Many stages of Gyan

Andrew Mathieson
YEARS after a Geelong singer/songwriter made her name internationally, Gyan is still musing on what’s in a name.
Now she sees the funny side to the question.
“I changed my original first name when I was 17 after I went to India,” Gyan chuckles.
“I joined a weird religious cult and I was given that name by an old man with a long beard.”
Gyan bursts into fits of laughter at the thought.
The 46-year-old, however, has always used the name professionally and has changed it legally since then.
And her birth name?
Well, Gyan, the performer, is a little more protective about that.
“It’s been such a long time since I used it that I don’t think about the name,” she ponders.
“But some people who know me will remember it.”
She dropped the Evans surname before appearing on Star Search in 1986 to avoid any confusion with host Greg Evans.
Gyan now bemoans any mention of the Australian talent show.
“I remember I did an original ballad for the grand final and it nearly stopped the show,” she recalls.
After performing five of her own songs previously in the heats, the producer wanted Gyan to finish up with a Talking Heads cover number.
“They were very frightened with the idea that I should use their air time in that way,” she sneers.
“Then I turned around and thought, ‘you know what, they don’t have a show without me?’.”
Gyan stood her ground, stuck with her gut instinct and took out the $20,000 first prize.
Never mind the winning song was in French and Gyan jokes she knew the language only “as good as her Italian”.
After fronting a few low-key bands, Gyan’s self-entitled debut album won an ARIA award in 1990.
Gyan left for London in 1995 but was later wooed to Miami.
Despite the highs from LeAnn Rimes covering one of her songs to backing Ricky Martin, her US album, Suburban Opera, was shelved after only two weeks.
“It was a great big climb up a dream mountain and then it was a car accident,” Gyan regrets.
Her faith in music has since been rekindled after a collaboration with cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig, one of her mentors.
Their album, Billy the Rabbit, combines a poetry book and other visual art in a live performance.
“It’s a dream come true to work with an artist who’s making art while you’re making sound,” Gyan smiles.
“To watch a man at work that you have grown up with, I can say I’m never not in awe.”
Gyan was raised in Geelong but her parents were one of the 10-pound Poms after emigrating from Liverpool.
The youngest of four was sent to Matthew Flinders Girls High School and excelled in arts, drama and music.
But it was outside school hours that Gyan most vividly recalls.
“I was one of those kids who like to find a quiet place to write,” she says.
“I guess being a part of sizeable family, six people in a small weatherboard house, I always found myself climbing a ladder to sit on the roof or going to the Barwon River with my dog or riding my horse there.”
The river also provided fun times with her father when the pair used to fish from the riverbank for rainbow trout.
“Not that I could stomach them,” Gyan grins.
She now resides in Byron Bay.
Gyan hasn’t returned to her home city since her last performance at Geelong Performing Arts Centre about a decade ago.
“It’s funny that when your mum and dad pass away, a huge light goes out for you in that place,” Gyan reflects.
“I had a bit of a tough time going back to Geelong because of the sadness involved. “It made it a little difficult to even perform there because I sobbed my way around the botanical gardens.”

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