Sunday, January 14, 2018

Single release: 'Waiting for the Rain' by Alison Ferrier

Melbourne singer-songwriter musician Alison Ferrier has released the first single from her forthcoming third album, What She Knows (out 16 February). 'Waiting For The Rain’ is a laid-back yet gutsy country rock song that features some lovely pedal steel and Ferrier's warm, inviting voice.

Watch the video below or

Single release: 'Insane' by Georgie Taylor

One of the observable effects of the CMAA Academy of Country Music in Tamworth is not only the level of professionalism amongst singers, musicians and songwriters in their twenties and older, but the emergence of artists in their teens. At least, that's my theory. By creating a culture of professional development within the Australian country music scene, the Academy has sent a signal - subliminally, perhaps, but I think it's more overt - to younger artists that there is a place for them to go to learn about the art and craft of country music creation and performance. In order to get to the Academy, of course, they need to have some material, so the earlier they start, the better.

There have been a few artists in their teens or just out of them emerging over the past few months, and it's a sign that country music not only appeals across generations but has a talented future. The latest example of that future is Georgie Taylor who at sixteen years of age is already a CMAA graduate, having attended its Junior Academy of Country Music.

Georgie is a singer-songwriter from Thornlands in Queensland who also plays guitar, ukulele and piano. She was wwarded RedArts Young and Emerging Artist 2017 Award and won multiple awards at Wynnum and Brisbane Eisteddfods and the MTAQ (Music Teachers Association of Queensland) Vocal Competitions and Redland Sporting Club Vocal Competition winner for the categories of Junior (2014) and Intermediate in 2017.

Georgie's debut single, 'Insane', is from what will be Georgie's first studio offering, an EP of original songs, produced by Liam Kennedy Clark at Lush Recording Studios in Queensland. It showcases Georgie's lovely strong voice and her songwriting skill through its story of deep emotional turmoil.

Listen to 'Insane' on Soundcloud.

Georgie is on Facebook @GeorgieTaylorMusic

Jess Holland takes her Miss Demeanour to Tamworth

Singer-songwriter Jess Holland has a brand new album, Miss Demeanour, and she is launching it during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival. Jess is a fantastic live performer, and the singles she's released so far from the album - including the latest, 'Australian Dreamer' - have built anticipation for a great new release. I had a chat to Jess about her launch show and other Tamworth shows, and about the album.

The album is done – how are you feeling?
Excited. I cannot wait for it now. I think the last time I was talking to you I was releasing my last single and I think I was hinting there was a new album coming out. I’m just so excited because it’s been such a long process and I’m ready for it to be out now.

I remember talking to you quite a while ago when ‘Linburn Lane’ wasn’t even on an album at that time – you were talking about the song and it sounded amazing. So how long has it taken to write the songs for the album, and how long has the recording taken?
I stepped into the studio itself straight after Tamworth [2017]. I started the first week of February and I’ve been recording on and off until about maybe August. All my stuff got done really quickly but because there’s been so many different people on the album as instrumentalists and musicians, it’s been a process of trying to get them when they’re free. Everyone’s just so busy. But it’s so worth it. And prior to that I guess I was probably writing songs for well over a year. So you can see why I’m ready [laughs]. I’ve had these songs under my wraps for so long and I guess I’ve been test running them at gigs but now it’s all but done. I’m ready for it to be released.

Did you have more songs than you needed?
Oh, way too many. I think initially I had maybe 31 songs or something silly. I had to take a step back and say, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do here?’ [laughs] I found myself combining some as well, because I thought, Well, they’re very similar so maybe I can take those lyrics out into this … And it just seemed to mesh really well. By doing that sort of thing, and complete culls as well, I got down to 15 or 16. I sent them away to my producer in Newcastle at Funky Lizard Studios, Rob Long, and said, ‘Mate, it’s up to you now. You need to tell me what’s going to work and what’s not because I’m too close to it now.’ So we got down to the 13 tracks that are on the album.

I always think it’s better to have more than less, because you don’t ever want to be in a situation where you’re trying to play catch-up with yourself and then you might end up with songs that are less than ideal.
Definitely. And I don’t think I’ve ever had the problem of never having enough. When I released my first album I think I had to write one song for it, and I thought, That’s cool. That’s heaps. Then for my second album I had way too many and I culled a few. This time it was way, way too many. It was very hard this time. It’s kind of like saying, ‘Which kid is your favourite?’ [laughs] So I did as much as I could and left the rest to the professional.

The next single is ‘Australian Dreamer’ – can you talk about what inspired it? What’s it about?
Really the inspiration was my house. I live 20 Ks out of town. It’s this really old place. I’ve only in the last year put on TV. It’s a hundred-year-old house and I really just got to thinking one day – I’d been working all day and I thought, I wonder how many people have been in this house, have lived in this house. The families, what they used to do. And I got to talking to my grandmother, who’s 93, and she can remember because she’s from this area. She was telling me all these stories. And I thought that’s a lot like our family – they’re a very hard-working blue-collar family overall. And I think that’s probably what it is – the song captures that hard-working essence of what all Australians are. We work hard – it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re very hard workers, and we’re doing it for a better future for us but also for our kids.

Do you have a favourite song on the album?
[Laughs] Oh, don’t ask me that. It’s hard. But I think ‘Linbur Lane’ is always going to be the one that stays with me, because it’s so personal and I’ve had it for so long. I didn’t even think I was going to put it on the album initially, or release it. And because I’ve done that, I’m just really proud of myself for getting it out because it’s been so emotional. And because it’s about my grandma I think it’s probably going to be one of the songs that is my favourite, for sure.

Why did you hesitate to put it on the album?
Because it’s so personal. I had it written for months and months before I even plucked up enough courage to sing it in public, let alone put it out so the whole world could hear it. It’s just been a process because our family is so close, and I was afraid, I suppose, what my mum and my aunties and uncles, her kids, would think about me writing a song about my grandmother. If it wasn’t good enough or accurate enough. I think all those insecurities came out because I just wanted to make everyone proud, I think. So it was hard. The very first time I sang it, my mum and my auntie were in the audience and they were bawling, and I thought, Okay, I must be doing something right. I think from there it was a lot easier – each time it got a lot easier to sing – and now I can sing it as many times as I want and the emotion’s still there but the physical welling-up isn’t there. Everyone has really taken it and rolled with it, and they appreciate it, so I think that’s been the biggest thing for me. I just can’t believe it’s got so much momentum.

I think it’s probably because it’s so personal, and it’s offering up that vulnerability in yourself and that’s something that people do connect with. So many of us struggle to be vulnerable in their own lives, but when someone else offers it, and offers it willing and without any conditions, it gives the listener an opportunity to feel it in themselves and start to explore it. And that’s one of the things country music is so great at – that connection. So you, having now done this – and I acknowledge how much courage is required in doing something so personal – do you feel emboldened to try exploring some other subjects that might have felt too personal before?
Yes, definitely. And I think as well this album is a lot of that. Because ‘Linburn Lane’ was written way before any of these other tracks and I went through all that process of performing it live for the first time and all that sort of stuff way before any of these other tracks were written for the new album, I think this new album is … It’s still my very sassy self but it’s dug deeper than that. One of the tracks on there is about a wild bloke I was entangled with for so long, and it wasn’t until I could sit back and look at it that I thought, I can sing about this stuff. I went through a break-up, and I’m not necessarily writing about a break-up so much but now I’m on my own and I can think for myself, and I think that’s where the song ‘Solitary Mind’ comes from. I get told what you’re leaving behind and how bad it’s going to be, but now I’m free and I can think for myself. And all of that sort of emotion – I’m not the sort of person who’s going to write about the break-up and how much I hate or love. That’s not who I am as a person. But the residual feelings and all the stuff that comes after that, that’s what I can now write about because ‘Linburn Lane’ let me do that.

You’ve given yourself permission to do it.
I think so. And that album is such a healing process for a lot of different aspects of my life. And getting back to my roots – getting back to the stuff that I love to do, liking being out of town and doing farm work, head down bum up sort of stuff, and getting around the family – it’s all been such a process, and I think the last part of it is getting the album released.

You’re going to launch the album in Tamworth on the 20th of January – in fact, you have quite a line-up of gigs for the festival. What is planned for the launch show in particular?
So I just really wanted to have a lot of fun. That’s what I love to do: music and perform for people and just make them feel the energy that I’m feeling about my songs. We’ve got a full band that I love to perform with, and I’ve got a few guest artists. There’s a guy by the name of Brock Henry, who’s from Newcastle, and he’s just amazing. He’s just hit his straps and going so well, so I said, ‘Mate, come and do a few songs at my launch!’ Kahlia Martin, who’s an awesome guitarist and singer from Cobar, she’s going to be playing guitar and doing a few songs as well. I’ve also got Carl the Bartender, who is one of my great mates. He used to be in Good Corn Liquor, so he’s gone out and he’s now Carl the Bartender. He’s just real chillaxed and he has a great sound. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Brock Henry is going to be on your bill for some other shows and you’ve also got Allison Forbes, who I know is a long-time colleague of yours.
She’s actually doing these things called the Medicine Shows, upstairs at the Tudor, so it’s going to be kind of cool. Years ago Allison and I and another girl, Gretta Ziller, we had a trio and did a few gigs, and we had so much fun. So we’re kind of doing a little bit of that this time. We’re doing our own music but also a few songs together, so it’s going to be just a bit of reminiscing and a lot of fun.

What else are you looking forward to about the festival in general?
For me the festival is always so much fun. It’s always so bloody hot but it’s so much fun. I haven’t seen a lot of these people for twelve months. A lot of my friends, I haven’t seen them or caught up with them properly. We might have talked on the phone or on Facebook or messages, but you don’t get to really catch up with them and play music. And I think that’s the best thing to be able to do – not just release my album and show people what I’m made of, but get out there and support other people and watch other people, and catch up and have a bit of fun. So I’m excited for that.

Over the years of going to the festival, do you think that connection with other people has been the best thing that you … I don’t want to say ‘got out of it’, because that sounds a bit mercenary. But your impression of Tamworth – overall do you think of it as a music festival or do you think of it mainly as that chance to connect with people?
Both. It’s a great music festival but it’s probably one of the more relaxed festivals that you’ll ever be a part of. And that’s my kind of thing. I love to have a lot of fun playing music – for me that’s the ultimate. And being able to do that around not just fans that have followed you for the past few years but also new people who have never seen you before, and then also around your mates who play music, mates you get to catch up with. I always think of Tamworth as being just a really relaxed time before the rest of the year hits.

Speaking of that year, I would imagine you’re planning to tour your album once you’re free and clear from Tamworth.
I have a massive year lined up. It’s going to be big. I haven’t done such a big tour probably since my last album So I’m excited to get out to some new places and head down south again and head up north again, and go out west, and visit all the places that I haven’t been for a while but also that I’ve never been to.

I remember when you did your Queensland tour – you were going to pubs in places you hadn’t been before. Do you think of yourself as adventurous or is it the music that makes you adventurous?

I don’t know. I’ve always liked to get out and see new places. I guess to a certain extent I’m adventurous. But I also get very nervous going to new places, because I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if people are going to turn up. I don’t know if people are going to like it. So it’s definitely that adrenaline rush, but I also love getting out seeing new places and seeing Australia, and if I can combine that with music, well, isn’t that awesome? [laughs] Isn’t that the way you should be touring as an artist? It’s not just getting out there as a tour, but get out there and meet the people. So I guess, to a certain extent, I’m adventurous, but there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with it [laughs]. 

Friday 19th January 2018 | 1pm
Tudor Hotel [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Saturday 20th January 2018 | 8.30pm
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Monday 22nd January 2018 | 3pm
DAG Sheep Station, NUNDLE NSW
Richo’s Roundup
Crawney Road, Nundle
(02) 6769 3486 |

Tuesday 23rd January 2018 | 3pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Wednesday 24th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Thursday 25th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363

Friday 26th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
Medicine Shows w/ Allison Forbes
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Friday 26th January 2018 | 8.30pm
Tudor [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth

Saturday 27th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Single release: 'That Ole Train' by Slim Dime

Melbourne duo Slim Dime have been working on a new album, and their original song 'That Ole Train' is the single released ahead of it.

Trains are a perennially favourite subject for a country song, with good reason: they invoke the possibilities of new places, new people and momentum into the future, all good elements for a song. On this track band members Chris Taylor and Jen Land give us a treat with their bluegrass guitar and Land engages in some fine yodelling.

Slim Dime play gigs regularly - you can find details on And you can see the video for 'That Ole Train' below.

Single release: 'Wildflower Bruises' by Homegrown

'Wildflower Bruises' is the title track of a new six-track EP from Far North Queensland trio Homegrown, and it is a piece of utter loveliness. Siblings Katelyn, Liam and Kasey O'Donoghue (20, 18 and 15 years old respectively) share a a childhood of singing together; they released a five-track EP in 2016, and toured Australia throughout 2017. That history - and, no doubt, the family relationship - has led to exceptional, seamless harmonies in this bittersweet country-folk song of young love crushed by jealousy.

Homegrown will release the new EP during the Tamworth Country Music Festival or you can pre-order it on iTunes.

In the meantime, watch the video for 'Wildflower Bruises' below.

The Wolfe Brothers hit the road to Tamworth

After another massive year The Wolfe Brothers are taking their Let's Hit The Road Tour to the Tamworth Country Music Festival, playing one big show at Blazes Auditorium at West Tamworth Leagues Club on Wednesday 24 January at 8.30 p.m. They'll be supported by NZ sensation Jody Direen.

Towards the end of 2017 I caught guitarist Brodie Rainbird on a rare day off and found out what he and the Wolfes, Nick and Tom, have been up to lately, and what's ahead this year.

Hello and how are you?
I’m good. The boys and I are enjoying a few days at home – we haven’t had many of those this year.

Does anyone even recognise you any more?
[Laughs] They still hear from us. We don’t let them forget.

How was 2017 – what were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?
It’s been flat out. We’ve been over to Nashville for a month. We’ve written a new album. Then we came home and we started touring with Lee Kernaghan. So we’ve done his tour, which is now over. In between all of those dates we’ve done our own dates. We started our own tour. And then in between all of that we’ve been spending time in Sydney recording the new album.

Is it unusual for you to record in Sydney?
Yes. We’ve recorded one song – it was with Matt Fell at Love Hz Studios. We recorded one of the first songs we ever put out with him, seven years ago. So we’ve done a full circle: we’ve been to Nashville, we’ve come all the way home.

And Matt is a very popular producer, especially for country music, so that’s a very good fit.
I’ll just say this, though: you haven’t heard Matt do stuff like this before. This is all brand new. It’s really pushing some boundaries.

Is it pushing some boundaries for you guys too?
Absolutely, yes. We said, ‘We want our boundaries pushed, Matt. We want it to be modern and new, and sound cool and really sleek.’ And he said, ‘Right, we can do this.’

Was that a decision you made after the songwriting process or as you went into songwriting did you think you’d push yourselves in a different direction – or into an evolution, shall we say?
It’s been on our minds for a while but it sort of came after the writing process. We came home and we weren’t sure who was going to do the album. We weren’t sure if we could afford to go back to Nashville or not, then decided not to. Then we thought, Well, who at home can do this? We actually did a duet with the Baylou girls and we heard that and thought, Oh wow – this is not like what Matt Fell normally sounds like. And that got us thinking, and it all worked out so well. The boys and I are incredibly happy with it.

It is a big decision, choosing a producer. In this case it’s had a big impact on your sound but that producer can also be a collaborator. And I would think that given you guys as a band are so tight, you’re so used to working with each other, it almost gives an extra significance to choosing a producer who can work with you and not upset your band dynamic.
Yes, that’s totally true. And we wanted someone who could grab the album by the balls and just do something with it. A lot of stuff we’ve done in the past we’ve tracked the band live all at the same time, to capture that live energy. And we were, like, ‘Nah, we’re going to do something completely different [this time].’ With Matt we’d lay a couple of bass tracks down, or guide tracks, then Matt would just go to town for three hours playing synths or creating crazy noises, and messing with vocals and doing all this crazy stuff that we’d never experienced before, and the three of us would just sit back and let him do it – ‘That sounds great, mate, just keep going.’ We didn’t even have a drummer in the studio until the first week was done.

Given how the band operates, you’re clearly highly organised, and I wouldn’t say you’re control freaks but there’s an element of that.
[Laughs] We’re under control.

It says a lot about the three of you as individuals and about the band that you’re prepared to sit back and say to someone else, creatively, ‘go to town’.
It was a completely new experience for us. It was like opening the door to another room and it was completely pitch-black dark, and we’re saying, ‘I don’t know what’s in here but I’m going in.’ As it unfolded there were a lot of times when Matt was sitting with a keyboard in front of the computer and we were sitting on the couch behind, and we would all look at each other and go, ‘Oh wow – that’s cool! He’s created a whole other hook in this song that we weren’t going to do.’ It quickly became evident that that was the right decision – that it was working.

Again, what interests me, having spoken to you – and Tom – over the past few years, as this band has grown its audience and its sound, I do find this aspect really fascinating. It seems as time goes on that you push yourselves. You push yourselves in terms of your work ethic – you work super hard, you’re prepared to do some travel and other things that some bands might find beyond them – and you keep evolving. You respect your core audience but you keep finding ways to challenge yourselves, to challenge your audience, and it’s all quite seamless. I suppose it could seem like an organic development but I also think there’s that real consideration of your audience there. You want to pay them the compliment of giving them something new without annoying them.
I couldn’t have said it better than that! I think as an artist you have to grow. There’s always exceptions to the rule, like AC/DC, and you don’t want them to change – you want them to have that sound – but there are other artists who need to evolve and grow, otherwise it becomes stagnant. It’s something you have to do. And we’ve want to do this for a long time. We’ve talked about it at length so many nights: ‘How are we going to do this? What are we going to do? Who’s going to do it?’ Eventually it all just unfolded in this beautiful way and we’ve got this fantastic album.

And for you as a musician, when you first started playing guitar – as a child, probably – were you always quite curious about doing new things, what was next, wanting to push yourself as a musician?
It’s funny you say that, because since I can remember – I started playing in primary school. I think we all did. We met each other in high school and started hanging out. We were the ones who went back a generation and wanted to hear old music, from the 80s and the hair metal. Van Halen and Def Leppard and Metallica – we wanted that stuff. We were so old-school for so long, then we’ve skipped and we’re now looking ahead. And I’ve only just realised that. 

But I think it’s the case that you can look ahead because you’ve gone backwards. Having that lineage and that foundation as artists – even from a technical point of view, as a guitarist – to know what’s come before gives you the opportunity to play around. On a really basic level, if you now your scales and you can do your drills, then you’re free to improvise.
Absolutely. One thing, just as a personal thing on this album, previously – I’m not sure if Nick’s the same but I’ve always wanted to be a bit flashy on the guitar. As the albums have gone on I’ve matured a bit more and that has dropped off to the point where with this album, all the solos are not really solos, they’re just new melodies and new ideas to introduce to the song. There’s no shred, there’s no fast stuff, I just really enjoy adding to what the song is already.

Well, I’m very excited to hear the album – do you have a release date planned?
Not really.

I imagine you have to carefully slot it in around a whole lot of other things that are already carefully planned for next year.
It’s so funny – you pick a date and then look into it and go, ‘Oh no, that’s coming out then and this is on then. What about the week after? No, well, that’s happening …’ And eventually you push it so far back that it’s so far away it’s so pointless. Why is it so hard to find a good week to release an album? It’s weird.

I’m genuinely curious about whether you all sit down and open up your calendars and plan twelve months ahead, or a little more. You seem to be highly planned well in advance.
The key with that is Stephen White Management. We’ve got such a great management team – we’d be absolutely screwed without them. They do the bulk of that work while we’re out creating and playing and just being artists. They’re in the office organising all this stuff and researching, booking stuff and things like that. We wouldn’t exist without that.

Also, of course, your schedule has to integrate with Lee Kernaghan’s a lot of the time. So another year of playing with Lee and also playing your own stuff – I keep expecting you guys to keel over but I can only imagine that you’re extremely fit.
[Laughs] I feel like we’re about to keel over now, actually, we’ve been so busy. In the last three weeks we’ve only had a handful of days at home. The last month, actually. And before that it was just fly-in, fly-out constantly every week. I changed my insurance and rang my insurance company to say, ‘I don’t drive to work any more so I don’t need to pay extra money for that.’ They said, ‘Well, how do you get to work?’ I said, ‘I catch planes.’

Some day in the near future there needs to be a Wolfe Brothers jet.
Oh, now you’re talking.

And you need to find a little airfield in Tassie somewhere, where you can park it and you can just leave your cars there in the meantime, come and go.
That would be so handy.

Now, I’d better move on to your Tamworth show. You’ve got the one at Blazes, which is, of course, a key venue. So what can your fans expect?
We really want to turn it on for Tamworth. The boys and I get more and more excited for Tamworth as it goes on. It’s almost become a bit of a thing for us. It used to be a lot of work and now it’s, ‘Oh Tamworth – party time.’ [Laughs] Because we’re only doing the one show we really want to focus all our energy and attention on that and make it something really worth remembering.

I like the way you say you really want to turn it on for Tamworth like you haven’t in the past.
Just another 10 per cent. Every year another 10 per cent.

I’ve even seen you play the Peel Street Fanzone, three songs in the middle of the day, and you guys were on. I don’t imagine it’s easy to switch on that energy but it seems like you have a good mechanism for switching it on.
We come from the school where you play for three hours in a pub. That’s hard work. Then you get up on Peel Street and play three songs and it’s, like, ‘This is so easy.’

I would even suggest that one set at Blazes seems easy compared with three hours.
It’s so cool – we’ve worked so hard and done those long-hours gigs. Consecutive, too. I remember one weekend we went up north – we did a Friday gig, we came halfway down and did Saturday at the Lakes. We all got very drunk and were very hungover. Then on the way home we did a three-hour gig at a fair on a Sunday. That’s where we’re from, that’s what we do. So just to have a bit of success and just to do that one set, that’s so cool. That’s where you want to be.

The challenge with that is that you’re several albums into your career and you have a new album coming. Is there any argy-bargy over the set list?
Not really. It’s one thing we all tend to agree on, because we all know what works and we’ve done it a lot now. It’s an experience thing, I think. Nick and Tom especially are really good at reading crowds, so when we change the set list and it does or doesn’t work, they’re usually pretty switched on and they figure it out pretty quick.

Again, that’s a level of dedication to and awareness of your audience, and I think that’s been key to the Wolfe Brothers the whole way along, that idea that you are there to entertain, and certainly when I’ve seen you play that seems to be the mantra. It’s almost like you stand backstage and chant, ‘We will entertain.’ It’s that humility of the long-term artist as well – realising that you are in service to your audience. You might think, I really want to play that song, but if it’s not resonating with the audience it has to go.
Exactly. That’s so important, to be able to connect, because once you have that connection with an audience there’s a beautiful energy exchange that happens between artist and crowd. And everyone wins when you really nail a gig -it’s awesome.

Sometimes egos get in the way – not so much in country music, but a lot of artists can hang on to an idea of This is what I want to do. So I do think it is an achievement to get past that.
I’ve never really thought of it like that. There’s three of us, so we have each other to keep us on  the ground.

And with this show you have Jody Direen on the bill with you. She was on your This Crazy Life tour a little while ago, so obviously you all got on.
We love Jody. We absolutely love her. We were her band as well when we played that tour, and to me one of the highlights of that tour was playing her songs, sharing the stage with her. She’s just electric. She’s amazing. Such a voice.

I interviewed her a little while ago and she has a really interesting story too. I think she’s a terrific artist.
Have you heard her song ‘Spitfire’?

Probably. But I listen to a lot of songs and I don’t always remember their names!
Honestly, the best part of the entire night was playing ‘Spitfire’.

So you’re Jody’s band, you’re Lee’s band – who else are you playing for?
Who haven’t we played for? We’ve been Gord Bamford’s band when he comes out. We’ve played with Troy [Cassar-Daley], Lee obviously, TaniaKernaghan.

I think the moral of the story is that you guys just love to play.
Yeah. We’ve been James Blundell’s band, which was really cool. Heaps of stuff. It’s kind of one of our tricks, that we can do that.

It’s more than a trick, it’s an artform. It’s extra rehearsal time too.
It’s at the point now where we can all learn the songs at home, go to the gig and at soundcheck, if it’s only a small appearance, we can run the songs at soundcheck and it’s all good, we’re ready to go.

That is such a hard thing to do. But you’re professionals, so you can do that. But my time’s about to run out so I’m going to take a hard turn and ask you two things about Tasmania. The first is, what is the best thing about Tasmania?
The first thing that comes to my mind is when I get off the plane in Hobart, when I first step out of the plane, and that cool, thick, fresh air hits your face. That is the best thing.

And the thing you miss the most about Tasmania when you’re travelling?
The fact that there’s no traffic. We spend a lot of time in Sydney and it is ridiculous.

The Wolfe Brother's latest album is This Crazy Life.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Interview: Jonny Taylor

Western Australian singer-songwriter Jonny Taylor has spent the last few years touring Australia and winning fans all over the country. Now he has a new album, Dig Deep, that showcases his phenomenal voice and his great songwriting skill. He is set to win even more fans once he kicks off his next round of touring at the Tamworth Country Musical Festival in January. It was my pleasure to talk to him recently.

What music did you grow up listening to?
My brother was in a rock band and I pretty much grew up on his music, so I was on a diet of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, and all that sort of angsty grunge music. Then in my teenage years I went through a bit of a metal phase and a heavy prog-rock phase. Then I accidentally started going to country when I was in my mid-twenties.

So when you say ‘accidentally’ – did you trip and stumble over it one day by the roadside where it was lying down?
I literally did. I went into a competition called the Telstra Road to Tamworth. I got sent into this room – I thought I was going to a waiting room. It was this little room and there was a bottle of whiskey on a sink … It turned out to be James Blundell’s dressing room. I walked in and thought, This is the weirdest waiting room ever. So he walked in – I had no idea who he was – introduced himself, and he was really kind and really nice. I was telling my father-in-law about it and he said, ‘James Blundell’s a star – check out his music.’ And that’s how it started. I heard this James Blundell record called Amsterdam Breakfast and I thought that was pretty cool – there was lots of lyrical imagery, it just painted this perfect picture. So for the first time ever I discovered this new realm of songwriting with these lyrics where you make little movies in your mind, and I thought it was really cool.

What year was that?
That was 2012.

So that’s a fairly recent conversion. After you’d discovered James, what music did you listen to next?
Actually, I have to correct that – it was 2010 when I met James.

My conversion only pre-dates yours by a handful of years, so we’re both not lifelong country people.
It’s weird, isn’t it?

But for the same reasons – I think it’s the storytelling in song that really attracted me, so I really understand what you said about it.
Totally, and especially guys like James who write such … there’s actually a story worth telling in his lyrics. They’ve got  fair bit of substance. So from Blundell I think it just opened my mind – for the first time ever I wasn’t like a lot of the rock kids that were, like, ‘I hate country music!’ [laughs] I think I came across John Williamson next, and that blew my mind. And, again, I hated country music when I was a kid – I just thought it was so dorky. It took a while to accept it, actually, that I might like stuff.

I completely understand -  I was a rock person and a pop person and I didn’t think much of country music. It is kind of a mind-blowing thing, country, because it is such a rich genre and to an extent in Australia it is hiding in plain sight.
Absolutely – especially in WA, because we’ve only got one major country festival here, in February. So outside of that you have to go seeking it. There’s plenty of closet country fans out there.

After you started listening to more country music did you find amongst your peers or your friends, or your musical peers, that you were tempted to mention it, or did you keep it to yourself?
The funny things is I didn’t know it was happening – it just snuck up on me. Because I still love my rock music. I was appreciating that I was enjoying a bit of country music but I was still unaware that it was beginning to creep into my own music. And I recorded this little EP called Skin and Bones and showed it to a friend of mine. The first thing he says: ‘That’s country music, man!’ He just hated it. [Laughs] And that was the first time I thought, Wow, maybe it is. And I was in denial for years about the fact that it was part of me.

It certainly is now. On the record I can hear the lineage of rock and country, and it doesn’t sound like you’ve wedged them together – it feels like this is something that’s organically grown out of you. You obviously have this incredible voice and it’s a great rock voice but you have certainly turned it to country. So it seems as if they’ve both seeped into your marrow in a way.
Thank you, that’s really nice to hear you say that – and that’s why this record took four and a half years. When the last CD came out in 2013 I thought that I’d found a market there with the real heavy stories. I was trying to prove a point with every single song. Then with this second record I thought I’m just going to try to be more crafty about that and make music that’s fun and a bit more upbeat and rocky to play but can still have a bit more lyrical substance as well.

And it certainly has that. But I’m also interested in your voice: when did that voice emerge?
I don’t really know. When I was seventeen I had a couple of singing lessons and I had to give it up because I had a lock-jaw problem. I just couldn’t do any of these techniques. It wouldn’t have been until I was about 20 or 21 that I figured out I could sing a little bit.

I think ‘a little bit’ is understating it, just quietly.
[Laughs] It’s probably grown from that point. I was never comfortable with it. I would never have classed myself as a singer – I was always just a guitarist that could sing a little bit. So I’m a really late bloomer. I think a lot of that had to do with having a deep voice as well. I felt that it wasn’t a voice that I could use in everyday situations. I could only do baritone stuff and I found that really restrictive. There was a band called The Tea Party that I heard – I’m on strike from listening to them now, but when I first heard them it was the first time I heard a cool deep voice and I thought, Maybe there is a place for deep voices.

There aren’t that many around, actually.
No. And there’s a natural tendency to want to sing high and want to belt all the time, and I’m guilty of that myself, but there’s certainly a time to embrace the low stuff as well.

At what age did you pick up a guitar for the first time?
I remember dragging my dad’s acoustic around when I was a real little fella. But it wasn’t until I was 14, my parents gave me a classical guitar, and I was spewing – ‘Classical guitar! What’s this?’ Because I thought I was going to be a rock star. I didn’t say that to their faces, of course. So I accidentally just fell in love with this beautiful flamenco – this Spanish guitar style.

That’s a really solid grounding for anything you want to do after that, genre wise.
I would not change a thing about my musical upbringing.

Your grandparents might have been prescient – perhaps they looked at you and thought, This person could be a musician.
I think so. My grandma is a piano player and she played in the church for years – church organ lady. And I do remember playing at the piano a little bit with her. I never took it seriously but I could fumble around. So maybe she could see a bit of something that she wanted to encourage.

So when you turned to songwriting, what age was that and do you remember what your first song was about?
I do. I distinctly remember my first song was called ‘Mateesha’s Song’ and I wrote it for a girl that passed away when we were in Year Seven, final year of primary school. One of our classmates passed away – she had a chronic heart condition her whole life and we lost her, and we weren’t necessarily close but it hurt. It hurt real bad for all of us. And that was the first time I’d ever written a song. I guess that goes to show that what inspired me to do that was something that moved me so much, or really affected me.

And not the usual subject matter for first songs, which are often about lighter things or frivolous things. Obviously your storytelling instinct was pretty strong from the start.
I could never do the light-hearted stuff. I don’t know if I’m a miserable bugger or what it is, but I always tended to go hard. Go for stuff that really means something and is going to make people feel something. And sadly I think most of my songs are about serious stuff. With the last album I tried to raise social issues that I felt we needed to discuss with people. But the common theme at the end of all of it – and still in my songwriting now – is that we’re all in this together, we’re all going through stuff as humans, and it’s really nice if we can be there for each other and help each other through it.

When you’re in the country music genre, the audience will accept those more serious subjects because they are looking for substance. They’re looking to tap their toes, often, in time to it but they do want something meaty.
And that was exactly the key with Dig Deep. I just thought when I wrote this album that I wanted it to be something that’s got plenty of energy and sounds good if it’s on in the background, and doesn’t require you to sit down and focus on lyrics and think about it. I just wanted to have that element. If you want to listen, the substance is there. If you don’t want to listen then it will still feel good in the background.

When did you start writing the songs for this album?
I reckon pretty much after the last one came out, 2013. And I had a huge body of work written and partially recorded a couple of years ago, and then I just decided I didn’t like it, and scrapped it and started again.

That’s the sign of someone who’s constantly creative – you obviously trusted that there would be more songs coming. You didn’t think you had to clutch onto those songs because you may not have any more.
I had an epiphany. I’ve always really struggled with that, and even in the studio with the previous record I was a bit resistant to change of production things. I’d say, ‘Nope, this is how the songs are, that’s how they’re going to stay.’ And then I just got ruthless. I turned thirty and thought, You know what? I’ve written these songs intended for an audience, and I don’t want to do that – I want to just write an album that I’m going to be proud of for the rest of my life. So I just started from scratch.

As an artist that requires a bit of courage. It requires having the courage of your convictions – which is a trite phrase, but I think it’s a true one – but it’s also thinking, well, this is what I believe in. If you can be courageous and you can stick to what is right for your work, it does tend to find an audience but it does take that initial leap of thinking, I can do this and I know what I’m doing.
Totally, yes. And for me that leap came from a point where I got really stuck. I felt that I was hamstrung in my career, to an extent, and then I had this waking moment when I hit thirty and I thought, If I’m going to write a record, there’s a chance that it’s going to take off and there’s a chance that it’s going to fail. If it fails, I at least want it to be a record that I like personally.i

Did you record this album independently and then it went to Red Rebel Music, or how did that process work?
Yes, that’s correct. I had been hunting down a major record deal for a long time and came relatively close-ish once or twice, but I just kept forging ahead in the background anyway, because I knew that I couldn’t put my plans on hold waiting for a major deal to come through. So it was 90 per cent done by the time I presented it to Kaz. Which, in hindsight, was a really good way to go because I’d already kind of defined who I was an artist so then I could just say, ‘Well, if you like it, we can work together’. Because there is always that danger of being changed a little bit if you go with a major record deal.

They put money in and they want to have some influence accordingly, I guess.
Absolutely. And they’re entitled to do that if they’re investing all that cash. But I just hit that point where I thought, Bugger it – I’m just going to do this for me and see what comes from it organically.

In country music over the past few years there’s been quite a bit of independent recording going on. The albums are really high quality and there doesn’t’ seem to be a barrier to the music getting to the audience. I guess the traditional model of a record company is partly about distribution, but when you have an audience that will turn up to shows and turn up to festivals, as country music audiences do, you’ve got that direct channel to them, so that intermediary isn’t as necessary.
I tend to agree. We’d all love to have the financial backing but it does come at a cost. And with the way things in the world today, with the internet and everything, it’s so much easier to get the job done without depending on somebody else being behind you. Having said that, I’ve loved having the support of Red Rebel Music. The whole dynamic of my career has shifted since having them on board.

That’s obviously a meeting of the minds.
I think so. Very similar musical influences as well. Kaz didn’t come from a country background. We’ve got very similar tastes in music, actually, so it’s really comforting to know that she likes the album as it is and doesn’t want it to be more country or less country or whatever.

And she’s also got James Blundell on the roster, so that seems like it’s fated.
Isn’t it weird, how it’s come around full circle? It’s beautiful.

Just looking at some of the songs on the album – I’m looking at some of your track-by-track notes. ‘Get It Back – you mention that it’s about making mistakes and learning from them. Is there a mistake you’ve made that turned out well?
I reckon almost every one. I couldn’t give you a specific scenario but I’m a big believer in the old ‘everything happens for a reason’. And I really do. I’ve made some decisions that have had terrible, destructive impacts on my life and I’ve learned massive lessons from every one of them, and they’ve been awesome lessons.

And that’s a very good philosophy to have, because the you don’t get caught up in the mire.
That’s it. And I do still reflect a lot. I can’t live with no regrets – I always think about those sorts of things -but onwards and upwards, as they say.

‘Diamonds’ is about some tests in life. Has music ever tested you?
Oh-ho-ho boy [laughs]. Every waking second is just a mission. Anyone that’s creative questions every element of what they’re doing. And I’m like that, real bad.

So, therefore, it’s polishing the diamond – or cutting away to get to the diamond – constantly and never believing that the diamond is completely polished.
That’s kind of it, yeah [laughs]. That song in particular is about life just never going according to plan, and you don’t have a choice but to get on with it.

As you’ve done – and, as you said, learnt from your mistakes, so I can see how this album is a really good representation of lots of different facets of         you. One of which is the three years you spent touring Australia, which you talk about in ‘You Are My Home’. What prompted the three years of touring?
We [Jonny and his wife] basically went to Tamworth. We’d just built a house in Mandurah, about an hour south of Perth, and we went to Tamworth and leased the house out for a short period of time and did a little bit of a tour. Then we had a call from the property manager saying, ‘Your tenant wants to stay on’, I think for a six- or twelve-month lease. Nicole and I just looked at each other and said, ‘All right, they can do that and we’ll just keep travelling.’ So that’s what we did. And I had no interest in travel whatsoever but this all happened really naturally, so we ran with it and turned into gypsies.

Were you playing around the place as you did that?
Yes. It funded our life for three years and we were very fortunate that Nicole wasn’t tied down by a full-time job at that time. She was able to do a little bit of remote contract work. And that was the really cool thing as well: I had to book the shows to make sure we could afford to stay alive, I guess. So that led to awesome relationships with booking agents and venues, and then every year that I hit the road it just become easier and easier, because I had all these great contacts.

And word of mouth starts to spread about people, the more you play.
Totally, and that was the only way to sell records, really – to get out in front of people and try to dazzle them and hopefully talk them into spending fifteen bucks.

What do you love about playing live?
I think you live for those moments when people are responsive – where they’re actually sitting there enjoying the music, listening to the music. But the travel in general and getting to meet people and hear their stories, I find that really inspiring.

One of the great things about getting into towns is that people do turn up for shows and they do want to talk to you.
Yes, and the country towns especially. I don’t really do much in the capital cities at all. Most of the time I’m way out bush, and I live way out bush, so I’ve really responded to that kind of lifestyle. And you’re right, people will come out for that kind of entertainment and they will tell their stories – because those country folk don’t mind a chat. [Laughs]

And one of the lovely things about country music is that the artists stay behind after shows and the audience knows that. You guys give so much time to your audience. I can’t think of another genre where it’s done so consistently – where there is that exchange between artist and audience, so that the audience does feel really very much part of the music.
And we’re very accessible. That’s something I found really attractive when I first started in the country scene: how accessible people were and how generous they were with their time, with other artists and with the audience.

For my last question: what are you looking forward to in 2018? What are your plans?
I’m looking forward to a day off next year.

One day off? [Laughs]
Yes, just one – that’s all I want. [Laughs] I don’t know if that’s going to happen. But basically I’m hitting the road. I’m doing Tamworth – I’ve got two weeks there, the pre-festival and the festival festival. I do most of my band shows exclusively with the Wests Group – Wests Leagues and Wests Diggers.

Very good venues.
They’ve changed my life, actually. So there’s that, and then after Tamworth I’ve got to shoot back to WA to do some shows with James Blundell.

Oh, how nice is that?
It’s awesome. It’d be nicer if he could come to WA when I’m actually in WA, though. I’ve literally got to fly home. But there’s no end date on the tour yet so I’m pretty much just going to keep driving until Nicole rings me and says, ‘You’ve got to come home.’

Well, it sounds like you’ve put everything in place: fantastic album, lots of experiences, good philosophical basis to your music and your life. So I hope everyone listens to this album and enjoys it as much as I have.
I hope so. I think the common theme in the whole record was just ‘try not to be too hard on yourself’.

And make the best of your life – that’s what I got out of it too.
That’s kind of it, and I’m pleased to hear that because the feedback I got from the last record was that it was too depressing, and I really didn’t want that to happen.

I didn’t think it was depressing at all. There’s a lot of honesty there but it’s not miserable honesty. It’s saying, ‘Here’s light, here’s dark, but in the end it’s what you make of it and try to make the best of it.’
Heyyy – it’s working!

Dig Deep is out now through Red Rebel Music/MGM Distribution.