Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Single release: 'Timber & Stone' by Small Town Romance

Melbourne country duo Small Town Romance will release their debut album on 14 October. The single 'Timber & Stone' suggests that it will be something to look forward to, as band members Jim Arneman and Flora Smith have crafted a corker of a song. You can watch the video below.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Crazy Life tour: Troy Kemp

Very few Australian country music fans would be unfamiliar with Troy Kemp. Known as a solo artist and as one half of McAlister Kemp, he is a force to be reckoned with - and he's joining The Wolfe Brothers on their This Crazy Life tour from early October.  

You are joining the Wolfe Brothers on tour and they are a relentless touring machine between their dates with Lee Kernaghan and their own tours. What sort of training are you doing to keep up with them?
[Laughs] I’m on a really strict health regime right now of no food, no alcohol, no anything, and I’m just surviving on air and doing as much exercise as I can. [Laughs] No, it’s good. I was in McAlister Kemp for seven years so I know how hard it is – I know a lot about touring and the rigours of the road. But it’s amazing – it’s the best job in the world and it’s good fun. I’m pretty seasoned with that stuff, so I’m excited to get out with the boys and finally do some touring with them because I know they work hard and they deserve this, so it’s going to be great to be out with those guys. They’re not only a great band, they’re good friends, so I’m looking forward to it.

When you’re not on the road, do you get itchy feet?
When you’re having a break – when I’ve had, like, six months off – I just want to get back out there. But when you’re out there, the first little while is the exciting part but as the tour kicks on and gets longer, towards the end of it you’re really starting to hurt a bit, you just feel like being at home and chilling out a bit. It’s just that – you just get tired out there. People always say to me, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ If they knew how hard we work. For the one and half hours on stage you might do on tour, you’re travelling, you’re sitting in airports for the other 23 hours a day. You’re up early, you’re up late. If you do these shows you talk to fans sometimes until one or two in the morning, and then you’re getting back to bed. You get back to a motel and you’ve got six bands hanging around, or god knows how many. There’s all these band guys who just want to kick on and party and I say, ‘I’ve got to rest my voice and take care of myself’, because I know that tomorrow morning we’re up at 7 a.m. to do it all again and go somewhere else. It’s a funny lifestyle. But I’m always keen to get out and tour – I do get itchy feet – and I’m really looking forward to getting out with these guys in October.

I guess when people see you on stage they think that it’s only that period of time that you’re working – but there’s also the amount of energy that goes into being on stage. There’s all that physical preparation – moving from town to town – but there’s also something that’s hard to quantify because you can’t see it: the stuff you need to do to get yourself ready to be on stage. And that’s a lot of effort too.
It really is. The whole thing can be really exhausting, and you have to be careful. Sleep’s the most important thing, I think – you’ve really got to try to get six to eight hours’ sleep. That’s where I work best. As a singer, I need that for my throat just to be able to get through the next night. It is a lot of hard work and staying fit – doing push-ups in your motel room [laughs]. Whatever you can to try to stay alive and make sure you eat well. That’s another thing: eating well on the road. We always end up at McDonald’s.

Probably because it’s open when you need it to be.
Exactly – they’re clever, the old McDonald’s. But there’s a lot of hard work involved: it’s rehearsing, and learning songs, and getting band members organised, trying to organise rehearsals. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. It feels like a 24-hour job. When you live this you just really live it. It’s not like a 9-to-5 where you switch off at five o’clock and go home and watch telly and have dinner. You’re thinking about it until you go to bed, you’re working on it in your bedroom, in your studio – thinking about it and driving your partner crazy because she’s, like, ‘Can you just switch off?’ ‘No, I can’t.’ [laughs]

Are you taking your own band for this tour or are the Wolfes going to be your band?
I’ve been led to believe that there’s a band being organised to play behind. The Wolfe Brothers are going to play on their own and Gord Bamford, I believe, will have the Wolfe Brothers behind him, but I think all the other acts – myself, Caitlyn, Jody Direen, Craig and Christie – I think we’re going to have a house band, so to speak, that they put together for us to use. I don’t actually know at the moment who the guys are but I’m sure it will be a Class A band and I’m looking forward to seeing who I walk into rehearsal with in a couple of weeks. Each artist has been asked to send all their songs to the band and then they’re going to have the painstaking task of having to learn five artists’ songs, and hopefully it all comes together on stage. I’m sure it will – the country music musicians in this country are amazing.

The downside for you, I guess, is that there’s not the flexibility there of changing your set list, as you might with your own band. You have to stick to what you’ve told them.
Exactly. We’re doing five or six songs each a night so once I give the guys my songs, they’re my songs for the tour and that’s what I’ve got to be happy to live with – so I’ve got to make sure I pick the right ones, as will everybody.

When were you asked to join this tour?
I got a call from Steve White [tour manager] about two months ago, and I may have been one of the last to come in. I was really excited to be asked. At the moment I’m out as Troy Kemp solo, representing myself, self managed, I’m my own agent, so I’m constantly trying to get work and picking things up along the way. The back half of this year has been a bit busier for me, which is great, so to get a call from Steve to say, ‘Do you want to be part of this tour with all these great acts?’ was amazing. It’s a chance to be out doing my thing and to be seen to be doing something, and giving me a chance to sell my CDs and merchandise at gigs. I’m really pumped about it. I think we’re doing eight shows.

You mentioned earlier about staying behind and talking to fans, which is such a big part of country music. How important is that to you, that personal connection with fans?
I think it’s one of the most important things in the whole business. The country music fans are so loyal – it feels like one big family. Once you’ve got a country music fan they’re with you for life. No matter what you do they seem to love it, which is lucky and appreciated on our behalf. I think it’s a great thing and you see it more in country music, I think, than any other genre – the artists come out and talk to the fans after the shows and sign things, sign their hats, sign their T-shirts, have photos. It’s just that personal touch that a fan can go home with and say, ‘We had an amazing night and we got to meet the band’. They feel like they know you a little bit, they’ve got a photo to hopefully show off or throw darts at. It just makes for a really good feel.

You’re from the Newcastle area and there is a Newcastle date for the tour – is there a difference playing for a hometown audience.
We’re playing at West New Lambton in Newcastle on the 22nd of October – that’s a Saturday night – and I love playing to a home crowd. I play round the local area a lot – luckily I’ve got a good following. I hope most of those people are going to come out and make for a big night in my home town – hopefully I get the biggest applause that night too [laughs].

Well, those Wolfe Brothers can’t get everything all the time.
They deserve it, they’re amazing. It should be fun. It’s nice to be able to have this show in my home town because it will be great to be seen to part of the show in my home town, for a start, and there’s artists from all over the place in this tour so I’m sure there will be other places we go that will be the home town of someone else in the tour. That’s always going to be a bonus to the show. It’s going to be a great thing. It’s a great idea from Steve White – he’s got seven acts from three countries, they’re promoting it as a mini-festival, hot new wave of country music. I think it’s really cool. There’s a new breed of country music coming through that needs to be heard – it’s had a bit of a stigma about it. You say the words ‘country music’ and people say, ‘I don’t like country and Western’ – but it’s not Western any more. The modern country is almost like pop country, and if people hear it they’ll go, ‘Wow, I like that.’ Modern country is progressive, it’s sounding so cool, it could fit on any commercial radio station these days and people don’t know it. People just think [country] is about the tractor breaking down and the dog dying, that sort of thing. I just hope people get out and support this tour, because there’s a real great new sound in country music that needs to be heard.

Part of my interest in covering country music, which I’ve done for the last five years, is that what I see in Australian country music is an incredible level of professionalism. I put it back to Tamworth existing – when you all go to Tamworth, there are so many artists competing for attention that the standard has become incredibly high. So even someone just starting out knows they have to be extremely good to get anyone to listen to them. What that’s meant is that across the board in Australian country we have this incredible music – people like you who put on a terrific show, put out great albums, you’re total professionals. I hope other people start to recognise that because if you’re someone looking for a night out, going to this tour, the standard is going to be so much better than other things they could see that it would be well worth their time and money.
Exactly. Everything you just said was bang on [laughs].

But it’s true! The standard is so incredibly good in Australia.
It is, and the testament to that is when these big American acts come over for these big CMC Rocks festivals, I sit back and watch it and I can see the Australians holding their own against the big American acts. And I think we do compete with these guys, we are as good as these guys, you know, but we just don’t have the market here that the Americans have got – those big superstars who sell millions of albums. We’ve got a pretty small country music market here ... [But] there is a standard now, the bar’s been set really high, everybody’s getting better. The new acts coming through are amazing. As a seasoned artist now I think a lot of us who have been in the industry a while need to watch ourselves, because there’s some young guys coming through who could knock us off the block any old time. That keeps you on your toes as an older artist, and it’s exciting to see the young guys coming through. I always do my best to help those guys and write songs with them, and do whatever I can to help their careers as well.

That’s another aspect of Australian country that I see as being really significant: there is that sense that age doesn’t matter, gender doesn’t matter – everyone is there because they love music, and that creates this rich pool of songs that come out. Partly why I think a lot of the punters don’t necessarily Australian country music as being good or important is that we still have a bit of a cultural cringe about anything to do with Australia. So I hope that over the next few years, as we start to lose that cultural cringe more, Australian country – which is our national body of song, really – starts to get the attention it deserves.
Exactly. I think it’s moving in the right direction, and I think everyone banding together and helping each other, the whole thing is going to get better. And it’s tours like This Crazy Life are going to start to change the perception of what country music is. And hopefully as the years kick on we can all do better out of it and there’s still a country music audience too.

With my last question I’ll ask you about Tamworth next year – what are your plans?
I’m going to head up on the last weekend. I’m away playing guitar for the Viper Creek Band on an American cruise around Mexico at the start of January, which is going to be amazing. I get back for the second week of Tamworth. I’m going to try to hit the Fanzone on the Thursday or Friday – the 26th or 27th – and I’ve got a midnight show at the Longyard with Christie Lamb, on the Friday night. It will be a two-and-a-half or three-hour show. It’s going to be late but it will be a party. That Friday night on the last weekend in Tamworth is always huge. And hopefully we’ll get a Golden Guitar nomination and go up and cross our fingers.

And the Viper Creek Band are very lucky to have you playing guitar for them, I’d suggest.
Thank you very much. They’re a great band, they’re good friends of mine from Newcastle, and they have a new album out called Just Press Play. We’re excited to get back on that cruise – we did it last year and had such a great time, and it was such a great opportunity to meet some amazing American artists. It’s a good job when it falls the right way – it’s amazing.

Friday 7 October 2016 | 8pm
Wrest Point Entertainment Centre, HOBART TAS
1300 795 257 |

Saturday 8 October 2016 | 8pm
Hotel Tasmania, LAUNCESTON TAS
1300 795 257 |

Friday 14 October 2016 | 8.30pm
Kay Street Entertainment Complex, TRARALGON VIC
(03) 5176 0463 |

Saturday 15 October 2016 | 7.30pm
The Palms at Crown, MELBOURNE VIC

Friday 21 October 2016 | 8pm
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, PENRITH NSW
(02) 4720 5555 |

Saturday 22 October 2016 | 8.30pm
Wests New Lambton, NEWCASTLE NSW
(02) 4935 1200 |

Friday 28 October 2016 | 8pm
Twin Towns Services Club, TWEED HEADS NSW
1800 014 014 |

Saturday 29 October 2016 | 8pm
Empire Theatre, TOOWOOMBA QLD
1300 655 299 |

Single release: 'Only a Moment' by Aleyce Simmonds

Before he died earlier this year, Karl Broadie wrote many wonderful songs. One of my favourites is 'Only a Moment', from the album One Million Emeralds. Karl's version, produced by Matt Fell, features that characteristic ache in his voice, that sense of time lost and pain not quite past. Aleyce's version stands on its own; she brings her own experiences to the song and pays tribute to Karl at the same time.

Aleyce's 'Only a Moment' is one of the songs appearing on the forthcoming tribute album, which will be released on 18 November 2016. Watch Aleyce's live version of this song below.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This Crazy Life tour: Tom Wolfe

The Wolfe Brothers released their album This Crazy Life earlier this year and they have decided to apply that title to their 'mini-festival' tour, starting in Tasmania in early October - dates below. I spoke to Tom Wolfe (at left in photo) about their year so far, their plans - and their parents.

You're in Nashville as we speak, and I know the band has four months in the US before coming back for the This Crazy Life tour. Are you staying in Nashville and radiating outwards from there?
We're based here. We're sort of out every weekend touring, whether it be a festival or at a fair or doing a support slot – we're out of Nashville three or four days a week. When we're in town we're doing a lot of writing with newer artists and lots of different writers around town. It's been great. It's been really busy. We've done some fantastic gigs. We've opened for Dustin Lynch, Eli Young Band, Chris Janson, Locash, played at a country festival that has attendance of over 40 000 people. It's been a pretty amazing trip so far and for us it was all about seeing if what we do translates in this country – whether people understand it – and the reception's been fantastic. Better than we could have hoped. We're over the moon.

It seems like an efficient use of your time, as well, to get that writing done when you are in Nashville and then go and play. An efficient use of time and a good balance, so you're not feeling too cooped up, because I imagine you guys don't like being cooped up.
Absolutely not [laughs]. We love it. It's the town where you can write five days a week – you can write seven days a week if you want to – with different people every day. When you're a creative person it's a fantastic thing and we're really enjoying it. We've written some great new songs. Just working on our craft, you know. I think you can never have enough songs. So, who knows, some of them might pop up on our next album – you never know what the life of a song will entail.

These new songs, do you ever test them out on the road before you decide what's going on an album?
None of these we have, but with the songs for This Crazy Life we did – we had a few that we were working and we felt let's try a few of these out live. I think with the whole of the album we kept to the idea of playing these songs live in our minds a lot more. Playing live is a big part, if not the biggest part, of this band. We really made that a focus and I think we got a bunch of songs that feel great and go over great and are a lot of fun to play live.

The album is called This Crazy Life, which I feel is something of an ironic title because I maintain that you guys are among the best-organised bands in the business. But how is the crazy life going?
[Laughs] It's great. The song 'This Crazy Life', that's kind of what our journey has been for the last four years. We started long before that, of course, in the pubs and bars, and moved to the rodeos and B&S balls. There was a time when we were playing weddings and birthdays and engagements – anything. It was the Australia's Got Talent journey that was the one thing that gave us that little push into the direction we wanted to take the band – into touring, releasing albums, doing all that we've got to do over the last few years. We've pretty much lived out of a suitcase. It's been highest of highs, lowest of lows, but as the song says: we wouldn't have it any other way. That's completely true. It's been an amazing ride so far.

I don't know if this qualifies as a 'low', although I suppose it would be: you've lost one band member since the last album. Do you have a new permanent drummer or do you find one depending on where you're playing?
It was a bit of a low but with Casey we totally respect that he's got a really young family – two boys under the age of three – and he didn't want to miss out on the time with them. Casey does as much as he can with us in Australia, which is great. And over here in the US we've found a drummer, a young guy from Texas. He's a great guy, he's really into the music, and he wants to see us do as well as we can. It is a bit of shame [about Casey] but we totally get it, we totally respect it, and I think it's very commendable to put your family first like that. I think he'd regret it otherwise, down the track.

The tour you're coming back for in October is kicking off in Tasmania – I imagine that was a Wolfe Brothers request.
Absolutely. We want to get home at some point [laughs]. It's going to be something special: seven acts from three different countries. It's a mini festival on the road of new country music. We just what to take it out to people. There's a lot of country fans around Australia so we want to take it to them and we also want to encourage people who don't listen to country, or haven't listened to country in the last ten years, to check this out. You're going to get a great showcase. We're a country rock band; we've got Gord Bamford coming out from Canada. I don't know if Australians realise but he is huge in Canada – he is the man of Canada, you know. Jody Direen coming over from New Zealand – she just won the NZ Country Music Awards artist of the year. We've got Christie Lamb, Golden Guitar winner. Caitlyn Shadbolt, of course, was on X Factor. Troy Kemp from McAlister Kemp and Craig Heath. We really wanted to do something different. We didn't want to just do one show, one support – we wanted to involve a lot of people, just mix it up, take some new music out to people on the road and get them excited about it.

Will everyone play a short set?
Everyone's going to play some of their own stuff then we'll probably jam on things together. We're still working everything out. It's going to be fun and with that many people on stage there's probably going to be some surprises [laughs]. We can't wait to get back home and put some rehearsals together. Bring it on, I say.

The unseen part of touring is rehearsing – good luck getting all of those people together in one place.
It was hard enough organising the tour! We've toured with Christie Lamb before with Lee [Kernaghan] but we haven't toured with a lot of female acts before so that's going to be something new and a different dynamic to the whole show. It's exciting – really exciting.

And, of course, country music is unusual in that there are a lot of female artists and a lot of women in the audience, so that balance should work really well.
Absolutely – and that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to give people a real showcase. There are some seriously talented people in Australian country music coming up and if we can give an opportunity to take some of those people on the road and support them and get them out there playing in front of people, I think that's a really positive thing for the fans, for the artists, for everybody.

Now, after all this time touring and intensive time together, do you and Nick [Wolfe, Tom's brother] still like each other?
We love each other very, very much [laughs]. Honestly, it's great – we've all got on really well. We haven't been home a lot at all over the last year – we were over here in Nashville from November to February, just three of us, and now we're back here again. And when we were at home we did 30 to 40 days with Lee Kernaghan. We're pretty used to living with each other. We love it, you know. If there is any tension or anything like that we try to channel it into a new song, being creative, which I think is the smart way to do it. Just the fact that we've done it together for so long – we get on very, very well. I think that comes through. We wouldn't be able to do it otherwise. It's really a lot of fun.

And your parents must be very proud of you both, I'd imagine.
They're over the moon. What we're doing now is kind of what our dad always wanted to do but he never really got the opportunity, with the family farm and stuff, so he's just over the moon that we're going it and Mum's really proud. They've been incredible parents and incredibly supportive over the years. It's been a great ride for us but there's some sacrifices you've got to make to try to live out your dreams and they've been there for us and believed in us every step of the way. Couldn't have done any of it without them.

It seems very much like you honour them by performing so professionally, by running your careers the way you have. My sense is that every opportunity the band is presented with, you say yes. Not recklessly – you see those opportunities, you identify them as opportunities and you accept them, and then do your absolute best with them.
We're all very lucky. It's not just me and Nick – it's Brodie [Rainbird, guitarist] as well. We've both got great sets of parents who brought us up very grounded. We're very proud of what we've achieved so far. As you said, very thing that's been thrown our way we've worked really hard and made the most of every opportunity. We're really proud of that. We've been able to do some amazing things that we've only ever dreamed of and are now coming true. It's bloody awesome [laughs], if I can be really Australian.

Given that Lee keeps booking you up, has he booked you up for next year?
Yes. We're just trying to make that all work. There's some cool things in the pipeline for next year – I think that's also going to be just as busy. Yeah – awesome, fun, and I'm glad we just keep doing it. We love making music, we love being on the road. We appreciate everyone who lets us do it. 

Friday 7 October 2016 | 8pm
Wrest Point Entertainment Centre, HOBART TAS
1300 795 257 |

Saturday 8 October 2016 | 8pm
Hotel Tasmania, LAUNCESTON TAS
1300 795 257 |

Friday 14 October 2016 | 8.30pm
Kay Street Entertainment Complex, TRARALGON VIC
(03) 5176 0463 |

Saturday 15 October 2016 | 7.30pm
The Palms at Crown, MELBOURNE VIC

Friday 21 October 2016 | 8pm
Evan Theatre, Penrith Panthers, PENRITH NSW
(02) 4720 5555 |

Saturday 22 October 2016 | 8.30pm
Wests New Lambton, NEWCASTLE NSW
(02) 4935 1200 |

Friday 28 October 2016 | 8pm
Twin Towns Services Club, TWEED HEADS NSW
1800 014 014 |

Saturday 29 October 2016 | 8pm
Empire Theatre, TOOWOOMBA QLD
1300 655 299 |

Friday, September 23, 2016

Album review: All-Night Ghost Town by Jason Walker

New Zealand-born Sydney resident Jason Walker has a long history in Australian music, performing in various bands, acting as a writer, steel guitarist, singer and lead player. All-Night Ghost Town is his first solo effort, yet it’s clearly the work of a mature artist. The songs sound ripe and unhurried, the work of someone who has taken care and time to write and chosen just the right songs at the right time.

Walker’s voice is on the crooning side of country, still with an edge that means he’d be at home on rural pub stages just as much as city clubs. His songs are evocative stories of people who seem to like around the edges and in the cracks, asserting that ‘twilight is the loneliest time of day’ and that ‘love is just another word for what becomes habitual’. Yet Walker’s talk on these characters isn’t maudlin: there’s no pity there, just regard.

The album was produced by Shane Nicholson, who has taken his usual care with it and brought out the best version of the artist. As a producer, this appears to be one of his great strengths: identifying what’s unique about each artist and placing it at the core of their recorded music while making sure that everything around it works to support it.

For all that All-Night Ghost Town is the result of three decades in music, it sounds like the start of something. No doubt Walker has more songs tucked away and more stories to tell, so it probably won’t be long before we see another great album.

All-Night Ghost Town is out now through Lost Highway Australia/Universal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kristy Cox and Jerry Salley on tour - October/November

South Australian bluegrass singer-songwriter Kristy Cox now makes her home in Nashville, where she has worked with the esteemed artist Jerry Salley. The pair is touring many parts of Australia soon, and I spoke to Kristy about the tour, her life in Nashville and how she balances music and business. 

You are bringing this new show to Australia with Jerry Salley, and it’s different to what you’ve done before because if you were playing in Tamworth, for example, you have a band with you. How did you start to conceive of this you – because it’s a set show, you have stories, you have songs?
I’ve been working with Jerry Salley for about nine years – I’m getting old [laughs]. I started working with him when I recorded Breaking New Ground, and he’s just such an incredible songwriter and an incredible storyteller. An artist, singer, performer. Why he’s not a superstar I don’t know. He’s come back to Tamworth a couple of times with me and done the bluegrass shows but I really, really wanted to do a tour with him and show him Australia, where I come from, and more than just Sydney and Tamworth – I wanted to show him Victoria and South Australia, and right up the coast of Queensland and everywhere in between. And I really wanted to show the Australian audiences what the real Jerry Salley is about. You can hear his songs with Reba McEntire and other people singing them, but to see him do it and him tell you the stories behind how he wrote the songs and why he wrote the songs is really an eye-opener. And nobody ever leaves a Jerry Salley show without being completely gobsmacked at his talents. It was just one of those things where I wanted to bring him over and show a guy who’s influenced me so much in my music the place that I come from.

Did you work up to asking him – wondering, ‘Will he say no? What will it be?’ – or did it just come into your head one day and you asked?
I was trying to work out who to tour with in Australia and these days it’s hard to just go out and tour by yourself. And I had a new album and I knew I wanted to tour during that time of the year but I couldn’t think of who I wanted to tour with. There was a bunch of artists and we talked, and there’s so many people I’ve love to work with on the road, but schedules and everything didn’t work, and my husband said, ‘Hey, you should talk to Jerry and see if he’d like to go over and tour with you.’ And straightaway I said, ‘Yep, this is why none of the other ideas have worked – this is exactly what I’m meant to do.’ And I called Jerry and said, ‘Hey, would you like to go to Australia for five weeks and drive 4000 miles? It’ll be great fun, I promise!’ [Laughs] And he said, ‘Yes, I would love to.’ So it was good – it was literally just one phone call, and the next day the flights were booked and we started booking in the tour dates.

Are you doing that booking yourself?
I do most of it myself. It’s a big job.

So how do you choose? It’s one thing to say, ‘This is the town we’re going to’, but within that town there might be five pubs where you could play. Are you going to places you’ve been before?
Some of them I have, some of them are brand new. Some of them are places that Rebecca Lee Nye, who’s opening for us, suggested. Some of them I’d just really like to play in a place and I’d put it out on Facebook and say, ‘Hey, who’d like to hold a house concert?’ or ‘Who has a suggestion for somewhere to play here?’ We start in Victoria then head all the way up to Brisbane then down to Tamworth, then down across to Mildura, up to the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna on the border of the outback, down to Adelaide and then we send Jerry on his merry way.

And do you want to tour at that time of year because it’s warmer, for one thing, but also because it’s coming into Christmas and then you can be home around that time, to see your family?
I already had booked in the Cruisin’ Country in November and I knew that touring after that would be almost impossible with Christmas – December for touring is never really a good idea unless you’re doing a Christmas show. I knew I wanted to do quite an extensive tour – I think we’re doing 25 dates – so we’re starting a good five weeks before the Adelaide show, which is going to be a huge show. I’m really looking forward to that. And then I’ll do the cruise then I’ll go home and it will be five weeks of spending time with my family and letting them see Adelaide, my daughter, who they haven’t seen for a few months, and then go to Tamworth and head home [to Nashville]. So we’ll be home for four months and I’m excited.

Have you done Cruisin’ Country before?
I have not. I hope I don’t get boat sick [laughs]. It is something I’ve wanted to do, so when they asked me I said, ‘Yes!’

So the big Adelaide show is ‘Nashville Comes to Adelaide’. Catherine Britt’s on that and a few other artists – have you pulled that line-up together?
This will be the third year that we’ve run that show. My husband, Travis List, and I came up with the concept – it was ‘Nashville Comes to Gawler’ but it’s now Adelaide, we’ve moved venues into the city to be in a more central location. We both grew up in Adelaide and live in Nashville, and we wanted to give back to the country music community that gave us so much growing up, by bringing them a show that features artists who have either lived in Nashville, worked in Nashville, and give them the sounds of Broadway, basically – show them the music that we hear in Nashville. Bring them artists who might now tour in their area. I know it will be the first time in a while that a lot of the acts from that show have played in Adelaide, and Jerry’s never been to Adelaide. It’s a huge line-up – we haven’t had that many acts before, we’ve always had three acts and now we have six, so it’s going to be really good.

And you have Mike Carr, who’s going to perform as himself rather than as Buddy Goode.
He will be doing a little bit of Buddy Goode. He’s actually compering the night, so it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. We had Pete Denahy last year and the crowd really enjoyed having that comedy element to the start of the show. This year we thought Mike Carr would be perfect, so we contacted him and said, ‘Do Buddy Goode and Mike Carr feel like coming to Adelaide?’ He’s doing the Prairie Hotel with us the night before as well. I haven’t worked with Mike before, so I’m really looking forward to that.

You’re organising this tour … It sounds like you have an entrepreneurial or managerial side to you as well as the creative side. Do you find that they’re in balance – are you able to do as much creative work as you want or does that administration sometimes take over?
It definitely does. I have a law degree in my other life so I’m very much a control freak and I like to be very hands on with everything I do. Of course I’m a singer and an artist and a songwriter at the same time. I still play every day, I still sing every day, I still gig nearly every weekend and travel to festivals and play, but very much Monday to Friday, nine to five, my music hat comes on and my business hat comes on, and I think that’s really important for an artist. Not every artist has that business mindset, but if you don’t then you have to have to someone working with you who does, because they call it the music business for a reason: it is a business, and you have to have a business mentality to it. Unfortunately the songs and the talent and the music should be enough but it’s just not [laughs].

It’s great if you can do it yourself, particularly if you can find that balance.
I think the biggest challenge I have is sleeping and turning off. I don’t turn off very much. My husband is very much the same way – he’s very entrepreneurial – and we’re constantly thinking of tour ideas, show ideas. We love putting on shows – that’s one of the things that we’d love to do more of. We’d love to find different artists who, one, we want to work with but, two, we think would make a really great show, and put it on and take the risk and put it out there and see what happens. We’ve done quite a few at Tamworth – we’re doing four shows this next Tamworth, and it’s going to be the biggest we’ve ever done. Sometimes I think, Am I biting off more than I can chew? And the only way you know is if you get out there and give it a go.

Living in Nashville, I would think, supports you having those two sides to your life because it is Music City and very much an industry town. Has the city influenced you business wise as well as music wise?
Not as much, I don’t think. The industry thing, the size that it is here, allows me to spend my days not working a day job and working on my career. There’s plenty of work here and there’s plenty of things that inspire you. That’s the big thing, being in Nashville: every day I’m inspired to do more and I’m inspired to be better. Being surrounded by music constantly, I never get tired, I never get bored, and I’m constantly challenged. You can walk into any bar and the lady serving you a drink might be the best singer you’ve ever heard. So you’re constantly surrounded by people who challenge you to be better because you have to be. And I think that in Australia, that’s something that I needed – I needed to be challenged. I was getting way too comfortable working my nine-to-give day job and earning really good money, and I thought, If I don’t get out of here I can see myself going, ‘Well, this is just too easy to be a normal person who doesn’t make music’ – not that there’s anything wrong with that at all! But it just wasn’t for me. I needed to play music and I needed to be challenged, and Nashville gives me that outlet.

You obviously knew yourself well enough to know that if you got to 50 years of age and you hadn’t pursued that, you were going to be regretful.
Yes, definitely. And Trav and I say to each other all the time, ‘What’s the worst that could happen – we pack everything up and go home? We get jobs?’ It’s nice to still have Australia and we both still call it home, and we go back there four months of the year because we need some Aussie in our life. We need good coffee and pies and stuff, and we need some sense of humour and sarcasm. We miss that.

As you mentioned, you have a daughter – have you started her on an instrument yet?
Not yet, though. She does like to play my guitar, which kind of scares me because it’s worth a lot of money [laughs] but she kind of just strums it three or four times then stops and applauds herself – she hasn’t quite understood that that’s not quite the way it works. It’s very cute.

I presume she’ll be on the road with you.
Yes – my little girl has done eight international flights now and she’s very accustomed to travelling. I think her first flight she was six weeks old – we came back to America from Australia. Every gig I’ve done since I had her she’s either been with me at the show or in a hotel room behind the venue. She’s been everywhere and I think I have the opposite issue: she finds it really hard to stay home. She gets very bored very easily. She likes to be out and about and with people, socialising and listening to music. I’m raising a nice little honky tonk girl, I’ve noticed. She loves it. So she’ll be on the road the whole six weeks. I did have to be mindful booking in the gigs that we weren’t any further than about a seven-hour drive because she can’t handle the car for much longer than that. She’ll be at every show with a smile on her face – or asleep.

If someone’s reading this thinking, I don’t know about bluegrass – it’s not a genre I’ve ever been interested in, what would you say about bluegrass to entice someone to come to the shows?
Come to the show! [Laughs] Bluegrass is one of those things where I’m yet to see anybody who hasn’t enjoyed themselves at a show. The stories and the songs are incredible, and the energy of the music’s great. It’s like that with country music as well. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘I don’t like country music but I really like you.’ That just tells me that they haven’t listened to any country music. Come to the show with open ears and an open mind and I promise you that you’ll walk out loving bluegrass music. Jerry Salley’s there – he’s the best! [laughs]

Kristy Cox and Jerry Salley on tour:
Thursday, 13th October 2016

Private House Concert – Bittern VIC
Friday, 14th October 2016Patchewollock Music Festival – Patchewollock – VIC
Saturday, 15th October 2016Kilmany Hall, Kilmany – VIC – 6pm
BOOKINGS: Phone Sue on 0409 954092
Sunday, 16th October 2016
Bluegrass with Jerry Salley with special guests Billy Bridge and Rebecca Lee Nye – AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Caravan Music Club- Oakleigh – VIC – 3pm
Monday, 17th October 2016
 Special guests Billy Bridge and Rebecca Lee Nye – 
Star Hotel- Yackandandah – VIC – 7pm
BOOKINGS: +61 2 6027 1493
Tuesday, 18th October 2016

Private Event – Canberra ACT
Thursday, 20th October 2016

RSM Club – Casino NSW – 7:30pm 
Friday, 21st – Sunday 23rd October, 2016
Dorrigo Bluegrass Festival
Dorrigo, NSW 
Tuesday, 25th October, 2016Plainlands Hotel, Plainland, QLD – 8pm
Thursday, 27th October, 2016The Pub, Tamworth, NSW – 8pm
Friday, 28th October, 2016
Bluegrass with Jerry Salley – AUSTRALIAN TOUR
The Abbey, Canberra, ACT – 8pm
Sunday, 30th October, 2016Rooty Hill RSL, Rooty Hill, NSW – 2pm
Monday, 31st October, 2016
 Special guests Allan Caswell and Rebecca Lee Nye
Hotel Blue, Katoomba, NSW – 8pm
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016Goldmines Hotel – Bendigo, VIC
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016Mildura Victoria – Details TBA
Friday, November 4th, 2016
Nashville Comes to The Outback
Prairie Hotel, Parachilna, SA – 8pm
BOOKINGS: 1800 331 473
Saturday, November 5th, 2016
Nashville Comes to Adelaide
Norwood Town Hall – Norwood, SA – 8pm

Monday, September 19, 2016

Album review: Victim or the Heroine by Katie Brianna

When Katie Brianna released her debut album, Dark Side of the Morning, in mid-2013 I wrote, ‘Dark Side of the Morning is a debut album that promises much about its creator - and because she has taken her time to craft it and release it, I have every confidence that it is the first step in a long career. I genuinely cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

The next release has come, and Victim or the Heroine lives up to that early promise, as well as demonstrating that Brianna has matured as a singer and songwriter. While she has moved further away from country music convention, that in itself suggests that she has asked questions of herself, especially when it comes to the best way to deploy her extraordinary voice. She has taken the emotion and storytelling of country music and found a style that allows her to relax when appropriate, to let her voice float above the song – where it belongs, given its often ethereal quality. Yet this is also an album that is rooted in reality: love isn’t perfect, wrong turns are taken in life, and some days are melancholy.

Shane Nicholson produced the album; his ability to discern what’s at the core of an artist and their work, and to never lose that in the work of creating an album, is an exceptional skill. Only Brianna and Nicholson know if he’s the one responsible for making the instruments the supporting cast to Brianna’s leading turn (even though the studio band included Glen Hannah and Matt Fell). This puts more pressure on her – to make the lyrics and the vocals the best they can be – but she is worthy of the responsibility and the attention.

So I’ve taken three paragraphs to come to this conclusion: this is just a bloody lovely album. Brianna is impossible to ignore – not that anyone would want to – and somehow she combines dreaminess with a consciousness that is anchored in everyday life. Which makes Victim or the Heroine a salve and an escape, and a fitting second album for an important artist. 

Victim or the Heroine is out now through MGM Distribution.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Single release: 'Just a Boy' by Tobias

Sunshine Coast singer-songwriter Tobias has released 'Just a Boy', a single from his forthcoming second album, Alive, which will be released on 4 November. The song evokes his childhood in a simple yet moving way, his voice suggesting happy memories but with a catch: they are, of course, memories and whatever happiness they hold is long gone.

Watch the video for 'Just a Boy' below.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Single release: 'Doing it Again' by Hat Fitz and Cara

That inimitable duo Hat Fitz and Cara have a new album, After the Rain, in the works for early 2017 and they've released the single 'Doing it Again' to keep their fans happy in the meantime. This is a fine up-tempo track with Cara on lead vocals, and you can listen to it on Bandcamp.

Single release: 'Deepwater' by Jen Mize

American-born Sunshine Coast resident Jen Mize has released 'Deepwater', a single from her upcoming album Warnings & Wisdom, which will be released on 29 September and was produced by Shane Nicholson. Mize's voice has incredible power on this track that she wrote about 'returning home at the end of this life, and the beauty and piece that can come from that'.

Listen to the song on Soundcloud or watch the video below.

Single release: 'Vice' by Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert's single 'Vice' was released in July. In the past I haven't felt the need to cover her work here - there's a lot of American country music that doesn't get covered here. Except the song is so good - so well written, so perfectly sung, Lambert's voice sounding vulnerable and brave and tired - that it's impossible to ignore, and even more impossible to forget. So, in honour of the fact that it's been hanging around in my head since July, here's the video.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Nimbin Roots Festival: women in docs

One noteworthy act at this weekend's Nimbin Roots Festival is women in docs, who have a dedicated fan base around the country thanks to their sublime harmonies and great songwriting. I had a chat to Chanel Lucas from women in docs (on the right in the photo) to ask about her Nimbin preparation and what she's looking forward to.

I purposely didn’t do much research before talking to you because I thought you could tell me: what have the women in docs been doing?
Since we’ve seen you last in Tamworth last year we’ve finished off touring our album around Australia and since then we’ve been working on a new album, so we’re trying to write songs and record some stuff, which is a bit challenging for us because Roz is in Cairns and I’m in Brisbane, so we just get together when we can. We do a lot of stuff on the internet.

Before the most recent album you had a bit of a break, so now it seems like you’re in a purple patch, may we say, or you’ve got a creative wind underneath you?
[laughs] Maybe. I think we’ve just started developing new ways to collaborate, which is making it a lot easier. Because initially we lived in the same city we were used to getting together face to face, so I think it’s just taken us a while to learn how to collaborate on songs and we’re just starting to get there with that. It’s a lot easier with Dropbox and all the tools we’ve got – social media, chat rooms.

In terms of face to face, Skype offers you that capability – do you find that you tend to still like seeing each other or is it okay to send stuff back and forth.
We get together whenever one of us is nearby. So if Roz is in Brisbane on a trip for work we will always get together, and if I’m up north I’ll try to make a point to go and see her. Because really the best way to collaborate on songwriting is to be together. But long term we send ideas back and forth, especially in the editing process. One of us might say, ‘I’ve changed the bridge a bit, what do you think about this?’ and the other person will listen to it and reply. So once we get to editing it’s a lot easier.

Given that such a big part of the two of you working together is your harmonies, do you sort out the harmonising when you’re recording or is it something you work into the songwriting?
We do it at exactly the same time as the song’s being written. Both of us are singing and playing as we write, and if one person comes up with an idea and they’re sending it through – say Roz is sending something on Dropbox or Google Drive, I will record my harmonies or bass playing, whatever it is, over the top of it and send it back. So it happens at the same time because it is so integral to the women in docs style. Whereas our individual work that we do with other bands or other projects, there’s not the same focus on the harmonies.

And it’s a focus because it works so beautifully – now having seen you play live, it seems so … I don’t want to say ‘effortless’ because those things are never effortless, so I’ll say it seems very natural. When you first started to sing together, did it feel natural or has it taken a lot of working together to get to that point?
As soon as we started playing together we naturally sang harmonies to each other. And we first started playing together in rock bands in Townsville and that was the one thing that people commented on: ‘Wow, I’ve never seen a rock band with so many harmonies.’ And that was part of the motivation to then ditch the rock band and focus on the more acoustic instruments and on our harmony songwriting. Also when we first started women in docs it was the same year as the Indigo Girls, who were super popular then. And bands like Tiddas, out of Melbourne. Which we weren’t aware of until we started touring. So we were already doing what was becoming popular without having any connection to Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane. So it was like there was this kind of national movement that happened without anyone realising [laughs]. It was weird.

I remember reading something authoritative a while ago talking about how humans respond instinctually to harmonic voices – which is why people go crazy over the Beatles and ABBA, I guess. And One Direction. But I don’t think it ever goes out of fashion, what you’re doing.
It’s a tricky one. We did a gig in Melbourne during the last album tour and one of the young guys we played with came up to us and said, ‘That was really good – really ’90s sounding.’ [laughs] I don’t know – is it timeless? I’m not sure. But I think that doing lots of harmonies is a particular sound and there’s a lot of room when you’ve got multiple voices and multiple harmonies to create different moods or different themes within the song that you don’t have as a solo singer.

So this new album you’re working on, are you working to a deadline?
Yes, I think the end of last year was the deadline [laughs]. We work at a different speed to what we used to work at because we have other things that we do. We used to do women in docs full time, we were touring nine months of the year and we were able to spend some time on it. These days we have other jobs, we have other musical projects, so it’s not that it gets left behind, it’s more that we’ve just got to be easier on ourselves in terms of deadlines. Now we’re just trying to get some good songs and once we’ve got some good songs we’ll record the album. But the plan to go into the studio is in January because we’re both on kind of a break then.

The whole nation has a break then, so that’s a good time.
Except for the festivals everyone has a little break, so it’s a good time to record.

And of course it is as women in docs that are you going to Nimbin Roots. I would imagine that you two don’t need a lot if any rehearsal time before you play together. But going to something like this, do you get together slightly early and catch up?
Yes. We either all fly in a bit earlier and make sure we’ve got time for rehearsal but also because this is how we do things now, it’s really important for all the individuals involved to be ready, so we all rehearse separately. Usually we come up with a set list, everyone rehearses beforehand then we just have a quick play-through either the day before or the morning if we’re playing that night.

I’m curious about the logistics of this kind of thing because you’re all coming from different places into a place where none of you lives, and it’s not a big town – given that you’re a band not a duo, how do you find a space to rehearse in?
You can rehearse anywhere, really. We don’t need to be plugged in to rehearse. Sometimes if we all come into a city – like if we come into Brisbane – we’ll book a rehearsal room, but if we’re coming in to a festival we’ll just find a space. So we’ll either rehearse in our motel room and drive everyone crazy or we’ll go into the park – if it’s nice weather we’ll go and sit in the park. It’s lucky that it’s not essential for us to be plugged in to rehearse.

And you just need to drive down from where you are [in Brisbane].
Yes. Usually everyone flies in to the closest city and we drive from there.

If you’re all driving together from Brisbane, isn’t it a bit like the royal family – they don’t all travel on the same plane, so why are you all in the same car? What is something happens?
[Laughs] I think maybe our drummer might be coming in a separate car, because he is also playing with Felicity Lawless.

I don’t mean to be rude but, as the drummer, is he not the most expendable member of the women in docs?
Well … we do like him. We kind of need him to be there. But if we all travelled in separate cars, where would the fun road trip be? And how would we go and find the best coffee spot? That’s kind of the fun of going to a festival.

Did you submit an audition tape or CD or something for the festival?
Yes. We’ve played together at Tamworth with Lou and with some of the other people who will be at the festival, but we applied to be part of the awards night – we still apply to be part of festivals regardless of whether you know the organisers or not. That’s the usual process with all of these festivals.

Lou seems to be incredibly good at organising things.
I think this one’s come together particular well because she’s tapped into the local community really well. I think it’s a great idea to use the bowlo – to use local businesses. And she’s really got the support of the local businesses, which I think really makes the difference with a festival and gives it longevity. Apart from the fact that instead of putting a tent up on the showgrounds and people might stop for coffee in town, it’s using venues in the town – the festival’s adding value to the local businesses. They’ve got a reason to support it and a reason to be part of it. And it makes it all-weather. I think she’s done a really great job in getting the word out there. And what a line-up – I’d buy a ticket!

It is. Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing either in a personal or professional capacity?
I really love Paddy McHugh. He is out of Brisbane, I think. He sings sort of folk-country which has that tint of Australiana about it. A little bit of Weddings Parties Anything, a little bit of Slim Dusty. He’s telling Australian stories and sings with an Australian accent. A fabulous performer, very upbeat, really strong songwriter. So I’m looking forward to seeing him. In general I think the whole festival is quite an impressive line-up of country, roots and Australiana artists. Really diverse range of artists. So I think if people come, you’re not going to watch the same kind of music over and over again. It’s going to be a really entertaining weekend.

It must be so interesting for you as an artist to see what happens – who you meet, what results from it.
Lots of collaborations come out of these kinds of events, whether it be touring collaborations or songwriting or recording collaborations. The other good thing about playing festivals as an artist is that when we’re on tour, it’s just us, so coming to a festival is a really great connection back into our community, which is why I love playing festivals – I get to see other artists. So we’ll see what happens after this weekend – should be a good one.

Nimbin Roots Festival: 17-18 September 2016