Friday, July 21, 2017

The Voice winner Judah Kelly heads to the Gympie Music Muster

Each year television show The Voice uncovers new Australian talent, and the winner this year - not that long ago, in fact, was Queenslander Judah Kelly. Judah was already known within country music circles, though, as he has attended the CMAA Academy - and he's played at the Gympie Music Muster. I had a chat to Judah a few days after his win about the muster, the academy and other things.
 

The obvious first thing to say to you is ‘Congratulations’.
[Laughs] Thank you.

How’s your work been?
Ah … quite hectic, to be honest. I won on Sunday night, had a half-hour sleep, then Monday morning I started my interviews. I did 36 interviews on Monday. It’s just been crazy ever since.

And there’s no way to prepare for that, really – it’s such an unusual circumstance. Around an album release you’ll do a bit of press but it can be a bit spaced out, whereas this was that big hit.
That’s right. I thought about what might happen if I would win and I certainly didn’t think it would be quite this crazy.

I imagine you haven’t had a lot of sleep even since Sunday night, so are you feeling almost like you’re in a bizarro world, or is it sinking in now that you’ve won?
Oh no, it’s definitely quite weird. I’ve spent a lot of time doing a lot of hard work, and to finally reap the benefits of all that is quite amazing. I’m the dog that finally caught the car and I have no idea what to do with it. Start chasing the next one.

You performed a lot before you got on The Voice – I’m really curious to know what it’s like to perform live on television as opposed to live at a gig, because at a gig you can see your audience and on TV you can’t.
I think it’s probably a good thing that I couldn’t see the people who were watching. It is quite different. Of course, you have the audience that’s there, which is super awesome, but just knowing that you’re going live to a million people across Australia, it’s ridiculous.

You obviously handled the pressure well, because you won. But I’m going to take you back, because I’m interested in your musical lineage. You’ve been to the CMAA Academy, so there’s obviously a little thread of country music there. What’s the first music you listened to as a child and as you were growing up, what music did you love?
I have a huge love of country music now but it wasn’t always like that. I grew up listening to stuff like The Temptations and Al Green and Marvin Gaye. Then I went to my first country music competition, and this was still when I didn’t even like country music – it was just something to do this weekend. And I went along and I met a lady who is now one of my best friends, and she showed me the music of Vince Gill, and it was literally from that moment I just fell in love. And the love for country has grown ever since.

Where was that competition?
In Sarina, just south of Mackay [Queensland].

If you love singing, there’s a lot of flexibility within the country music genre, and if you love storytelling, that’s there.
That’s right. And that’s what I love about it mostly. They’re songs with meaning and thought really put into it to create something that makes people feel something and that’s what’s most important to me.

After you’d have your Vince Gill moment what artists did you find your way to?
Merle Haggard, I love Merle. George Strait, I love. I love all that older country, and then along the way I fell in love with outlaw country – Waylon Jennings and all that kind of stuff.

So you went to the CMAA Academy – when was that and how did you find that experience?
I went once as a junior, in 2011, once as a singer and once as a band member when they started the instrumental course. I think it would have been 2014 and 2015 for the last two. And they were quite amazing experiences. I was thinking about this the other day – it helped a lot with what I’m doing now. I did my first big photo shoot the other day and shooting a video for the single today. We start work on the album tomorrow. And that’s all stuff we went through at the academy. I think it would have been a lot more overwhelming if I hadn’t gone through that before.

Do you like being a member of a band as much as you like being the singer?
That’s a tough one. I’ve not really been a singer for long. Once I left high school I just needed something to pay the rent and bills, doing session work and just playing for people. And it got to a point where I didn’t want to any more. If that’s what you want to do, that’s cool – there’s nothing wrong with it at all – but it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. Which is why I ended up auditioning for The Voice, because I wanted to change that. I didn’t want to just play for other people any more.

That’s really interesting, that auditioning for The Voice came out of a desire to have a change. It’s a big thing to do, it’s a big gesture to make.
I got comfortable just playing for people and I got comfortable being in the background even though I wanted to sing, which put me in a weird situation, because I felt uncomfortable being in front of people but wanting to be there. And I thought to myself, I want to sing more than I want to stay comfortable, so I gave it a go. And thankfully I did.

Speaking of being out the front, you are going to perform at the Gympie Muster. You have played the muster before as a backing musician. Now that you have established yourself as a singer, are you feeling relaxed about being out the front of a band?
Absolutely. The Voice was quite amazing with that. I just have a new belief in my own talent, and I know that the boys who are playing with me are super tight – they’re excited, I’m excited, and I’ve spent a lot of time seeing crowds’ reactions for people I was playing for, and now to know that that’s going to happen for me this time, I’m really excited.

How many shows will you have at the muster?
I have two.

What are you looking forward to experiencing again?
The crowd. The crowd is always the best part. Once they’re pumping and just that energy – that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.

How long ago did you sign on?
Not very long ago – a month, maybe.

They would be loving themselves`sick about that, then, given what happened on Sunday night.
[Laughs] Absolutely.

Given that the muster is in Gympie and you are a Queenslander, is it fair to ask you if Queensland audiences are better?
Of course – isn’t everything better in Queensland?

You mentioned you have a video to film today, and the live performances for The Voice all happen in a bit of a run, even though the auditions take place months before. How do you take care of your voice?
That’s the thing. Normally it’s fine but I just happened to get laryngitis in the last couple of weeks and haven’t exactly had time to let it heal properly. Delta [Goodrem, his coach on The Voice] is the best ever – she set me up an appointment with her doctor during the show, so that kind of kept me together as well as possible, and then today I’m going to see another doctor again just to have a check over. It’s kind of hard because I need rest, but also there is no time to rest at the moment. And that’s part of this career and part of doing this. So we get through it and do the best we can.

This album you’re recording – you probably have a whole lot of songs that you’re recording quickly. But down the track are you looking forward to writing your own songs? Or have you written some songs for this album?
The song list isn’t really final until the album’s printed, but at the moment a co-write has made the cut, which is really exciting. One we wrote on Tuesday [this interview happened on a Thursday]. I’m grateful to Universal [his record company]. I’m not much of a writer but they’re excited to get co-writes happening and help me improve on that.

After the album’s released I imagine you’ll be on tour – are you looking forward to that? Or perhaps you need to rest that voice a little bit first.
Nah, who needs rest? Rest is for the wicked [laughs]. We’ll just get the album done. It is very early days. The planning is there, it’s just making it all happen now and that takes a little bit of time. But the plan definitely is to do a tour.

What are the Queensland destinations that will be a priority when you do that tour?
The priority is everywhere and anywhere. I’m a big believer in just hitting the road and playing everywhere that someone will listen.

That’s a country music thing, too, to really want to connect with the audience. So even though you can obviously a variety of styles I think maybe in your soul, Judah, you are country music.
[Laughs] Definitely.

So does that mean we’ll see you in Tamworth?
At the moment, yes. We’re planning to get there and Universal are happy for me to be there, I really want to be there, it’s just trying to make that happen in such a busy schedule – but it is a priority.

Judah Kelly will be performing at Gympie Music Muster, held from 24 to 27 August at Amamoor Creek State Forest.  For further info check out www.muster.com.au

Find Judah on Facebook: www.facebook.com/judahkellymusic

                                

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Single release: 'Hometown' by Josh Setterfield

Australian singer-songwriter Josh Setterfield has released the first single from his forthcoming second EP, From Dusk. The song is 'Hometown' and documents an experience many of us know: going home after an absence, and the tug of wanting to be there but also wanting to leave. Setterfield's style is country rock but of the melodic kind that is embraced more by Australian artists than American.

Setterfield has performed with Shannon Noll on tour, performed at the Gympie Muster and Urban Music Festival, and will be headlining the Day Stage at the 2017 Deni Ute Muster in September.


Watch the video for 'Hometown' below.





www.joshsetterfield.com

Album review: Ben Bostick

When American singer-songwriter Ben Bostick released his EP My Country, I wrote that the future of country music in the United States would be safe if it were in hands like his. Upon the release of his eponymous debut long player, I have reason to believe that opinion is confirmed. That’s not just because Bostick is able to write and play to a high standard – it’s because of the breadth of style within his country music, and the fact that no matter what form of country music each of his songs takes, it feels authentic.

This suggests an artist who has a deep education: he’s listened to the albums, he’s studied how the songs are written, and he has found a way to exist within that lineage without it sounding like impersonation. This is noteworthy partly because of how voices work: a singing voice can suit certain styles of song and not others. Bostick has a distinctive voice, rich and gravelly, which is elastic enough to encompass different styles and stories.

The lyrical content of the album shifts from the serious (‘Paper Football’ and ‘Independence Day Eve’) to the outrageous and funny (‘The Juggler’), and all of it worth the attention of the listener. And while there may not be a theme at work - not everyone writes an album in an arc - the variety means this is a good first album: an introduction to Bostick's range and skills. As time goes on Bostick may find that he develops a musical sound that is distinctly his (as his voice is already distinctive) but for the moment I'll take the variety and enjoy it every single time.


Ben Bostick is out now.



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fanny Lumsden and Tobias to tour central west Queensland

CMC and Golden Guitar winner Fanny Lumsden and Queensland singer-songwriter Tobias are soon to undertake a four-show tour of central west Queensland. Audiences are in for a huge treat, as both are luminaries in Australian country and folk music - and I chatted to them recently.


How long have you two known each other and have you ever shared a stage before?
F: We met at Gympie [Music Muster] last year. And this will be the first time [to share a stage].

So you obviously got on, as you’ve volunteered to tour part of Queensland together.
T: Yes, and we were on the same bill at Woodford Folk Festival this year and got to talk about doing these shows together – that’s how that cameabout.

Fanny, obviously you tour country areas a lot with your Country Halls tours – but obviously this specific kind of tour, you’re going to a very particular area, so when you were initially talking did you think it would just be nice to tour together or did you have a specific area in mind.
F: We were talking about western central Queensland specifically and getting out there.

Why western central Queensland in particular?
T: The story goes that I played a house concert. There was a Rotary member there, and she had some people doing some things out in Longreach. This guy had been doing a lot of fundraising – small community events to bring the people together – and he was really interested in doing some music. So we talked about doing some gigs together – he also runs a thing called the Western Queensland Drought Appeal, but his main thing was that he just wanted to create some awareness around it, and put on some music events, really just so people could come out and have a good time. I think that’s what the main thing was. And Fanny and I were talking and she really wanted to go to Queensland and these shows came up. So it was just a really perfect fit, and they’re really excited too that these are happening.

In terms of Rotary’s involvement, have they helped you organise it or they’re just making sure
that people get out on the day?
T: It’s kind of been a joint effort, but really they’re the machine behind it.

It seems like such a good fit that I’m wondering why it doesn’t happen more, that they get involved with organising tours because they obviously are in a lot of country towns and they know what their communities need, and bringing storytellers – which is what you are – to those towns would be hugely valuable.
F: I think it’s about finding a motivated person and then also finding people that often maybe they’d think it would cost too much money. I think there’s just a bit of a barrier there – a communication barrier. It should happen more.

So perhaps this is the start of a long and beautiful association between you two and them.
[both laugh]
T: Could be good.
F: We’ll do this tour first and then we’ll let you know. [Laughs] Just kidding – no, it’ll be awesome.
T: Yeah, that’s right.

Fanny, I’m thinking this will be slightly different to your Country Halls tours because you’re not just hopping in your caravan and taking off – except I know you organise your tours ahead. I know you’re from western New South Wales but I’m wondering why you make it a priority to play in country towns?
F: Why not? Basically. They’re just a town like any other town, and you could go to the city and get that. I grew up in the country and I know that people really appreciate it when you bring something to their town. If you live in the country people will travel. They have to drive hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Ks just to go to live music. If you go there, I’ve found – or we’ve found with the Country Halls tours – they’re so supportive. I’m writing music about that world anyway so I thought why not share it with the people who are inspiring me.

And Tobias, for you, how do you feel about going out into country towns and making music, because it takes an effort to organise that too.
T: I’m really excited. I’ve spent a bit of time playing in rural areas. I’ve never been out to Longreach so I’ll be a real tourist, I think, but I’m really looking forward to it because I know that when you get out, off the beaten track, there’s much more of an appreciation for music and connection as well. That’s what I get excited about. Just meeting new people.

And I suppose also it’s that you’re storytellers going into these towns – there is that sense of an exchange, almost, and who knows what comes out of it for either one of you in terms of songs you might want to write or experiences you might want to document.
T: Yeah. It ticks all the boxes for me, I’m really excited.

Fanny, have you ever been to these towns before?
F: Yes. My dad’s idea of a holiday when we were young was to put the bags in the car and all of us kids and then drive northwest, and pull over to the side of the road and camp. So we would go up to Queensland a lot because he had lots of friends on different stations, so we would go to their stations and help them work as our holiday – which we were thrilled about as kids. So I did spend a fair bit of time there and I had some family who lived up there too. I haven’t been up there for a long time, too – maybe since I was in my teens. It’ll be nice to get back out there.

How did you choose these towns? Some of them are really small – one of them has just over a hundred people. Was it Rotary that suggested these particular towns?
T: Yes – David Phelps, who has helped put all this together, these are the communities that are really close to his heart, and he knows them out there, so he’s chosen those venues.
F: I don’t think that size really reflects how something will be supported, because we’ve found in the Country Halls tours – the Country Halls tours are separate to our caravanning tours. Country Halls are full band, all the halls apply – it’s a really different thing. We’ve found that the halls that we go to that are literally a hall in the middle of a paddock and a hundred Ks or more to another town, they’re the ones that sell out every time. Those are the ones that are way more supported than anything you would put on in the middle of the city, for sure. Because people don’t have choice – they think, ‘Oh my god, something’s happening – let’s go!’ It’s not, ‘I might go to that but I might go to this or I might not like them.’
T: [Laughs] That’s awesome.
F: People will drive hundreds of Ks to those kinds of shows, so when I’m choosing halls – and I’m sure that this will be reflected in the tour – I’ll choose the tiniest, tiniest places over the big places every time.

I’m just wondering at the things you’ve seen in the last couple of years alone. You’ve been to so many different places, it’s amazing.
F: [Laughs] Yeah. What are you wondering, though? [Laughs]

It’s more a comment than anything – it’s a range of experience that a lot of artists don’t have because it is a big commitment to go out to all those destinations.
F: Yes. I just think they’re the best shows ever. They’re just  funnest and,               like Toby said, you get to meet so many other people and it’s like this conversation rather than being a one-way delivery of something. It’s a two-way beneficial kind of thing that happens. It’s a risk, and that’s fun too.

Tobias, how are you going to organise the sets – who gets to go on first, are you going to play any songs together?
T: I think there’s going to be a few local kids in each town who are going to play a little bit first, then I’ll be playing then Fanny, and Dan [Fanny’s partner] will be wowing everyone with their set. And we might have a jam at the end – I’ll bring my banjo and we’ll see how it goes [laughs].
F: I reckon we should definitely have a jam, do some songs together.
T: I think it will be great fun.

You could add to the fun for everyone by springing songs on each other.
F: Haha! I don’t know the words to any songs, I would be so bad at that game.
T: [Laughs]

Shane Nicholson is known for doing Song Bingo, where he hands out tickets and if your number is called you can request a song. He said that sometimes he thinks people giving him the most obscure songs, and sometimes it goes badly and that’s part of the fun too.
T: For sure. I saw him do that at Tamworth – it was great. It was an awesome way to get everyone involved in the set.

You mentioned those local kids who will be playing – is Rotary organising that or are you going to do a stunt audition on the day?
T: It’s funny – putting this together, a lot of people have hopped on board, and there’s a group of people in Longreach called The Music Makers, and they do music workshops with people who want to play music, and they take it out to different and smaller communities. So they’ve really jumped at the chance to help out with that. We’ll be mingling with them a little bit before the shows and then their star pupils will get up and do a number or two.

Fanny, I also wanted to ask you about Broadbeach Country Music Festival and Gympie, because clearly Queensland is going to become a second home for you. What are you looking forward to for each of those festivals?
F: It’ll be the first time we’ve had our band together for a long time. We’ll have the full Thrillseeker line-up, so that will be amazing. And I’ve never played Broadbeach before, so that will be great. Gympie we played for the first time last year and had such a ball, such a fun festival. We’re going to be bringing some new stuff to the set, which is really exciting. It’s going to be really fun. We’re really going to work on our set and hopefully bring our best show. And I’m excited about the other artists, obviously.

And Tobias, you’ve played Gympie, obviously, because that’s where you two met, but have you ever played Broadbeach?
T: No, I haven’t. But I was at the Blues on Broadbeach, and I have to say it’s a fantastic event – the energy there is amazing. There are so many people and the great weather and all these outdoor stages. It’s really great.

The Country Music Festival should ask you, too – you don’t live that far away. You could drive down on the morning!
T: [Laughs] For sure. Maybe.
F: You should call them up and heckle them about it.

Or maybe stand there during Fanny’s set and heckle.
F: Either or. Come on the same and heckle.

Now, Fanny you mentioned putting new stuff in your set, so I imagine there may be a new album in the works – is that the case?
Yes, we just successfully crowdfunded the second album.

I actually was part of that – I should remember! [Laughs]
F: [Laughs] Awesome – thanks! We have announcements about that coming soon. We definitely will be incorporating the new music into the sets. We have some stuff in the works.

At a festival you’re not necessarily playing for your fans – because that’s the nature of festivals. It’s probably a really good opportunity to play some new stuff and see how it goes acros.
F: Exactly. We’ll play some of the old stuff as well, obviously, but I’m all for playing new stuff. It’s just fun for us, mostly. [Laughs] But there are fans who come and they get really excited about the new things as well, and if you’re telling a story around it and you give people context, they’re usually pretty receptive to new stuff, which is great.

And Tobias, I think you’ve always got something creative on the boil, but do you have a new definitive project, like an album in mind?
T: I’ve just recorded a new EP with a very dear friend who’s a music producer. We actually played in our first band together when we were thirteen, when we busked at the markets, Actually, we were in grade four – we used to do AC/DC covers. Singing things like ‘She’s got the jack’ – we had no idea what we were talking about. So that’s been a really great experience. And I’m the process of writing a new album, too – the third album – which has been really great fun.

Have you considered recording these Queensland gigs?
F: No, we haven’t.
T: Good idea.
F: We’ll see how they go. We have all our stuff with us, all our recording stuff, so we can if we feel like it at the time. I’ll definitely document as we go, film things as we go. We definitely won’t be livestreaming because there’s definitely not enough service out there.

The requirements sometimes with social media for artists, I sometimes wonder if they’re too much – you just want to get up and do your jobs.
F: Yes, it is sometimes too much. Especially when there’s lots of other elements or other organisations that are requiring something of you. But I wouldn’t want to take away from the actual event because we were filming it. We want to be focused on having a good time.

Well, I am curious to see what comes out of this – I have visions of different types of collaborations between the two of you. No pressure.
T: [Laughs] We’ll keep you posted.



Thursday 20th July Longreach Civic Centre  Longreach, QLD
Friday 21st July -  Ilfracombe Hall  Ilfracombe, QLD
Saturday 22nd July - Isisford Hall  Isisford, QLD
Sunday 23rd July- Yaraka Hall  Yaraka, QLD

Concerts in Ilfracombe, Isisford  and Yaraka are free entry. Please arrive early to guarantee your seat.
Tickets to the Longreach concert are FREE – registrations are essential.  Click here to register.




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

EP review: Lonestar by Hayley Marsten

Lonestar is the second EP from Queensland singer-songwriter Hayley Marsten and by her own reckoning it is quite a different work to the first. Marsten has a wonderful, rich, nuanced voice and a great sense of pace in her lyrics. There's an art to how to tell a story in a form as short as a song - what to reveal and when - and Marsten doesn't rush what she's doing. That sense of ease in the singing and storytelling automatically puts listeners at ease: if you don't feel like the artist has anything to prove, you know that they're not asking anything of you other than to listen.

The title song is about being left 'in a lonestar state' after the end of a relationship, and while it could be about wallowing in an ending, Marsten sounds almost defiant, just as she does on the first track, 'Second Fiddle'. The six tracks are a balance of ballad and nicely uptempo; there's the odd love song ('Cash' and 'Until You') but Marsten avoids the saccharine, swelling chorus and instead opts for genuine sweetness.

I have only one complaint about this EP: that there isn't more of it. In some ways these six songs sound like half of an album - or maybe I just want them to be. Instead I'll take them as evidence that Marsten easily has an album in her, and hopefully not too far away. She's a fantastic emerging talent in Australian country music with the right talent, pedigree and drive behind her - and the big audiences can't be too far away.


Find Lonestar on  
hayleymarsten.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

EP review: The Yellow Line by Ferris & Sylvester

I'm fond of saying that country music is a broad umbrella, and it seems that's true everywhere, including in the UK. There's some great country pop and rock being produced there, and also the sweet sounds of duo Ferris & Sylvester. With their Americana influences and touches of 60s folk, it's clear they have an interest in storytelling, and in writing the songs that can convey those stories.

On this new EP, The Yellow Line, they have produced four bittersweet stories with lead vocals from Issy Ferris backed by Archie Sylvester. Ferris has a voice that could turn pretty much any type of song into an interesting proposition, and the production on this album is suitably restrained, to allow her voice to shine. Sylvester's harmonies provide an effective - and, actually, necessary - anchor. Alone, Ferris is a chanteuse, carrying you away; with the addition of Sylvester, the songs become earthier and more relatable. Which is not so say that you won't be carried away - but it's nice to have that feeling of being brought home, too. The sound of this duo is fresh and comforting all at the same time.

The Yellow Line is out now.


Find Ferris & Sylvester on Facebook.


EP review: Starting from Now by Catherine McGrath

Irish artist Catherine McGrath is no doubt making her mark in the burgeoning British country music scene with her new EP, Starting from Now. In her previous releases McGrath may not have quite found her voice - and she is only nineteen years of age, so that's allowed - but on this release she has a sound that is hers, and she sounds strong and confident in it.

McGrath has a voice that could suit traditional country - or traditional folk, for that matter - but it is just as well suited to her country pop sound. The four tracks (and one acoustic version of 'Just in Case') are tightly written and well produced. Lyrically they're not revolutionary - a lot of pop and country pop is like that - but given that they've been released in the northern summer, they would make perfect summer songs. 

Given the strength of her voice, and that she's been able to produce such a solid EP, it will be interesting to see what McGrath does next. There's versatility there, and years ahead for her to try it out.

Starting from Now is out now.


www.catherinemcgrathmusic.com