Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Interview: Lachlan Bryan (part III)

This is the third and last part of a multi-part interview with Lachlan Bryan, whose new album, Shadow of the Gun, is really quite fantastic. In this part of the interview we talk about songwriting, storytelling and changing lyrics.

The first two parts are available here, along with a review of Shadow of the Gun.

I noticed that quite a few of the songs on the album are either about women who are getting away or have gotten away but it’s – there’s a wistful tone to them rather than a sense of our narrator being wronged or having an ego being bruised. So, I guess that is more of the confessional nature of it.
Well, I certainly don’t claim that all the songs are of literal stories that have happened to me in any way. I was engaged when I first started writing some songs for the album and by the time I’d finished writing the songs I was no longer engaged, so I was also not married, so – that had all sort of fallen apart and there’s definitely an element of that relationship in the songs but it’s also – I mean, I do write songs from other people’s perspectives and other people’s stories so it may sound like it but I’m not actually harping on about the same girl. I'm not even writing from the same person’s perspective the whole way through that album, but it probably helps the listener to think that I am.

What is clear is that you’re a storyteller, you’re in the storyteller vein of songwriting and any confessional nature is not harping on a theme, for you, it’s actually you using the emotions you’ve felt to tell either your story or someone else’s, but it’s always storytelling.
Yeah, and I think that – I’m interested in storytelling and I also think that it’s not really a surprise that most songs in the world just seem to be – almost in contemporary music, most songs seem to be about some kind of romantic relationship. Because we do tend to define our lives by that a bit. I have friends who are not in relationships and the fact that they’re not in a relationship really seems to define how they feel about themselves - and vice versa, ones that are married – no matter what we do as a job or how we spend that spare time or whatever, we seem to decide whether we’re happy or not based on whether we’re in a good relationship or not, and I don’t necessarily think that’s healthy or right, but it’s certainly something that people find easy to relate to.

But speaking of unhealthy relationships - when you sang 'Ballad of a Young Married Man' in Tamworth, you were telling the story about how you’d come to write that song and I noticed that you actually had a lyric change between when you recorded and when you sang it, which was in the line, 'I bought a gun and married young', and in the recorded one it’s followed by, 'No one but me to blame', but in the live one you sang 'The two are much the same'.
I think it’s simply a case of I wish I’d written it like that in the first place, it’s a better lyric and I think I sang as it as a joke one night and I just liked it better, so I just kept singing it like that.

Well, I actually wrote it down because I thought it was such a great lyric.
I know, I know, I’m like, 'Why didn’t I think of that before I recorded the song'. If I ever record it again for some reason, I’ll use the new lyric.

It’s very effective, it’s like a punch out in the middle of the song. Now I’ll just ask you one more question because I’ve been keeping you talking for a while.
No, that’s okay.

The question is: which old country singer are you the reincarnation of? Because there’s – I really get a sense that you kind of an old soul, not that there's an old-fashionedness but when I was listening to your songs, I thought, man, this is like some old country singer come back to life.
Right, okay. Well, that’s cool, I like that. I guess it would have to be someone that was dead before I was born to be a reincarnation.

You could be Hank.
Oh, well, that would be great but I think there’s a lot – there’s totally a lot of people trying to lay claim to that heritage, not least of all his grandson, who is very much like him and I’m a big fan of Hank III as well. Look, if we’re not being strict about it and – because we did cross over -maybe Townes van Zandt would be the one that I’d be most happy to take a bit of – I don’t know, if he’s left anything here that I can pick up on, then I’d probably like to, because he’s a beautiful songwriter. I suppose if I could be remembered like someone, then I like the fact that he’s not necessarily world famous in many ways but he’s left us with all the great songs.

Yeah, I think that’s a good legacy to emulate.
And if it has to be someone that was dead already, then I’m going to go for Gram [Parsons] because he definitely left a lot of songs out here, he should have lived a lot longer.

Cool. And are you going to tour in support of this album?
Yeah, I am and I don’t really – I can’t really enlighten you much on where or when, I know I’m doing things – like I’m doing the Byron Bay Blues Fest ... I think I’m probably doing Gympie and a few things like that. So, I know a bit about the few festivals that I’m doing but I don’t know what the in-between dates are. I got a rough blueprint sent to me yesterday but I haven’t at all memorised it. So, I am leaving home quite a lot and probably trying to get back to America this year as well. I’m in the kind of happy position and slightly terrified position of [having] actually stopped working now, I’m trying to do this full-time and it’s – yeah, I’m living from month to month a bit, but it’s definitely exciting to think that it kind of has to work otherwise I starve.

I don’t think you’ll starve and it sounds like you’re going to have a lot of fun and – that's a lot of good festivals and the Gympie Muster sounds like it’s getting bigger and better every year.
Yeah, we played there with The Wildes a couple of years ago and it was a pretty intense week actually.

I’m going to let you go now, thank you very much for your time.
My pleasure.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Interview: Lachlan Bryan (part II)

This is the second part of a multi-part interview with Lachlan Bryan, who has made an extraordinarily good album, Shadow of the Gun. In this part of the interview we talk about how Lachlan came to country music and about the album's producer, Rod McCormack, and how he and Lachlan came to work together.

Part I of the interview can be read here.

Now, I’m going to ask you about your country music story, by which I mean how you came to play in the genre, because some people start off in rock 'n' roll, and some people are always country.
Yeah, sort of a bit of both, I’ve always liked country music but I did play in a few bands in my late teens, early twenties which weren’t really country ... I went to England with a band probably about five years ago, and we were just the kind of young indie band that weren’t very good – but we did get to travel around and it was, weirdly, in England that I actually heard a lot of kind of Americana music, a lot of country music. Actually, alternative country is quite big in England and Scotland, and I started getting into country music again through that. When I was a kid I really liked Gram Parsons and probably even older country music like Hank [Williams], I guess. Really I just probably always try to think of someone different to say other than Hank but he really was the first country music I heard. My family are quite into country music and my uncle plays the lap steel and guitar and he was in a lot of country bands before I was born. So, there was a lot of country music around and then I rediscovered it through some of those Americana artists, your – kind of like Ryan Adams and all those people who were big in England when I was over there, and it sort of brought me back to the source, I guess, it brought me back to the country music that I enjoyed when I was younger.

And I did get a bit of a Ryan Adams feeling watching you play, but not in a derivative way, just in that you seemed to have the same family tree of music you were coming from.
Yeah, probably that’s true. I guess – yeah, I think that happens a lot with people that play this kind of [music] – we all inevitably go back to the same sources: Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons and John Prine and all those really great songwriters. It's pretty hard not to get into one of those guys. Ryan Adams is an interesting one, because I don’t love all of his work but I do like what he does when he goes really country.

I agree completely with you there.
Yeah, like that Jacksonville album – Jacksonville City Nights is probably my favourite.

I don’t know if you’ve got Ashes & Fire, but I think that’s the best thing he’s done in a very long time.
I haven’t actually got it but I have heard a couple of songs off it and it does sound really good.

Well, as Molly Meldrum would say, you could do yourself a favour.
That’s all right; I’ll check it out then.

You’ve written all the songs on this latest album and I’ve only downloaded The Wildes' album from iTunes, so I don’t have the liner notes, but I’m presuming you wrote either a lot or all of the Wildes' songs.
Yeah, I did, yeah.

From a songwriter’s perspective – a songwriter and performer’s perspective what’s it like to write a song and then have a producer put their interpretation on it?
Well, it’s actually interesting. I think with the Wildes album, the producer probably put a lot more interpretation of his own on the songs than with the solo album. The album that we’ve just recorded with Rod [McCormack, producer of Shadow of the Gun], we were really, really true to the original demos. I did some demos for Rod earlier in the year, just at home, of the songs, I think I demoed fourteen no, I must have demoed fifteen songs just with an acoustic guitar and vocal, and we recorded twelve of the fifteen for the album, and Rod was really good in that he didn’t say, 'These are the twelve you should record', or anything – we really just decided that stuff together and I feel like he had a really gentle hand on the recording process. Whereas with the Wildes album, we were a bit less experienced and I think that the producer probably had a firmer hand on that record. We actually worked with the same producer recently again, [the one] who worked on the Wildes record, and we did some recordings with him the year before last and we didn’t end up doing anything with them, and I think that we probably had got to the point where we didn’t want to have someone having such a firm hand on the recording. Which is not to say that I don’t like the Wildes album I still really like that album, and Jon’s ideas – Jon Burnside produced that album - Jon’s ideas were better than mine were at the time, so I certainly think he did a really good job of it and I have total respect for him. But I did really enjoy working with Rod because he really didn’t try to change me too much; he just made the recordings sound good and made sure that the arrangements around the songs were very much focused on what I was doing, hopefully, what I was doing with the acoustic guitar. I think he added a tremendous amount but he did it without interfering with the songs, which was something that I really appreciated.

And did you just meet him around the traps? Because it seems like Rod and Nash Chambers are everywhere as producers, I’m just presuming you met him somewhere and the relationship came out of that.
We actually met at Tamworth last year. I knew the name but I didn’t know a lot about him and I think he had the Wildes album and he came to see a Wildes gig and then he showed some interest, and my management was keen for us to work – she had a good vision for us working together because she felt like we might need a bit of middle ground between the sort of mainstream stuff that Rod’s done and the fairly un-mainstream stuff that I’ve done. And she was right – Rod and I really hit it off from the first time that we had a proper meeting, like we had a proper meeting about February of this last year [2011] and we just started talking about music and we like so much of the same music and we really appreciated the same things in that music, like the way it was recorded, the lyrical content. We both had an appreciation for the songs that are really, really strong songs. He got me into some music that I haven’t heard before; he really got me into Mickey Newbury, for instance. I was a bit behind with that stuff and I discovered some great singers and players through him, so I got Darrell Scott, who plays in Robert Plant’s band now andis a good singer/songwriter/performer in himself. So we just started talking about a whole lot of music and it was all down the direction of the record that I wanted to make. I felt really confident that he and I wanted to make the same album. This album was so easy to make, from the very first time I talked to Rod, I did have in my mind that I wanted him to produce the album. I didn’t know at that time that he was going to arrange a record deal for me to do it, but that was great, because there was no way I could have afforded to – and so I really did want to work with him from the first time that we talked about music together. I also listened to the album that he’d made with Paul Kelly a few years ago, which I really loved, the Foggy Highway album. So, from then on it was really easy. because I felt like the songs had come reasonably easy, the recording process was easy – we recorded it live with the whole band in, I didn’t overdub any vocals or anything – I played guitar and sang it at once, and the band did it at the same time, and we felt like we would only need to do three or four takes for each song and that was right, we just chose the take that we liked best and we ran with that, or we mixed that, and it was a really easy process. And even in the mixing and the mastering, these are things that I’ve normally interfered with heavily befor,e but I felt really confident that Rod and I were trying to get the same sound and same-sounding album, so it was like that. I was happy just sitting there and enjoying what I was hearing back and it was very low stress, I guess, and I think you can kind of hear that ... When I hear the previous stuff I’ve done, I can hear all the little battles that we had in the studio and stuff like that, but with this, it just felt really right the whole time.

Well, the album does kind of sound like your sitting in a log cabin, if that makes sense, it’s got that – it’s got a kind of cosy – not a rustic feeling but an intimate sound, and certainly what you mentioned about Rod’s decisions about where to put your voice in the mix, it’s really strong, it’s not being overwhelmed by the instruments at all.
Yeah, we decided that right from the start and that was what he pitched to me right from the start.

It’s got quite a warm, close sound, it doesn’t feel like you’re keeping the listener at any kind of arms’ length.
Exactly and I think that the songs needed that too. That was one of the reasons that I really decided to make the solo record rather than a band record, is that these songs really needed to be one-on-one songs – I almost considered doing the solo album just with an acoustic guitar and vocal, because I really felt sick of the songs that I was writing at that time. To be honest, the songs that I continue to write are very much singer/songwriter stuff, very kind of concessional, which I’ve sort of avoided doing before. I think my attempts at that previously have sounded too immature, so I just felt like I was ready to do that now.

The next part of this interview will be published tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Interview: Lachlan Bryan (part I)

My latest favourite country music find thus far in 2012 has to be Lachlan Bryan - his album, Shadow of the Gun, is outstanding and he's also a great live performer who understands that audiences need to be entertained (no small feat).

I spoke to Lachlan recently, exactly a week after I saw him play in support of Harmony James during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. In this first instalment (of several) we talk about that gig, and also about his sartorial choices for it ...

I actually saw you – it would have been almost exactly a week ago in Tamworth, walking off stage about this time, I think.
Oh yeah, where was I? I was at Tamworth.

That’s right, and I was actually in the second row, so I had a good view of your suit and I have to say, I think you were the only man on stage in Tamworth in a suit at any stage.
Yeah, I know, it’s shame there’s not more.

Is it common for you to wear a suit on stage?
Yeah, it has been lately. I got that particular suit from the Lost and Found Market in Collingwood in Melbourne. It’s actually a really old suit but it was in really nice condition and it’s wool ... but it’s really hot so I didn’t wear the jacket that day. It’s kind of hard to wear the jacket with a guitar, jackets are more suited to the keyboard, or just sitting without a guitar or maybe to play the piano or something. And if the jacket’s kind of weird when you have a guitar strap around it.

Fair enough!
But, yeah, I have just been trying to clean up my act a bit, I guess. I’ve even been having a shave.

Well, I did notice, seeing some of your older publicity shots, that there was some facial hair that I didn’t notice last week.
Yeah, yeah, like I said, I’m just trying to clean myself up and look a bit more presentable. I’ve never really had a job that I had to wear a suit for, so maybe I’m just making up for it by introducing a suit into my current job.

Well, I think you’re very brave to wear a woollen suit on stage at all, considering how hot the lights can be.
Well, particularly in Tamworth, but I did wear it for album launch up there; I got through the whole gig with the jacket on, so I was pleased with myself.

I think you should be. How was your festival generally speaking?
It was really good. I enjoyed doing that solo spot with Harmony [James], and I did a gig with my band [The Wildes] at the Family [Hotel], which was kind of my record launch on the Tuesday night. Kind of my favourite room in Tamworth is the back room at the Family. I’d never played in there before but I’d seen Shane Nicholson’s gig there last year and I think Kasey and Shane did a gig there a couple of years ago and I – I don’t know, I really like it, it seems a kind of intimate kind of place, so I enjoyed that gig and playing with Harmony, and I played with Bill Chambers for a couple of his gigs and did a duet with Catherine Britt at her gig. So, I did a lot of running around to other people’s shows and that suited me fine.

Tamworth does generally seem to be a bit of a running around festival, because I noticed you had Glen Hannah in your band and you also had – well I know that Jeff McCormack plays bass for a few people ... Oh no, so this is Harmony’s band, sorry, but they played on your record, I think?
Yeah, yeah ... Glen Hannah played guitar on the album and Jeff played bass. But they never play in my live band so I don’t really see those guys all that often, I obviously saw them in Tamworth, but they didn’t play in my live band up there, but they play on the album and they did a really great job.

Yeah, sorry, I was getting confused because they played with Felicity Urquhart the night before and I just – I thought I just was seeing Glen Hannah everywhere, so my brain thought he was playing with you too.
Yeah, Glen Hannah is everywhere, and he does a lot of graphic design stuff as well. So I seem to run into Glen on all sides of the music scene. He even did the front cover of my record.

Now, I was watching you at that gig and thinking you won over the audience, which is a really difficult thing for a support act to do, particularly because it’s not – you never know what you’re going to get, basically, when you’re playing support. Do you take a much deeper breath when you’re doing a support slot? Is it more nerve-wracking?
No, not really. I guess, in a way you have less to lose on a support slot because they’re not necessarily your audience and the worst that can happen is they stay not your audience and the best that can happen is that they become your audience. So, in a way, it’s fun like that, you get a chance, I guess, as you say, to win over new people, whereas when it’s your gig, when it’s your headline show, you have – I guess people have certain expectations of what you’re going to do and I tend to do every gig a bit differently, I don’t ever write a set list – which drives the band mad, by the way.

It would.
I never have a set list and I don’t know what I’m going to talk about before I go on stage, I always – pretty much always talk a fair bit, like I did at Harmony’s gig.

But I think that was part of the winning over, was the talking, because it made it more personal.
Yeah. I guess it’s a good way of introducing – I mean, I kind of think that sometimes when you go and see an act for the first time, you only get a vague idea of the songs. The first time you listen to something, particularly if you’re in a crowded environment, you only really get a bit of an idea of whether you like the songs or not and I guess that when you’re playing to a new audience, you have to excite people enough to want to buy the CD and get to know the songs a bit better. So, part of that sometimes has to be you entertaining them, putting on a bit of a show, and that makes me more comfortable anyway. But then, I guess, I just hope that if people do get the CD then they get that second chance with the songs and actually get into the songs.

Well it works, because I bought your – sorry, go on? You said something at the end, and I cut you off.
Oh, I just said, I guess, what I really want is to ... if you’re doing a support gig like that – or any gig you just want to give people a bit of an impression of what you’re about and part of that is explaining what you’re about. I don’t necessarily explain what the songs are about all the time but I’ll explain kind of where I’m coming from, and when you do that, you just – you hope the people get the chance to hear the songs out of that – outside of that environment and get to know the songs better.

Well, it did work, because I bought your CD at that gig and when I bought mine, there were already quite a few gone. So hopefully you sold a few.
That’s good. I’d already – I had to leave actually before the end of that gig because I had to go and do an in-store performance up at Target, of all places. But yeah, that’s good, because I didn’t really look whether any CDs had gone or not, so it’s good that they did.

Part II of this interview will be published tomorrow.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview: Madison Violet (part II)

This is the second of a two-part interview with Brenley MacEachern of Madison Violet (she's at left in this photo). Madison Violet are currently on tour in Australia and I can't recommend them highly enough, as a live act and also as recording artists.

Part I of this interview can be read here.

Now the name change from Madviolet to Madison Violet, that happened after you left Australia the last time, so I’m just curious as to why it happened?
One of the reasons is because I remember we were playing a festival in Australia – this is one of them, there’s a lot of contributing reasons and I’ll tell you a few, but I remember playing a festival, I think it was the National Folk Festival, and I had at least three different people come up to me after one of the shows, saying that when they read our name in the program, they really weren’t interested in coming and one of them, I remember, said they just kind of walked by the stage and went, 'Oh, that sounds great', and went over and watched it. But the band name really threw them off, they were expecting us to be like this – sort of like – either like a crazy comedy duo or just kind of heavier, like a rock band or something because of the name Madviolet. And it was kind of like, well, that’s really disappointing and then we started doing iTunes search on Madviolet and we kept bringing up the Mad Violets and it’s a psychedelic kind of garage band from the '80s and so ... it became kind of a – certainly it’s frustrating for us and then when we were phoning – like people would call in at retail – I mean, people don’t really call record stores any more, but at that time they were still calling record stores to order records in, and they would just say they didn’t have it because of the name Madviolet being all one word, they couldn’t find it in the system. It was just crazy. We didn’t want to depart too far away from the entire name, so we just decided to extend it to Madison and – I don’t know, I mean, it’s a little bit softer and our music has gotten a little more rootsier, so we decided that it suited us better.

And it works well. On the latest album, which is The Good in Goodbye, the last three songs – am I right in thinking they’re kind of more traditional east coast songs, or – some of them – a couple of them - are traditional, I think?
Well, 'Christy Ellen Francis' is a track about my 100-year-old grandmother, she’s just turned 100, and 'Cindy Cindy' is like a traditional bluegrass tune and I think the third last one – I think it's 'Emily', which is just a little more bluegrass style.

So, is that just you kind of acknowledging your roots in those traditional songs or you just like the songs?
I think it acknowledges kind of where we came from, definitely where our roots are. But also, we just really – I wouldn’t call ourselves bluegrass musicians because we’re certainly not good enough to call ourselves bluegrass – because bluegrass musicians are bluegrass, they’re amazing – so we like to sing and play bluegrass style, so we just started playing a couple of bluegrass songs and people were asking, 'When are you going to put it on a record? I want to hear it on the records.' So we recorded it.

In Australia you usually only hear a fiddle on a country music song, but in Canada I believe the fiddle is a more dominant instrument, so is that true to say, that the fiddle is more popular in Canada?
I think on the east coast of Canada, it certainly is. You hear it everywhere. But not so much in the centre or the – I mean, Toronto is considered east but we don’t consider it east because we’re so much further west than the Maritimes. So you would hear more country fiddle but you don’t hear a lot of Celtic fiddle, like the kind Lisa plays, in Ontario or in the western provinces.

You’re very popular in Europe and this is your second time out here that you’re playing a lot of shows. Do you get to play a lot in Canada or are you mostly overseas these days?
Yeah, we do spend a heck of a lot more time overseas. We keep saying, 'We’re going to tour Canada, we’re going to tour Canada', but there’s only a handful of Canadian dates of this year, we’re going down to the [United] States for probably a month and a half, we’re going back to Europe three times, starting in April and again in July and again in August, again in October. So, yeah, it’s – I think it’s just [that] we’re really augmenting our market over in Europe so if it’s rolling well for us, we might as well keep on – keep at it.

Are you personally nomadic, as in – does it not bother you to travel this much?
I think I was more nomadic before, I think in the last year it’s really started to sort of take its toll. Having said that, I took a couple of weeks off at Christmas, which felt amazing because we had just done fifty performances in sixty days, it was just – I thought I was going to throw in the towel, I was just so exhausted.

That’s a lot of performances.
Yeah, that’s a lot of shows. I mean, there were maybe – I don’t know, forty-five shows and then we had some radio things and we went into the recording studio and recorded a new song, so it was just full on and way too much. So I took a couple of weeks off and then, yeah, sure enough, I was actually really ready to get back out there. But I’m glad that it was only like a couple of weeks' tour, because I wasn’t ready to go out and do another fifty shows. I never want to do that again.

It’s a lot – I would think on a physical level, that’s a lot for a voice to withstand, but also, that thing in performance which is on the energetic level, where basically you’re giving out a lot and you’ve got to be able to get it back, and the thing about performance is, you’re never sure what you’re getting back until you’re actually there. So, I would think that would be hugely draining so you would need long sleeps after that kind of thing!
Yeah, you definitely do. I mean, I can say that I’m thankful that I was – in some regard, I’m really thankful that it was in Europe because the German audiences and the Swiss audiences, they will really give it back to you, like, big time, and that really helped, because if it had been on one of those tours where you have an apathetic audience, I just don’t know what I would have done. I don’t think I could have gotten through it, so I have to thank those European fans because they’re good fans to have.

And has your European audience grown out of your touring or have you – because with social media, there are all sorts of ways to reach an audience but, obviously, the best way is to be there in person, and that’s a lot of work at the start of a career, in particular, to get out there and play to audiences. So is that how you did it in Europe?
Yeah, because our audience is somewhat older - considerably older, actually - we can’t really rely on the social media as much as some other bands with a younger demographic, so it’s just from touring and word of mouth at those shows. If someone comes to a show and then they’re, like, 'Oh, I’ve got to bring all my friends the next time', so it can make it for a slow growth, but they’re certainly loyal, they’re incredibly loyal, and if we can just get a little more social media happening, and as these – I think that people even older fans or people in their fifties and sixties are starting to get on Facebook and get on Twitter, so that’ll be helpful for us, for sure.

Madison Violet are touring Sydney, Melbourne and other places in NSW and Victoria. For information go to

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interview: Madison Violet (part I)

Madison Violet are a Canadian singer-songwriter duo who do enough country-esque songs to qualify for inclusion on this site (and it's my site, so I get to decide anyway!). The duo - who are Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac - have released four albums and just get better and better all the time, both in songwriting and performance.

I first saw them play in January 2008 and, like everyone else in the small crowd, was entranced by what two guitars and two voices could produce: simply, they're magic. And they're currently on tour in Australia so I urge you to go and see them. Last week, ahead of that tour, it was my great, great pleasure to speak to Brenley MacEachern (at right in this photo). I was especially interested in talking about the very long, firm songwriting partnership she has with Lisa and how they make that work.

Is that Lisa?
Oh, you actually were supposed to get Lisa but she’s actually super under the weather today and is having a hard time even talking. She’s got a nasty cold so I’m taking care of the interview today.

Oh no, that’s quite all right, I’m very happy to talk to you, Brenley.
All right.

I was actually – I was going to say to Lisa, I interviewed her brother Ashley, many years ago when his first album was out and I was living in Vancouver for a year. So when I first heard about you guys, I saw you play in a little church hall in Hornsby in Sydney about four years ago, I think, and I remember thinking that there can’t be too many MacIsaacs who are in music from the Maritime Provinces [of Canada].
Well, there actually are but there’s not that many that play the fiddle, I guess.

That’s true. So you’re both from the Maritimes, is that right?
Well, my roots are there, my father is from the same town that Lisa is from, it’s a community of 330 people. So we kind of – we actually had no idea, when we first met, that our families knew one another but when we found out where she was from, then it was – she had to know all my family, she knows them better than I do.

And I think you told a story when I saw you play – you mentioned that until you met Lisa, you hadn’t met someone else who was from such a large family, because either in your generation or the generation above that there were sixteen children or something.
Yeah, my mum is one of ten, my dad is one of sixteen and then Lisa has fifteen and eighteen on her side. So, yeah, it’s kind of a crazy-sized family.

Is that kind of common on the east coast of Canada amongst those Irish/Scottish communities, or are you two unusual?
Well, I think it is fairly common, although whenever we ask people if anyone has got a bigger family, no one seems to. So, I think maybe it’s not as common as we had first thought that it was.

So, you two – your writing partnership really fascinates me – I actually do think of you as being Lennon/McCartney-esque because you’ve got this long-standing collaboration that just gets stronger and stronger with each album, and so I’m really interested in how you can collaborate for so long and so consistently. How did that start and do you ever write songs without each other?
Well, when we first started writing together, Lisa kind of came from the fiddle sort of Celtic background, so she wasn’t writing songs, and I had already written a couple of records with my old band Zoebliss, so I was sort of – the role I played was writing the songs and then Lisa started playing guitar and then all of a sudden started. I think the first song she ever wrote was a song called 'Prayed', which was on our Caravan record, and then we started this collaborative effort and it just – I think because Lisa and I have some really kind of crazy similarities, in that we both have been able to sort of finish each other’s sentences and it’s almost like we share one brain, it makes it really easy to ... I come up with an idea or she comes up with an idea and the next – and we already know how it’s going to end because the other person is there to do it. This last record, wrote, I think, one song just on her own — it’s called 'Going Away' — and I wrote a couple of songs just on my own, and I think it’s just because we had some more sort of – there was a little more separation between when we wrote on the road, then we weren’t together and I think that that was kind of a new thing for us.

It sounds like you never have any arguments about song writing, but you must find that this is really unusual, that you have this synergy with each other. I can’t imagine you’ve come across too many songwriting partnerships, or even creative partnerships, that are like this?
You kind of just have to leave your ego at the door, I guess, and I’m not saying that it’s always blissful. Sometimes one of us will have an idea and the other person is kind of like, ;Well, I don’t know', butbefore you can get sensitive about it, you just have to realise that we’re trying to create together, and if one of us isn’t loving it, then it’s probably – it’s not going to be a presentation of both of [us] – the story that we’re trying to tell. So it’s better that I just write the song on my own or she does and then that’s the story. But more often than not, we just – if she doesn’t like something that I’ve come up with, quite often, I don’t really like it either, I was just getting lazy, you know what I mean?

So, it’s good to have her to tell me that I’m lazy and vice versa.

When you were out in Australia last time I think you got a hire car and you just drove – I remember you telling a story about where you were driving and I thought you’d probably seen more of Australia than most Australians. It seems like you’re constantly on the road and I was wondering how that amount of performing changes how you perform and write, but also how you relate to each other?
Well, we had to make some serious changes. When we were in Australia first time we bought a car and we drove ourselves from gig to gig, and think we did forty shows the first time we were there. Now, when we go, we still do a lot of shows but we have a tour manager who does all the driving and we also have a bass player that usually comes with us. So the team is a little bit bigger out on the road so you get a little more time to yourself, and I think that that really sort of enables us to keep going. We do get tired, we do get weary, we’re trying to sort of – I mean, even on this tour that we’re going on, we’ve actually taken days off in between that we could have probably played every single day, but we turned down shows so that we could just have some time off in between. So, we’re taking a little vacation while we’re there, because we need it. We do sometimes get at each other. We do get along very, very well, but there are times where we want to scratch each other’s eyeballs out. So we have to take care of that.

It doesn’t surprise me - it must get pretty intense. Your dynamic on stage ... I saw a couple of gigs when you were out here last, and I’ve actually never seen so many people buy CDs at the end of a gig, it was almost like you had this little girlie fan rush but a lot of them were guys — it was quite interesting to watch — and I was one of them, I’ve got to say. But it’s almost an alchemy, I guess, that happens in performance, in any performance, but with you two, that sense of synergy really comes through and I get the sense that for you guys, no two gigs are ever the same but there’s always the sense of it flowing.
Yeah, I mean, if they start to feel like the same, then we quickly change it. We can do the same set list for twenty shows in a row, because that's kind of what you do, but somehow the show is never the same. Like, there may be some stories that we want to share night after night, but the way we share them is always different because of the different energy in the audience, it’s not the same numbers so it never comes out quite the same, and the reaction is always completely different. So I think our show is very much a conversation, and maybe that’s why people – and we do sell – I don’t even say this to brag, it’s kind of like we’ll finish a show and we’ll be settling up with the merchandise people and they’ll be like, 'Wow, we’ve never sold this manyCDs at a show'. And maybe it is that it is a bit of a conversation back and forth between the audience and ourselves and they want to leave with a memory of that, I don’t know. I mean, it’s not really a memory of that because it’s the record, but it’s ... do you know what I mean? Like it’s – sort like they want to leave with a piece of the night.

I went to a show in Canberra as well last time you were here — I loved your gig so much when I saw you in Sydney that I said to a friend in Canberra, 'They’re playing in Canberra, I’m coming down', and I took this friend and another friend who lived down there, they both who had no idea who you were. I think they were kind of partially interested, but at the end of the show, they were rushing over to buy CDs.
[Laughs] Take all your friends. Bring all your friends all the time.

Well, I will! And talking about your records, I thought the first two were great and then I heard your second two and they’re quite different musically, but also there was a real sense, I think, by No Fool for Trying, that your voices were actually coming closer together — not that you couldn’t harmonise before, because you absolutely could, but there was just a sense that they were really together and I don’t know if you felt that, but that’s what I noticed.
Yeah, I think it just kind of happened organically, the more – we kind of had that synergy together when we first met and I think we just started to blend and [our voices] were like very tight right from the get-go, but as we started to play together for years and years, and hundreds and hundreds of shows, it just got incredibly tight, just because of playing. And, actually, it’s funny, because when we went in to make No Fool for Trying, we went in with a different producer this time, Les Cooper, and he wanted us to kind of try to sing not so tight, you know what I mean? Just let it – loosen it up a bit, but it’s impossible for us, it’s not something we try to do, it just is. And to try to not sing what’s coming out naturally, is like – it’s impossible. So, yeah, I think he kind of wanted us to be a little more loosey-goosey and so when we were harmonising, they weren’t like bang on, but they kind of just are.

When you sing together so many times, I don’t know how you would stop being tight together like that because your voices would just be used to each other. It’s probably not even something you can consciously control at all, even if someone sat you down and said, 'Right, you’re going to sing this and you’re going to sing that'. Having seen you two play, I think there is another dynamic at work that’s completely subconscious and that’s what really brings it together.

Part II of this interview will be published tomorrow.

Madison Violet are touring Sydney, Melbourne and other places in NSW and Victoria. For information go to:

The latest Madison Violet album is The Good in Goodbye. But they're all great!

Interview: Corey Colum (part III)

This is the last of a three-part interview with rising country music star Corey Colum. You can find the first two parts of this interview here.

Corey Colum's debut album is out now through Universal. If you're looking for a really entertaining, well-rounded country album that you could play for all ages and even for people who don't know (or think they don't like) country music, give it a try. Corey has a fantastic voice and a great storytelling way about him.

Is there anyone else in your family who’s musical?
My dad sings, he’s sung for a long time now.

So that’s where it comes from?
Yeah, he does the more crooner stuff, I suppose. And old time rock 'n' roll and that sort of thing. And my uncle plays, he’s here now doing supports for Simply Bushed. He’s really Australian – Australiana yarn-telling sort of thing. He does poems and writes his own stuff.

So you grew up around it?
Yes. My uncle was a big influence on me, so going down to Boyup Brook and that, we used to go down there together and when we drove across here [to Tamworth] the first time, it was with my uncle. He was a big influence on me, which is good.

And so obviously your family would be supportive of you?
Oh absolutely. Mum and Dad are here and my wife Tara’s mum and dad are here. My sister’s here, her sister’s here and – yeah, so it’s full on. Got a house? [laughs]

So, they can – they can yell down any hecklers?

I don’t actually know that people heckle at Tamworth much.
Yeah, I – I’ll tell you after Saturday and Sunday! Might get a couple. But it’s good that [the show is from] five to eight, too, so people are just starting to get tipsy, hopefully not too far [laughs].

Yeah, that’s true. So, if you wanted to put a band together in Karratha, do you think – would there be many people to draw on?
I have looked into it but – there’s a few around [players] but with Karratha, people are coming in and going out all the time with the fly in, fly out. But there’s a few locals that could look into doing it for sure, yeah.

It strikes me that because of the fly in, fly out but it would be quite hard to work out who’s actually there for any period of time.
They don’t know how many locals, no, because it’s all in and out.

For a performer, though, that probably does keep it fresh, because you are getting different crowds.
For sure ... It's a good opportunity.

Even if they’re rock'n' roll people.
Yeah! Everyone’s been really supportive and every time I play out somewhere people rock up and enjoy it and word gets around, so it’s good.

So when’s your next album out? [Laughs]
When I get those little bits of time to write [laughs].

I suppose now probably no doubt a bit of a schedule, it’s like, okay, you’ve got 18 months ...
Nothing’s been said at the moment!

And do you feel you would want to write songs for that – like you would want to do it when you’ve got some songs written or would you rather think, okay, now is the time for a new one and we’ll then get the material in?
A bit of both. It’d be nice to be able to have that time to write a full album, but how long would that take? So, if it comes up where we want an album in a certain time, then we’ll see what I’ve got already – what songs [are ready] - and then go write some more. Because we did write a lot for this album too.

Did you record it in Perth?
In Sydney at Garth’s [Porter, the producer's] studio ... I came over for that and photo shoots.

How long did the recording take?
Two weeks.

That’s pretty snappy when you think about it.
Absolutely, it was pretty quick, yeah, absolutely.

I guess you would feel pressure to —
Yeah, perform [laughs].

Get it right first take!
Because if you didn’t ... Definitely, lots of pressure. But everyone was really, really good — no one was pushy, it was really good, working with Garth, and Ted Howard was engineering, and those guys were just great.

Presumably you had to take time off work for that as well?

It’s a real challenge, isn’t it? Becausethere’s not just the recording and playing commitments, there’s also a lot of marketing stuff.
Yes, that’s right.

Particularly these days that artists have to keep on top of over things, you can’t just drop into the press at the time of the release and then go out again, you’ve got social media.
Indeed. It’s good having [the record company] and for that as well, because I wouldn’t know where to start really. So, it’s good to have those guys [laughs].

A lot of people possibly don’t necessarily think about what it takes to start off a career, we only know about what happens when you’re already there.
Dead right, yeah.

So, if this works, great, and then hopefully it takes and by the time the second one’s out you’re probably full-time as a musician.
That’d be great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview: Glen Hannah

During this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival I saw Glen Hannah play one night with Felicity Urquhart (to whom he is married) and then just over twelve hours later he was playing a completely different set with Harmony James. Harmony's support act, Lachlan Bryan, mentioned that Glen had played on his own album, which had just been released. I've seen Glen's name on lots of CDs and seen him play at lots of gigs, and it suddenly struck me that he's an unsung legend of Australian country music - he's involved with so many different artists and provides such a high calibre of musical support (and often artistic, as he designs CD covers and takes photographs, amongst other things), but a lot of people may not know who he is. And they should!

Glen kindly agreed to answer some questions that I sent to him via email, and his answers are below. I'm not quite sure how he found the time, but I am thankful that he did!

How did you come to play all these different roles within the country music industry - playing on recordings, playing on gigs, producing, quite often doing CD art?
How I ended up in the country scene happened purely by chance. I grew up learning to play Slim Dusty songs at guitar lessons in Collinsville, QLD and my only three cassettes at that point were Kenny Rogers, Slim Dusty and Charley Pride - however, by the time I was about 24 I was working in the cover band scene in Sydney and country gigs were something I had no experience in at that time. Purely by chance, I happened to score a gig with Melinda Schneider in a really strange theatre-restaurant out at Penrith. We ended up sharing a house together with her then partner, Graham Thompson, and an old penpal of hers showed up one day to visit, his name was Adam Bruno (or, as we all know him now, Adam Brand). I was about to head over to the US and Canada for some touring but he heard me playing some country guitar in the house and asked if I would play for him when I returned. I said yes, not knowing if it would really happen, or who this guy was, but eventually I ended up in his band and he then took out 3 Golden Guitars after his first album release, and so we got the opportunity to start touring and things just picked up from there, eventually leading to many years of touring with different acts, including Kasey Chambers.

The design side of things started when I was working part-time for a music publisher in the CBD of Sydney putting together sheet music and catalogues for the company, when I started dabbling in the design part of the process. Over the years I taught myself as I went along and it turned into a serious part of my business, and I even took about 4 years off from music to concentrate on a series of coffee-table books I was commissioned to design and edit, working with people like Ron Barassi, Leigh Matthews, Jimmy Barnes and Peter Brock's family.

Do they all seem part of the whole, so to speak, or do they require quite different parts of your brain/skill sets?
The different jobs I work at are most definitely very similar in how they work - there are many musicians who are also graphic designers/video producers etc. It seems to involve similar thought processes and the great thing about mixing all those different roles up is it keeps you on your toes, you're always learning and that is what keeps it all fresh and interesting.

Do you have a favourite role out of all of those?
Playing guitar with other musicians is still my favourite job.

Have you kept track of how many albums you've worked on?
I actually have no idea, but it would be in the hundreds, combining all those different roles.

You've done quite a bit of songwriting - is it something you have much time for any more, with everything else you're doing?
I don't really do much songwriting, especially these days.

What's a typical Tamworth like for you - how many gigs, how much rushing around ...?
Tamworth has changed a lot for me over the years. Early on, I used to see how much work I could fit in that main week and I even managed to clock up 32 separate performances one year. I left Tamworth a wreck and with bleeding fingers (literally) so haven't tried that since. These days it's almost as intense, but with far fewer gigs - I'm working more on quality rather than quantity. I am the Musical Director for the Telstra Road To Discovery and that involves weeks of lead-up work before the festival and quite a bit of work at the festival. The last few years I've been part of the backing band at the Golden Guitar awards as well and that involves a fair bit of preparation as well as the 2 full days rehearsing and then the show. Other than that, I always play guitar for my wife, Felicity, at her show(s) and a handful of other fun gigs.

You seem to play with a few different people at each festival - is there a lot of rehearsal ahead of that? And how do you keep track of all those different songs?
The most efficient way to keep track of all those songs is to use charts, and I always try to do good versions so that at any point in the future when playing those songs again I can just pull out those charts and be ready to play with almost no preparation. However, in most situations you are learning new songs and if you want to do it properly, yes there is a lot of preparation and practice involved. When you see a musician at a show and think to yourself, "... Boy, these guys have got it made, just show up and play music and get paid to have fun ..." what is often forgotten is that there is probably a full day's work put in to get that bunch of songs ready for a professional performance (not to mention the decades of practice etc. to get you there in the first place).

What's ahead for you in 2012?
This year is going to involve a lot more gigs as I want to get back into that side of things a little more. I've been focusing on the design the last few years. There are some great gigs coming up, including some shows with Don Walker, The Flood, Jedd Hughes, Sherrie Austin and, of course, the better half.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview: Corey Colum (part II)

Corey Colum's debut album was released during this year's Tamworth Country Music Festival, where I sat down with him in the Hog's Breath Cafe one afternoon for a chat. This is the second of three parts - the first part is here. In this part Corey talks about his day job, the country music scene in WA and managing a creative life with a young family.

So you've had Garth Porter as a producer on this album - you're working with people who know what they’re doing, the record company will probably support you doing it as well because it just seems in country music that people will buy albums from new artists. It does seem to be easier to get a foothold into have a career.
Yes, that’s good. It’s good too.

And talking of careers - you were a plumber, which would be hard to leave behind because everyone needs a plumber!
Yeah, and I’m still working now.I’ve just got holidays to come over here and I mean, I’ve got to go back to work. I’m actually working in instrument tube fittings, so it’s sort of like plumbing, just bending tubes up – I’ve been doing that for a little while now.

So you do that by day and then you play at night?
Whenever I can get gigs, yeah. I used to run the local open mic nights, so that was interesting. I did that for nearly three years I think.

Going back to your earlier comment about Karratha not being a very country music kind of town - is Western Australia in general a bit not country? Is there any pocket of country music?
There is, there’s just not big things like [Tamworth]. Well, they’ve got Boyup Brook and that – Boyup Brook’s probably the main thing in WA, they have the festival down there, the awards and Harvey Dickson’s down there, he’s got a rodeo ground and all that sort of thing. So that’s on a few times a year, but other than that, there’s some field days scattered around but nothing big like here. And you get a lot of shows over here, all up the east coast, whereas you don’t get big names coming over to WA too much.

Well, it’s that challenge of it being so large and so far away.
That’s right, yeah.

But it’s the very kind of challenge that country music is about, you know what I mean? Those stories that get told about distances and hardships.
Yeah. There is still places there, still places to play and you still get accepted and it goes really well - it’s just not a huge, and not everyone’s into it ...

In terms of your songwriting - you’ve written a lot of the stuff on the album and it's a good all-round album in that I thought you’re covering a lot of subjects, but there’s also something for everyone to relate to.

And you’ve made your bold case for the West Australian woman [laughs].
Yeah [laughs], very bold.

That was the first single.
Was that your decision or the record company’s?
I think that decision was pretty much made when the song was recorded, it was like 'that’s going to put me on the mark, that’s where I’m from'.

Was it popular in WA?
Yes, it’s going really well. And the clip’s on CMC and that’s going well.

Well, it is a really memorable title.
And it’s not just WA women - it’s all women!

[Laughs] And I quite like the 'Outback Justice' kind of theory in that song, because you don’t often hear the ... there are stories of revenge but that was kind of a clear cut, well we might have burnt the truck or ...
'Yeah, maybe, I’m not saying'. Yeah, that’s the best bit.

So was it part of your songwriting to kind of just think, 'I want to tell some fun stories' or did you actually look at the genre and think what kind of elements am I drawing on here?
No, we sort of went in there and just – just any songs [that worked] – 'Outback Justice', I didn’t write that, and 'West Australian Woman' was Matt Scully and myself and Garth Porter in the studio, and that song sort of came out of something that Matt brought to the table, then we just worked from there and we made 'West Australian Woman'. But I don’t think there was any sense of looking at [the album] and making certain we have everything, but we’re very glad that it’s got a lot of difference in it too. It’s got 'Fire in the Hole' and then others are rockier and then 'The Ballad of Brigalow', which is really like a yarn ... so to have that diversity through the album, I'm very happy with it, yeah. Because when I first thought of doing an album, my idea was really a lot more acoustic and just very simple. And then Garth said, 'Well, what audience do you want?” and I had to like it as well. So the rock bits got to come out on it and I’m really, really happy that we went with that too, it’s good.

Well, it is an entertainment genre. A lot of people like country music because they’re working on properties all day and they like to come in and be entertained.

So there are, I think, a lot of country performers who have that balance of the softer songs and the harder songs. But in terms of working all day - you’ve got a young family and you’re working a day job and a night job. Is there any space in there to be creative? Do you have little pockets of time to yourself?
Little pockets, yeah. Little tiny pockets.

Do you have one kid, two kids?
One, yeah, she’s nearly eight months old.

Right. So a lot of late nights ...
It’s not too bad, Tara’s [Corey's wife] pretty good like that because I sleep through, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper [laughs]. She wakes up mainly.

So that’s how you maintain your sanity.
Yeah, because I’ve got to get up early.

I do think it’s really challenging when you’re – particularly when you’re starting out a creative career, because usually if people are working day jobs, and they often do have families, it's hard to juggle it all. But I guess, you must feel you’ve got your eye on the prize, so it’s worth it.
Oh yeah, definitely, yeah. We’ll just push – push as much as we can and play and then hopefully the album goes well ... and then if that takes over the work side, slowly but surely, then I can still do things. I do shutdowns, so I go away for a month.

I saw that on your bio - what is shutdown?
They just shut down an area of a plant or whatever, usually for a month to do maintenance work on it. They then get a crew of blokes in, work twelve-hours shifts and then go out and – yeah, just to fix that area up.

So you travel to that area and just stay there for the month?
At the moment, it’s good because it’s – the ones that I do are in Karratha, but yeah, they – just all around Australia, different mobs do different shutdowns at different places. So they’ll get a crew in – it depends on the size of the shutdown, how many blokes they get, [then they] put them in a camp or whatever, and – yeah, do that shutdown for that certain time and then, off again. So, you’re doing long hours and you’re there flat out so you’re making a bit of coin and then we go away, and we can use that for a little while.

And when you get a chance to play, do you love it?
Oh yeah, it’s great. Especially when you get a response from people who like what you’re playing and can relate to the songs you’re playing. Nothing beats that, it’s a real buzz.

Do you get any hecklers?
Oh yeah [laughs]. A lot of them are mates, yeah.

In a town like Karratha, I would think there would be a few who would shout out something like, 'Play Khe Sanh!'
Yeah, oh yeah, I get that all the time. Like, I’m just not going to learn it just for that fact!

Do you play rock songs though, when you’re playing in Karratha?
Not – no, not really. It’s pretty hard to go full rock on when it’s just me and acoustic guitar and bit of harmonica and a stomp box sometimes, so it’s pretty cruisey, yeah.

Part III of this interview will be published soon.