative field.

“I think you always learn things when you engage in the creative process – if you’re doing it properly,” she says.

Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier take to 13th Beach Golf Links for the Music to a Tee event on August 26. This will be one of the few chances to see the duo as all other shows are sold out.

When & Where: Music to a Tee @ 13th Beach Golf Links, Barwon Heads – August 26
Release: Everybody’s Begging is released on September 2, with album notes to be released one by one via the duo’s Facebook page.