Wednesday, June 26, 2013

New Jed Rowe clip: 'Castlemaine'

From one of my favourite albums of recent times, The Ember and the Afterglow by The Jed Rowe Band, comes a film clip directed by Lachlan Bryan, the creator of one my other favourite albums of recent times, thereby proving my theory that there's some big creative country music cauldron happening in Victoria ...

It's a testament to both Lachlan and Jed that this clip is absolutely fitting for the song, 'Castlemaine', which opens the album. Rather than telling you the story of the song, why not watch for yourself ...

Jed Rowe and his band will be touring the Australian east coast in July - having seen them play in Sydney, I highly recommend that you do not miss this tour if you're within cooee of one of these venues:

Thurs 4th July THE FRONT CAFE GALLERY CANBERRA ACT 7:30pm, $10. 
Fri 5th July No 5. CHURCH STREET BELLINGEN NSW Dinner from 6pm, $10. 
Sun 7th July THE POWERHOUSE BRISBANE QLD 3pm, free entry. 
Thurs 11th July THE RAILS BYRON BAY NSW 7pm, free entry. 
Fri 12th July THE GOLLAN HOTEL LISMORE NSW 9:30pm, free entry. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jess Holland and the back of beyond

Mungindi singer-songwriter Jess Holland is hitting the road for a tour through coastal and regional Queensland.

'I did a tour in 2012 from Mudgee to Melbourne,' she said when I spoke to her recently. 'This time I wanted to change it up a bit and I know I’ve got a few people busting to see me in Queensland, so I thought I’d head north for the winter. I'm really excited to be heading off.'

Jess picked this time of year to tour Queensland because the weather will be at its kindest - while she's used to heat, as Mungindi regularly hits 45 degrees in summer, humidity is harder to bear (and harder on instruments too).

The tour takes in some towns that many country artists may not have even heard of, let alone played in. In planning the tour, Jess says she 'approached as many towns as I could up the coast and out west. A lot of them were either already booked or didn’t have the dates available. But – and I know it sounds silly – the towns sort of picked me. I sent out as many emails as I could and got a huge response back and they’re the towns that I picked. I picked a few of them because a lot of people have approached me to say, "We’re all the way out here and we’d love to have you out here", so they were my first points of call, and I tried to connect the dots to keep it flowing for my travels through there.

'I'm trying to visit smaller towns because a lot of [people there] can’t pack up and leave to go to Brisbane, Toowoomba or Mackay to see a touring artist. I wanted to go and meet the real country music fans.'

Jess is touring solo for the first time. Although, she says, she often travels on her own, this is first time she hasn't toured with a band.

'It's a huge unknown,' she said, 'and that’s maybe what I love about it so much – it’s so unpredictable, heading off into the wild blue yonder and playing all my music, having a good time and hopefully everyone else has a good time too.'

Playing alone also means playing three or four sets a night - not that it sounds like she minds. And Jess won't be entirely alone, either  - she'll be taking 'a bit of a menagerie' of instruments: banjo, mandolin and guitar. As all stringed instruments can be affected by climate and weather, Jess will have to keep them in line, especially the banjo and mandolin, she said – 'they’re a lot more sensitive even than guitars. There’s a lot of tuning.'

Flying solo means she can adapt her set list to suit the audience each night. Between her own songs and the covers she 'loves to sing', she has a wide variety of songs to pick from. 

'You have to approach every gig as a brand new one,' she says. 'You have to engage the audience. Every gig is about making the audience happy.'

While Jess is on the road she'll also be writing songs for her next album. And, of course, touring rural and regional Australia is a great place to get ideas ...

'You always meet fantastic characters on tour and hear fantastic stories,' says Jess. 'I’m certainly not cutting off ties to potential songs.'

On the subject of the next album, Jess has taken a route that is becoming increasingly more prevalent amongst Australian country music artists: she's crowdfunding it. (Recently Melody Pool and The McMenamins crowdfunded their albums.)

'I knew Melody Pool took this route,' says Jess, 'and for me I wanted control [over the project] and also to give people the opportunity to see what was on offer and be a part of the process. For me that was a huge thing. Not so much my own wants and needs, more that I knew I had a few fans out there and I wanted them to be part of my project.'

Certainly crowdfunding seems more feasible for country music artists - given the passionate, engaged community around country music - than for artists of other genres.

Says Jess, 'That’s why I love country music – you do have your dedicated followers and I don’t know that many other genres do have that dedication from fans. It is community minded and community spirit. It is about the hard times and the good times. And to know that people will stick by you for your entire career is such a huge thing for an artist to know – to know that you’ll have those people behind you and supporting you. That’s the reason I did launch the indiegogo campaign – to have those supporters feel that they are a part of my career and they’re the reason why I’ve got to where I am, because of their support.'

Of course, putting together an album this way means that even if Jess is not producing the actual album, she's still producing the enterprise of the whole thing - she has to pull everything together.

'One of the things about being an indie artist is you have to fend for yourself,' she says firmly. 'I am involved with every step of this process. I have sourced a producer. I will be there with them day and night when they’re mixing. I’m throwing myself right into the process and into the recording. I will put my two bobs’ worth into everything – the artwork, who’s mastering it. It’s very important to be involved, especially when it’s something you have to be proud of for the rest of your life, especially when you're trying to get that music out there.'

Doing everything herself, though, is a job she took on when she decided to become a full-time musician, leaving behind the security - but also the restrictions - of her occupation as an agronomist.

'At the very beginning I was very nervous,' Jess says of her decision to make the change, 'because a muso’s life can be very unpredictable and very unstable. But I can tell you that it has been the best move for my music career that I’ve ever made, because I can officially say that I’m a million per cent confident and definitely wholeheartedly in it for the long run. All the distractions are taken out and I’m focusing on that primary thing. It was something I had to do if I wanted to further my country music career.'

Jess says that she is very structured in how she goes about managing and organising that career, but that her songwriting moves in a very different way.

'I’m not the sort of person who can sit down and say, "Today is Wednestly and from 9 until 12 I'm going to be writing". My brain doesn’t work that way, unfortunately. I’d love it if it did.  But I have to be in the right state of mind and the right mood, I suppose. The downfall of that is that I can be asleep and something wakes me up at 2.30 in the morning and I have to get up and start it there and then. I have to let it come. There’s no use forcing it because then I get material I’m not happy with. 

'I go with the flow. You’re going to get some crap and you’re going to get some good stuff but at the end of the day you can generally make sense of some of it, hopefully.'

It is no surprise that Jess needed to concentrate on her music full time: apart from her tour and the next album, she is still involved in the Hickory Sisters with Allison Forbes and Greta Ziller. Although Jess says they are 'more of a group that we perform in at festivals', they are still hoping to write and record an EP soon - while still maintaining their own solo projects. And they are in touch all the time, as they're 'the best of mates', as Jess says.

By Jess's own reckoning she has a lot of work ahead this year: once the tour is over she plans to start  recording the album and, hopefully, releasing it by the end of the year - just in time for Tamworth. And, no doubt, another full year of singing, songwriting and finding fans all over Australia.

Support Jess's indiegogo campaign here.
Visit Jess's website here.

Tour dates:
Saturday 15 June 2013 
Showgrounds, Eulo Polo Cross, EULO QLD 
Pitherty Road, Eulo 

Sunday 16th June 2013 
Commonwealth Hotel, ROMA QLD 
75 Wyndham Street, Roma | ph: (07) 4622 1286 

Friday 21st June 2013 
Porters Plainland Hotel, Ipswich QLD 
Warrego Highway, Plainland | ph: (07) 5465 6547 

Thursday 27th June 2013 
Coal & Cattle Hotel, MOURA QLD 
63 Dawson Hwy, Moura | ph: (07) 4997 1511 

Friday 28th June 2013 
Blackwater Hotel Motel, BLACKWATER QLD 
14-16 Railway Street, Blackwater | ph: (07) 4982 5133 

Saturday 29th June 2013 
Tieri Brolga Hotel Motel, TIERI QLD 
11 Malvern Ave, Tieri | ph: (07) 4984 8555 

Sunday 30th June 2013 
Jolly Collier Hotel Motel, DYSART QLD 
14 Queen Elizabeth Dr, Dysart | ph: (07) 4958 1155 

Monday 1st July 2013 
Hotel Mackay, MACKAY QLD 
179 Victoria Street, Mackay | ph: (07) 4951 1120 

Tuesday 2nd July 2013 
Blacks Beach Tavern MACKAY QLD 
Cnr Blacks Beach Rd & Slater Ave, Mackay | ph: (07) 4944 4800 

Friday 5th July 2013 
Artesian Hotel, BARCALDINE QLD 
85 Oak Street, Barcaldine | ph: (07) 4651 1691 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Interview: Dean Brody

Canadian country music artist Dean Brody visited our Australian shores for CMC Rocks the Hunter (now a few weeks in the past, but, y'know, sometimes things get in the way of posting on time!) and he had a wee bit of time to speak to me for this blog. True confession: I lived in Canada for a year, so I'm automatically partial to Canadian musicians, and Dean's brand of rockin' Canadian country music is no exception. Dean's latest album is Dirt.

How did CMC Rocks the Hunter go for you?
It was good. It was good to be back. Australia has just amazing country fans, who are very passionate about their music, and celebrating the country way of life.

I've got to admit, first up, I lived in Vancouver for a year in the mid-90s. And I know that you've moved to Nova Scotia, so I'm wondering how – this is a complete change of topic – but I'm wondering how your life on the east coast compares to living on the west coast.
Yeah, I love it. I don't know why, but I just – I love the ocean and I love the – the vibe on the east coast it's a little bit more laid back. Vancouver BC is very progressive, and everything is – it's a little bit more of a rat race. Whereas the east coast is more laid back, everyone's a little bit chill. And it's something I need when I get off the road. I need people to be chill [laughs].

[Laughs] So are you near – in or near Halifax?
Yeah, we're – we live close to Halifax. We're about an hour or so from Halifax.

Well, that sounds like the best of both worlds. You've got a good college town with a good music scene nearby, when you need it. And then a bit of rest when you don't.
Yeah, it's a great, great place to be, especially in the summertime when the beaches are rocking. It's very picturesque. We love it.

When I was living in Canada, I actually had quite a bit to do with Canadian music, because I was volunteering at a university radio station, at UBC. And doing some interviews, going to lots of gigs. Admittedly, I wasn't as aware of country music as I am now, but I can't recall that in Canadian independent music at that time, there was a lot of country going on. So, I'm wondering how the scene has developed over the last few years, and how you found your way into country music, as well.
I think there's always been a scene. I'm not sure if it's gotten bigger or smaller. I was actually introduced into music in Nashville. I moved to Nashville and got my record deal there. And so I didn't really go through the ranks of the Canadian country music scene. I went Nashville and started there. But I know that there's a very vibrant country music scene in Canada for youngsters coming up.

[Laughs] I don't think you're that old, though [laughs].
I think when I first started, and I feel like it was so long ago, you know? And I was 14 and had a band and – those were a long time ago for me now.

And as a 14-year-old putting a band together, had you just always been obsessed with music, and you really wanted to do that at that age? Or did you just, as a teenager, think, that's a good idea?
It was kind of like a good idea, and we were bored. And so we got some instruments and started making noise, and at first, of course we weren't very good, but we just had a great time; it was something we did. That started the fire in me to pursue songwriting, which became my real passion.

Where you a lead singer even then?
Well, you could call it that. It was a rock band, and so I sang [laughs]. But it wasn't pretty, let me tell you. I was trying to sing like Axl Rose, so things got pretty ugly.
 [Laughs] Because now, I've got to say, you have a really smooth, mellifluous voice for singing country music. So I'm trying to imagine you singing rock, especially like Axl Rose.
[Laughs] It was not pretty, let me tell you.

Has your singing voice – have you developed, do you think, a country music singing voice? Or you've just let your voice develop naturally as time has gone on?
I think it's becoming more natural. When you first start, you're trying to emulate your heroes in country, and so you're doing a lot of digging, like Garth Brooks and stuff. So it takes a while before you're comfortable with who you are. I feel like I'm getting really comfortable with who I am now.

Certainly your voice sounds comfortable and you sound, at least in the recorded versions of the songs, you do sound at ease, and not every recorded song does. In fact a lot of them sound like the producer might've had a heavy hand or something like that. Do you take quite a bit of a role in the production of your own records?
Matt Rovey is my producer, but Matt lets me have a lot of input into how everything sounds, and how a song is going to turn out. So, yeah. I get to do a lot, but Matt does the majority of the work. And he does – I just think he does a great job.

When I was living in Canada, I was really impressed by the support from the Canadian government, but also from the Canadian people, for local storytelling, whether it was in books or poetry or in song. There was a lot of awareness of Canadian music and support for it. Do you think that's still true? And, if it is, do you feel supported by Canadians?
I definitely do. Yeah, I definitely do. And I think it's important for Canadians to tell their own stories, and for us to support artists that do celebrate our culture. Because we live right next door to the biggest media giant in the world, and so for us to maintain our own culture it's – sometimes it's a challenge though. Yeah, I feel very fortunate in the support that I've gotten from my country.

Given that – and I'm glad you raised it because I was going to anyway – Canada, I think, does a really good job of creating its own cultural identity in the face of what is essentially a juggernaut coming up over the border. Whether it's – from all sorts of angles. Country music is very heavily identified with the United States of America, but in Australia we've developed our own country music culture. So I was wondering what you've noticed about Canadian country music, and especially your own, that you believe carves it out.
It's interesting, because a few years ago I wouldn't have tried to write a song called "Canadian Girls". I wrote a country song about our girls. Because I thought that country music had to be somewhat American, because everything that you hear, you hear so much American content. And so, when you write a song and you include a Canadian town, it almost makes you put – I thought it would put you almost at the edge of country, or on a fringe. But recently, it's just like, you know what? I'm from Canada; I'm going to celebrate being from Canada; I'm going to talk about it. And I think that's okay. And I think fans embrace it, they love it; they can identify even more with it. But it's something that's definitely thought about when you're writing a song.

Especially given that country music is a storytelling genre and Canadians love their stories. I'm interested to hear what stories you're thinking of telling for your next album, because given that Dirt was out last year, you must be looking ahead to the next one.
I've definitely got some songs in mind, and one of them is going to be about a beach town on the east coast in Nova Scotia. And just how this girl wants to leave the town, and wants the boy to go with her, but he's just like, no, this is my home. And I'll always be here when you come back. But, yeah. I'm staying right here. I'm going to try and incorporate more and more Canadiana in my music, if I can.

That sounds like a very good idea. There's certainly a lot to write about, in terms of sense of place, if you're writing about Canada. It's such a breathtakingly beautiful country. And I think there are so many stories there to tell.
We've got a lot of amazing history and heritage that we should celebrate, and I just – I'm really proud of my country, and I think we should sing about it. It's cool.

Just backtracking now to the publishing deal you had in Nashville, which my notes tell me was 2004, which must've made you about 16 at the time [laughs]. Wondering how, given that you came from a small town in BC, I'm wondering how that happens? How you end up in Nashville writing songs for people.
Yeah, it was really tricky. When I first tried to move to Nashville, I had all my stuff. I had my cowboy hat, my guitars, my suitcase, and I got to the border and they were like, "What are you doing?" and I was like, "Oh, moving to Nashville. I'm going to try and get a publishing deal. Write songs." They were like, "Well, you can't do that." They were like, "You need to have a sponsor first, before we can let you into the country." And so here I was, going, well how am I going to get a job if I can't be in Nashville? And so it's a real Catch-22. So I ended up having to write songs and visit; make trips down, and submit my songs to different publishers. And finally got a publisher that was willing to take a chance on me. And then he was my sponsor that allowed me to go into Nashville. So it's really tricky. It would be the same for Australians trying to get into Nashville. It's tricky.

And, also, I would think, somewhat goes against the grain of what you were trying to do, which was sing your own songs. But here you were finding that your way into the industry was to write songs for other people.
That was my first passion, was to write songs. Nashville is a place where you have this – everyone there is wanting to do the same thing, and so the networking for songwriting down there is amazing. Whereas in the small town that I was from, there might've been one other guy that wrote country music. And so I thought it was important for me to go to a place that had a lot of people wanting to hone their craft, and to me that was Nashville. For rock and roll it was probably LA or New York, but for country, Nashville is kind of the Mecca for – that's where the majority of songwriters are.

And have you always approached songwriting in a workman-like way? You sit down in the morning, and you just write until you find something? Or do you tend to follow the muse, so to speak?
Yeah. I'm a weird songwriter. I write – I find I get inspired to write music but not even touching my guitar. I'll put it down. I won't even write a song for like, two weeks. But then when I find that I am inspired, and I pick up my guitar, it comes really easy. I spent a couple of years in Nashville forcing myself every day to write a song; it killed my creativity. It got to a point where I had to put my guitar down, didn't touch it for months. I was just so burnt out of writing – forcing myself to be creative. Yeah.

Oh, I had a question in my brain and it's now gone [laughs]. I'll have to think of another one very quickly. Given that you're travelling, you're based on the east coast of Canada and it feels a bit, for Australians, like that's the stop of the world. Is it weird to you, that you can come to a country like this, and I'm sure you're going to other countries, and people know you?
Yeah, it's pretty crazy. It's pretty crazy. And also it's like, you can sing country music anywhere, where there's people from the country, and they get what you do. We did a show in France last summer. And it was, like, wow, in the middle of nowhere here was this rodeo and all these country folks. It was really a blast. It's a universal thing, country music.

I honestly had no idea that there were any country music fans in France. So that's [laughs]—
Yeah [laughs]. I had no idea there was rodeos in France, but apparently they're very passionate about their rodeos and country music.

Probably if you decide to take off across all of Europe, you would find something somewhere. But that's a very big enterprise, and possibly not something you can do.
It would take some planning, for sure.

So are you a long-term planner, in terms of you have goals that you set yourself for your career, and you hope to meet them. Or do you tend – because you said as a songwriter you go somewhat instinctually – is that your preferred path for your career?
I just keep writing songs and recording them, and playing them. I have no specific goals any more. All my dreams have, kind of, come true. So I just hope I get to do what I love to do for a few more years.

I think you've got a few years in you. And I've got to say the number of country music performers, particularly singer/songwriters I talk to, who say that their dreams have all come true, and they're all quite young. And I think it's so rare to hear people saying that in life. You hear so many people talking about their dreams being quashed, or frustrated. So I don't know whether it's just country, and people are happier. I don't know. Have you found that country music people are happier?
I don't know. I think there's grumpy people and happy people [laughs] in every genre [laughs].

Well, hopefully there weren't too many grumpy people over the weekend, while you were playing.
[Laughs] There was no-one. They were very, very happy [laughs].

Are there are artists in particular that you look forward to seeing, if you're playing at a festival? Do you think, ooh, someone else is on the bill, I want to see them?
Dwight Yoakam, for me. I love watching Dwight perform. He's – I just think he's the best country artist out there. But I'm very biased. Yeah. So Dwight Yoakam would be big.

And is that because you love his songs, or just everything about him?
I love his songs. I love that he's just kind of a maverick. When it came to music, he just did his own thing. He wore his own kind of clothes. He was just like, take it or leave it. Fantastic, that's really cool.

So perhaps you hope to become, when you're an older man, a maverick [laughs]?
Oh, man, I don't know. I don't even consider myself in that same category. So I just like trying different things and having fun.

Dirt is out now.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Interview: Jake Jackson

I had so much fun interviewing Jake Jackson last year that I decided to do it again, in honour of 'Josephine', his second single from his forthcoming album. Our conversation ranged across a whole lot of topics, including making a boat - all will become clear when you read the interview - and Johnny Cash. 


So it seems like just the other day that we spoke, and now you have your second single, ‘Josephine’, out. Time just flies.
Exactly right – exactly right. It just flies. This year – this year has flown with the two singles. I mean, just from a musical perspective it’s just – it’s just every day there seems to matter and, sort of, days that you try and stay on top of rehearsal and stay on top of gigs and stay on top of all the bits and pieces we’re doing this for, trying to get organised for another album. So it’s – it’s a bit of an art but it’s all good, it’s all good, I’m not complaining, having a lot of fun.

So when you say – and it’s good to be popular, as I like to say – but when you say another album, because this one hasn’t been released yet …
Yeah I know but you’ve got to be thinking of the follow ups, you really can’t afford – because it’s such a timeline. Like, I mean, realistically, you’ve got to be looking at another year to produce an album, by the time, and the film clips that go with it, the film clips are the ones that take the time. I get – I reckon I could sit down and write another album, I’ve got – I’ve got a second album, sort of, probably about six songs, seven songs in, so I’m pretty good with adding maybe three more songs, four more songs I’ll be fine, but the film clips to each one of them, sort of like an eight-week exercise, it’s a whole other – whole other problem.

Let’s talk about “Josephine” because this is your second single off the forthcoming album, which I note still doesn’t have an exact release date.
It’s not really far away, so I guess I’ll be uploading into iTunes and then changing the dates as it comes up.

Because it’s – even though, I mean, it must be slightly frustrating and you may or may not want to say, but I know that you’ve had this album in the can for a long time now and so it must seem to you like it’s just – you’re really, really keen to get it out.
Look absolutely, I’m dying to get the thing out there and say, well, here it is, this is it and we can start working on promoting our album in its entirety because the album in its entirety has a lot of colours in it, so it’s – it’s not like just promoting one song. I mean, which, of course I love too, but to – to be able to sort of show the whole – the whole palette of what we do in – in – with the album is exciting for me. And you’re right, it’s been – it’s been a year or so at least since we’ve really finished the album but, like I say, I think when you start getting into the – all the add-ons like the film clips, et cetera, they take time and, gee, before I do the next album I’ll have all the – all the film clips ready to go before I even think about it, because that puts so much pressure on us to get them finished. But we’re there and so we’re just a matter of – matter of weeks away before we get the album out and “Josephine” is going well and “The Hired Hand” went famously so it’s all – I couldn’t hope for more really, I couldn’t be more excited about it.

So how did you choose “Josephine” as the second single?
It’s just one of those songs. I’ve got a – I’ve got a mate and he’s got a – actually I’ve got a few mates funnily enough – but I’ve got a mate and one of them in particular, he said to me, he said, “I never want to hear that song again”, because he said whenever the kids get in the car – I gave them an early copy of the album and – and he said whenever the kids get in the car all they want to hear is that bloody song. And I mean it’s like – it’s a problem in one way and of course he liked it, but you can only play a song so many times. And the funny thing is another friend of mine put up on the Facebook site, “You’ve got a new fan with my eight-year-old, all she does is sing your song all day,” which of course is “Josephine”, so it’s obviously a really catchy song that I really love and – and I think it’s a song that people will – will be – find very accessible, it’s not a difficult song to get around. It’s a really happy song and it’s a song about the summer and hey, that’s where we are.

I actually think children are the hardest audience to crack, so I reckon if you’ve got kids wanting to hear it all the time, that’s – that’s a sign of how well constructed the song is. Because I think children, because they – they just respond purely to what they’re hearing they’re not thinking is it cool, am I meant to like it, am I not meant to like it, I think children actually respond to really good pure song structure, accessible lyrics and also especially the melody. So you might have a side career going there, school visits.
Look, I’m not putting on the colourful T-shirts, I’m doing that, I’m not doing the Wiggles, okay, they’ve got their own audience, they’ve got their franchises going. I’m all cool with that thanks. But no, look, you’re absolutely right what you’re saying, children are – are unencumbered with all those things that seem to get in the way of liking things, that doesn’t have to be cool, it doesn’t have to be this, it doesn’t have to be that, it’s only got to be if they like it and there are – they just pick up on melodies and if you can get a child to sing a melody, well then, you’re away.

And so “Josephine”, even though there is a boat in the song, “Josephine” is not the boat, despite what one might think.
No, no “Josephine” is not the boat and it’s not a place, it’s a girl and well, in the film clip, some producer came up to me and said, look it’s a great idea, let’s do the film clip and Josephine can be a place, and I said no, no, no, you’re missing the whole story, this is a – this is a true story. This is about a time in my life when I was building this boat and – and – and it’s a song about the girl of my dreams that’s the take on the boat, that sort of thing. So let’s not – let’s not confuse – not confuse the story. But yeah, no, it was amazing time, I mean I – I had this – I was only 23 and I came back from Queensland and I had this idea of building a boat and sailing around the islands and I didn’t have a lot of money but I somehow manage to do this thing, three years in the making, then I launched it and – and I went sailing and I had a lot of fun. And I never sailed it around the world, but, gee, I did a lot of sailing and I did a lot of the things I wanted to do, which was fantastic.

Did you have any idea how to build a boat before you started?
Absolutely none – absolutely none.

So how does – probably like making an album, you do it for the first time once, but still it’s a huge endeavour.
It’s having been on the farm and, sort of – being on the farm is all about being totally resourceful and being able to do things that – and work things out yourself. There are not many people who work on the land these days that aren’t that sort of person; you need to be a resourceful, intelligent person who can work through problems on your own. Because most people on the land are on their own, and I had a long period of that where working in the country and then working out in the outback and then working – and fundamentally, I became very adaptable and practical and I could deal with problems and I could work out how to build things and a boat didn’t look like a complicated thing to make. You know in retrospect, it isn’t a complicated thing to make, they really – as long as it floats and you don’t sort of damage the integrity of the hull and you keep this thing floating, they’re not that complicated and I didn’t need to win an America’s Cup or anything, I was just happy to go plodding around, so – so it was no technological masterpiece, but it was certainly a very nice sail boat and I had a lot of fun with it.

Well and you managed to sell it to someone else, so clearly it was a good enough boat that someone else felt they could sail it.
Look, I had the opportunity and I sailed the thing, I loved it, I did all that and then I think I had this moment when somebody really wanted to buy it. And he did buy it and it was a beautiful boat, I mean at the end of the day I was pretty handy with carpentry and – and I did a lot of lovely work on the boat and obsessed over it for three years, and you can only do – there’s only – the thing was only 33 foot long, so if you can imagine obsessing over something that’s 33 foot long for three years you can do a lot of work on the thing. So it was a beautiful thing to be on and then – and so this guy bought it and he sailed it off into the sunset with his girlfriend and they did sail it around the world. But you get that and he’d send me these postcard from Mauritius and it was like – it was almost like he was doing it with his – with his tongue poking out, but it was great, it was great.

Well, especially as he seemed to have his own Josephine with him.
Exactly right. No, he certainly had a Josephine and he certainly went off sailing with her, but I mean I did too and I just didn’t go as far as he went. He was a lot braver than me. Maybe I knew more about the boat [laughs].

Or maybe you had other things to do, that’s what I think that happens too.
Look, that’s absolutely right. Look, I sort of did it and was into it and loved it and was all over it and enjoyed it. And then – and I just got to the end of it and I thought, well, I’ve done that and no, I’m not going to sail around the world because I don’t mind the stops but those oceans things in the middle, they’re not so much fun, and the islands are a lot of fun but I had a lot of things to do, I had a lot to get on with and I wasn’t ready at, sort of, 25 to, sort of, settle down into sort of just lying around on a boat for the rest of my days, I was pretty keen to get on with music and keep things rolling.

Well to me the story of the boat and – and – and – of “Josephine” is – the boat was a dream and then you made it a reality and then the song’s about this dream girl, but also building a music career is a dream that you’re making a reality. So I’m actually wondering about the role of dreamers in society, because I think it’s – it’s – it’s been maligned in the past, being a dreamer when you’re a small child and school teachers will sometimes say stop day dreaming, don’t be such a dreamer, but I think dreamers are really valuable people to have in society and you seem to be one, so I was wondering if that’s true and if you have other dreams?
You’ve got to dream, you’ve got to have dreams, otherwise where you’re going with all of this, this one life that you’re given to you and this one life – I don’t want to give too esoteric here – but you’re given all – too philosophical – you’re given one life and if you don’t have dreams and aspirations, wow, I don’t know what you’re supposed to do with … but I’ve always had dreams about the things I want to do, but the main thing is, I’ve got up and really had a good crack at following them., I’ve been playing the guitar since I was a little kid and never stopped playing and always – always enjoyed the fact that I always seemed to get better at it, and always sung and always enjoyed singing and always sort of kept it up, and so the dream of having an audience … and once upon time somebody told me that my record was going to be played on the radio for example, I think I made that quip to some – to a – during some interview at some stage and, “Hey Mum, my record’s on the radio.” It’s pretty cool, like it’s – that is the culmination of some people’s dreams. I mean for me the dream is to – to be playing to audiences that really want to hear the music and that’s – that’s the beauty of where I am at the moment. I’m – I’m now getting a following of people that actually want to hear the songs that I’m singing and playing and writing and that is the dream come true, as opposed to a lot of musicians, spend a lot of time playing other people’s songs and – and never really being able to express them because they haven’t written them. And to be able to play your own songs and to audiences that want to hear them, is – is a pretty special thing.

Do you think it’s hard being a dreamer in the modern world though, in – in the life of being a householder and having to manage things – is it difficult to keep dreams alive?
Oh look, I think being a dreamer is a fantastic thing, so long as you actually act on it. I mean for – to be simply just dreaming and not doing anything about it would be a really frustrating process I reckon. But I’m a committed dreamer, there you go, so – so I get a dream and off I go and have a good go at it. I did that with music in so many ways. I dreamt of being a Flamenco guitar player about 15 years ago, and ten years ago, I committed myself to the instrument and I was playing the bloody thing the whole time, and learnt how to play Flamenco guitar, went to Spain, did the whole thing, and sort of, lived the dream, and that was a great experience. And I never would have got – never would have done that if I hadn’t had that – that dream of wanting to be a Flamenco guitar player at some stage in my life. I’d always been attracted to that sort of music and I was – I’d always been a country player and country singer and it was such a great challenge to, sort of, have a go at a whole different genre and then actually go to the country where it lives and breathes and take it on head on, and that’s what dreaming gets you I guess.

Do you think – do your songs start as dreams or do they start as ideas or memories or a collection of different things?
Look, every single one starts off as a feeling. Every single time you write a song, it’s a feeling. You have an emotion that you’re trying to convey and it comes out and sometimes, often what you’ll do is you’ll sit there and you hear about these guys that write, they write nine to five literally, they go into work and they’ll start writing songs at nine o’clock and – sort of get into Nashville being a bit like this at times where they’ll start at nine o’clock and they’ll finish at five o’clock and they’ll go home to their family and they’ll help cook dinner and they’ll get up in the morning and do it all again. I can’t relate to that. I just don’t know how it works, but – but I don’t do that. I find that I’ll sometimes sit down thinking, oh, I need to write and I’ll be at this time when I’ll start to write and – and then I might play for an hour before anything comes out whatsoever and then all of a sudden I’ll get into a feeling, into a vibe, into a musical sort of expression and all of a sudden I start writing a song, and they just come out. It’s not always quite like that, I must admit. “Hired Hand”, I think I wrote that on the way to a rehearsal. I got the guts of it in the car on the way to rehearsal, I was, sort of – I had the feeling of a song that I wanted to write and I sort of - I was humming it all the way to rehearsal, and I sat down there at rehearsal, I’ve got this thing, so I started playing it and then of course wrote a couple of verses quite quickly and because it was a story that was easy to tell because it was my story, so it was easy to sort of get it down and get it out. But I tend to write in a more emotive state rather than a sort of purely constructed state, the songs – when people write in a very constructed way, they tend to sound like that I think.

Well, and one could argue there are whole albums full of songs out of Nashville that do sound a bit the same, yes [laughs].
Yeah, well. [laughs] Look, I think every genre suffers that fate, I mean whether it be pop or country or soul or rap, I mean a lot of people are under a lot of pressure to produce albums, they’ve got these contracts that they’ve got to deal with and so they’ve got to pump the material out and, God bless them. But hey, I don’t know if I want to write like that. I’d rather – I’d rather do what I’m doing at the moment, sort of saying well I need to produce another album at some point, so I’m going to sort of generally start, sort of, putting together tunes that I think are going to work on it, and follow up to the current album that I’m about to release and then when it goes to recording of that – that will be quite different, that will be another great fun experience and I can just, sort of, hit that pretty hard. But – but in terms of putting the material together I’d hate to have to sit down over a sort of a two-week period and write songs, that could – they wouldn’t be any good [laughs].

I think the – I think audiences respond to feelings as well and you – when you were talking earlier you said, oh, you don’t mean to get too esoteric, and – but I actually think that one of the things that people really respond to in country music is that it’s not – it’s not about easy stuff a lot of the time. Quite often the songs are about things in life that the audience might need to work out for themselves or might need to hear someone else saying so they feel reassured, and I think that that’s one of the great strengths of it as a genre, is that there’s permission – permission to have feelings, permission to be sad, permission to be happy; you’re not expected to just be one emotion the whole time.
I think that’s right with country music, I think the beautiful thing about country music is that it gives you the right to express, unbridled, so that you can just say what you feel and put it in a song and get out there and – and people do respond to it. I mean you just look at that last song that Johnny Cash produced, I mean what an amazing song, I’m just trying to think of the name of it, but it was—

I can’t remember either.
Oh look, it was the last one he did and it was the last video clip and it was about his death, it was – imminent and upcoming death. I mean what a difficult subject to deal with, but – and he did die, and he left this incredible legacy, I wish I could think of that song, the name of it.

I might Google it while we’re talking just so I can – I’ll see if I can come up with it.
I was absolutely perplexed by that song by the intensity of it was – it was just an expression of the end of his life.

It’s called “Hurt”.
 “Hurt”, yeah, it’s an amazing song, it’s an amazing song. It’s probably one of the – probably, well, in my opinion, oh ,it’s very sad because everybody will argue that I’m wrong, but for me it was the most important song he ever did, incredible, incredible song. But once again, here we go, so a country song expressing something that people generally probably don’t want to talk about too much or – and there it is, and it doesn’t have to be sort of all candy apple pie, it can be – it can be anything and he’s doing it totally from the heart, totally from the soul and so people listen to it and get onto it.

And Rosanne Cash, I don’t know if you’ve heard her album Black Cadillac, but she released it after – after Johnny and after June died as well, and it’s about all three of her parents, her biological mother and June and Johnny dying, and it’s – well, most of the songs are I think, and that’s – they’re country songs as well and she’s – they’re incredible songs, if you haven’t heard it, I recommend the album.
Is that that song, “I’ll pick you up in a black Cadillac”?

I don’t think so,
Okay, right, I’m sorry, I heard a song the other day that somebody threw at me how they really like it and I didn’t – I didn’t – we didn’t know who it was and it was an incredible song. It was a great song, it was about somebody’s death and it was about them, “I’ll pick you up in a black Cadillac”, it was actually about hearse.

This one, I think the lyric is, “it was a black Cadillac that took you away, was—“
This has got to be the song, who’s that by?

Rosanne Cash, Johnny’s daughter.
Oh, Rosanne Cash, okay, gee, I bet that’s the song.

That album has some fantastic songs on it, but at a guess it is, I think, yeah, country music started off as a – as a genre originally to address the hardships of life, it was what the white folks’ blues, I guess. It has evolved a lot in the United States, but I think still – I think in Australia it’s still, and in certain artists in the United States, but most of Australian country music is not overly manufactured, heartless stuff.
No, look, it can’t be. I mean the audiences wouldn’t – wouldn’t listen to it if it was too – too produced. I mean it’s just – people are looking for that sort of honesty in country music and hence why a lot of people play country music with single instrument or a trio or a simple group. We’re performing as a trio at the moment – violin, guitar, two vocals – and it’s that – it’s that lovely sort of honesty that makes it really work.

And for you, working just with a violin and a guitar, that’s actually – I think, it’s not a common – often you’ll get like drum and guitar or – I’m trying to think of the last time I saw just a guitar and a violin but does that – did that take some adjusting?
It depends who’s playing the violin of course, and I suppose the guitar too, but Nigel MacLean, he’s just the coolest fiddle player in the entire universe, which is of course the Milky Way, he’s just – he’s incredible and I love him to bits and he’s plays so incredibly well. He’s a Tamworth winner, he’s a – I don’t want to bang his drum too hard, because he might get a big head, but the reality is he’s a brilliant – he’s a brilliant fiddle player and when you’re playing with somebody of that calibre it does – I tell you what, traditionally if you look at Irish music traditionally — which of course is the root of most evil, is that – of course I love Irish music, don’t take it for a second that I don’t, I love it and spent – I’ve spent many, many evenings in Irish pubs listening to Irish music, but you often find a guitar or string banjo and – or a mandolin and a violin, so it’s a very, in that genre, it’s quite a common – quite a common duo.

But I think it’s – it must be interesting for a singer, and you as a singer, to do it because you’re quite exposed, I guess, there’s not the backup of the band to – to sort of underlay anything you’re doing, you really have to be in your voice on the night, the audience is listening to every breath, pretty much, as well as every word. So are there ever any moments where you think, oh, maybe I’m a bit too exposed?
The reality of a band is that you’ve got to rehearse it pretty hard and you’ve got to build it pretty right, and the quality and the integrity in the industry, we say, is that nobody is really prepared to jam any more, everybody wants to play it note for note, so that leaves … where I – it’s the reality, I mean, you go and do a gig, you don’t often get bands that are just jamming out songs, they’re playing them as rehearsed and – and there’s been many an argument in the band room afterwards for somebody who played that bad note or jumped a chorus or missed a middle A or something like that. And so that sort of playing is, sort of, gone, whereas when you’re two up, you can – you can be a lot more fluid and you can be a lot more – you can improvise a bit more and you can make it a bit more expressive. So I, sort of, like that, I think I prefer it some ways, although I guess if you’ve got an audience and it’s jump [up] and down dancing, it’s pretty handy to have a drummer.

But it must be – it must be an interesting creative process and possibly sometimes a frustrating one when you’re playing songs from an album that you’ve recorded a year ago and you’ve been doing a lot of gigs in the past year, and the album’s about to come out and essentially you’ve got to play these songs like they’re new, because for a lot of the audience they will be, is there a – is there a – do you find that songs morph over the course of playing them so long, so that by the time you’re playing them to promote the album they seem new again? Or are there some nights where you just think, I don’t want to play this any more?
No, look – look, I think they – they always – they all have – they always take on energy of their own each night. I mean obviously they become more and more similar, but they certainly do take on their own entity as you – as you perform them, and you’ve got to, sort of, drop yourself into the mode of each song, and each song has a definite, sort of, mood and mode that I’ve got to get into for each performance. So once you’re in that zone you’re okay, but there’s some – there’s some new material I’m trying at the moment that gives me a lot of room to sort of play, and I’ve sort of wrote a few songs thinking – I wrote a couple of songs in particular just thinking about, sort of, the possibility of being able to talk through certain sections of song and not having to – not really hold the song up rhythmically the whole time and that’s quite a nice relief, sort of, [from continuing] a barrage of four-four at 120 beats a minute. It’s quite nice, a little bit of light and shade is good. And, yeah, look, I think the reality is that you are trying to emulate the album generally, but – but you’re always trying to get the feeling of the song in there and I often do that acoustically with Mickey guitar[k1] , I don’t – I don’t need to have the band all the time. Like I say, if people want to jump up and down, but if they’re dancing, it’s certainly nice to have a drummer. But look, who was I listening to the other day? Steve Earle, there’s a – there’s a fantastic video of him doing “Copperhead Road” on the internet somewhere, where he’s just standing there with a mandolin, and solely – a mandolin is like a – it’s a soprano instrument, so it’s got a very narrow sort of musical range, and so as an accompanying instrument it’s pretty tough to just pull off a whole song without anything else. He does it – he does it incredibly well and it’s just a pure testament to the intensity of the performance. If you can perform to the point where the song is totally believable with a sparse amount of instrumentation then the song, in itself, is much more credible I think.

            Yeah, it’s true, I mean that process of playing – playing them over and over again really sorts out whether they’re working or not. Which I guess is why all the musicians like to – a lot of songwriters like to test their songs live before they go into a studio, because then they can work out what songs are going to hold up.
Oh, absolutely – absolutely and you know when they bomb, you see people sort of starting, they’re looking at you because you’re singing on stage for [the] first few minutes, or first couple of minutes, or 30 seconds and then they start talking amongst themselves. You think to yourself, oops, you’ve got to – and that’s often though – that’s often in the presentation of the song and this is sometimes where bands fall down, they – the story of four-piece or five-piece band and they hammer away like I say four-four at 120 beats a minute and there’s only so much an audience can take of that, and if it hasn’t got the light and shade and it hasn’t the variety and it hasn’t got the structure, then you’ll really struggle. Of course, some people pull it off incredibly well and they have you mesmerised all night, but bands – the five-piece band in itself is a challenge.

Yeah, it’s – I haven’t seen many bands keep people mesmerised all night like that unless they’re so loud that people can’t talk.
That’s why we love country music, because they don’t do that.

I’m trying to think the only band I ever saw where like absolutely everyone was completely captivated the whole night was Soundgarden, but—
Yeah, well look, that’s right, I mean they had the audience probably in the palm of their hands and they were just feeding off it and it was rolling in ballads. I mean, think about the gigs you’ve gone to where there [wasn’t a] second where you haven’t thought about something else but what was coming at you, so it’s pretty rare, pretty rare.