Friday, January 16, 2015

Interview: Matt Henry

At last year's Tamworth Country Music Festival I went to a gig called Late Night Alt at the Tudor Hotel and it was one of the best musical experiences of my life. Now its organiser, Matt Henry, is taking it to three nights, again upstairs at the Tudor, and I spoke to him about the shows, alt country and his own music.

I actually did meet you briefly earlier this year at your alt country gig at the Tudor when you suggested that someone should buy you a beer for organising it and I bought you a beer.
It was you?

It was.
Oh that's right.  There you go. Well, thank you, of course I do remember that, which is amazing that I can remember anything from that night in the end because it went to two [a.m.].

I left at one-thirty.
By the end it was getting a bit ugly.  So thanks for the beer, I really do appreciate it.  I'm off the beers at the moment; I will be off the beers in Tamworth so I might have to ask people to buy me a Diet Coke or something.

I thought you should have been bought more than a beer – it was a fantastic night and I've been talking about it ever since, so I was really pleased to see that you were able to get it up again for this year.  But first I'd like to ask you a bit about the genesis of the first gig in January 2014 and then how you've organised 2015's gig.
Well, last year was born out of, really, a necessity. I was sort of trying to organise my gigs about mid-year that year and because you have got to do it that far out and I just couldn't really find a whole lot of places that I was excited about playing.  Like, I really couldn't find somewhere that really fit.  And I had spoken to other artists and friends who had sort of felt the same and I thought, well, rather than complain about it or maybe not go, I will try and make something out there and get it off the ground.  So we had this idea and we guessed that a lot of artists would go back to each other's places where they are staying in Tamworth and have a bit of a jam after their shows and hang out, and I just thought, well, why don't we do that but just in a bar somewhere and the people just come and watch?  So that was the genesis of it and we got it up and running, it was really myself and Lou Bradley.  And we didn't really expect it to be quite as successful as it was and get that many people there.  I kind of thought we can't promote any of the names because everyone has got their ticketed shows, so how are we going to get the people there and let them know about it?  But I think that once the good artists turned up word just sort of travelled and it filled up.  You were there, it just filled up quickly.

It really did. The reason I knew about it was because Brad Butcher had told me about it at his gig the day before, so he was doing good advance work and he didn't say many names, he just said you and Lou and Jess Holland, I think he mentioned – and him, of course – and he said a few other people would probably come and play after their shows.  And it was a great night.  But I will be interested to see – or hear, really – what format you're planning because I thought it worked so well just having people play two or three songs each and keep rotating it.
Look, it did and the format has changed a little bit only because the soundy had a terrible time because people were just jumping on and off, and people were pulling their leads out of their guitars without turning them off and all of that.  So he had a bit of a hard time.  They had a great time at the venue in terms of they got good bar sales, so they were happy to have it again but they wanted it to be run a little more carefully.  So I've had to change it up a little bit.  They're going to be half-hour sets or there will be some 20 minute sets for sort of singer-songwriters and then some half-hour sets, and some that will go a little bit longer when there's a band on stage.  So it has changed a little bit.  I'm hoping it will run just a little bit smoother. Given that they gave us three nights, that was part of the deal as well. I kind of have to listen to them a little bit more rather than just do what we want to do. 

I'm looking at the press release that I was sent and there is one night on here for alt country – are you on the 21st and the 23rd?  What are the dates for the Alt Country Late Night?
It's on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd – so Wednesday, Thursday, Friday nights from 10 p.m. and it will go until 1 a.m. this year instead of 2 a.m.  That was the other little caveat that they put on us because again the sound issue just got a bit out of control after 1 a.m. 

Well, you've got a packed schedule then for this Tamworth because you've got quite a few other gigs going on?
I'm just playing one night, I'm playing the Thursday night at Late Night Alt but I will be there to, you know – I mean, if you can call it hosting. You saw it last year – it's not exactly hosting but just introducing people.  I will be there doing it again for those nights, but yeah I've got a packed week in the lead-up, a busy sort of first weekend and then I've got Lou's album launch and then Brad's album launch, so it's quite busy.  I'm a bit nervous I've taken on a bit but too much but you've just got to get into it.

You just may not be able to talk in between gigs to save your voice.
That's right.  I'm probably feeling a bit more like because I'm not drinking out there I've got to fill my time with wholesome activities like singing, so that will save my voice a hell of a lot of punishment if I'm off the beers.

Look, it's too hot to drink there anyway.  That's my opinion about Tamworth every year: too hot for alcohol.
It's so true – it's too hot to drink wine or anything like that, so I'm with you, and especially last year, it was brutal. 

You dehydrate too quickly otherwise and there's only so many shopping centre air-conditioning systems you can get to in time.
That's right and all the music venues have got good air conditioning fill out really quickly in the morning.

And the Tudor is not one of them, because I played in a covers band in that upstairs venue several years ago and we were as hot as Hades, I remember. 
Well, you would know full well then because and once you're on stage and moving around and under lights, it's twice as bad.

I think, as you mentioned in the press release, there's not a huge awareness of the alt country genre here but I'm also curious as to how you personally define alt country within Australian country music as opposed to, say, some of the Americana that comes out of the UK and the US.
Someone asked me that question recently and it's hard to answer because in terms of an Australian sound in alt country, I think it's really so in its infancy that it's really hard to define.  Australian storytellers, I would almost go as so far to say that people like Paul Kelly really are kind of like Australian alt country, but he's been around so long.  I think it's in terms of the Americana acts that are out here and people who are taking their lead from Americana and things like what Kasey [Chambers] and Shane [Nicholson] have done with their albums, is there really more tribute to Americana than they are anything Australian.  It's more Americana done by Australians than Australian Americana or Australian alt country.  But I think we're sort finding our way.  I feel like people like Brad are probably doing something pretty unique; it's quite uniquely Australian.  It's very country but you've sort of got that inner city alternative vibe about it too.  So I think that that's kind of the future of it is that kind of sound.  I think someone like Harry Hookey is definitely in that vein, although it's a bit rockier.  But he's definitely sort of doing something that is quite different.  So no it's interesting; it's a very difficult thing to define.  It's like defining country itself: it's just so broad. I hear so often people say, "I don't like country music but I like that."  And you're, like, "Yeah, well, that's country music," but you know it's not what they consider to be country music.  It's not twangy and there's no big wide lapels, so they're not quite sure where to pigeonhole it. 

Well I tend to describe Australian country music as Australian storytelling in song, because I actually think it's the one genre that encapsulates that when other genres don't. 
I agree and that's so true and that's what Lachlan [Bryan] does so well and it's that very bush ballad–type feel but with a contemporary sort of spin on it, and I think that's probably what's defining some of the younger artists coming out who are sort of alt country artists is perhaps subject matter more than anything else.  Whereas sound-wise there are some different sounds and there are different instrumentation but I think subject matter more than anything.  They're not afraid to sort of tell some broader stories and it doesn't have to be necessarily stories of hardships on the farm or drought or that sort of thing.  It's just it's all got its place and I think it was a just a bit underrepresented out of Tamworth, so we just really wanted to do something about that. 

It's a great initiative, but I'm also interested in talking about you so I'm interested in how your own sound has evolved, so where your earlier influences were and how you've come to put yourself into alt country really.
The EP I put out about 18 months ago is already feeling very different to the songs I've written in the last 18 months, so I'm starting to work on an album, we've gone into preproduction on an album that I really don't have an idea on the release date but I think it will be sort of end [2015] and it's a very alt country sounding, the songs.  So my influences really have been from a long way back.  I love Cat Stevens and John Denver and that's sort of seventies singer-songwriter type, Nick Drake, that sort of thing.  But of late I've been listening to a lot of rock 'n' roll – Buddy Holly – and also people like Gillian Welch, so it's just broad.  You know, if you love music, you love music whatever the genre and whatever the time and a great song is a great song. and I just love great songs whether they're pop songs or old songs, new songs.  So I think that basically where I'm heading has got more of an Americana type feel to it, if you were to define it in any way.

Australian country is a really broad church and I do think that the audience, regardless of age really or even what they've listened to before – and you see this at Tamworth, in particular – is just really accepting of new music, of variations on country whatever they are.  As long as they think there's a story in it they will listen to it.
I agree.  Australian audiences, and Australian people generally, we've got the greatest nose for bullshit in the world and I just think that if someone's just shovelling a bit too much, they don't really get a lot of airtime or a lot of recognition.  Australian people really like down-to-earth people with good songs. I think we've got a great ear for good songs and we're producing some the best music in the world in Australia at the moment.  I would love to think that alt country and some of the more folky country and Americana country could break through and maybe get played on Triple J or get played a bit more on commercial radio. I don't know if that's a pipe dream but I'm hoping that someone can break through a little bit.

I also wonder if necessarily that's even needed in terms of sustainable careers, and that is an important thing to think about. I look at a lot of country artists who wouldn't necessarily be very well known but a lot of them are moving towards sustainability in their careers, there's that interesting thing of what you might necessarily have to compromise on if you're going for the Triple J audience as opposed to going to the audience that's there already. Often, in country, the audience is in small towns and not necessarily near the major transport hubs, so it's that effort of getting out to see them.  Whereas radio, I guess, can reach a whole lot of people differently with less effort. 
Exactly.  The last thing you would want to do is to have a bastardised version of something just to get played on a particular station. I guess it's more just a general supporting if there's just so many great young songwriters and talents and then having sustainable careers is so difficult in music at the moment.  When it is live music, that really keeps everyone going, but, you know, just a little more support from radio [would be good].  That generalisation of people saying "I don't like country music" but not really knowing exactly what it all entails, and particularly these days where [there's a lot of more folk-oriented [music] and of such high quality it's just a shame that it doesn't have a little bit more of an audience.  But I take your point: you wouldn't want to change it just to get on a particular station.

What interests me is that a big part of the reason I started the website was to try to make more people aware of Australian country music – I completely agree with you that the quality of music that's coming out of Australia at the moment is just extraordinary, and I think Tamworth is a big reason for that because it's so competitive, really, for performers and for songwriters.  If you're not up to scratch in Tamworth you're just never getting asked back, basically.  So you have to be on your game all the time.  But I found the website, at least half my audience is in the US and those people are reading about Australians.  I don't cover much American music.  They're reading about Australian country music artists.  So I find that really curious too. 
That's fantastic.  That's amazing that there are so many people in the States who are reading it and there's so much interest there. In America I know there's been a particular backlash recently of the sort of direction of country music and the kind of songs about utes and what they call them pick-up trucks type –

"Bro country" I think they're calling it.
Yeah, people are looking for something a bit more real. 

Also from my perspective, one of the things that I love about going to Tamworth is seeing the whole range of performers – and Late Night Alt was an example of this, that there's equal numbers of men and women as acts.  It's all sort of ages, you can have a band that's got a 20 year old and 50 year old and a 30 year old in it, and I don't see that anywhere else it world actually to that extent.  Apart from maybe in jazz and blues, but it's extraordinary.
I totally agree. Look, there are aspects of it with that kind of ute-type songs and pick-up truck and picking up girls–type songs and they're not exactly female friendly, but I think particularly in alt country the mix is really pretty even.  If anything there's probably more women and women songwriters and women performers in that genre at the moment than there are men.  But it is it's such a diverse festival and you can see so many different varieties of music and so many different types of performer and it's quite amazing for one week or eight or ten days or whatever it is.

Now I'm going to conclude with a question about Bangalow and the Bangalow music scene because I guess for you guys, south-east Queensland, including Brisbane, is part of your scene – is that correct to say?

Definitely and we're quite lucky in Bangalow, in that there's a couple of sort of major centres nearby.  There's Ballina and Lismore and Byron Bay and then the Gold Coast is only about 45 minutes and Brisbane is about an hour and half.  So there are a few good centres to base ourselves.  I seem to be more doing more with the Brisbanites than anyone else.  There are some good performers in Byron and there's a Ballina country music festival that's not bad, but they've actually had a bluegrass festival in Bangalow this year. It was a picker's festival and it was the first one and they got about two and half thousand people here.

Amazing, and it's a small town too.
Unbelievable. It was the Bangalow Bluegrass Barbecue and so they're doing it again [in 2015] and it will just get bigger and bigger, I'm sure.

Well, I'm looking forward to seeing Late Night Alt, I'm going to try and get to all three nights of it.
The first person [performing] we're thrilled [with], we've got some great acts and Wednesday night the opening will be fantastic and Thursday night is going to be huge.  We have got some really good bands and we're closing with a bang on the Friday night, so you won't see a bad night there. 

Late Night Alt at the Tudor Hotel, Peel Street Tamworth:
Wednesday 21 January, Thursday 22 January, Friday 23 January from 10 p.m. 

Matt's gigs in Tamworth:

Saturday 17th January 2015 | 9am
Tamworth Services Club, TAMWORTH NSW
Writers in the Round

Sunday 18th January 2015 | 3pm
DAG Sheep Station, NUNDLE NSW
w/ The Bushwackers & women in docs

Monday 19th January 2015 | 11.40am
Post Office Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
(02) 6761 3322

Monday 19th January 2015 | 8pm
The Family Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
Lou Bradley Album Launch [support]
(02) 6765 7722

Tuesday 20th January 2015 | 11am

Tuesday 20th January 2015 | 3pm
Imperial Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
Brad Butcher Album Launch [support]

Wednesday 21st January 2015 | 1pm
Locomotive Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW

Thursday 22nd January 2015 | 1.30pm
Southgate Inn, TAMWORTH NSW

Thursday 22nd January 2015 | 10pm
Late Nite Alt, w/ special guests

Friday 23rd January 2015 | 3.30pm
(02) 6765 8361

For more information, please visit 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Interview: Travis List

Travis List will be a familiar name to many Australian country music fans. Although he now spends a lot of time in Nashville, he and Kristy Cox recently toured Australia together and now Travis is back for an extensive run of dates at the 2015 Tamworth Country Music Festival. I spoke to Travis a couple of weeks ago about Tamworth, Taylor Swift and an impending big change to his life.

I’ll kick off by asking what does it mean to be a new traditionalist?
I think in some ways I look at it as a bit of an honorary role.  It obviously means ties to the traditional country but it sounds like it’s brand new material …  I’m quite happy to be called that and it is a bit of an honour to have that branding.  [I] take it pretty seriously but I’ve always got somewhere to know where my roots are and where I come from and I can always tell exactly where I’m at with my music because I have that base that I’ve come from.  So it’s good.

And lineage is pretty important in country music.  A lot of artists are really aware of what’s come before and honouring traditions and honouring lineages.  You’ve been playing since you were about seven – what was the music within country that first appealed to you? Or what performers, rather?
I think it all started when I was about seven my dad first brought home our first beta video and it was Smokey and the Bandit and I saw Sally Fields and, of course, black Trans AM as a pick-up truck and [laughs] Jerry Reid playing guitar and singing and for me, it was just a very memorising thing.  It was just like America was this land of loud V8 cars and pretty girls and this endless supply of fun and sort of capitalism, I guess.  And I don’t know, my dad always drove imported American vehicles and my mum was a big fan of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, Slim Whitman and that kind of thing, ’cause my dad was a bush balladeer singer and sang Australian country bush music, and I guess I just went in on that American route and I don’t think it was any too big a surprise to anyone when I ended up moving there about eight years ago.  Americans seem to gravitate to what I do because I have that Australian background and it’s something different.  And Australians – I’m doing something different when I’m doing my American thing, but country music has this wonderful attachment to all the different other music and a lot of country acts are either working against the grain or you’re off the music or you’re working with the grain of the music, and to me either way you’re doing it is fine.  The new styles of country are just as fine with me as the old styles as well, but of course what I do is more along the lines of the traditionalist because that’s just who I am, but I appreciate it all.

I’m still stuck on your line of you saw America as an endless supply of fun and capitalism [laughs].
Well endless supply of fun … and capitalism. As a child I guess if someone tells you you can have an ice cream and then they tell you there’s this land where you can eat ice cream all you want, as a child you have this different perception of things, but of course as an adult going there and choosing to live, it’s different than what I thought it was as a child.  It’s still very good and it’s changed a lot, of course, but it’s kind of like I have two homes now and when I’m here I talk about going home there and when I’m there, I definitely talk about actually going back home to Australia.  So it gets confusing [laughs].

And it’s often a fraught decision for Australian country music performers to make that move to Nashville and spend any amount of time there in terms of living there, because sometimes people back here don’t react so well.  I remember seeing Kristy Cox on Peel Street in 2014 on the Fanzone stage and the person who was introducing her talked about her recording her album in Nashville and used a fairly accusatory tone as he did it. But of course you have access to so much in Nashville that you don’t have access to here in terms of session musicians and a range of studios.  So it seems to be a logical thing to go to Nashville.
I think all great music that’s ever come out of anywhere has always been because of the artist working a little bit against the norm, and it’s not really the fact that it’s America so much, it’s just that it’s one of the places on the planet that at a particular time in history had the ability and the right people in the right place to make some great music.  I mean, you’ve got Nashville but then two and a half, three hours up the road you’ve got Memphis, which is responsible for so much music in our rock ’n’ roll and rock music today. And then of course there’s Louisiana, zydeco music and that slippery sound that comes down Louisiana way.  So it’s just that America had the population and it had the ability at the right time to be able to create new things.  Australia has that also, we have things here that are so unique and when you take those unique things that are different and special to somewhere like Nashville – and I’ve seen a lot of my brethren from Australia go to Nashville and they really, really appreciate that something different.  They say you can’t take coal to Newcastle – it’s no good taking something that’s already been done to Nashville or to Tamworth here in Australia and just doing an exact carbon copy of one of the greats that we’ve had in the past.  You’ve got to have your own thing going on, but I like to look at myself as a citizen of the world because I’ve done so much travelling and I’ve played in so many different countries and the one thing that is always common is that I find that Americans say everything’s bigger and better in America.  It is bigger in America but not necessarily always better; it’s just different.  We have musicians and songwriters and performers here in Australia that are just fantastic, and there’s good performers and songwriters and singers everywhere you go.  There’s always a good musician and a good songwriter is always needed and always wanted and always appreciated no matter where they are.  Kristy and I were touring through the Netherlands just before we came back to Australia and we met some acts there, just blew my mind how fantastic they were.  And you just think to yourself, wow, music is a worldwide thing, it’s not just in one place at one moment; it’s everywhere all the time.

It’s really interesting how country music is interpreted in different places, because there’s an emerging British country music scene. Americana has had a presence there for a while but the country music that’s coming through from the UK now is quite American in nature in the Taylor Swift sort of vein of country music – not that she’s country anymore apparently, but it’s interesting how that’s been interpreted.  There’s two strands there: Americana or country pop, country rock and not a lot in between.  Whereas I think in Australia there’s such a variety amongst the performers here and the songwriters that it’s one of the thing that makes Tamworth such an extraordinary festival.  There’s just so much on offer really. 
We have a lot of music here that there’s no different and not dissimilar in its styling to America.  America just tends to brand more things country based.  We’re in an age where depending on where you are on the planet, things are constantly rebranded all the time.  You’ve got the same product but it’s rebranded or branded or promoted differently in different countries and in different regions.  So what Americans might perceive as Taylor Swift coming from the country scene – and now I think she said herself that she’s no longer considers herself to be country, but that’s just her growing as an act and odds are that one day she’ll return to her roots, but I think it’s all good.  I think that the only way an artist can grow is to not pigeonhole themselves into one area; you have to take everything in so that you can grow as an artist.  And that’s what makes things special and different.  That’s how you get the uniqueness out of things, and I think Australia doesn’t have a fear of losing itself or its originality because with the geographical separation, it’s always coming up with new, exciting totally individual sounds all the time and it’s been responsible over the years so much for new sounds.  We’ve got so many famous Australian acts that have done so well worldwide because of that, I feel.

And I also think that Tamworth as an event seems to be a catalyst for a lot of creative connections as well as just creativity full stop.  I’ve talked to so many performers who have met producers or who have met co-songwriters or all sorts of people in Tamworth, and not that we can quantify that effect but it does seem – and, obviously, a segue into talking about you being in Tamworth – but it does seem like it’s this extraordinary thing that happens, that everyone’s in the one place and you have opportunities to connect with each other and amazing things come out of it.
Totally.  I go to Tamworth and I do what they call the new traditionalist or some people call it honkytonk music or some people would even brand it maybe Americana, because in America Americana means a bit more traditional American way of doing things and elsewhere in the world Americana’s going into this soup which is a little bit different interpretation.  But at Tamworth I do my thing and I think it’s about variety.  I think people want to see different things, they want to see a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and you can get that at Tamworth.  I think that’s a good thing and I know there are people who like to see Tamworth going in one particular direction but that’s uncontrollable.  You can’t control the trends and the talents and the people – it’s going to grow into what it’s going to grow into and I appreciate that.  You’ve just got to let it do its thing and that’s beautiful in itself.

I know you have quite a few shows to play in Tamworth and this has to be one of the heaviest rosters of anyone coming into the next Tamworth, and quite a few different venues as well.  So you should see a few varied audiences, I would imagine, but are you going to wear yourself out?
Well, it’s not so much the workload with the singing.  I’ve got nine, ten full shows, one show on every day, and then I’ve got a whole series of small appearances and small guest spots and of course promo stuff to do, but I am a little concerned because any day now I’m going to be a father for the first time, and me and Kristy are – her schedule’s very, very busy as well. And we do have a couple of full-time babysitters organised for the festival but both of us have a very, very, very heavy roster.  So fitting the new family thing into that is going to be interesting but we are used to living out of suitcases and we’ve been in for the tour before we came to Australia, we were in eight different countries under 30 days.  So we’ll continue to do that except next time we’ll probably be dragging a pram as well.

You may need to talk to Brooke McClymont about how to do this because I think she had a very small baby or after she had her daughter, she played Tamworth not long after.  So she might be able to give some tips on how you juggle all of that.  It helps that she has sisters in her band, I think.
Yeah, it does.  The support team no doubt is going to be really important.  Like I said, we’ve got a couple of full-time babysitters coming to help and Kristy will be on the red carpet 20 days after her giving birth and a new mother.  And I’m sure she’ll be looking fantastically beautiful too. bBt it’s going to be a lot of fun and Tamworth always is a lot of fun, but you can wear yourself out. I guess you just pace yourself. 

And make sure you’ve booked a holiday not long afterwards.
Yeah.  Actually we were talking about that the other day, but I am looking forward to this new album and seeing how that goes over with my shows and with the people in Tamworth and the tour in August, September that me and Kristy had, the new material, it was very well accepted I think and I’m hoping to continue that in Tamworth and just display some of the new work that I’ve been doing and getting out and having some fun and playing.

So the new album is out, right, because that news passed me by completely that you had an album out in October.
Yes.  October the 17th and I released a single, “In This Corner”, to radio and I’ve got a new video clip just about to go to CMC, and [the album is] in stores:  Sanity, JB Hi-Fi and it’s on iTunes, and you can of course purchase it from my website It’s the first actual release to radio that I’ve done in this country.  I haven’t actually ever done one in Australia before and I was really honoured.  It went to number 12 and that was probably higher than I expected for a first release, but it was really encouraging and there’ll be three or four more releases off that too including maybe a duet of me and Kristy.

This Corner is out now. Travis's website is

TCMF 2015 dates:

Thursday, 15th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth West Leagues Club – 8:00pm
Phillip St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 7588

Friday, 16th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth South Bowling Club - 7:00pm
11 Margaret St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 5766

Saturday, 17th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival – Pure Country Spectacular
Tamworth Capitol Theatre - 10:00am
Peel St, Tamworth, New South Wales

Sunday, 18th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth South Bowling Club - 3:30pm
11 Margaret St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 5766

Tuesday, 20th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth South Bowling Club - 3:30pm
11 Margaret St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 5766

Thursday, 22nd January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth South Bowling Club - 12:00pm
11 Margaret St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 5766

Thursday, 22nd January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth Wests Diggers - 7:30pm
Kable Ave, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6766 4661

Friday, 23rd January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth West Leagues Club – 2:00pm
Phillip St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 7588

Saturday, 24th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth South Bowling Club - 12:00pm
11 Margaret St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 5766

Sunday, 25th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth West Leagues Club – 8:00pm
Phillip St, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6765 7588

Monday, 26th January 2015
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth Wests Diggers - 7:30pm
Kable Ave, Tamworth, New South Wales
BOOKINGS: (02) 6766 4661

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Wolfe Brothers hit the road with Angry Anderson

To say that 2014 was a big year for the Wolfe Brothers would be understating the case: they toured themselves, they toured with Lee Kernaghan, they wrote, recorded and released an album ... and it's slightly exhausting even contemplating all of that. They've decided they don't need a rest, though, and they're kicking off 2015 by touring with Angry Anderson. The whole thing came about by chance, as Tom Wolfe explained when I interviewed him late last year about that and other things.

I’m going to start off by asking you to describe 2014 for the Wolfe Brothers in one word.
In one word … that’s a great question, can I just say that.  That’s a really good question, 2014 for the Wolfe Brothers in one word.  In one word, that’s hard.

[Laughs] I know, that’s why I’ve asked you.
Can I come back to that one?

You can.  You can let that marinate in your brain while I ask you other questions.
’Cause I was going to say something like fantastic – which it has been – but I think I can come up with something better than that.  So just give me a minute and I’ll come back to that one if that’s okay.

All right.  That’s absolutely fine.  So maybe what will help you answer that is if I ask you how the album’s been received?
The album’s been received, look, better than we’d hoped. The last couple of years on the road have made us better musos, it’s made us better songwriters and all of that sort of stuff.  So I think all of that kind of combined is, really – it’s the best stuff we’ve done yet.  The other singles are going great, we’re getting lots of radio play and it was even crossed over in commercial markets, which is really exciting for us and for the genre in general really.  So that’s really cool and it’s just been really good and I’m really looking forward to touring next year. 

And of course sometimes when you’re crossing over into commercial markets if you come from the country music genre, some people within country don’t like that.  If I think of Keith Urban, there’s the whole, ‘Oh well he’s no longer country music’ but I think in Australia that’s kind of okay.  People understand you can be played on Triple M and still be country music.
Look, it’s a line, it’s a blurred line.  It’s not something we set out to do, it’s not something you sit around at home and go, ‘We got to do this’.  The music we make is the music we make – it’s us, it’s not contrived, it’s just who we are and if people dig it and they want to play it and it works in that format, fantastic.

Certainly, having spoken to you and Brodie [Rainbird, guitarist] in the past, it’s clear that your development into the country genre was a completely organic thing to do.  It wasn’t like you set out to say, ‘Oh, we want to have a career in country.’ Country rock was the music you were drawn to and that’s naturally where you landed.  So it hasn’t been a cynical process, if you know what I mean.
No.  It’s just sort of come about as it is and what we do is us and I’m really proud of that.  We don’t sit at home and say, ‘This country rock thing, it’s going to be the next big thing, we need to write songs like this. ‘ This is the music we make and I think that’s why it’s been going really well for us and we’ve taken a lot of leaps in the last few years and really got up a lot of runs, honestly, because we’ve been true to ourselves and I think people see that and they relate to it, and if you’re an artist, as soon as you stop being true to yourself I think you lose them, if you know what I’m saying – like it’s not real, it’s contrived, people see through that.

In that sense, I guess as an observer of you as a band I kind of wonder: you get this momentum going and it’s this really strong momentum, this sense of your music evolving but also maintaining where you come from and also your live presence.  I kind of think the trajectory’s heading up and up and up but also you guys have to work really hard to sustain that.  So how are you feeling at the end of 2014?  Are you tired?
Yeah, we are.  In all honesty we are tired but a good tired – we’re happy tired, but it’s a lot of work and basically what you said, you’re really working hard and with working hard, you just go out and work it hard again.  It’s not the type of job you really get days off, you’re always doing songwriting or you’re working on the computer – there’s always stuff to do, but as you said, I think it’s all going in the right direction.  It’s going up and up, trajectory’s right.  So that’s fantastic and at the end of the day we’re loving doing it and people are enjoying it.  So that’s the main thing.

A lot of people in country music would take January off until they’re playing in Tamworth.  But no, no, the Wolfe Brothers start their tour on the 9th of January. 
Yeah.  We’ve got a Tassie show on the 3rd too.  So there’s no point, you’ve just got to work it.  You got to get out there and play live, and I think for us that’s such a big part of what we do and where we win a lot of people over when we play live because people who might be on the fence with us and go ‘I don’t know about these guys, they’re country rock’.  As soon as they see it live, ‘Okay, we get it, okay, that’s right, we fully get it.’  So that’s cool and the music industry’s a funny industry.  It’s changed, it’s always changing, but if you can go out and you can deliver a solid live show night after night then you will win fans.  You’ll definitely win fans and they’ll come back, they’ll definitely come back.

I was won over that way and that was by seeing you play three songs on Peel Street in 2014, because I really liked your music but I guess I wasn’t sure of the difference of the Wolfe Brothers until I saw you play and then I thought, These guys have got something and it’s that indefinable something.  There was some kind of alchemy going on there between the four of you that just made so much sense.
Absolutely and I have always said – and I think it’s one of the things that makes us stand apart – because one, we’re a band.  We’re not an artist with a heap of session musos behind us or we’re not a duo or a vocal group or something with a few guys behind us.  We’re a band, we’re four people and we love bands, and you think of all the greatest bands of all times, they mightn’t be the best players, they mightn’t be the best looking or all that sort of stuff but when the four of them get together, something happens. We’ve done this since high school and I think it’s only in the last probably couple of years we’ve really found our sort of niche and that chemistry and it’s just natural.  We know how to read each other, I know exactly what Casey’s going to play on the drums and Casey always says to me, he goes, ‘I know exactly when Tom’s going to do my drum fiddles on the base.’  So we kind of know how each other’s going to operate and it just makes it fun.  It can go anywhere and the show can go anywhere during the night, it’s great.

That’s a good rhythm section, if you’ve got that communication, that’s the fundament of great band, the rhythm section.
Oh, it is.  Absolutely and I mean like I’ve played drums with Casey since primary school and I think that’s part of it.  I kind of know exactly where he’s going to put the stand and exactly that.  I just know his whole style and his whole groove.

Well, speaking of style and groove, you’re introducing a new groove to the band by having Angry Anderson on board for the tour, but I’d like to ask you about that very first impromptu performance which apparently was at a charity event earlier in 2014.  I was wondering if it happened sort of on the night that you were given the opportunity to play with Angry.
So what happened it was a charity event and we were playing with Lee [Kernaghan], who’s obviously done a lot, then Tania [Kernaghan] got involved and [we were going to play with her]. Then Angry got involved and it’s like, well, don’t bring another band, we’ll just play and at first he was a little bit like, ‘Oh okay, who are these country guys, are they going to be able to do “Bad Boy for Love” justice?’ kind of thing.  He didn’t say that but there was a little sense of [him being] not standoffish but we walked backstage and he said, ‘So you know what you’re doing, you know the songs?’  We said, ‘We got this.’  He was, like, ‘Right, okay.  We won’t rehearse then.’  And he walks out and he’s such a cool guy.  I mean he’s the only guy in Australia who can do a corporate event when they’re having entrĂ©es at a black and white dinner, walk out with a bottle in his hand, screams ‘Bad Boys for Love’ at them and then get a standing ovation.

And he did and it was so loud.  It was pure Aussie rock ’n’ roll and he’s just screaming at them and they loved it, and he’s got a big heart and he said on stage that night after the first song he’s like, ‘We’ve got to tour this.’  Our manager was in the audience, he’s going, ‘We’re touring this, Steve, we’re touring this.’  And yeah, we talked about it for a long time, we were so busy we haven’t had the chance, but now’s the chance.  Now’s the opportunity and we’re going to.  Yeah, we can’t wait.  We really can’t wait.

I’ll come back to that tour because I just want to detour on the idea that you guys – and I’ve noted this before about you play with Lee and you also play your own set –  I can’t think of another band that’s got its own career going and its own tour going but also playing with another performer in their field and also saying, ‘Oh yeah, Tania, that’s fine, we can do those songs’.  That’s an incredible workload but also it’s an incredible adaptability of the band.
It is.  We really do try to be the best players we can and sitting in with Angry for us came a lot more naturally then say sitting in with Tania.  That’s something we really had to work at because we grew up listening to stuff from Angry and we were a cover band before any of this ever happened.  So you’d be out playing all that sort of stuff like that.  So sitting there with someone like Angry and rock guys is probably a lot easier than for us than say what it is to sit in with someone like Tania, but it was cool, it was fine.  It was good fun.

I think there’s one more Kernaghan sibling you might have to collect before you’ve got the set.
Well, it’s funny: we’ve done songwriting with Fiona.  So there you go, songwrite with Fiona, we’ve played with Tania and obviously play with Lee.  So there you go.  All we’ve got to do is do something with Ray, Lee’s dad, we’ve got him sussed, I think.

One day it’ll be Lee supporting you guys, but maybe he’d get upset if I said that!
Lee’s such a good man, he would love that, I think.  He’s such a big supporter, that’s the thing, we’re so lucky to work with him because he is so in our corner and with anything like that, he just loves it, really loves us, it’s great.

Oh yeah, but also he’s no fool.  He’d be realising he’s got a great band and you don’t muck with that if that’s what you got.
Look I will say it’s been fun – like I think he really enjoys the fact that we’re a band behind him, like he’s had a lot of session guys come in and out and I think when we come on, we talked about the chemistry that we have, the four of us have.  So when we’re playing with him, we have that also taking a step back.  I think he really, really loves it because it’s just a great energy.  It’s a different energy, I think, than probably what he’s ever had on stage and he really loves it.  The tours he’s done has been so big, it’s been one of the biggest tours he’s done.

It’s been huge.  So long lasting.
Purely because of the fact we’ve all had so much fun.  We’ve finished it and we thought, well, let’s do a bit more and that’s how it’s come about.  It’s been great, that’s been a lot of fun.

So for your fans coming to your shows and probably there’ll be a lot of them at Blazes – what can they expect from the Angry Anderson combination?  Is there going to be a set with Angry, is he going to have the odd song, how’s it going to work?
Honestly, it’s still in planning stages.  I will say it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be different, I think it’ll be probably more of a spot, he’ll come out and do a certain spot in the show and then come back and do an encore or something with us, I don’t know, but we’re working on songs, we’re working on what we’re going to do and I won’t say but Angry suggested some really cool songs that you wouldn’t expect Angry Anderson to suggest, if that makes sense.  Some things he’s suggest, we’ve gone, okay, you want to do that, right, okay, yep, let’s do that.  That’s cool, that’s great.  Really excited.

This could be your last year at Blazes because you’ll probably have to graduate to the TRECC soon.
Well, we hope so.  I love your mindset and the way you think.  So let’s hope it keeps going that way.

You see it often in any kind of artistic endeavour, which is if you’ve got the talent and the application and you’re prepared to keep working at it – and consistency is key, so if you’re prepared to consistently work at what you’re doing, there tends to be an inevitable payoff and you guys you’ve got the talent, you can apply yourselves but for years now you’ve just been consistently working at it, and I can’t imagine the situation where it’s just not going to keep growing and growing.
And that’s it, I really hope so and it’s funny we’re talking just how long we’ve put into it and how many years we’ve been doing it and how much work, and it’s exactly what it’s all about.  I think the time and the effort and it should eventually pay off all going well.  It’s so many factors, it’s like you’ve got to have the songs, you’ve got to have the live show, you’ve got to have the people around you, you’ve got to have the right team and I think you’ve also got to have a little bit of luck in there.  They all line up and it’s all good, you know. So we’re working on it.

You definitely are working on it.  So have you noticed your audience changing at all, age and demographic sort of men, women, that sort of thing; has it changed or has it stayed consistent?
It’s very consistent.  We do notice, though – and this is what I’m looking forward to with the Angry shows as well – we get a lot of people come and say, ‘I’ve never listened to country or anything like you guys before but that’s really good, that’s really fun, you guys are really good, like we get a lot of that’, and I’m thinking it comes back to that old mindset people think country music’s hay bales and bloody guys jumping around in overalls.  It’s not, and I think if people give it a bit of a chance, they realise it’s actually something really cool because it is, it’s a great genre and you listen to some of the quality of Australian stuff I personally think over the last couple of years has gone in leaps and bounds.

Oh, it’s been extraordinary.  The output has just been amazing.
Yeah, and the quality’s getting a lot better, the songs are getting better because we’re seeing things on CMC and the artists think, well, that’s what we’ve got to compete with now.  So I think that’s really good and really exciting and my personal belief is I think something’s going to hit pretty hard in the next couple of years.  Something will hit in the country scene that will crossover to all genres and something will happen.  That’s my belief.  I think it’s about time and I think it definitely will happen and it will help the whole genre.

If I was to be a betting woman, Tom, I’d say it’s you guys that are going to crossover.
I like your thinking.  Let’s keep putting that out to the universe and see what comes back [laughs].

For you guys, looking to 2015, I can only imagine what you’ve got planned tour wise – but then I wouldn’t mind betting you’re also planning a new album.
I remember we were in the studio recording the second one and it was done, we finished it, we said, ‘Oh well, we’d better start writing for the third one’, and in this day and age with the amount of information that’s coming at people, there’s so much more stuff you’ve got to compete with, you can’t muck about.  You can’t have a break really these days, you can’t say, ‘I’m going to have a few months off to do this.’  You’ve got to get the next album out, the next singles out, keep pushing it.  So that’s our mindset and while we’re young and enjoying it, loving it, we’ll keep on going and keep on pushing on.  If you look at any act that’s done really well, anyway that’s where their head space is at too.

I also quite like the idea that you guys go back to Tasmania when you can.  So it’s that idea of having that, touching base with home but also having a place that’s quite different to being on the mainland touring.  It’s a touchstone for you.
Seriously, I love touring, that’s my biggest kick out of the whole thing and playing live, but to come home – like, we’ve had a couple of weeks off now, we’ve only got two shows next month.  Next year’s going to be so crazy and I’ve just been doing so many normal things – I’ve been going out walking the dog and building a dog kennel and I’ve been working on my house and building a veranda and cleaning gutters and doing such normal things and I just really, really enjoy it, like it’s just such a nice change from it all because I know we’re not going to be home in January and every weekend’s gone for the next few months after that.  So yeah, it’s nice to sit at home and do that sort of stuff.

In conclusion I’ll circle back to my opening question.  I don’t know if your brain’s come up with your one word to describe.  You can use more than one if you need.
I think ‘amazing’ is one but I kind of want to use the word ‘extreme’ – but I don’t want people to take it the wrong way.  Because it’s been extreme in an amazing way.  We’ve just done some incredible things.  The album’s just really kicking some goals for us.  The singles are really doing great, as I said, getting some really, really great radio play.  So it’s been – I probably should say it’s been very big, it’s been a big year.

Yeah.  Good, I like that.  Big’s good [laughs].
Let’s go with big.  I kind of answered it as I was talking, there you go.

Friday 9th January 2015
Club Old Bar, OLD BAR NSW
(02) 6552 2094 |

Saturday 10th January 2015
(02) 66521477 |

Sunday 11th January 2015
Bangalow Bowling Club, BANGALOW NSW
(02) 6687 2741 |

Friday 16th January 2015
The Entrance Leagues Club, THE ENTRANCE NSW
1300 762 545 |

Saturday 17th January 2015
Mona Vale Hotel, MONA VALE NSW
1300 762 545 |

Sunday 18th January 2015
Bulli Heritage Hotel, BULLI NSW
(02) 4284 5885 |

Wednesday 21st January 2015
Blazes, Wests Leagues Club, TAMWORTH NSW
(02) 6765 7588 |

Thursday 22nd January 2015
(02) 6722 3066 |