Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interview: Chad Shuttleworth (part II)

This is the second of a multi-part interview with Toyota Star Maker finalist Chad Shuttleworth. The first part is here.

In this instalment Chad talks about the Gympie Muster and how the show must always go on, and we discuss the idea of being a 'gateway drug' to country music ...

So what’s the country music scene like in Queensland?

I think it’s growing all the time. Obviously there’s the Gympie Muster, and the Urban Country Music Festival at Caboolture. There’s Charters Towers. There’s so much country music stuff up here.

Since you’ve mentioned the Gympie Muster – it seems in recent years that it’s become a lot more organised and a lot more music focused – do you think that’s true to say? Have you performed there?

I’ve performed there a couple of times, mainly at the town square on the talent stage. But I have had some great opportunities – not so great for everyone else, but great opportunities for myself. I don’t know if you remember about three years ago, everyone got washed out. A lot of bands couldn’t come in.

But you happened to be living on the Sunshine Coast.

And I happened to actually be at the Gympie Muster at that time. Because they all got washed out outside the Gympie Muster grounds – there was massive water over the road and nobody could drive through it – and I just happened to be there selling CDs and I went to the mixing guy and said, ‘There’s no one on the stage – what’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Oh, there’s no one who’s turned up’. And he just jokingly said, ‘Do you play guitar?’ and I said, ‘Of course, yeah!’ And he goes, ‘Can you sing?’ and I said, ‘Yeah’. And he said, ‘So why don’t you get up there and have a play?’ I went, ‘Ohhhh – well – absolutely.’ So I went and found a guitar because I didn’t have a guitar, and I was selling CDs so I couldn’t leave the venue. But I got up there and played, and about five songs later Jay from Jonah’s Road came walking across, winked at me and said, ‘Thanks, mate, for filling in our spot while we were coming through’. Because Sinead Burgess’s backing band couldn’t come – they were stuck on the other side – so Jonah’s Road played for her. So those guys got up afterwards and that’s how I became great friends with Jay and Jasper, his brother, and I do a lot of songwriting with them now, just because of that coincidence, or that opportunity.

And it’s almost making the most of your opportunities, because some people might have thought, ‘Oh no, I don’t have my guitar. Oh no, it’s too scary.’

Yeah, and that’s the biggest thing about what we do - from my parents… My old man’s a chef, my mum’s a food and beverage trainer, my brother’s a business trainer and stuff. I’m from the hospitality background, where they know exactly that, well, you can’t stop the show now, and that’s the same thing with entertainment. The show must go on. It doesn’t matter what happens. When I was in Seussical Musical the lead girl – who had most of the lines in the play – pulled a hamstring, and she was side of stage crying her eyes out and then it was her turn to go on and she would just snap out of it, she’d go and do her character, she didn’t feel any of the pain – well, she made as if she didn’t – came back off and cried her eyes out.

Well, that’s professionalism.

That’s professionalism. And that’s the thing – things go awry, you just going to have to fix them on the fly and it’s going to be fine. And it’s funny – a lot of people don’t even notice that things are wrong. So I come from that sort of background.

You recently travelled to some schools and talked about music and the industry to kids. So did anything go awry there, that you had to react to?

Really, no – it was all fairly well organised. Scripture Union Queensland representative up there was Bille and she was amazing, and when we were up there it was just phenomenal. The only thing that was kind of awry was the fact that we had three gigs a day - and this is not a problem, it’s just part of what you do – but we had three presentations a day and the presentations go for an hour and a half, and school’s between eight o’clock and three o’clock, and a lot of these towns were … There’s a place called Anakie, like an hour and a half away from Capella, where we were staying, so we had to drive crazily to them and then crazy back to Emerald, so nothing went awry, it was just a lot of driving. But it was well worth it – well worth it.

So were you playing, as well as talking?

Yeah, absolutely. I had my manager, Karen Andrews, up there with us, and we’d just prompt one another with the outline and with the presentation, and then I’d play a song in between.

I would think it was also a good opportunity to introduce some kids to your music early on.

It was a great opportunity for that!

Well you can never start them too early on country music.

[laughs] No, exactly. See, that’s the thing – it’s much easier to convert people over to country music than it is to any other thing. It’s hard at first but when we go, ‘Well, this is country music?’ and they say, ‘Really? Keith Urban is country music?’ – ‘Yes, yes he is’. Then they come and listen and they say, ‘Wow, I love country music and I’ve been denying it all this time because everybody said I shouldn’t be listening to it.’

I’ve also heard it said that Ryan Adams is considered to be a ‘gateway drug’ for country music.

[laughs] ‘Gateway drug’ – that’s brilliant. I think that would be the best title ever. ‘He’s a gateway drug to country music’.

Maybe you were a gateway drug to those kids!

Yeah, well, hopefully! Hopefully one day they’ll go, ‘You know about those things? Well, that show was a gateway drug …’

If they all take up banjo and ukulele, it’s your fault.

It is my fault, and I apologise – well, no, I don’t apologise – I’m kinda glad. [laughs]

Part III of this multi-part interview will be published soon.

Chad's website:

Twitter: @chadshuttlemuso

Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview: Chad Shuttleworth (part I)

Sunshine Coast performer Chad Shuttleworth has just been announced as a finalist in the 2012 Toyota Star Maker, but he's been a star in the making for a few years now. He's done his time busking on Peel Street and attended the CMAA College of Country Music in Tamworth, so if anyone's ready for the final on 22 January, it's him. Chad - whom I described as having 'cheeky charm' in a 2008 post - gave me quite a bit of his time recently and we had a wide-ranging chat which will appear in several parts. The first is below.

I’ve only seen you play once, on Peel Street, in 2008, and I remember thinking, ‘This guy’s got something’, because you were really good at working the crowd – but not in a manipulative way. It looked like you were just enjoying yourself.

Yeah, I always do, and that’s one of my main keys of being onstage. If you don’t enjoy yourself, no one enjoys themselves.

Were you a kid who liked to get up and perform?

If you talk to my parents, yeah – they will confirm that I was the kid doing magic tricks; if there was a microphone I’d be grabbing it, and I’d be singing even if there were no backing tracks. I was always trying to obviously be the star. I don’t remember any of this, but I was told.

I guess you’re doing the right thing, then, aren’t you?

Yes! Exactly. It was kind of the right thing to do, absolutely. It was either this or, at one stage, my parents wanted me to be a lawyer! Well, no, they said, ‘Lawyer’s a good job, lots of money, and you can act and debate really well’, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s true’. [Laughs]

Well, it’s never too late, of course – if you change your mind about the whole country music caper.

Yeah, well, maybe – it’s still an option …

Did you do musicals and things like that in high school?

Yes, I did it all throughout high school. Have you ever heard of a thing called Seussical the Musical?


It’s Dr Seuss books put to music, and it’s the most colourful play you could ever watch. I did that at school and then that kind of spurred me on to do a lot more things. I was always in choir at school, but from that I moved towards musical theatre, and I was at a place called the Independent Theatre in Eumundi [on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast] for about two and a half years as a kind of trainee. Then that’s when the country music kind of kicked off. That was my passion, undoubtedly. And the rest is history, I guess.

As a teenager doing musicals did you find that you had a voice you could sing with, or did you have to work at it?

I would always say that I had the voice, but I think it evolves – it always evolves. I was a very high boy singer and then when my voice dropped it was sort of mid range. And now I’m what they class in classical music as a high baritone. So it kind of develops over time. That’s the thing about gigs. I think if you work hard – if you’re [singing] for four hours a night, three or four nights a week – you start really developing strength in your voice, and also being able to pick things, being able to play with stuff. So it’s a process.

A lot of people who don’t sing don’t realise the lengths a singer has to go to in order to protect their voice. Do you take certain measures – like, you don’t eat certain things?

It’s mostly been a trial-and-error kind of thing. Before gigs, or during gigs, I don’t ever eat potatoes. It’s really strange but potato – it must be the starch in it or something – dries my throat out and I start coughing. I heard that Carrie Underwood always has a shot of olive oil before she gets onstage. It’s kind of gross, when you think about it, but it allows your vocal cords to move a bit better, it loosens them up. I do a lot of warm-ups and stuff before gigs. But I don’t know … Milk. All that usual stuff. Milk’s probably not a good thing because you get all mucusy.

On the subject of drinking stuff before gigs, I remember reading an interview with Katie Noonan years ago in which she said she had a shot of cream sherry before gigs. So maybe you could try that – it would put you in a relaxed frame of mind, at least …

I’m always happy to try things at least once!

So just back to the subject of performing – it seems like you connect quite easily to the audience. Do you see that as part of your job – as in, it’s something that you have to maintain – or is it something that you just do naturally?

A lot of people would probably say it’s part of your job, but for me it’s always been something that’s just natural. My biggest thing as an entertainer is that I always want everyone else to have a good time. So if I’m even at a party – not working – I’d prefer for me to put my hand in my pocket and make sure that people who can’t afford it have a good time, because that to me means that when they have a good time, I have a great time. But when it comes to music, I want them to have a good time and the only way I best to do that is for me to give it 110 per cent and also enjoy it myself. One guy who was my manager at one stage said, ‘You can be 110 per cent but the audience may only ever be 90 per cent, so you’ve got to be 150 per cent for them to come up to your 110. You’ve got to be bigger than life and the most energetic person in the room for them to really lift up to what you’re doing, and you encourage them. Also, I think as Australians we’re pretty reserved, you know.

One of the great things about country music is that in rock music, say, a lot of people might be self-conscious about connecting to the audience but in country music I don’t think it’s necessarily expected, but everyone seems to be happy and having a good time – there’s not that self-consciousness that happens in inner-city pubs, I guess.

Yeah, exactly. I think the self-conscious thing is a big part of why I like playing country music – because, as you said, these people are out to have a good time. They’re not out to see someone who’s arrogant, they’re out there to see someone who’s enjoying themselves and from that they also enjoy themselves. And that’s a big thing about country music – the fact that we just know how to have a good time. That’s what a lot of the songs are about – only country people kind of know how to have a really great time. You don’t need much: a guitar, a campfire and a couple of beers, and that’s the night set out for you.

Part II of this multi-part interview will be published later in the week.

Chad's website:

Twitter: @chadshuttlemuso

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

That time of year

Well, the best-laid plans of writing some material for the blog have come unstuck because it's that time of year and, well, my day job is keeping me fairly busy!

But I did an interview yesterday with Chad Shuttleworth, who I saw busking on Peel Street in 2008 and was greatly impressed by then. We had a very interesting conversation and I'm more convinced than ever that he's a star in the making. So that interview will go up, likely in three parts, next week.