Tamworth resident Ryan Morris has a great country rock sound and a new single to prove it, in the form of 'Read Your Mind'.
Listen to it on Soundcloud or watch the video below.
Find Ryan Morris on Facebook.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
'Back to Earth' is a Willie Nelson song wonderfully made over by Werris Creek's Marie Hodson and Melburnian Laclan Bryan. You can hear Willie at work in the bittersweet lyrics yet the power and nuance given to the song belong entirely to Hodson and Bryan.
You can listen to the song on Soundcloud.
You can listen to the song on Soundcloud.
Sydney Americana artist Sam Newton has released a poignant new single, 'Hold You Down', that seems to have a few stories within its lyrics, which makes it worth repeated listening. Newton claims influences from Paul Kelly and Townes van Zandt, amongst others, but this song stands on its own - no influence necessary.
Listen to it on Soundcloud or watch the video below.
Listen to it on Soundcloud or watch the video below.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Now he's heading to Nashville, to AmericanaFest, and before then he's taking some Australian artists on a short tour called The Road to AmericanaFest. When I say it was an honour to talk to Nicholson about the tour, AmericanaFest, his work as a producer, and his latest album, Hell Breaks Loose, I am understating the case. Thank goodness he turned out to be as smart and interesting as I'd always hoped. The Road to AmericanaFest tour dates are:
Thursday 1st September - Suttons House of Music, Ballarat
Friday 2nd September - Baha, Rye
Saturday 3rd September - The Caravan Music Club, Melbourne
What does the term ‘Americana’ signify for you?
I consider it to be a catch-all phrase, like a big umbrella term that covers so many different forms of country music – but not just country music. Roots music, folk music, bits of rock ’n’ roll. It’s this kind of weird melting pot of stuff. It’s been around for a very long time but it’s obviously becoming a bit more known as a genre, I guess, and that catchphrase, that term. Which is a bit weird for us in Australia because it makes us think of the music as being American. But it’s not so much – we used to call it ‘alternative country’ but alternative country really to me is a subgenre of Americana. It’s kind of what these people who are fringe dwellers on the country scene are doing – they’re using a bit of rock and old blues and folk and all these different kind of influences in their music. But I certainly don’t see that there’s anything new. Neil Young was doing it in the ’70s, so it’s been around for a long time.
My next question was going to be, ‘In Australia, how do we define it?’ And I think it has been called ‘alt country’ but I’ve certainly seen the label being used more for Australian country music than it used to be.
There’s a real burgeoning alt-country scene in Australia which has always been bubbling along underneath but now that it’s been recognised at the Golden Guitar awards with its own category, the introduction of Lost Highway – the label that I’m working with, which is pretty much a boutique label whose whole mission statement is to try to recreate the feel of what the American Lost Highway label did, which was really hugely instrumental in the careers of people like Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams who really have pushed alternative country largely into the mainstream, certainly in American and also internationally. So I think there’s a push now – there’s a bit of a groundswell and a push for this kind of music and people are still gravitating towards it.
There’s a lot of country-folk-blues-rock music to be made in this country that hasn’t always had a home and I think that’s what’s good now: it’s getting to that point where a community is forming of people and artists who kind of know each other and get along really well and tour together, and that’s largely what this show’s all about that we’re starting, with the Road to Americanafest, which is going to become a bigger thing eventually. This is the lead-up to us going to Nashville for the Americana Festival but I want to turn it into the alt-country Americana roadshow and travel with it around the country, and show that there’s that melting pot of artists. That’s why I’ve got six people on the bill – the whole idea is that it’s seen as a community and people working together and playing, which is largely what they do in the States. All of our idols do that – they’ve all sung together and toured together and done all sorts of things where they cross-pollinate with each other, and that’s what I want to push in this country a bit more.
Certainly I’ve seen at Tamworth those shows at the Tudor Hotel upstairs, the late night alt country – it was really interesting to see that community coalescing. And part of what’s so great about Australian country music and the communities within it is that there’s so much respect for other sectors of country music, so those influences are there to drawn on and they’re also really respected by younger artists who respect older artists, so I think it means you can get all these different types of people involved and all these great sounds – and it sounds like that’s what you’re working towards.
Totally – and it’s got this outsider feel to it for a lot of the artists and I think they enjoy that in a way. And I don’t mean outside the industry, I mean outside other industry circles, and it’s a group of people who are like-minded and love the same music. I think it’s interesting that the public, listeners, music lovers are discovering music that they love and they didn’t know what it was called, they didn’t know what alt country was or Americana music was. But it’s always been here, you know – we’ve always been listening to American music. Slim Dustry was a really great interpreter of Jimmie Rodgers. It all comes from somewhere. So we’ve been listening to American music for a long time, and if you want to put a finer point on it, it’s actually Irish music in the first place.
I really get bored of the argument or the deciding about delineating between Australian and American, because music is one of the two universal languages, the other being mathematics, and I don’t know anything about mathematics. The thing about music is that if it’s the universal language, then I don’t really care where it comes from, who plays it – it’s all there on the table and it’s all for the taking, so use anything and everything to make the music you want to make. We do have to give it names to differentiate between it, but maybe less now – there’s not really physical record stores any more where you need to go in and find the pop section or the classical section. I guess you just look up the sections on your phone now, on iTunes or whatever, so we still need categories so people know where to go to find something they want to hear. But beyond that I think labels are a bit pointless, really.
Just listening to you talking about mathematics and music – I think there is some science now that proves that people who are great at music tend to be great at maths, so you may know more about maths than you think.
[Laughs] Well, it hasn’t presented itself to me yet.
That degree in pure mathematics awaits you.
Yeah, awesome, that sounds boring. I don’t think I can do that [laughs].
You can look at the numbers on the mixing desk, maybe. Speaking of which: you’re the house producer for Lost Highway Australia, so I’m wondering how conscious you are of shaping current and future sounds in Australian music. I think you’re in a unique position as a songwriter, performer and doing this much producing for one label. Are you thinking of that when you’re producing – that you’re shaping the future?
Not really. Not on such a grand scale. What I’m really doing when I’m producing is thinking about what sort of album they want to make and is that what we’re achieving. Every record essentially is about what that artist is trying to achieve and steering them down that path and around the obstacles and trying to make that come to fruition. I don’t produce everything for Lost Highway either – artists are able to use other producers. Most of my work is separate to the label, but it’s still because of that. People still come to me because there’s a certain sound they’re after or judging on records of mine that I’ve made in the past or for someone else – they become your business cards. [Those artists] come to you for a certain reason. I don’t get pop artists coming to me wanting to do a Top 40 song – nobody’s got an idea that that’s what I do because I’ve never done anything like that. So the people who come to me are generally more in my vein or the Lost Highway vein, and I think by virtue of that there is a knock-on effect producing a lot of those artists where it does become a bit of a group. Interestingly I don’t really think about it in those grand terms, I guess – it’s just about every record to me. As long they’re really great and I’m super pumped about how great they are, that’s as far as I think about it.
If you are concentrating with every project you have, that becomes an aggregated whole which is a great cultural contribution, at least from my perspective. But just back to what you said about pop – I’d argue that on your first two solo albums you showed extremely good pop sensibilities.
I guess it was a bit more pop back in those days [laughs].
You can write a catchy tune – it’s nothing to be underestimated!
No, no, and I loved doing that. There’s still large elements of those records in what I do now. The people you grow up listening to are always the people who come out in your work and you end up using all those influences as you get older. But obviously it changes over time. I find that the latest record [Hell Breaks Loose] is the first record that’s tying those earlier ones to the more recent records. It’s actually got elements of every record I’ve ever made on it. That wasn’t intentional at all but it certainly seems to have done that, from my perspective as a writer.
As someone who’s listened to your albums many, many times, I’d agree with that.
Cool. It just seemed to be that. It wasn’t till it was finished and I had some distance from it that it occurred to me that it references little bit of everything – It’s a Movie, Faith & Science, all that old stuff, but then kind of incorporates all the different shades of country I’ve tried in the meantime. It was a nice surprise, when I’d finished it, to realise that.
One question I’ll ask about this album before I go on to ask about AmericanaFest is whether you’ve been back to Hermannsburg?
I haven’t. I’m going back in a couple of months to play a show out there with Warren Williams – a big outdoor festival show, I think in the historical precinct. And I want to feel a whole bunch of doco footage and retrace my steps from my last trip out there. It was just a trip at the time that I didn’t realise how pivotal it would be until later. It would be kind of cool to go back and retrace my steps and have a keepsake of it. Try to drag a filmmaker along with me, and play a show, which I think will be pretty special.
You’ll probably get a lot of people. I interviewed Warren a while ago and I remember him saying that if you put on a show in those parts of Australia, so many people come because they’re so keen to hear music.
And they love their country music out there. Here’s a really quick story: when I was walking through Hermannsburg one day on my own, having a stroll, I heard music but it didn’t sound like a record. I thought, That sounds like a band playing. I followed the sound and walked into this corrugated shed with a dirt floor and there’s three guys jamming [with] this broken drum kit and this bass guitar with two strings, they just had the shittiest equipment but they were going for it and loving it. It was awesome. I sat there and watched them play for a little while. It was really cool.
That sounds like it will be an amazing show and experience – and also good for you to return, just going on what the song is like on your album and what the place meant to you.
Basically, it was more having the perspective for a little while and going away from your bubble. I wasn’t going to write. It was the one time I’d got on an aeroplane without an instrument. It was weird getting on a plane without an instrument. The plan was not to play music at all because I’d been recording so much in the studio and I was a bit all musicked out. But I guess that’s why and how it happens. On my first day there I sat down outside this church and started writing ‘Hell Breaks Loose’, ironically, steps of the church. And then I had to go and find a guitar off a local – I had to get Warren to find somebody who had a guitar so I could keep writing that week. So it’s just the way it works – nothing ever goes to plan.
You created the vacuum and nature rushed to fill it, I guess would be the physics way to put it.
That’s a good way to put it.
Now, to this tour: you’re heading off with Lachlan Bryan, Gretta Ziller, the Weeping Willows and Andrew Swift. Mr Bryan has been known to wear a three-piece suit on stage – will you be joining him?
[Laughs] Absolutely not. If I wanted to wear a suit, I wouldn’t be a musician [laughs]. It’s just not comfortable enough for me. These days I will wear a bit snappier jacket or that kind of thing. But, you know, I’m a musician and I’m quite happy wearing my jeans forever. That’s getting dressed up for me anyway. Right now, I’m working in the studio today and I’m still in pyjamas, because that’s what I love about doing what I do: I don’t ever have to get dressed.
You could probably wear pyjamas on stage and it would be a fashion statement.
[Laughs] Maybe so. I don’t know that I’ll go that far. But I’ll leave the suit to Lachlan because I get too claustrophobic and can’t sing in a suit. If I was an accountant, maybe I’d wear a suit.
Well, he can wear suits for both of you. I presume you chose this line-up for the tour?
I did. Because this is a Victorian one, I wanted to choose some of my favourite Victorian artists who are working consistently in this world, in this genre, in Americana/alt country. And I’ve played with all of them before. I took the Weeping Willows on my Victorian Hell Breaks Loose launch tour and I’ve done some shows with Swifty as well. And obviously Lachlan over the years. It was a really nice group to put together, all being fairly local to Melbourne. Then the idea is that I’ll move it to another city at another time. I’ll do a Sydney one and have Sydney- or New South Wales-based musicians come and do it. Then one in Brisbane. That’s the whole idea: move it around eventually. This one in particular is just the three shows down there. They’re some good people who are really good to hang out with on the road, and I thought it would musically be a pretty fun night.
And also quite a good balance of acts, because the Weeping Willows are traditional country, Gretta has her very distinctive and fantastic thing going on – and every time I think of Lachlan I think of Alfred Lord Tennyson and The Highwayman.
He’s probably cool with that.
He’s got that every-song’s-a-novel thing going on.
Yes. He’s a very intelligent bloke too. And he’s been around a long time – he’s been something of an alt-country stalwart. He’s made a mark. I once presented him and The Wildes with Alt Country Album of the Year at the Golden Guitars. So they’ve kicked a lot of goals in the past. So I think it’s a pretty good line-up and it’ll be special night, really. And there will be guests and other musicians – it’ll be a bit of fun. In the future we’re going to expand it and have American barbecue food – make it a travelling road show.
To conclude I’ll ask you about AmericanaFest in Nashville. You’re going over there to play. It’s a big industry as well as fan experience – once you’ve done your shows, or in between shows, will you be a fan or industry focused or both?
I’ll be both and mostly a fan. I’ve got a few different things I have to do over there. Just one showcase but a few other performances. It’s a gathering once a year when all of my entire record collection descend on the same city for a week, so it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself. You never get to see all the shows you want to see or see all the people you want to see – and also a lot of Australian friends living in Nashville. There’s so much to do in that way. I’ve done this festival twice before and I love it, I really love it. It’s got an incredible vibe and I’ve never done a music week festival anywhere in the world that’s anything like it. It’s always exciting to be there.
Hell Breaks Loose is out now through Lost Highway Australia/Universal.
AmericanaFest in Nashville runs from 20 to 25 September 2016.
AmericanaFest in Nashville runs from 20 to 25 September 2016.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
But let's try. Let's take that forty-third album, Pure & Simple, and take it as we would any album. Let's pretend that the voice singing the songs isn't instantly recognisable.
Pure & Simple has two discs: the first is new songs written entirely by Dolly, including new versions of 'Tomorrow is Forever', which she first recorded with Porter Wagoner in 1970, and 'Say Forever You'll Be Mine', another number first done with Wagoner, in 1975. The second disc contains ten of Dolly's favourite and most famous songs, including '9 to 5' and a certain song called 'Jolene'. The second disc won't be reviewed for the purposes of this website (a review would be moot, given the songs).
So, to disc one: the songs are country pop of the least-sappy, best-produced kind. The beats are mostly up and Dolly's voice is still a thing of wonder. Most of the songs are love songs, and very fine ones. 'Mama' is, quite obviously, a tribute to Dolly's mother; in anyone else's hands it could be saccharine, but there is something in Dolly's voice - something that's always there - that stops it being so. What's in that voice, in amongst her command of the notes, is authenticity, grit and self-awareness. Dolly has always known exactly who she is and that makes it so much easier for her audience to connect with her. Dolly knows that to descend into too much sentimentality would be to condescend to her audience.
People want to be moved but it's not worth much if it isn't genuinely motivated by the person doing the moving. Dolly may be great at business but she's also great at art, and in all of her songs can be heard that edge, that catch, that tells us she's there with us, not lost inside herself. It's the secret of her great connection with so many people over so many years: it's not the hair or the clothes or even Dollywood that has kept people with her. It's because she wants to be with her people, and they can tell. And in case all of this sounds saccharine, I'll say this: Pure & Simple is the first Dolly album I've reviewed, and I don't own many of her other albums. I admire Dolly, but I would never have said I was a devoted fan. Listening closely to this album has made me one, not because it's so much better than her other albums - the woman couldn't release a dud if she tried - but because it's the first time I've realised the true genius of what she does. She connects. With voice and word and song, she connects.
The world is a better place for Dolly Parton, and you will be a better person for her too. That's a down-home darn-tootin' promise.
Pure & Simple is out now through RCA Nashville.
British country music artists Megan & the Common Threads have had a busy year that has included
Your music is described as a mixture of country, blues, folk, funk and rock 'n' roll - what is your musical background? What did you listen to (or play) growing up that led to this mixture of genres?
I grew up in a very musical family in Ireland and started listening to country music at a young age - influenced by my mother! I learned to play piano early on and was heavily involved in musical theatre as a child and teenager. I suppose growing in a big Irish family and listening to Irish traditional music and country music tweaked my interest in these genres at an early age.
The blues, folk and funk came later when I dabbled in different genres and tested myself through songwriting and performing. Lately, my biggest influences are the other members of my band. They're all amazing musicians and bring so much to the music through all of their own backgrounds.
You've been playing in various places around the UK for the past couple of years - what's the country music scene like there?
The country scene in the UK is really booming right now! It's been very evident over the past three years especially that it is a rapidly growing genre here. All you have to do is look at C2C festival in London - over the past three years it has become so popular that they've had to add an extra day. The demand for tickets is insane!
The balance of touring - of interacting with your audience - and creating (writing/producing) can be hard to find. Do you find that one pulls away from the other, or do they feed into each other?
Personally I do find the balance challenging. When there is loads of 'admin' work to be done it drags me away from physically playing / singing and working on my craft that way. When I'm touring it feels like everything kind of goes out the window because your main focus is on keeping your energy levels sky-high for stage time. But most of the time I enjoy each element of this career and I try and stick to a timetable to help with time management. Practice in the morning, admin work after lunch, songwriting in the evening - or some schedule like that!
One of your songs was featured on the TV show Nashville, which must have been exciting - how did that come about?
It was very exciting! Nashville is one of my favourite TV shows so I was thrilled! One of the editors loved the music and contacted us before pitching the song to the producers. Then we got selected!
If you could play any venue in the world, which would you choose?
Probably the Ryman in Nashville. I lived in Nashville for some time and the Ryman just has this magic aura about it. I loved going to live shows there.
What music are you listening to right now that you love?
I LOVE Brandi Carlile's latest album, The Firewatcher's Daughter. It's been on repeat for the past 3 months!
What do you have planned for the new few months?
Lots! We've just finished recording our next EP, which is now being mixed and mastered. The single is due for release in late October followed by the full EP release next February so at the moment we are preparing for that. We're just closing up our Pledge Music Campaign (ending 31st August which has been such an exciting campaign. Thanks to everyone who has been pledged!
We will also be touring in October and November in both Ireland and the UK. Come say hello!!
Canadian artist Codie Prevost is in Australia to play the Gympie Muster and a selection of east coast dates. Prevost is a great entertainer and a really interesting person, dedicated to his music and passionate about it too, as my chat with him revealed. Catch him at the following venues:
31 August – The Basement, Sydney
1 September – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle
2 September – Honky Tonk Bar, Family Hotel, Tamworth
3 September – Johnny Ringo’s, Brisbane
4 September – Powerboat Club, Caloundra
It’s your third time to Australia in 18 months – why do you love us so much?
Oh, it’s incredible. I came there January 2015 for my first time, did 18 concerts and it was just such a great experience coming there, meeting all the country music fans. I got the chance to play in Tamworth – we spent quite a few days there, and what happened there was so shocking to me. I had never been to Australia but already they knew the lyrics to my songs, a lot of them, and they just follow you to the next show, to the next show, to the next show … It was inspiring. It’s just awesome when you spend your life touring one country, you’re not even sure what’s out there until you get on an airplane one day and make your way, and I’m sure glad I did. It was a real treat to get to play there. Now to be able to come back for the third time, it’s really a dream come true.
I saw you play in Tamworth at The Pub and I remember thinking, This guy’s obviously used to a tough crowd, because there were quite a few kids, there were some people who’d had a bit to drink, and you were really good at managing the crowd and getting them involved. I think someone asked you to play some ACDC or something like that. I imagine you’ve come across all sorts of audiences, it looks like nothing will faze you – is that the case?
When I started out it was my guitar and me, and I was playing small-town bars for a hundred dollars a night and nobody could say ‘no’ because they would sell five drinks and they would pay for the band that night. So this is how I got that experience, performing in front of all sorts of different crowds, from performing in the bars to performing at community events and pancake breakfasts at 7 a.m. I’ve seen quite a bit of the different shows that can come along. From doing all that stuff, though, it’s really built me into almost to be able to adapt to any situation. It’s kind of cool, because now you get into situations and you figure them out. At first, back when I started playing shows, that stuff would have freaked me out, lots of it, but now that I’ve been doing it for a while you get used to it. You learn the different types of crowds and how to interact and how to gauge it.
Still, you need to have a big repertoire, because as with that show you’re playing more than one set, and if someone does make a request – it seems like you were pretty game for any requests.
You’ve definitely got to keep some material in your back pocket because you never know when it’s going to come in handy.
And I have a technical question: those 7 a.m. pancake breakfasts, I’ve always wondered for a performer singing that early, do you get up really early to warm up your voice?
Oh yeah, usually if I’m singing at 7 a.m. I’ll have to try to get up at 4.30, just so hopefully by 7 a.m. you’ve already been speaking enough. There’s not really a lot of people to talk to at that time [laughs] so you have to do some warm-ups and prepare for it. Those are always a way bigger challenge than singing at 11 a.m., even.
By the end of the day you’ve naturally warmed up because you’ve been speaking to people … There is a lot to think about, with a voice. It’s an instrument all on its own.
It is, and that’s the cool thing – I’ve been studying a bit of voice and it’s amazing how much there is to it. Just with different techniques and different areas of your voice. It’s more complex than some people would think. And the thing with performing guitar, well, once the guitar warms up it’s going to stay in tune – but a voice, it’s always up to the person. A guitar, you bring it into a guy to get it tuned up here and there and get it rethreaded. With the voice it’s always about keeping yourself in shape and being healthy and eating well, and the healthier you are, the better your instruments can work.
You’re performing at the Gympie Muster while you’re out here – are you scared?
I don’t think so. I’ve been to quite a few country music festivals and I’ve heard a lot of great things about it. And I’ve been touring Canada for the last little while and I’ve met up with quite a few Australian folks in the crowds here – they come here on trips. They can’t believe I’m going to the Gympie Muster because when I see them here it’s halfway across the world. It’s funny how you see people here and then you see them on the other side of the world. So no, I’m not scared, I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ve looked at pictures and the website, and I have friends from Australia who performed there, and there’s nothing but great comments. I think it’s just like any country music festival – people are there to have a great time and that’s the best part about it, and if you can contribute to that good time, that’s the best thing.
So you’re in Saskatoon – what’s that like for country music?
It’s pretty good. There’s a great scene here and they have a country music association and basically it’s like a family. I’m on the board for the association and lots of times we put on shows around the province. We also do talent searches and I’ve been privileged to help out with those things. The scene is growing, there’s new artists coming in all the time, and a lot of the Saskatchewan artists, quite a few of them have taken a trip to Australia. It’s cool to see.
A province like Saskatchewan, there’s more actual country than there is in Ontario, so the music is closer to the audience, culturally speaking.
Oh yes. There’s a lot farmland here, lots of small-town people, and when you grow up on the tractor and on the farm, that’s all you have – AM radio, and that’s all country music. Either you listen to country music or you listen to news talk. I think that definitely had something to do with how popular country music is here. I really see country music as a growing genre. The new material coming out connects with a lot of different people – the younger generation. Even the Toronto area, they have some huge festivals over there and they’re all country music based.
I’m wondering about the logistics for you, even of getting around Canadian shows, it’s a lot of travel.
I always joke to people, ‘You play a show and then your next show is a six-hour drive, usually.’ I find that a little bit in Australia as well. When I was in Australia I almost felt at home, because the people are similar – besides the accent, and they tell me that I have the accent when I go there [laughs]. The people are friendly and it just really is a great place, and you have to drive so many kilometres for the next show. I know we’re going from Brisbane to Sydney and that’s quite a hike.
And you’re playing The Basement, which is a really great venue in Sydney.
I’ve heard great things. I worked with a guy out of Sydney on some other stuff and they’re all coming down, and he was excited it was at The Basement because they do some great stuff there and he said they have great food. And I’m actually touring with Brigginshaw, and I’m looking forward to that.
Are they going to be your band, or do you have your own band?
We’re going to share a band. We’re both going to do a set each night. It’s always fun when you can collaborate with an artist on a tour. It’s nice to have some buddies on the road. I’ve done a lot of acoustic tours and it can get pretty lonely when you’re out there by yourself.
I’m curious about you sharing a band – what if the band prefers one person’s music over another? Does it get ugly?
The first time I came to Tamworth, Hurricane Fall – who are doing really good right now – they were my back-up band for the first tour. The guy I was working with, he was booking me shows and he just happened to get introduced to Mike Vee, who manages Hurricane Fall. And Mike said, ‘I’ve got the boys here and they’re willing to be the back-up band.’ At the time, though, I think they were called Saving June but they did those shows at Tamworth as Hurricane Fall [for the first time]. Since I’ve been seeing them on Facebook and they’re everywhere playing all these shows, and they’ve just released a single – so I’m excited for those guys. And on my last tour I ended up using – I believe it was Brigginshaw’s band. There was a string of them. So it will be the same band this trip.
One of the things I love about Tamworth – and it’s probably true of the Muster as well – is that artists comes together and they see each other once or twice a year and these connections form, then you go out for the rest of the year and come back. Is there anyone you’re looking forward to seeing again when you go to the Muster?
There’s one person that I’ve seen on the list and I’ve never seen him before, but I’ve listened to some of his music – his name is Rodney Carrington. I used to listen to him growing up and I remember how funny his songs were. And there’s another guy from Canada, Gord Bamford, and he’s going to be down there. You see these guys in Canada then travel halfway across the world and you see them there again. And it will be nice to catch up with the Hurricane Fall guys – I haven’t seen them since Tamworth days and that was over a year ago now. When you play those festivals, before I came to Australia I didn’t know a lot of the Australian artists, and then I got introduced to so many by going to Tamworth. And with the second trip I played at Plantation Music Festival and there was another whole slew of artists there. It’s going to be great to come back because every time you see them they probably think, I can’t believe that Canadian guy’s back here again.
It will interesting for you to see what happens after Gympie – who you’ll meet, who’ll be your next tour companion or who might turn up in Canada.
Viper Creek was just here in Canada and so that was pretty awesome to see. They played a country festival here and then played around Saskatchewan. If I hadn’t come to Australia I wouldn’t have known them.
You obviously have a great work ethic because you’re prepared to tour a lot and you release music regularly – where does that come from?
It comes from growing up on the farm, I believe. My mum and dad were busy people, always on the go. I think when you grow up in that situation with parents who are always working and working hard, it just gets passed down to you. There’s no shortage in the family tree: my grandpa was a farmer, and my grandma, and it worked its way up. When you live on a farm it’s up to you to make a living – you have to plant the crop, you have to feed the cows. I remember going out on the weekends with my dad – it didn’t matter what time I’d come home in the night, he would make sure I was up by 7 a.m. to go feed the cows. He was never soft with me, he just always had me up. At the time it didn’t make much sense why that was happening but now down the road, looking back, that’s why I turned out the way I did and keep going.
Was there ever a point where you had a tussle between doing music or working on the farm, or was music always the path?
I taught myself music when I was 14 and I just taught myself and it was always a dream. But growing in the small town where I did, no one else was doing music, no one else was performing. It was a little bit tricky when I graduated because I told my dad I wanted to pursue music but he said, ‘How are you going to do that?’ and I said, ‘I really don’t know.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you go to college for a year?’ So I picked up this book of all the programs they offered and I picked the thing that took the least amount of time to get but paid the most money, and I became an electronics technician. It was a one-year course. But through that year in college my dad gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, there’s this talent contest in a small town – why don’t you enter?’ I ended up going and after the show a guy came up to me, his name was Al Leblanc, and Al asked me if I’d be interested in going down to this other small town to record with him – he was working with another guy there. And I said, ‘I’d love to – I’ve never done it before but I’d love to give it a shot.’
So a week later Al calls me and I went down to this small town and we started working together every week, and getting together two or three times a month. And one day over a burger I said, ‘Al, I really need somebody to book me some shows – I really feel that this is what I’m supposed to do but I just need someone to help me get some shows.’ He said, ‘Take a month, learn 30 songs and we’ll give it a shot.’ One week later he gives me a call and says, ‘Are you ready to play?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ I’d probably only learned 5 songs by this time. So he says, ‘You’ve got a show this weekend – two songs, actually.’ That was the start of my performing career. I went out and played those two shows and every weekend after that it seemed like I was somewhere playing, because it was just so easy to book shows at that price. For me it was incredible because it gave me that experience in front of that crowd.
After about a year of this I worked my way up to $300 and I felt I wanted to go to Nashville and record a CD. So I put together a business plan and went in to see the bank because I needed some money for this album – about $20 000 – and I wasn’t very old at this time, maybe 19 years old. I said, ‘This is my plan – do you want a part of this?’ And he looked me in the eye and said, ‘No, I can’t do it – the liabilities and the assets just aren’t lining up.’ So I went into a couple more banks and still no luck. That’s when I went to see a group from a different town near where I lived and they gave small business loans. I sat with the ladies there and they were impressed with the business plan I’d put together for how old I was. They invited me back a week later when they had a board meeting where they could make a decision, and I brought in my guitar, played a few songs, went home. A week later I got a call from them and they said they were going to approve me for this small business loan and that’s how I got to Nashville for my first time.
It’s a very sensible thing to do – apply for a loan – and I guess crowdfunding is that now, in a way. It’s surprising how many creative people don’t do that. They might try to fit in creative work around other work, not really having enough energy for either. A loan is a very pragmatic way to go about it.
I don’t think it’s common and that’s the hurdle that some people run into: they don’t look at their music as a business. I even did it. I did not at all look at it as a business until I sat down and put that plan together and starting going in to see these people to get a loan. All of a sudden that changed everything for me. I had this whole list of goals. On it I had things like, Shoot music videos; Be on tour with bigger bands; Be nominated for country music awards. And at the time I was playing for $300 a night in small-town bars. It was such a long shot, remembering, looking at those papers. But as soon as I wrote those things down they just seemed to come true. Things just started to happen. But until that point I was spinning my wheels. I was making $200 extra a night but I really wasn’t focused on what my real goals were.
You must have a new list now because all those other things are ticked off!
The list evolves. That’s the coolest part about it – it does keep changing, and that’s what makes life so great and so interesting, and it keeps you inspired.
In the balance of touring and business, do you assign time to creative work or do you just fit it in whenever you can?
I usually plan a trip to Nashville every few months and I have some great friends over there and I get to sit in a room and work with them. I usually tend to book 10 to 14 writing sessions and I prepare for those trips for probably the same amount of months that I’m not there. So I have all these ideas and all these melodies and I have all of them on my iPhone recorder, and I go down there and write all these songs. And it’s so productive. My strong suit is melodies – I can come up with melodies and guitar parts, but lots of the friends that I work with are stronger at lyrics than melodies. So I love putting those together to make a song possible. And that’s my process.
It’s such an amazing thing that you can combine lyrics and melody with someone else, because it’s almost like you have to channel each other so that the intention of the music that you’re thinking of matches the intention of the lyrics.
For sure – and that’s why I’ve always loved being the melody guy, because I’m the guy singing these and when it’s your melody it’s definitely something that you would have written sitting by yourself but when you put a guy who is world class at writing lyrics, you can definitely get a stronger song.
You’re coming to Australia – some would say you’d have been better coming at the end of the year because you’re going back to a Canadian winter. Is there anywhere else in the world that you’re desperate to go to?
I want to travel to Fiji. I’ve heard some really good things about it. Hawaii would be pretty nice too. Back in 2014 my wife and I took our honeymoon to Thailand and it was one of the best experiences of my life. When you travel around the world it opens your eyes to see how lucky we are in Canada and Australia to have the things we have. You come home from that trip a changed person just knowing that we have running water here, we have power, we have more stuff than we ever need, and to go to those countries where people don’t have any of that stuff but they’re still the happiest people you’ve ever met, to me that’s a life-changing experience and it’s something I want to keep experiencing throughout my life.
My last question is: what music are you listening to now that you love?
I’ve been listening to a lot of different stuff – I’ve actually been working on my latest album. It’s due out in the new year. When I’m going through that process it’s mixing and it’s masters, so you have to listen to it all the time. Then there’s the new Dierks Bentley album, I’ve been listening to that quite a bit. Sometimes I’ll put on Spotify and just go under the discover mode and I’m really digging that.
It sounds you’re naturally curious about music, about other places, about new experiences. That curiosity obviously serves you well.
Some people I know say, ‘I don’t really like country music’, but then they come to the Gympie Muster or whatever it is and they see the different types of music that are happening, and they say, ‘I don’t really like country music but I love this.’
I used to be one of those people until I went to Tamworth for the first time. From my point of view, country music is the genre that connects with people the most. It’s their stories – they feel like the artists really hear them and understand them, so it can be really emotional for audience members.
For sure. That’s the thing about country music: it’s approachable. Lots of time in the rock and pop worlds the artists aren’t as approachable. One of the best parts of country music is that it’s a big family coming together for a big party and everyone’s there for the same reason.
Codie's latest album is All Kinds of Crazy.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Any day that contains the release of new music from Kasey Chambers is a magnificent day. The release of the EP Ain’t No Little Girl is also the start of a new era for Chambers, following surgery on her vocal cords. Her voice is different – and the most noticeable difference is that the insecurity that always infused even her most powerful songs is absent.
Lyrically, the title song contains the clue: ‘I ain’t afraid to give a damn and take it like a man’. Despite the word ‘man’, though, this is new music from one of the most extraordinary female singers in the land, and one of our most astute, musically and lyrically sophisticated singer-songwriters. Chambers’s breadth of experience and the depth of her talent are without much compare, and in case you were in any doubt it would be eliminated in that title track.
There are four tracks on this EP, which is a precursor to the album Dragonfly, which will be released during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January 2017.
The first two tracks, ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ and ‘Talkin’ Baby Blues’ were produced by Paul Kelly; the second two, ‘If We Had a Child’ and ‘Only Child’, are in the hands of someone who has produced Chambers many times before: her brother, Nash.
The names of the songs suggest the theme: childhood and children. But that’s where the similarities end. ‘Ain’t No Little Girl’ is a battle cry and a triumph. ‘Talkin’ Baby Blues’ is a companion piece of sorts to ‘Nullarbor Song’ (from Barricades & Brickwalls) and ‘Biggest Backyard’ (from Little Bird). On ‘If We Had a Child’ Chambers is joined by Keith Urban, and the two sound made to sing together – plus this is the most authentic Keith has sounded in many years (yes, ouch, but this is the long-gone Keith of Be Here). ‘Only Child’ is bluesy and raucous in the style Chambers has established on earlier releases.
The title track and ‘If We Had a Child’ will appear on Dragonfly but it makes no sense to wait until then to hear them. Chambers is one of those artists whose every release is significant. She has more than earned our attention, and any future plaudits that go her way will only confirm what is already clear: she is a superstar.
Ain’t No Little Girl is out now through Warner Music Australia.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Melbourne has a great alt-country/Americana scene but there's country rock to be found down south, too - and done well in the form of Deep Creek Road. This year the band has played at Tamworth for the third time, as well as appearing at the Snowy Mountain Country Music Festival and CMC Rocks Queensland, Broadbeach Country Music Festival and the Mt Isa Rodeo. In October they'll appear at the Deni Ute Muster in October.
Their new single is 'If You Only Knew Me When' and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here or in the video below.
Their new single is 'If You Only Knew Me When' and you can listen to it on Soundcloud here or in the video below.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Ekka is a big deal for Queenslanders – were you nervous about performing there?
I’m always so excited. It’s become less nerves recently and a lot more excitement involved. I love performing at the Ekka. It’s like this local community – I see lots of my family and friends come by, and it’s just really, really nice … On Sunday I have the honour of judging the junior section of the country music competition.
By junior section, I’m guessing that means children?
Kind of – the kids my age and a little bit younger.
Is it weird to be judging kids your age?
Yes – because I used to do exactly the same thing about three, four years ago. I was in their position, and they came and tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Would you like to judge?’ and I said, ‘Oh! That is such an honour!’
When you’re performing, is it you and a guitar?
It’s a mixture – it can be me and a guitar, I have a band that I love playing with, and it can be a mixture of different things in the band. We can go acoustic. Depending on what suits the gig, really.
Do you have a preference as to how you perform, or is it all good?
I always love it but the bigger the better for me – the more people, the bigger the stage, the better.
It seems that most artists prefer a bigger show to a smaller one.
The smaller shows are nice because you can be relaxed and you can communicate with the people really well, but when it’s a big stage it’s so much fun to go all out. I remember I played the PBR [Professional Bull Riders events] recently – I’ve played PBR a few times, the most recent one was Sydney. That was so much fun. You get a big response [at those shows] – it is so much fun.
They’re big family events, PBR, so it’s a range of audience ages for you.
Yes, it’s quite surprising – you’d think bull riding would be a bit ‘oh my goodness’ but it’s actually really fun. My whole family goes, we all love it. I recently introduced my very city Sydney family to it when I went there and they loved it.
Are you from Brisbane or a different part of Queensland?
I am from Brisbane – grew up in the western suburbs. But my mum, she’s where we all get the country roots from – she grew up in the South Burnett [region], so she listened to Slim Dusty and John Williamson because our grandfather was in love with [them]. So Mum turned that into Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, and now Dad thinks he’s Johnny Cash. And then I took that introduction and turned it into Keith Urban, a bit of Taylor Swift, a bit of Kacey Musgraves, that kind of thing.
A lot of teenagers probably wouldn’t think country music is that interesting but you obviously have come from quite a background and know the music well, so you can bring that into your songwriting and performance.
Country music is amazing. The songwriting is incredible. I recently went to Nashville and learnt so much about how much effort is put into songwriting. It takes a solid nine years to write a country song – every word, every line in the song is thought out perfectly so that the listener does exactly what the songwriter wants them to do, whether that’s to say, ‘That was a beautiful line’, or ‘Yeah, that’s so cool!’ And then everything from the lyrics to the rhythm, the melody, the amount of range put into it, it’s just incredible. I love country music so much.
Were you in Nashville for the songwriting competition?
Yes. It was a few different things. I played a different gig every night – Nashville is the place of my dreams, I call it Country Music Disneyland. The NSAI [Nashville Songwriters Association International] Spring Training competition was there and we thought we’d go along for that. We had a bunch of meetings with publishers and publicists and producers. It was just an experience – I found that I was conquering millions of different dreams that I had been piling up in a couple of minutes, just being there.
It could be said that you’re young to be doing that, but you seem to be at a level of maturation in your career that others may not reach until they’re older, and it sounds like that’s come from you making a decision early in your life to do this, and also you’re at this school where you’re learning all these skills.
Definitely. I’ve wanted to be a household name in country music – is what I’ve always said – since I was nine [laughs], so I’ve been dead set on that. Music Industry College has helped me so much with professionalism and teaching me about the industry, learning how to handle people. My first maths assignment was to budget a world tour. We’re learning about human resources management in business. It’s just a whole bunch of very handy things which will definitely come in use.
How are you finding the balance of that with your creative side?
It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. But I get to combine schoolwork with music, which is so amazing, and I’m starting a diploma this year – thanks to the school I get to do that.
This song that you’ve released, ‘He Doesn’t Know’, what is the story behind
At the time I wrote it about a cute boy I’d seen in school when he was walking past in a hallway and I kind of had a bit of a crush on him. But as of recently I’ve realised that the people who light up your life don’t always know that and I thought that’s what I want the meaning of this song to be: I want this song to be to let the people who don’t know how great they are, tell them how great they are.
It sounds like the college you’re going to, you don’t have songwriting assignments because it’s an industry college, so for you, in that creative process of songwriting, do you tend to assign time to that or do you let inspiration strike?
Well, you can’t really teach songwriting. You can give advice – which is why the school doesn’t cover it as a subject. But I find that I have a lot of time sitting on the bus going to and from school and that’s my creative time. I can sit and think about things – 9.5 times out of 10 I’ll be thinking of song lyrics. I have my endless list of notes in my phone where I come up with little lyrics and ideas. When I’m jamming and learning different songs I get carried away with this little melody I’ve come up with. So I don’t really allocate time but the time finds me, really.
It’s not often you’ll find someone admitting that writing can’t be taught, but I believe that too. I suppose listening to other people’s music is a great education, too.
Definitely. You can kickstart someone with what they’re doing [creatively] but it’s individual to each person. I know someone who does solely lyrics and then they’ll get help with melody. Then there are people who don’t really know how to write lyrics and they’ll do the melody and get help with lyrics. And then some people do it all at the same time. There’s no real method to it, and I like that. It’s individual to each person.
And individual to each song.
Oh yeah, that too.
So I’ll put you on the spot and ask you what you’re listening to at the moment that you really love.
That changes every five minutes, to be honest. [Laughs]
So five minutes ago, what did you love?
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Maren Morris. She’s more a new up-and-coming Nashville artist and I just love her stuff. She has really creative lyrics. Kacey Musgraves – she’s an incredible songwriter. And then Keith Urban, he’s a great jamming song. You can’t go wrong with ‘Somebody Like You’.
Because you’re sixteen and most venues where music is played are pubs, can you go in as a performer to those venues or is your age a problem?
The age is a bit of a problem, not so much in Queensland – I get my dad to come along and he enjoys sitting and watching – he calls himself the ‘dadager’. He loves country music and he’s very good at talking to people. In New South Wales, if I want to go Tamworth, they’re a bit more strict about it. But I think I’m a responsible teenager – I don’t really have any interest in underage drinking [laughs]. You can’t go off and be irresponsible and still expect to be allowed to go up and play.
It seems like songwriting and performing is your reaction, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on any fun.
I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything! [Laughs]
In terms of the next phase of your career, I imagine you have enough songs lined up for an album if not now then very soon.
I’m doing a few single releases. I have billions of songs – I write pretty much all the time – but I’m very picky when it comes to the songs that I choose. So I’m doing a few single releases first and I’ll see how that goes. We’ve got some plans coming up making including some music videos, which I’m a little bit excited about.
So Tamworth, I imagine you’re heading there?
Tamworth is very busy – that’s on the list of things to do, as well as in September I’ve been asked to play at the London Fashion Week.
And I saw a mention of you playing at a fashion week in Vancouver.
That was in early April, it was so much fun. And now I get to go to London Fashion Week and play in the Tower of London. I am super-duper excited about that.
How did these things arise?
This guy Jeff Garner, who is the designer, is so lovely. It’s a really funny story as to how he found me. He wanted a ‘bubbly country singer’ and one of his friends had seen me play at the Ekka last year, but couldn’t remember my name so googled ‘bubbly country singer with an Irish last name’ and my picture was the first to come up. So that was really funny – and then I played the Brisbane fashion show, his Sydney fashion show, then Vancouver and now London. I love playing for him, he’s such a lovely guy and I get to wear his gorgeous dresses. In Sydney I got to wear Taylor Swift’s dress, which was amazing – I got so excited I didn’t want to take it off. I was hoping I could just sneak away and ‘forget’ that I had it on [laughs].
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
The Cadillac Three are Nashville born and raised, yet it’s in the UK where they’ve garnered a large following – to the point where I initially believed they were from the UK and then wondered why the music sounded like nothing I’d heard from there …
So that’s the first clue to their popularity abroad: they’re offering something different. There are familiar elements, certainly – this is swampy, up-tempo country rock, and there are plenty of forebears to draw from. But I hasten to point out that while it has some lyrical elements of Bro Country, it sounds more substantial than a lot of those offerings.
Bury Me in My Boots also has something that can be lacking in country: a big beat that drives the music along. Perhaps that means it’s not strictly country – or perhaps, again, they’re offering something different. What’s for sure is that the album is solidly entertaining from the first track to the fourteenth (and last). And it’s possible to hear in this album what their live potential would be like – they sound barely contained within the production constraints, as if they want to bust out and play to an arena instead of a studio. That’s the next clue to their popularity in the UK, where they tour regularly: they’d be great live.
If acoustic singer-songwriters are your preference, this is not your album. But if you like to know you’re getting a solid album’s worth of songs that you won’t get tired of quickly, that you can drive to, party to, sing along to, this is worth your time.
Bury Me in My Boots is out now from Big Machine.
Karin Page was the worthy winner of the 2016 Toyota StarMaker competition. The West Australian now lives in Byron Bay, in northern New South Wales, and has toured with The McClymonts, winning fans along the way. She's also being mentored by Lee Kernaghan.
Her terrific new song is 'Keep On'.
Her terrific new song is 'Keep On'.
For those of you who like your Americana to have American influences, South Australian duo Peasant Moon can help. Their latest single 'Leaving Tonight', from their EP Songs from Austin: Live from Congress House, has echoes of Whiskeytown, amongst others.
You can enjoy the song here on Soundcloud or in the video below.
You can enjoy the song here on Soundcloud or in the video below.
Monday, August 22, 2016
From your Instagram it looks like you had a very busy day yesterday. You went to the Gold Coast, radio shows, Brisbane, radio shows, home.
[Laughs] Yes, fly back to Sydney, drive two hours home in the rain to the Central Coast and flop into bed.
Obviously it’s good to get all that radio but it sounds like you were singing at each appearance – is it hard to keep your voice on an even keel when you’ve got all that?
Funnily enough was in good condition yesterday – surprisingly, because I got no sleep the night before. It was fine. I do [warm-ups] when I’m going up in the lift and away we go. There’s not a whole lot of practice before we go on, but that’s all right.
You’ve done a lot of performing, so you can probably go from a standing start, but it’s a long day, particularly when you are on the Central Coast.
Totally. But it was well worth it – a productive day. And I’m thankful that all of my interviews today are on the phone so I can stay in my pyjamas! [Laughs]
The Central Coast has become a country music hub – do you find that there’s a good, supportive community there?
Absolutely. A lot of the country artists live here and I’m doing a couple of supports for Shane Nicholson, who lives on the coast. There’s a lot of artists here – we haven’t been able to get out to a lot of gigs yet, but it’s just nice knowing that you're in the right spot.
I keep thinking there should be more venues there, so you can all play on a regular basis.
Luckily there’s this great little venue that’s just started pushing live music, luckily two minutes from my front door, which is awesome, called the Hardys Bay Club and I have a gig there in a couple of weeks, on the 27th of August. They have really great artists – Shane has come through – every weekend. Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
You grew up in Western Australia – in the wheat belt – so how are you finding life on the east coast. There’s different trees and light on the west coast.
It’s completely different but I am absolutely loving where we are. We’re in Pretty Beach and it’s surrounded by the most beautiful rainforest and water everywhere. There’s the river and on the other side of the hill behind us there’s the ocean. So we get to still do bushwalks and hikes and be surrounded by water. It’s so different to WA – it’s just flat, and it has its own beauty in that. But I love it here and I get to go home every couple of mouths and have my West Australia fix. I get to go out on the farm and have a bonfire with the fam and look at the stars, which I do miss because the stars are amazing in WA. And I come back here and it’s another beautiful place in Australia and that’s one of the perks of having a job as a musician: we get to travel a lot and see the diversity of Australia, which I love.
Growing up on a farm, is that where your interest in country music came from?
Yes, totally. It was my brothers who got me into country music. They went through that feral ute stage where they had the mud flaps and the aerials. They grew out of it, bless them, but back then I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and so I wanted to be just like my brothers. They were listening to a lot of Australian country music at the time and so I got into it, then I started songwriting and the first songs I wrote were really country and they were terrible [laughs]. Luckily I got better as I got older. I’ve just fallen into it naturally. But I never wanted to just think of myself as a country artist – I just wanted to write songs and make music, and I guess travelling a lot, travelling the world and listening to a lot of different genres has really influenced my music as well.
You said your first songs were awful – I think everyone’s first everythings are awful but a lot of people don’t admit to it.
It’s like being an athlete – you’re not going to be a great runner for the first track that you run but you get better with practice and warming up and whatnot. I learnt how to write a song after many a terrible song [laughs].
Just thinking in terms of you conceptualising your life – being on a farm in WA, thinking, Music is what I want to do – how do you start to make that plan? Where did you have to go next – to Perth?
I went to Perth for high school and I went to an arts school, which was awesome. I was surrounded by kids who were all very musical – not necessarily into country music. I studied musical theatre there and it was a whole other genre, and I thought, Maybe I want to be a musical theatre artist. I continued my songwriting throughout high school and I thought, No, I want to be a songwriter. I love that aspect of it the most. And literally three days after I graduated high school I moved to the east coast. My mum was devastated but I knew what I had to do – I had to be amongst it. It obviously didn’t happen overnight – it’s been ten years since then [laughs]. It’s just hard work. Nothing comes easy in the music industry and you have to work really hard and put 100 per cent into it. I feel like I’ve done the best I can do in the last ten years and I’m proud of where I am.
Hard work is also taking opportunities when they come and being brave enough to take opportunities – I note that you performed at a show with Keith Urban. Someone else might have thought, I’m too scared!
Absolutely. It was very exciting and the biggest gig I’ve ever played – there were 17 000 people in the audience at the Perth Arena. I was nervous before I had to go on stage but as soon as my foot hit the floor as I was walking onstage all my nerves went and I was just in the zone, absolutely in awe of the whole experience. Standing next to Keith and singing this song and looking at the audience, feeling the energy that the audience gives you, I can see how it would be so addictive and such an adrenaline high for these artists. What an amazing life they live; being able to experience that every night is pretty cool.
I once asked someone if it was scarier playing huge crowds or small shows and she said small shows, because the audience is right there.
Absolutely. These radio tours that I’ve been doing, I’ve been playing for the staff and there’s probably only about 20 people in the room and they’re all staring and it’s broad daylight, there’s no lovely dim lighting or anything like that. So literally it’s in your face and you’re looking at these people, and it is very daunting and intimidating but you just have to go into a zone. I sometimes, in my mind, pretend that I’m playing to thousands of people and that really helps.
Now we’d better talk about the song ‘One of These Days’. My take on it was that it was a song about dreams and disappointed dreams, and also about being able to rely on your mother – if not your father – when those disappointments happen. So what was the spark for you to write that?
I’d been through a total songwriting drought and I was desperate to write a song but nothing would come to me, and the night before I wrote this song my mother-in-law had come over and she had brought her tarot cards, because she knew how much I was struggling with not being able to write a song. She said, ‘Just try these cards, see what you come up with.’ The card that I pulled out of the deck was ‘Ask your creative goddess for inspiration and you shall receive’. I was a bit of a sceptic but I thought, righto, I’ll give it a go. So that night before I went to bed I was, like, Goddess of inspiration, I really need a song. And literally the next morning, which never happens to me, I woke up, ran to my guitar, picked up the guitar, sitting in my undies on my parents’ coach, at 25 years old, and I wrote this song, it just flooded out of me in half an hour. I think the best songs come to you like that and so the goddess of inspiration did a great job.
Have you asked her for help since?
Yes, she’s been neglecting my work. I think this is the song I really needed to inspire the rest of my album, because once I wrote this I was so excited about recording my album because I loved this song and I wanted it to be on it. I’m so glad that it’s a single and it’s really been a fan favourite for a lot of people – they say it’s their favourite song on the album, and I’m so stoked because it’s my favourite too. And I think a lot of people, especially the younger generation – and their parents – can really relate to this song, because the Australian dream of buying your own home in your twenties is receding further and further. It’s a lot harder, it’s a lot more expensive. Even renting on your own is so through the roof these days – so Mum’s couch is looking really good [laughs].
You’re obviously unafraid of work and unafraid of chasing your dreams, so I didn’t think it was autobiographical in that sense.
[Laughs] I’ve had a lot of disappointments and moved home just as many times as I’ve moved out of home. There’s a lot of knockbacks and you have to go through this emotional turmoil every single day of What the hell am I doing with my life? and then you think: Oh, that’s right – I love making music. Then it sits in that area of, How do I make this my living? And you have that conversation with yourself every single day. It’s not an easy one but it’s the passion and the thought of, Well, what else am I going to do? I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life and that’s what drives me to keep doing it and keep making music. And I get a lot of beautiful fan mail from people who tell me that they’ve listened to a lot of my music recently because it’s helping them get through depression or a tough time in their life, and that also really touches me and inspires me to keep going.
Music can bring a lot of joy to people, and one of the great things about country music is how much it can mean to fans. Even a sad song can be a reassurance, although your tone on your album is really upbeat. I found on this song that there was a mix of wistfulness and disappointment, but then there was that bit where you were wisecracking – that acknowledgement that life is both up and down.
Absolutely, and I get a lot of mixed reactions to this song. Some people think it’s hilarious and a great joke in the song, which it is, and then yesterday I was playing the song in a radio station and this lady started crying – she said, ‘I have a seventeen-year-old daughter and I just don’t want her to move out of home’. It affects people in different ways and that is the awesome thing about music – you can interpret it how you want and that’s how it connects with you. I love that.
In terms of making music your career, part of the trick and the challenge for modern artist is that there’s always been that balance of performance with writing and recording, but now with social media and promotion there’s a lot of time that is spent not on music itself. When it comes time to write a new album, do you specially carve out space or do you try to take little creative opportunities when they come up?
I like to carve out space. Usually I’ll go to Nashville for two or three months and just remove myself from my normal, day-to-day life and write. I usually end up with thirty songs that I’ve written and heard a bunch of awesome songs from different songwriters. I go out every single night and listen to music and that is inspiring enough to keep writing. I usually do it every year – this is the first year that I haven’t been to Nashville in five or six years so it’s killing me. But I have been writing at home, which is great and something that I don’t normally do, so I’m loving that too.
Nashville has become a very efficient place for Australian artists to write and record.
That’s what I usually do. I went over last year for a couple of months and wrote the rest of the album, and then Graeme, my producer, flew over at the end of the trip and we came home with an album, which is a really cool experience. It’s amazing, the history in those studios that you’re standing in. I’ve recorded in the studio where Elvis had recorded and Roy Orbison and all these amazing artists, and you’re thinking, This microphone … It is such an incredible experience. The history behind the town is incredible.
Now to the near future: I presume you’re heading for Tamworth.
Yes, and it’s always a highlight for the year. I love performing at the Longyard, that’s my favourite venue. I’m hoping to get back there next year because it’s such a great atmosphere and lots of fun. Then getting around and jumping up with our mates and singing songs with them, and hopefully I’ll get a guest to come and sing with us.
And anything before then?
I’m planning a series of house concerts. The concept is to go into people’s homes and talk about the songs and the songwriting, which we don’t get to do at festival gigs. People can get to know me and I can get to know my fans.
Applications for Chelsea’s house concerts are now open at: